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Backpacker Magazine – October 1999

Penokee Mountains: The Alps Of Wisconsin

What they've lost in height, the Penokee Mountains make up for in big views and solitude.

by: Jack Kulpa

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QUICK TAKE: Penokee Mountains, WI

DRIVE TIME: The Penokee Mountains are 400 miles (8 hours) north of Chicago and 250 miles (5 hours) east of Minneapolis.

THE WAY: To reach the trailhead for the Penokee Hiking Trail, travel north on WI 13 from the intersection with US 8 in Prentice. At Mellen, exit west (left) onto Hwy. GG and follow the signs to the Penokee Hiking Trail. Trailheads for the North Country and Uller Trails are on WI 122 and are well marked.

TRAILS: Two lengthy sections of the North Country Trail (NCT) form the hiking backbone of the Penokees. West of Mellen, the NCT links with the Penokee Mountains Hiking Trail for weekend-size trips. East of Mellen, the NCT is rough, remote, and occasionally difficult to follow. It connects with the 19-mile Uller Trail to offer extensive hiking.

ELEVATION: Mt. Whittlesey, at 1,872 feet, is the highest point in the Penokees.

CAN'T MISS: The view from Corrigan's Lookout.

CROWD CONTROL: Encounters with other hikers are rare, especially when you're away from state parks.

PIT STOP: The Steak Out in Mellen serves a traditional Wisconsin fish fry on Friday nights.

WALK SOFTLY: The Penokees host a healthy bear population, so keep a clean camp and hang food.

MAPS AND GUIDES: Iron County (see below) will supply you with free maps of the Uller Trail and a county map pinpointing the trails, waterfalls, and other attractions east of Wren Falls. The Forest Service (see below) provides a free map of the Penokee Mountains Hiking Trail.

MORE INFORMATION: Iron County Development Zone Council, Hurley, WI 54534; (715) 561-2922. North Country Trail Association, 49 Monroe Center NW, Grand Rapids, MN 49503; (616) 454-5506. Chequamegon National Forest, Great Divide Ranger Station, Glidden, WI 54527; (715) 264-2511.

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