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Blue Hills Trail History

The Blue Hills Trail of northern Wisconsin's Rusk County began as an eleven-mile complex of loops nestled within a rolling deciduous forest cut by small streams and sprinkled with red and white pines, balsam, and hemlock. It has since been expanded to 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.

Blue Hills Trail Warming House in the snow
The warming house at the East Side trailhead

The East Side 11km 'Core Loop' receives priority grooming attention. Taken in a counterclockwise direction, the loop follows 3 kilometers of easy terrain before climbing to the ridge-line. Tight corners on both ends of the loop have been widened and banked to make them more skier-friendly.

The trail system is groomed for both skating and striding by a 2020 Honda Pioneer 1000 UTV with Mattracks tracks, and a 2017 Arctic Cat Bearcat Groomers Special snowmobile (4-stroke machine) pulling a variety of high-tech implements including: a medium and a large G2 (Generation 2 Tidd Tech Products) with track setters, one ABR compaction drag, and two rollers/compactors (Yellowstone Track Systems Products). The Tidd Tech implements have electric actuators for adjusting teeth "on the fly" - and adjusting track setter pressure plus elevation while moving.

The club has worked hard to make the trail an enjoyable experience for skiers of all ability levels. In addition to skiing, the trail is open to snowshoers (skating lane or off trail only, please). With its starting point at the warming house, a dedicated snowshoe trail was added December 2011.

Hiking and biking are encouraged during the non-winter seasons; mountain bikers may find the west side of the trail system more user friendly. Hunters have always been welcome in the fall. Pit toilets are available at the trailhead. A log warming house was built during the fall of 1998.

The trailhead is located on the east side of Fire Lane Road, 2.5 miles north of the road's intersection with County Highway O. This junction is 8 miles northwest of Bruce and 0.5 miles east of Christie Mountain Downhill Snow Area. The entire trail system is non-motorized: the east side of the trail system, which includes the original, heavily wooded part of the system, is closed to horses; the more open west side features large beaver ponds and sweeping vistas, and during the winter months the west side is also closed to horses. Both sides may be accessed from the trailhead.

The original trail and subsequent extensions were developed with the cooperation and assistance of the Rusk County Forestry Department. Major funding and donations in kind for startup and development were provided by Wildlife Restoration Association and Bruce Jaycees as well as many other area groups and individuals. Additional donations have been provided by a large and diverse number of local organizations and individuals.

Perennial expenses include trail grooming costs, the purchase and maintenance of grooming and mowing equipment, insurance, fuel for the warming house's propane furnace, summertime mowing, and the cost of signage, bridgework and culverting. Club members maintain the warming house and pit toilets year round. They also pick rocks, clear downed trees, repair washouts, replace signs, and brush the trail margins annually.

The Blue Hills Trail Association would like to thank the following for their help in 1998-2024 with the Blue Hills Trail and the log warming house: American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation Inc., DNR Park Aids Grant, Richard Gralewicz Memorial, Jump River Electric, Senes Mestelle Memorial, Jeld-Wen Windows & Doors, In Honor of Jean Replinger, Rice Lake Tourism, Rusk County Tourism, Rusk County Forest Administrator and Foresters, Weather Shield LITE Foundation, Wildlife Restoration Association, and Wisconsin Conservation Corps.

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.