by Bret Amundson
Hayward, WI – Our first UTV ride through the trails of Sawyer County left us wanting more time to spend there. We barely put a dent in the 600 miles of trails that weave through the forests of northwestern Wisconsin, but the top-notch conditions, wildlife sightings and proximity to good food and drinks gave us a glimpse of what’s available. If you’re a trail rider or just looking for a family trip, here’s how to plan an ATV trip to Wisconsin. (Or UTV/Snowmobile as well)
The best part of this experience is that I didn’t need to go buy my own side-by-side and pull a trailer for the 5-hour trip. We were able to rent brand new Polaris RZR XP 1000s from Hayward Power Sports. In fact, we might have been the first people to ever ride them during our visit in May.
“Each season at the beginning of May is when our trails open,” said Ashley Schroeder, rental manager. “Polaris Outfitters supplies us with brand new units every season that runs through to November.”
RIDING THE TRAILS
They have two-seater and four-seater models available to rent and each of them are equipped with GPS maps, so getting from point A to point B is a breeze. While the variety of trails can offer something for everyone, they’re all easy riding.
“There isn’t advanced riding in the county. The trails are very scenic because we’re surrounded by the National Forest, the state forest and the county forests,” Schroeder said.
All ages can enjoy these trails and their usage increased in recent years. ”I think COVID brought a lot more families and just reintroduced them to the outdoors and these sports,” Schroeder added.
As we twisted and turned through the trees, we spotted signs of the logging industry that keeps these forests vibrant. Logs were stacked and the sound of chainsaws could be heard in the distance. There are times that the trails are shared by other vehicles as gravel and paved roads become part of the system, but not to the point that they’re too busy.
WHO MAINTAINS THE TRAILS
The ATV/UTV trails are also used by snowmobiles in the winter.
“We have some that are ATV/UTV only and some that are snowmobile. You can pretty much get anywhere you want to go by ATV or snowmobile trail,” Schroeder said.
Hayward Power Sports also rents snowmobiles and since their location is right on the trail system, you can drive them out their front gate and start riding.
The trails are maintained by the Sawyer County Alliance. The non-profit corporation is made up of 10 ATV and Snowmobile clubs in the county. Their goal is to “create and maintain the best off-road ATV/UTV and snowmobile trails in the world.”
“They have fought tirelessly to open up trails,” Schroeder said.
Keeping those trails open isn’t easy or cheap. Their website states that they’re the “World’s largest single owner of trail grooming equipment.” During a stop at Reel Livin’ Resort Steve Bethke told a group of us more about the Alliance.
“Earlier this year we purchased two new groomers, any guesses on what they cost?” Asked Bethke. “$450,000. $300,000 for a tractor and $150,000 for a truck on tracks.”
The group raises funds throughout the year to pay for the grooming equipment and works to get the local businesses involved since they benefit from the trail traffic.
“We’re trying to marry our trail system to our businesses,” Bethke said.
The area is mapped well and the trails are clearly marked with signs that show you how to get to some of the resorts and restaurants along the way.
“By snowmobile you can get from Deerfoot to Chief Lake Lodge in about 15 minutes, which is about 11-plus miles, but you’re going as fast as you want to go on a snowmobile. That’s the beauty of it, it’s a lot of fun,” Bethke said while reminding us to follow trail rules and speed limits.
PLAN A TRIP
The Alliance is run by volunteers who submit work reports and after the work is done, the Alliance is reimbursed. The volunteers are not paid for their time. The Wisconsin DNR is in ultimately in charge of developing and maintaining the trails. Their funding comes from ATV/UTV registrations, out-of-state trail passes and a small percentage of State gas tax. Riders of the trails must display a Wisconsin State Trail Pass in addition to any other registration that may be required. Annual passes for snowmobiles registered in Wisconsin are $30 (or $10 if you belong to a club) and Out-of-State Trail Passes are $50.
If you want to plan an ATV trip to Wisconsin, contact Hayward Power Sports.
“Just give us a call,” Schroeder said. “We always like to talk to them and go through the trail system and the protocols and just get to know them a little bit before they come up here and make sure that all their questions are answered. So giving us a call is always the best.”
Distance to Hayward: Minneapolis: 2.5 hours, Milwaukee: 5 hours, Chicago: 6 hours, Duluth: 1.5 hours, Fargo: 5.5 hours, Sioux Falls: 6 hours
Rentals: Hayward Power Sports: www.haywardpowersports.com
12305 WI-77, Hayward, WI 54843 | 715-462-3674
For Sale or Rent: ATV/UTVs, Snowmobiles, Pontoons, Fishing Boats, PWC’s, Motors and more.
UTV Rental Rates:
2-person: $364 for 4 hours/$2,784 weekly.
4-Person: $424 for 4 hours/$3,144 weekly.
Sawyer County Alliance: https://sawyercountyalliance.com/
Lodging and Meal Information:
Hayward Lakes Visitor and Convention Bureau: www.haywardlakes.com
Lake Chippewa Flowage Resort Association: www.chippewaflowage.com
We ate at: Treeland Resorts, The Landing Resort, Pat’s Landing Resort, Reel Livin’ Resort, Tiger Musky Resort, and Main Street Tacos.
Click here to listen to a podcast from the trip. Here is a video from our trip that includes riding the trails so if you want to plan an ATV trip to Wisconsin, this can help.