Long-distance hiking event is coming to Wisconsin’s Ice Age Trail in June
“Not your average hike” is perhaps an understatement for the MammothMarch, a long-distance hiking event coming to Wisconsin for the first time this year.
The June 3 event invites participants to hike 20 or 30 miles in one day primarily on the Ice Age Trail through the Northern Unit of the Kettle Moraine State Forest—a challenging hike on any trail, let alone the hilly Ice Age Trail that dips and climbs over the cirques and moraines that give the forest its name.
Of course, trail runners run double the distance every year in races like the Ice Age Trail 50. But not everyone has what it takes to be an ultrarunner, and for those who don’t, the MammothMarch is a worthy and more achievable goal.
“There are millions of events for runners…but there isn’t really anything that caters to people who don’t want to or can’t run and still love an organized, challenging run,” said Michael Mitreuter, who created the run 2021 with marches in Ohio and New Jersey. Mitreuter, who is from Germany and has a background in organizing running events in sports marketing, decided to start the MammothMarch when he realized that there were no long-distance hiking or walking events in the US. There are some in Germany and Austria, he said, but they differ from MammothMarch events because the infrastructure is so different between countries.
“(Mammoth Marches) are actually a lot more scenic because everything is within park boundaries and a lot of the trails that we use are single track trails … most of them are just for hiking, or at least hiking and biking,” he said.
It’s not a race, it’s an adventure
The event bills itself as a hiking challenge or adventure, not a running event or race. Competitors usually finish within a specified time (8 hours for the 20 mile course, 12 for the 30 mile course), but they are not timed.
Sure, you could always hike 20 or 30 miles on the Ice Age Trail without paying the $59 price tag—just like you could always run a marathon without paying a race entry fee. But there is a reason why people attend organized events. Not only do they provide support in the form of medical staff and refreshment stations – stocked with bananas, protein bars, sandwiches and other snacks for the MammothMarch – but there is a sense of camaraderie and accomplishment after the event concludes. (And finishers receive a medal and certificate as proof of that achievement.)
“You feel like the community is blaming each other for something – running 20 miles straight – and most of the people I can tell you have never done that before and are very surprised at how far they can take one day like an event day can push each other. ‘ Mitreuter said.
And if the participants reach their limits before the finish, a shuttle is available to take them back to their vehicles from one of the three aid stations.
Also, the hike is good. Not only is it a low-waste event — hikers bring their own water bottles to fill up at aid stations — but organizers are also planting a tree for every registered hiker through a partnership with OneTreePlanted. In 2022, that meant 5,441 trees were planted in a reforestation project in Ohio.
Last year, the events were held in eight states, and this year they’ve expanded to 12, including Wisconsin because of its reputation as an “outdoor state,” Mitreuter said. He added that the Ice Age Trail, a national scenic trail, also has a name and therefore attracts people from overseas as well.
The Wisconsin hike is limited to 1,000 participants with staggered start times not only for park capacity but to ensure trails aren’t overcrowded, Mitreuter said.
“You’re still enjoying a remote hiking experience … and technically (not) having to crawl your way through and past other hikers and other participants,” he said.
The trails may have more hikers than usual, however, since the first weekend in Wisconsin is typically a Free Fun Weekend when admission to all state parks is free and trail passes and fishing licenses are not required. June 3rd is also National Trails Day.
The 20-mile MammothMarch begins at Mauthe Lake in Campbellsport and follows a loop primarily on the Ice Age Trail through the northern unit of the Kettle Moraine State Forest. The 30-mile route follows the same loop for the first 20 miles, then an additional 10-mile loop on separate trails. The exact routes will be announced two weeks before the event.
More:A backpacking adventure near Milwaukee: the Ice Age Trail in the Kettle Moraine
By early March, the Wisconsin event was nearly sold out as all early bird tickets (which started at $59) were gone, leaving the remaining $94 (20 miles) and $99 (30 miles).
Mitreuter said they’ve returned to each of the previous locations they’ve had MammothMarch events and would “definitely intend” to do the same in Wisconsin if feedback for the race is good.
This year, he expects their events to draw 12,000 participants nationwide. And if Wisconsin sells out, there will be three more Mammoth Marches in the Midwest this year: on August 5 at Burr Oak State Park in Gloucester, Ohio (80 miles southeast of Columbus); at Stony Creek Metropark in Shelby Township, Michigan (35 miles north of Detroit) on August 26; and in Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Peninsula, Ohio (40 km south of Cleveland) on September 17.
Dogs are allowed at most MammothMarch events but must be kept on a leash at all times.
For more information on the MammothMarch and how to register, visit mammothmarch.com.
Contact Chelsey Lewis at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at @chelseylew And @TravelMJS and Facebook at Journal Sentinel Travel.
More:5 Unusual Things Along The Ice Age Trail, From A Plane Wreck To A Stone Elephant