High in the hills south of Bayfield, there is a hidden treasure – Bayfield’s Nourse Sugarbush – the largest stand of old growth Sugar Maple in Wisconsin. The good news for all of us – it is accessible via the Mt. Ashwabay XC trail system.
In 2006, thanks to the work of the Bayfield Regional Conservancy and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resouces, the Nourse Sugerbush was designated as a Wisconsin State Natural Area and will be protected in perpetuity. As a State Natural Area motorized vehicles are not allowed. Access is limited to travel by foot, snowshoe and ski.
From the parking area near Mt. Ashwabay to the log cabin and “sugar shack” is about a 2 mile hike. The trail into the Sugerbush follows the original access road that is now closed to motorized vehicles. The hike in is a gradual uphill incline. You will pass through an area that was selectively logged a few years ago that provides some amazing views of the Pikes Creek Valley. As you hike along you will notice several distinct changes in forest type; moving from a mixed forest of aspen, oak and maple changing over to a more northern boreal forest of Balsam fir and birch. As you get closer to the Sugerbush the forest changes to mix of Hemlock and White Pine. When you reach the Sugerbush you enter an amazing stand of huge Sugar Maples that is truly awe-inspiring!
In additional to the amazing trees, the Log cabin and Sugar Shack are also hidden treasures. Built in the 1920”s by Harvey Nourse Sr. (owned Pinehurst from 1905-1984), the log cabin has served as a family retreat and hunting camp for several generations. The Sugar Shack is attached to the back of the cabin and is where the sap is boiled down to make Maple syrup. Other than some roof repair resulting from a tree falling on the shack little has changed since it was originally built. No matter what time of year that you choose to see the Sugarbush it is worth the trip. Our favorite time to visit is in the Fall of the year. The colors are amazing! Winter provides equally as wonderful opportunity. There are ski trails from Mt. Ashwabay the cross the property or you can snowshoe in on the access road.
A wonderful way to experience different seasons in a magnificent forest as well as getting a taste of how people “tapped” into the gifts these trees provide. Enjoy!