Ice Age National Scenic Trail 2021 Highlights

The Ice Age Trail Alliance provided the following highlights for the Ice Age NST during the 2021 calendar year:

Conserving Trail Lands and Boosting Climate Resilience

New Ice Age Trail built in 2021 on the Mammoth’s Back Preserve. Photo by Cameron Gillie.

In February of 2020 the Ice Age Trail Alliance purchased 46 acres of land at the edge of the Driftless region. Rising out of the agricultural fields is a hill resembling the double humped back of a woolly mammoth. Along with the help of conservation-minded donors and local business owners, we were able to raise private funds to supplement funding from the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program and the Dane County Conservation Fund. The property was on the market and slated for a home site. Instead, it will be permanently protected and restored as a host to the Ice Age National Scenic Trail, providing more off-road hiking experiences in Dane County.

Currently, the un-glaciated bedrock hills host a remnant prairie. The Dane County Chapter has been busy restoring the hilltop, having hosted 10 workdays to remove invasive non-native species like Common and Glossy Buckthorn and Bush Honeysuckles. The Ice Age Trail Alliance hosted a Mobile Skills Crew project to establish a loop trail, and extend existing Ice Age Trail by 3 miles. Mammoth’s Back Preserve has been and will continue to be a rewarding property to restore to prairie and oak savannah, providing habitat for native plants, insects like The Rusty Patch Bumblebee, Monarch butterflies, and grassland birds.

Local Economy, Tourism and Community Health

Monty the Mammoth greets hikers in Cornell, Wisconsin as they participate in the Mammoth Hike Challenge. Photo by Vicki Christenson.

The Mammoth Hike Challenge, held during the month of October 2021, encouraged a growing number of new Ice Age Trail users, long-time users, and out-of-state tourists to hike, run, or walk 41 miles as they visit our 15 designated Ice Age Trail Communities spread throughout Wisconsin.

The Ice Age National Scenic Trail traverses the entire state of Wisconsin, coursing through small roadside stops, quintessential communities and deep Northwoods alike. There may be no better way to explore the beauty, glacial landscapes, and communities of Wisconsin than hiking the Ice Age Trail.

The Challenge is a way for outdoor enthusiasts to dive into a deeper experience of Wisconsin while spending time on the Trail. It is an opportunity to slow down, unplug and tune in. It is designed to celebrate the Ice Age Trail, increase tourism in Ice Age Trail Communities, and extend the fall hiking season.

Over 6,500 people registered for the Mammoth Hike Challenge and with a 50% completion rate, participants spent more than $380,000 in our Ice Age Trail Communities and beyond. The Challenge is sponsored by Travel Wisconsin and Duluth Trading Company.

Other Highlights

Volunteers and Ice Age Trail Alliance Staff gather on the newly finished Ringle Segment to have a champagne toast celebrating 5 years of hard work. Photo by Patrick Gleissner.

After many years of planning, 5 years of construction and 11 trail building events, the 7-mile Ringle reroute is complete.

Local and State entities as well as the NPS combined their efforts to procure land, gather resources, and raise funds in order to make this showpiece trail a reality. More than 1,100 VIP’s gave over 26,000 hours of their time to provide this section of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail a new home in the heart of Wisconsin. Volunteers from all walks of life worked with the Ice Age Trail Alliance to engage the community while preserving and improving public lands for all to enjoy.

The result of this monumental endeavor is a trail, away from shared corridors, showcasing the unique landscapes carved along the terminal moraine of the Wisconsin Glaciation.