DNR proposes mountain biking, rock climbing, camping for Rib Mountain


The sun sets behind Rib Mountain State Park on Dec. 23, 2020. The DNR is considering creating mountain biking trails and multiuse paths, adding a campground as well as options for rock climbing and bouldering.

RIB MOUNTAIN – The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources earlier this month released new ideas and goals for the future of Rib Mountain State Park and is looking for public input.

The new masterplan aims to make Rib Mountain more of a year-round venue, keep downhill skiing open as long as possible and preserve the park’s nature, history, culture and infrastructure, the DNR said.

Climate change has been shortening the downhill skiing season and the DNR wants to keep the sport possible at Rib Mountain. Future plans for downhill skiing will be released after a climate change impact report is completed in the fall.

As part of the masterplan, the DNR is considering creating mountain biking trails and multiuse paths, adding a campground as well as options for rock climbing and bouldering that would not damage the unique rock formations at the park.

The DNR has been revising the Rib Mountain masterplan for nearly two decades and is asking for public input on its proposals. An open house to discuss the masterplan will be held from 4 to 7 p.m. June 22 in Room 1004A/B in the Center for Health Sciences Building at Northcentral Technical College, 1000 W. Campus Drive in Wausau. Presentations by DNR staff will begin at 5:30 p.m. with a Zoom link available for those who cannot attend in person.

You can also submit comments online, by email to john.pohlman@wisconsin.gov or by mail to Department of Natural Resources, Attn: John Pohlman, PO Box 7921, Madison, WI 53707-7921.

Hiking, biking and cross-country skiing

Mountain biking has been gaining popularity, especially around Wausau, and the DNR says that adding extensive mountain biking trails could help draw people from across the Midwest for multi-day mountain biking trips. They also suggest that a multiuse trail would be a popular amenity at Rib Mountain.

There are also no groomed cross-country skiing trails at Rib Mountain, although people still are able to cross-country ski in many parts of the park, but there are several cross-country skiing options in Wausau, including the Nine Mile County Forest, the DNR said.

Here are some of their proposals.

  • Add a 5- to 7-mile multiuse paved trail around the base of Rib Mountain. It would be 8 to 10 feet wide and relatively flat and be used for hiking, bicycling and cross-country skiing. It would not be ideal for mountain biking.
  • In the winter, the DNR would groom the multiuse trail for walkers, fat-tire bikers and cross-country skiers. The winter trail would not go through the downhill ski area. The DNR may link the multiuse trail with the Nine Mile County Forest so people can ski into the park.
  • Add 6 to 12 miles of mountain biking trails of various skill levels near the downhill ski area and the eastern side of the park. There would be at least one uphill-only trail, and hiking and bicycling would not occur on the same trails.
  • Add 12 to 20 miles of mountain biking trails for all skill levels, including at least two uphill-only trails. Bicyclists and hikers would seldom use the same paths. There would be a possibility of fat-tire biking in the winter along these trails.
People walk on the paved pathway along the road leading to Rib Mountain State Park. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is proposing a number of upgrades to the park including the addition of a multiuse paved trail around the base of Rib Mountain and mountain biking trails of various skill levels.

Rock climbing and bouldering

Bouldering and rock climbing have been gaining popularity among younger generations, although not many Wisconsinites participate in the activity, the DNR said. Rock climbing is not well-suited for Rib Mountain, but bouldering, which is similar to rock climbing but without ropes, is, they said. As these activities could damage the rock formations, they have to be intentional about where people can boulder and rock climb.

Here are some of their proposals:

  • Work with the Wisconsin Climbers Association to determine good bouldering locations. These would be places emergency personnel can easily access in case of an injury and would cause minimal ecological damage.
  • Much like bouldering, the DNR and Wisconsin Climbers Association would determine locations that would work well for rock climbing. These spots should impact the environment minimally and be easy for emergency personnel to access in case of an emergency.
  • Allow sport climbing with fixed anchors in the former quarry.


There are no campsites at Rib Mountain, but when the DNR completed surveys in 2020, people showed interest in the possibility. If campsites were to be built, the DNR said it may cater them to bikers if mountain biking trails are set up.

A campsite would primarily be for camping with tents since there is no room for an RV-accessible campground. Here are additional details:

  • The DNR would construct about 10 campsites with a central parking area. There would be vault toilets and drinking water as well as electricity in the parking lot for electric vehicles and a bike washing station. The campsites would not be suitable for RVs.
A Wausau couple sits on a rock during a 2011 concert at the Rib Mountain State Park Amphitheater. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is proposing upgrading the facilities at the top of the mountain for more visitors and a variety of events.

Amphitheater and day-use facilities

The DNR wants to make the amphitheater more of a community space and draw in people from outside Wausau.

Proposals include:

  • Upgrading the facilities at the top of the mountain for more visitors and a variety of events. Potential ideas include expanding and upgrading the amphitheater, adding a patio and space for food trucks or other temporary vendors, and adding more parking and bathrooms. 

Nature center

The 2005 master plan called for a nature center that was never built because there weren’t enough resources for the project, the DNR said.

Current proposals include:

  • Building the planned 2005 nature center including an outdoor deck, classrooms, educational programming and an equipment rental area.
  • Adding to the park entrance visitor center for educational displays and classroom/meeting areas. The visitor center at the park entrance is already a key part of the park, so by adding on more spaces, the DNR can include elements of the nature center without building a new building. It would be less expensive and easier to maintain.

For more information about the proposals, visit the Rib Mountain State Park master plan website.

MORE NEWS:  Marathon County tourism spending jumped by 21% last year as people looked to outdoor recreation

MORE NEWS:Outdoor music, dining returns for the summer to downtown Wausau

Contact Emalyn Muzzy at Emuzzy@gannett.com or follow her on Twitter @EmalynMuzzy.


Source link

Scroll to Top