Wisconsin’s Brule River State Forest and Ashland — Hiking, Restaurants, Beer, and a Boutique Hotel

After a much needed night in a hotel (mainly for the shower) we started the drive from Superior to Ashland. Along the way, we passed through the Brule River State Forest.

This area is huge. It encompasses all 44 miles of the Bois Brule River. It’s a forest full of activities which include hiking, biking, fishing, paddling, and camping. This area would take a long time to thoroughly explore, much longer than we had. We decided to make our stop quick and do a short hike.

State forest information:
Brule River State Forest Website
Brule River Forest Map

Stony Hill Nature Trail:

Length: 1.6 mile loop
Difficulty: Moderately Easy or Moderate (depending on the route)
About: Climb up and down 164 feet as you learn about the natural and cultural history of the forest.

I used the Stony Hill Brochure to find the trailhead and learn about the trail.

Getting to the trailhead: As this area is large with minimal cell reception, I recommend using a paper map in addition to your GPS. From highway 2, turn onto Range Road and head towards the ranger station. Parking for the trailhead is on one side of the ranger station parking lot. Look for the Stony Hill sign.

After a short trail into the forest, the trail splits into the loop. For a more strenuous hike, turn right at the fork to follow the trail counter clockwise. For a less strenuous hike, turning left is your friend. Either direction will still take you up and then down the 164 foot climb, but turning right will make you climb it in a much shorter distance. We turned right.

Cute trail markers along the way.

After a nice climb, you reach the top for the promised lookout point over the Brule River valley. The benches mark the spot.

Not all lookout points can be winners. The overgrowth here makes the view nonexistent but hey, the climb up was a nice workout.

Various signs along the trail help you learn about the unique natural, cultural, and economic history of the area.


After this short hike, we finished the 40 minute drive to Ashland. Before this trip, I had never been to Ashland and knew little about it. I was very pleased to find that Ashland is a charming small town nestled on the south side of the Chequamegon Bay with an unexpected artistic side.

We were always planning to stay the night in Ashland, but we weren’t expecting to have as much time to kill as we did. (The original plan was to hike more in the forest.) Let me recap our day of Google recommended places and wandering about.

Lunch: Jack’s Burger Barn

(Photo Credit: Jack’s Burger Barn)

This was one of the top Google suggestions for an easy sit down lunch. Boy did this hit the spot. One of my favorite foods is a buffalo chicken wrap, which they had. I also love a salad bar, which was an option as a side. As a bonus, they had fun flavored milkshakes. This place was perfect after all the hiking we had done on this trip so far. Burger Barn Website

After lunch we walked around the downtown to see the many murals painted on buildings by local artists. These 24 murals are found all over Ashland County with several of them in the downtown area.

(Photo Credit: Mural Brick Road)

We also stumbled across an artsy pedestrian tunnel connecting the downtown area to the waterfront. This tunnel contains more than 250 mosaics of various fish, animals, plants, etc., done by local artists.

After Lunch and Walking Activity,
South Shore Brewery:

South Shore Brewery Website Always on the hunt for a new or local brewery, we stopped at the South Shore brewery located in the downtown area. This brewery had a bunch of solid flagship beers along with some interesting specialty brews.

(Photo Credit: South Shore Brewery)

Lodging: Blue Wave Inn

(Photo Credit: Blue Wave Inn)

Finally we headed to our hotel for the night to relax. The Blue Wave Inn is a 5 room boutique hotel on the shore of the bay. All rooms are lakeside with stunning views. We stayed in room #4, the Northland Voyageur room.

(Photo Credit: Trip Adviser)

Every room is uniquely decorated and full of charm.

It’s hard to beat a private balcony overlooking the water and stunning views from your super comfy bed.

I geeked out over the shower. The shower alone was the size of a small bathroom and was located in it’s own room.

This photo is actually the next morning. My husband woke me up super early from a deep sleep and I was very confused why. This was why.

For dinner, we opted not to leave the hotel again and ate at the hotel’s restaurant, The Sandbar. Surrounded by windows overlooking the water, we ate delicious chef crafted local veggies and fresh caught whitefish.

This hotel was amazing. From the rooms and views to the food. I know there are other talked up hotels in Ashland, but it would be hard to go anywhere else next time. Blue Wave Inn Website

After checking out of the hotel in Ashland, it was on the road again to Bayfield and Madeline Island. Until then, happy hiking!

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