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about the blue hills trail

The Blue Hills Trail of northern Wisconsin's Rusk County is a 22-mile system that is considered one of the most scenic cross-country ski trails in the Midwest. The trail's many loops and intersections allow skiers to make their outings as long and challenging or as short and easy as desired.

In addition to skiing, the trail is open to snowshoeing, hiking and biking during the non-winter seasons, and hunting in the fall.

Read More

The Blue Hills Trail was established in 1987 by a group of local cross-country skiers. Originally incorporated as the Rusk County Trail Association, the organization reincorporated as the Blue Hills Trail Association (BHTA) in the fall of 2006 to reflect the increasingly regional nature of the operation and to facilitate the attainment of 501c3 nonprofit status.

The group remains dependent on annual membership dues, donations, and the cooperation of the Rusk County Forestry Department for its continued existence.

New members, suggestions and financial support are all greatly appreciated.

Thanks to all the individuals and businesses that support the Blue Hills Trail System year round.

Please consider leaving your legacy of support by including the Blue Hills Trail Association, Inc. in your will.

Trail Maps

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Download
a PDF
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Get the East Side Avenza map
Trail maps are available at the trailheads on both the East Side and the West Side.
All intersections are clearly labeled with "You Are Here" maps.

Please: no motor vehicles, no walking on groomed ski trails, no horses

(Click map to view a full-size image)
Blue Hills Trail East Side Map
Observe caution and please yield to skiers traveling downhill.
Maps courtesy of volunteer cartographer, Kirk Paulsen
PDF icon
Download
a PDF
PDF icon
Get the WestSide Avenza map
Trail maps are available at the trailheads on both the East Side and the West Side.
All intersections are clearly labeled with "You Are Here" maps.

Please: no motor vehicles, no walking on groomed ski trails, no horses

(Click map to view a full-size image)
Blue Hills Trail West Side Map
Observe caution and please yield to skiers traveling downhill.
Maps courtesy of volunteer cartographer, Kirk Paulsen
PDF icon
Download
a PDF
Trail maps are available at the trailheads on both the East Side and the West Side.
All intersections are clearly labeled with "You Are Here" maps.

Please: no motor vehicles, no walking on groomed ski trails, no horses

(Click map to view a full-size image)
Blue Hills Trail East Side Core Loop Map
Observe caution and please yield to skiers traveling downhill.
Maps courtesy of volunteer cartographer, Kirk Paulsen
PDF icon
Download
a PDF
Trail maps are available at the trailheads on both the East Side and the West Side.
All intersections are clearly labeled with "You Are Here" maps.

Please: no motor vehicles, no walking on groomed ski trails, no horses

(Click map to view a full-size image)
Blue Hills Trail East Side Snowshoe Trails Map
Observe caution and please yield to skiers traveling downhill.
Maps courtesy of volunteer cartographer, Kirk Paulsen

Driving Directions

Trailhead GPS Coordinates: 45.536475 latitude, -91.407087 longitude

Travel 8 miles northwest of Bruce on County O; watch for Fire Lane road one-half mile east of the Christie Mountain downhill ski area. Then travel 2.5 miles north on Fire Lane Road. Signs to the Blue Hills Trail will show you the way.

Mileage from various cities to the Blue Hills Trail

  • Rice Lake : 20 miles
  • Eau Claire : 75 miles
  • Rhinelander : 120 miles
  • Duluth-Superior : 120 miles
  • Marshfield : 120 miles
  • Wausau : 135 miles
  • Minneapolis/St. Paul : 120 miles
  • La Crosse : 140 miles
  • Madison : 245 miles
  • Milwaukee : 315 miles
  • Chicago : 400 miles

Get Detailed Driving Directions

On the map above, please click the red map point. This will open up a new browser tab where you can enter your starting address to access detailed directions to the Blue Hills Trail.

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Warming House Words

A bride and groom sit in grass and kiss during their wedding in Missoula Montana.
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Loved the snowshoe trails. So quiet and beautiful!
A bride and groom sit in grass and kiss during their wedding in Missoula Montana.
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Lots of frogs along the trail.  I loved the hike!
A bride and groom sit in grass and kiss during their wedding in Missoula Montana.
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Great mountain bike trails!
A bride and groom sit in grass and kiss during their wedding in Missoula Montana.
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Up North for the big deer hunt.  I've hunted this area about 35 years and have loved it.
A bride and groom sit in grass and kiss during their wedding in Missoula Montana.
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First time skiing the Blue Hills! Such an awesome day!

25 miles of trails

Endless beauty

Memories for a lifetime

Shops & Lodging
Please show your gratitude by visiting the following bike and ski shops and nearby lodging that support the Blue Hills Trail System.

View a list of Blue Hills Trail donors
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Bike & Ski Shops

New Moon Ski & Bike (Hayward)
Outdoor Ventures (Hayward)
Out There (Rice Lake)
Spring Street Sports (Chippewa Falls)

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Nearby Lodging

Cobblestone Hotel & Suites (Ladysmith)
Canoe Bay Inn (Chetek)
Rice Lake Tourism (general lodging info)
Rusk County Tourism (general lodging info)

Trail Amenities & Safety

The Blue Hills Trail provides a heated warming house at the East Side trailhead where you can change out of your day clothes and into your ski gear if desired. The furnace operates from early December until winter disappears.

Map information, the trail log book, and seating are inside for your convenience.

Separate men and women's pit toilets are a short walk from the warming house.

There is no cell service or running water, so please plan accordingly.

During the coronavirus pandemic, we require a mask in the warming house. Thank you in advance for respecting our facilities!

Frequently Asked Questions

Expand All Questions

Where are you located?

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Please see above for directions.

Are ATVs and snowmobiles allowed?

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With the exception of a shared use agreement on Excelsior Road, the entire trail system is non-motorized and intended for silent sports activities. Please report violators to the Rusk County Sheriff's office at 715-532-2200.

What's the policy regarding the use of Excelsior Road?

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Beginning the winter of 2019-20, we have permission to groom and ski the entire length of Excelsior Road (refer to the West Side map).

  • Grooming for skiing begins some time around the middle of December.
  • During the winter ski season, once grooming begins, cars and trucks are not allowed on Excelsior Road.
  • The middle of the road is groomed for skate skiers; classic track is set on the north side of the road.
  • The south side of the road is for ATVs, snowmobiles, snowshoers, and hikers.
  • Limited parking is available at the junction of Excelsior Road with the Fire Lane Road. More parking is available nearby at the warming house.
  • Be aware of logging traffic on Fire Lane Road.

What are the fees?

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At minimum, we request a $5 per person, per day donation at the trailhead. Please contribute $10 or more. The Blue Hills Trail Association, Inc. is a non-profit corporation with an annual budget of around $20,000.  Please support us either through daily donations, memberships, or separate donations. We are run entirely by volunteers so all your monies go toward maintaining and improving the Blue Hills Trail.

How can I become a member of the Blue Hills Trail Association?

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Please click here to take out a membership. Thank you - your support helps us remain financially stable.

How can I donate to the Blue Hills Trail Association?

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Please click here to donate. Thank you - your support helps us keep these trails available to all. Click here for a list of donors for our current fiscal year. Please consider leaving your legacy of support by including the Blue Hills Trail Association, Inc in your will.

Do you have maps of the trail system?

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Please see the Maps section above for trail maps.

Do you groom for classic skiing?

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You are welcome to stride (classic ski) on any of the trails. Groomers place classic track on most of the trail sections, often totaling 25 km. We do not place track on steeper downhills, some downhill curves, narrow/rough sections, or technically challenging trails. After some heavier snowfalls it may take a couple grooming sessions before the snow is ready for fresh classic track. Setting track often requires a magical combination of adequate fresh snow, the right humidity, and cooperative temperatures.

Is snowshoeing allowed?

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Snowshoers are welcome. Dedicated snowshoe trails start behind the warming house. Please see the Maps section above to view our snowshoe trails: Nordic Pines Trail, Rolling Oaks Trail, and Ridges Trail. If snowshoeing on the ski trail, please stay toward the side of the groomed surface to lessen your impact on the skating lane - and it goes without saying that you should avoid the classic track.

Do you rent skis and/or snowshoes?

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We don't offer rentals - visit the Shops & Lodging section above for suggestions of ski shops that may offer rentals. Snowshoes may be available for loaner use at the Visitor's Center in Ladysmith.

Is it OK if I walk or hike on the ski trail?

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No! Walking on any portion of the groomed ski trail ruins the grooming. Similar to the surface of an ice skating rink, we try to maintain a smooth surface for skate skiers, and of course the classic tracks need to be crisp and clean.

Are dogs allowed?

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Winter ski season:

-Dogs are not allowed on the ski trails on the East Side of the trail system.

-Dogs are welcome on the dedicated snowshoe trails (East Side).

-Dogs are welcome on the West Side of the trail system.

Non-winter:

-Dogs are welcome throughout the trail system.

Please be responsible, clean up after your dog and remove other droppings as well.

Are horses allowed?

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Horses are not allowed on the East Side of the trail system. During dry conditions in summer and fall, horses are allowed on the West Side - the best access is at Letter A.

Are snow bikes allowed?

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No.

Are bathrooms available?

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We maintain separate pit toilets for men and women. Find them north of the warming house at the East Side trail head.

Do you have running water?

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No running water is available. Please supply your own hydration.

Do you have electricity available?

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No.

Is the warming house heated?

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Yes. During the ski season, the warming house is heated to 62 degrees F during the daylight hours and 45 degrees F overnight.

Are the comments in the logbook in the warming house available online?

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As of December 2010, many of those comments will be posted on our blog. Click here for archived comments from the warming house logbook.

Is cell phone service available?

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No. But you may be able to receive cell phone service about 3 miles south of the warming house on County Highway O.

Where is the closest lodging?

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Please visit the Shops & Lodging section above. More lodging is available at Christie Mountain, Bruce, Weyerhaeuser, Ladysmith, & Rice Lake. Lodging information is also available at these websites: Rice Lake Tourism and Rusk County Tourism.

Do you send out trail updates?

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Yes! To receive grooming updates, special events, news, announcements, volunteer days, and more, please sign up for our email newsletter in the subscribe section below. Your privacy is important to us, and your information is never shared.

How can I contact you?

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Please visit the contact page to reach us.

Blue Hills Trail

instagram updates
@bluehillstrailwisconsin
Crazy is as Crazy does. Had to cross multiple stretches of bare ground to find skiable snow on the East Side Ridgeline yesterday. A laughing fun adventure - shared with the snow fleas. #bluehillstrailwisconsin #snowfleas #snowinthewoods #skiingondirtisbetterthannoskiing #skiingondirt
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Sap’s running. So are my skis. #bluehillstrailwisconsin #springskiing
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What a fantastic week of skiing it was! Celebrate our week long ‘Virtual Birkie Races’ by visiting our blog. Link in bio ⬆️ #bluehillstrailwisconsin #birkiefever #winterwisconsin #wisconsinwinter
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Fresh snow Wednesday morning, fresh grooming Wednesday evening, then Thursday sunshine and temps in the mid thirties. A perfect Bluebird day in the Blue Hills - another memorable day for Virtual Birkie skiers. Congrats to all! #bluehillstrailwisconsin #bluebirdday
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2” fresh snow Sunday evening, then groomed about 3/4 of the trail system Sunday night. Found untouched fresh corduroy this morning. #bluehillstrailwisconsin #freshcorduroy #skitrails #skitrailgrooming #winterwisconsin
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Mighty fine skiing today. Look at all these smiley faces! #bluehillstrailwisconsin #nordicskiing #kidsonskis #winterfun #ruskcountywi #birkiefever2021 #birkiefever
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Classic classic track. Shady Way trail on the East Side. #bluehillstrailwisconsin #birkebeiner #waxmyskis #snowisfun
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Monday sunrise -25 F was coldest day of this otherwise mild winter. Reached zero by mid afternoon when classic skiing was a kick! #bluehillstrailwisconsin #bluehillstrail #colderthanapolarbearstoenails #winterfun #belowzero
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Cold, sunny days. A good time to explore our snowshoe trails. Human rope tows are a FUNctional assist on the steeper hills. Swipe to see a video example. #bluehillstrailwisconsin #wisconsinsnowshoeing #northwoodswisconsin #ruskcounty #subzerofun
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Come ski the Hills! Virtually! The Blue Hills Trail is excited to be a BIRKIE VIRTUAL VENUE PARTNER. We've outlined three separate race routes for our trail system. A snapshot of one of those routes is shown with this post. VISIT OUR BLOG to see the rest of the routes and get the details. Link in Bio ⬆️ #bluehillstrailwisconsin #birkiefever #americanbirkebeiner
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Single digits Fahrenheit. Toko mint grip wax. A classic day on Excelsior Road. #bluehillstrailwisconsin #skiclassic #tokowax #kickwax #wisconsinwinter
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This is the steep straight down/up portion of our trail that connects our East and West Side trails (located between J and K on the West Side). Swipe to see what’s hiding under the snow. Last fall Scott Gudis Sand & Gravel (Bruce, WI) did a great job of replacing a damaged culvert. Thanks to Scott, we can safely ski this hill. #bluehillstrailwisconsin #culvertreplacement #heavyequipmentoperators #brucewisconsin #skiingisfun
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Excelsior Road and West Side trails: THE place to ski yesterday. Fantastic conditions! #bluehillstrailwisconsin #groundhogsday #classicskiing #skateski
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Another day full of smiles at the Blue Hills Trail. Ain’t winter great! #bluehillstrailwisconsin #aintwintergrand #wisconsinwinter #xcskiinglife
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The equipment that grooms our ski trails takes a beating. We recently were again amazed by the capabilities of a nearby machine shop that fabricated a special washer for improving the durability of our Camoplast tracks. Visit our latest blog post to be amazed: link in bio⬆️ #bluehillstrailwisconsin #cphenterprises #waterjetcutting #ruskcountywi
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Gator rescue! Our John Deere Gator suddenly stalled out on a steep hillside a couple days ago. Yesterday we got it running, and were able to move it back to our trailhead before it quit again. Swipe to see the 5 videos showing the rescue. Now it’s time for Dr. Gator. #bluehillstrailwisconsin #gatorrescue #winterchallenges #skitrailgrooming
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Dynamite grooming. Dynamite skiing. Come Ski the Hills! #bluehillstrailwisconsin #bluehillstrail #covidescape #skiforfun #ruskcountywi
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Video shows our groomer looking ahead while setting classic track behind. Swipe for photo of finished results on ‘Excelsior Road’ trail. Nice to see the sun again. #bluehillstrailwisconsin #skitrailgrooming #powdersnow❄️ #foresttherapy #freshcorduroy #fluffypowder
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Rollercoaster Trail at Blue Hills Trail. Built a dozen years ago, anyone can ski it in the uphill direction. Downhill, it’s a bit of a thrill. #bluehillstrailwisconsin #rollercoasters #rollercoasterride #skicrosscountry #funonsnow
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At the Blue Hills Trail, “what goes down, must come up”. Plenty of hills to satisfy your training needs. #bluehillstrailwisconsin #getoutside #cardioworkout #crosscountryskiing #skateskiing
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January 20, 2021. A very good day. #bluehillstrailwisconsin #bluehillstrail #otterslide #fastskis #skinnyskis #ruskcountywi
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Busy Sunday in the Blue Hills. Skate skiing on the ‘Gravel Road’. Classic skiing on the East Side Ridgeline. #bluehillstrailwisconsin #snowislife #skiforfun #wisconsinlife
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Photo shows our trails midday today. Surprisingly firm and skiable despite warm temps and some rain. We’re gonna try grooming this evening. Please be patient, it might take a few days to get yesterday’s new snow up to snuff. #bluehillstrailwisconsin #bluehillstrail #skitrailgrooming #aintwintergrand #heavywetsnow #wegotsnow #winterwisconsin
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A quick lesson in ski trail grooming: With snow headed our way, this was a good day to use our trail compactor to level the high spots and washboard on a few select trails. Should result in a smoother skate deck. #bluehillstrailwisconsin #skitrailgrooming #snowgrooming #skateskiing #skateski #ruskcountywi #bluehillstrail
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Hoar frost / Rime frost topping on the trails today January 12th. Wonderful skiing - do yourself a favor and SKI THE HILLS January 13th - you’ll be happy you did. #bluehillstrailwisconsin #bluehillstrail #foresttherapy #ruskcountywi #getyourvitamind #iloveskiing #escapetothehills #winterinwisconsin
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As Good As It Gets! Two January 10 videos show great skiing on Excelsior Road - Blue Hills Trail in northwest Wisconsin. #bluehillstrailwisconsin #xcclassicski #skiclassic #skateski #asgoodasitgets #januaryinwisconsin #wisconsinwinter
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Another fun day getting my kicks in the Hills. #bluehillstrailwisconsin #xcclassic #xcskier #chasingyourdream
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Not much snow, but our groomers have made the most of it. Two videos showing good skiing on the East Side trails - January 6, 2021. #bluehillstrailwisconsin #januaryinwisconsin #wisconsinlife #wisconsinoutdoors #wisconsinwinter #skateski #ruskcounty
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A ‘Rime Frost’ blue skies sunny day - fun day for skiing the Blue Hills Trail. Pictures are from the West Side of the trail system. Swipe for video taken on the ‘Lollipop’. Trail conditions updated daily at website, link in Bio ⬆️ #bluehillstrailwisconsin #fundayonskis #wisconsinwinter #sunnyski #mansbestfriend🐶 #justenoughsnowforme #justenoughsnowtoski
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Sun burnt off the fog, visitors enjoyed a hoarfrost snowfall on the trails. Great place to socially distance with family & friends! #bluehillstrailwisconsin #sociallydistanceoutdoors #hoarfrost #wevegotsnow #fasterskier #skiwithfriends
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Packed powder skiing on New Year’s Day. Loads of visitors welcomed 2021! Video shows the East/West crossover trail. #bluehillstrailwisconsin #packedpowder #skateski #classicski #welcome2021
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Good skiing through the hoarfrost on New Years Eve day. Get the daily scoop by visiting ‘Trail Conditions’ on our website - link in bio⬆️. Wishing you a happy healthy 2021! #bluehillstrailwisconsin #skinnyski #skinnyskis #crosscountryskiwithkids #xcski
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Excelsior Road (West Side) and The Gravel Road (East Side) were groomed last evening. Skiing this afternoon I was treated to 1” of feathers on top of the fresh grooming! Gonna groom these same trail segments again this evening. #bluehillstrailwisconsin #silentsports #silenceofnature🌳⛅️🗻 #skiingonfeathers #beautyofwinter
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Many of our 20+ miles of ski trails have received initial grooming in the past several days. The best skiing is shown as green highlights on the attached maps. And did you know our West Side trails are dog friendly? Be sure to visit our website where you’ll find ‘TRAIL CONDITIONS’ updated daily: link in Bio ⬆️ #bluehillstrailwisconsin #skijoring #foresttherapy #classicskiing #dogsonsnow
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Christmas in the Blue Hills. Very good skating on Excelsior Road this afternoon; pretty good striding as well. Groomers will be out working again tomorrow. #bluehillstrailwisconsin #christmasski #ruskcounty #skateskiing #skiwithdogs
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After yesterday’s rain, Santa brought snow - enough to start grooming the ski trails! This afternoon we rolled the ‘Gravel Road’ on the East Side trails, and ‘Excelsior Road’ on the West Side. Thanks Santa. #bluehillstrailwisconsin #earlywinterskiing #xcs #xcskiing #skinnyski
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A little more snow and we may be able to do some grooming. Today we moved our workhorse snowmobile to its winter home. #bluehillstrailwisconsin #wisconsinoutdoors #ruskcountywi #weneedsnow #crosscountryskiing
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Lunch time. Even busy beavers need a break now & then. #bluehillstrailwisconsin #busybeaver #busyasabeaver #timber
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Not enough snow to ski the trails. BUT very good skiing on Audie Lake - 2.5 miles northwest of the warming house. Audie is always an enjoyable getaway. #bluehillstrailwisconsin #wisconsinwinter #xcskiingonlakes #xcski #frozenlakes #silenceofnature
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Pictures from our ‘Rabbit Trail’ where bunnies made a fresh appearance on the Blue Hills Trail today. It felt like October today - 48 degrees F - way too warm for December! It’s time to cool down, then Santa needs to bring us some snow. #bluehillstrailwisconsin #whereiswinter #xcskiingwithoutsnow
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Every other year our volunteers replace all the intersection maps. That’s 60 maps, but who’s counting? Combined with excellent signage, it makes it easy to get your bearings on the Blue Hills Trail. #bluehillstrailwisconsin #trailvolunteers #xcskitrails #foresttherapy #findyourselfoutside
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Good hiking in early December. Frost is entering the ground, the ski trails are ready for snow. Photos show the biggest oak tree in the County Forest; hiking on the ‘Far East’ trail; and our Gator doing some trail work on the West Side trails. #bluehillstrailwisconsin #trailwork #hikingwisconsin #weneedsnow
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Big News! Wisconsin's Blue Hills Trail has revised its website, its maps, its blog - and added an Instagram account. Spread the word. VISIT THE BLOG for details – link in bio ⬆️ #bluehillstrailwisconsin #crosscountryskiing #skinnyski #ruskcountywi #ricelakewi #travelwisconsin #tomterrifik
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1.5” big fluffy parachute snowflakes today. Might actually be able to ski on some of our trails — even though the underlying ground isn’t yet frozen. #bluehillstrailwisconsin #winterinwisconsin #crosscountryskiing #xcskiing
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Tight corner. Placed orange driveway markers at the edge. Gotta keep our groomers on track. #bluehillstrailwisconsin
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After unseasonably warm weather in the first week of November, more wintry weather will start to freeze the trails. Hopefully x-country skiing is just around the corner. This photo was taken on the East Side trails - it shows one of our most important bridges. #bluehillstrailwisconsin
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Bridge building in October successfully spanned a small creek that was always a challenge to summertime mowing & wintertime grooming of our ski trails. #bluehillstrailwisconsin
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