The last glacial maximum brought rich farmland to our great state, gave us our thousands of lakes scattered throughout the northern half of the state, and altered the landscape in more ways than any other natural event in our areas history. Ice is an extremely powerful landscaper, slowly inching its way further and further, until finally, after retreating, the land is left with many amazing features that Wisconsin can lay claim to.
On the fringe of the ‘Driftless Area’ of the state lies a landscape that takes you out of Wisconsin and transplants you in what feels like the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. Levis Mounds was not decimated by glaciers, it was sculpted, altered, and graced by their presence. Being at the edge of glaciation, Levis underwent a unique transformation. It’s sandstone bluffs, or monadnocks, were cut out of the earth to provide us with a remarkable terrain for mountain biking today. Other trail networks can thank glaciers for their work over 10,000 years ago, notably, the Greenbush trail network in the northern Kettle Moraine State Forest, however very few have been implemented in this transition-zone that Levis has. This terrain leads to radical changes in trail type, you begin riding on what feels like a flatland type of trail that was wiped flat by a massive bulldozer, then suddenly you are climbing and gaining elevation as you pedal upon bluffs that arise out of thin air, bluffs that were just strong enough to withstand the push from the edge of an immense ice sheet that nearly toppled them millennium in the past. In addition to geological processes, good old fashion human power is what puts the trail in as the landscape is but a canvas and we, the artist.
Levis Mounds Trail Center is located in Clark County, just south of Niellsville. Approximately a 2 hour drive from Oshkosh, Levis is a perfect trail to either take a full day to go and ride at, or plan on camping in the nearby campground to extend the stay and explore the area further.
The trail network consists of 19 miles of singletrack, much of which is part of the ‘IMBA Epic’ loop on the grounds. The trail has a consitancy of sandy soil, which allows the area to drain quickly and not experience long periods of standing moisture. (Turns out Levis is usually one of the first trail networks in the state to open for the season due to this as well.)
As you get further into the trail, you begin to climb and quickly get out of any moisture. While there is definitely periods of climbing here, the trail is designed to keep you motivated to keep going, throwing in quick periods of downhill and/or flat sections. Once up in elevation, the trail begins to narrow and tightly hug the clifside. Some sections require wood bridges to keep you from a tumble while other sections require sure bike handling and confidence. These trails are marked and if you’re riding with a novice or young rider, be mindful of what’s coming up on the trail.
Trails that need to be checked out when you make your visit are Sidewinder, the Hermosa trilogy, Clifhanger, Clarence (for the vista), and find Plubmer’s Crack. At the trail head, they also have installed a fun feature loop, letting you hone your skills before venturing out into the wilderness of Levis Mounds.