I have done a great deal of riding on the CAMBA trails since moving to Minnesota and I can say with utmost sincerity that these trails, in the Cable-Hayward, WI area, are just as fine as the trails out west and even have several IMBA Epic-designated trails.
Among the most notable of the CAMBA trails are found within the Namakagon Cluster, and they’re at their most brilliant in the fall.
Namakagon Trail: Classified as an IMBA epic trail, it’s ten miles in length. There’s an immediate climb right out of the trailhead that reminds me of Montana’s Bangtail Divide Trail. The upside is that the ascent is but a fraction of the length and elevation gain that is Bangtail Divide. Once you get the climb out of the way, this trail combines singletrack, both technical and non-technical, and overgrown doubletrack.
Rock Lake Trail: Another IMBA epic trail is just over thirteen miles and is all singletrack. The hills are relentless and the descents wicked. The trail itself is nicely maintained with enough technical features (log piles, rock gardens, ledge drops) to make it challenging for advanced riders.
Five Mile Cut-off: By far the most difficult and challenging trail in this cluster. Between ominous features like the visually-dramatic Volkswagon Rock and a slew of rock bridges, uphill steps, loose rock and side-hilling, you’ll have your work cut out for you. Volkswagon Rock is rideable, I have done it twice though the second time ended in epic failure. The line over the rock is pretty obvious: Just right of center, get your weight back and don’t use your brakes.
Hildebrand Lake Loop: Not as difficult as Five Mile but close. As the name implies, the trail loops around Hildebreand Lake and is the most remote section of the cluster. A yellow caution sign indicates what you can expect: Drops, steps, rock gardens, dips, Picnic Table Rock, Wall Street (a rocky, intimidating descent) and the 103-foot long, 18-inch wide No Hands Bridge over a stream at the end of Hildebrand Lake. Many of these technical features have sneak routes but all rocky and technical sections should be ridden straight down the middle.
Think of the Namakagon Cluster as a…oh, I don’t know. A Midwestern Monarch Crest Trail? The trailhead may not start at 11,400 feet (and top out at 13,000 feet) but you’ll never keel over from altitude sickness. This time of year, you can experience the fall colors and leave the bug juice at home.
The days can be chilly so be sure to pack a layer in your hydration pack.
For trail updates: http://www.cambatrails.org/conditions.html