Questionable: Can pedestrians use snowmobile trails like the Bearskin Trail to hike on during the winter when snowmobiles are using them?
– Karen, Rhinelander
We asked Jim Jung, a conservation warden with the DNR, this question. He responded:
“Because the reader has asked specifically about the State DNR Bearskin Trail, I will answer that part of the question first then add comments regarding other snowmobile trail issues.
“The Bearskin Trail is listed as a state park and is managed under the supervision of the Council Grounds State Park in Merrill. The trail is designated for biking, hiking and snowmobile operation. All other recreational motor vehicles as well as vehicular traffic is prohibited. Activities such as hunting and trapping off the trail is also illegal. Pedestrians can legally utilize the Bearskin Trail in winter months and by law all snowmobile operators must slow to 10 mph when traveling within 100-feet of a pedestrian. Caution; although you can legally hike on the Bearskin Trail during winter months I would consider looking for another area. Many snowmobilers do not expect to see hikers on this state park trail in winter months and it may be safer to find another trail to hike.
“Similar questions regarding snowmobile trails may include: Can a snowmobiler hunt rabbits, grouse, coyotes, etc. off of a marked snowmobile trail which is located on private property? That answer is no, not without the property owners permission. Can anglers use a quarter mile section of a marked snowmobile trail to travel between two lakes, (on private lands) with an ATV or UTV to go ice fishing? Again that answer is no, not without the property owner’s permission. The local snowmobile clubs sign easements with each private property owner for the express purpose of snowmobiling activities so hunting, ATV/UTV operation and trapping is not authorized under these easements.
“If I purchased a UTV and put tracks on it in place of the tires can I then operate that machine on a marked snowmobile trail? No, the machine was produced as an ATV/UTV and modified for use on the snow and therefore it is not defined as a snowmobile and cannot be registered as a snowmobile. This altered machine can be operated on frozen waterways and on private property with landowner permission.”