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

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

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

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

As part of the master plan, MNR plans to create mountain bike trails and multi-use trails, add a campground, as well as rock climbing and bouldering options that would not damage the unique rock formations of the Park.

The DNR has been Revise Rib Mountain Master Plan for almost two decades and asks the public’s opinion on its proposals. An open house to discuss the master plan will be held from 4-7 p.m. June 22 in room 1004A/B of the Northcentral Technical College Health Sciences Center Building, 1000 W. Campus Drive in Wausau. Presentations by MNR staff will begin at 5:30 p.m. with a Zoom link available for those who cannot come in person.

You can also submit comments on lineby email to [email protected] or by mail to the Department of Natural Resources, Attn: John Pohlman, PO Box 7921, Madison, WI 53707-7921.

Hiking, biking and cross-country skiing

Mountain biking is growing in popularity, especially around Wausau, and the DNR says the addition of expansive mountain biking trails could help attract people from all over the Midwest for multi-day mountain biking trips. They also suggest that a multi-use trail would be a popular amenity at Rib Mountain.

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

Here are some of their proposals.

  • Add a 5-7 mile paved multi-purpose trail around the base of Rib Mountain. It would be 8 to 10 feet wide and relatively flat and would be used for hiking, biking, and cross-country skiing. Wouldn’t be ideal for mountain biking.
  • In the winter, MNR would maintain the multi-use trail for walkers, fat bikers, and cross-country skiers. The winter trail would not cross the alpine ski area. The DNR can connect the multi-use trail to the Nine Mile County Forest so people can ski in the park.
  • Add 6-12 miles of mountain bike trails of varying skill levels near the downhill ski area and east side of the park. There would be at least one uphill-only trail, and hiking and biking would not be on the same trails.
  • Add 12-20 miles of mountain bike trails for all skill levels, including at least two uphill-only trails. Cyclists and hikers would rarely take the same trails. There would be an opportunity to ride fat bikes in the winter along these trails.
People walk on the paved trail along the road to Rib Mountain State Park.  The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is proposing a number of improvements to the park, including the addition of a paved multi-use trail around the base of Rib Mountain and mountain bike trails for varying skill levels.

Climbing and bouldering

Bouldering and rock climbing are growing in popularity among younger generations, though few Wisconsinites are taking part in the activity, the DNR said. Rock climbing isn’t well suited to Rib Mountain, but bouldering, which is similar to rock climbing but without ropes, is, they said. As these activities could damage rock formations, they should be intentional about where people can boulder and rock climb.

Here are some of their proposals:

  • Work with the Wisconsin Climbers Association to determine the correct boulder locations. These would be places that emergency personnel would have easy access to in case of injury and that would cause minimal ecological damage.
  • Much like bouldering, the DNR and the Wisconsin Climbers Association would determine which locations would be good for rock climbing. These points should have minimal impact on the environment and be easily accessible to emergency personnel in the event of an emergency.
  • Allow sport climbing with fixed anchors in the old quarry.


There is no camping 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 could accommodate them for cyclists if mountain bike trails were put in place.

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

  • The DNR would build about 10 campsites with a central parking area. There would be dry toilets and drinking water as well as electricity in the parking lot for electric vehicles and a bicycle washing station. Campgrounds would not be suitable for motorhomes.
A couple from Wausau sit on a rock during a 2011 concert at the Rib Mountain State Park Amphitheater.  The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is proposing to upgrade 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 a community space and attract people from outside Wausau.

Proposals include:

  • Improve 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 rooms bathroom.

nature center

The 2005 master plan called for a nature center which was never built because there were not enough resources for the project, the DNR said.

Current proposals include:

  • Construction of the nature center planned for 2005 including an outdoor terrace, classrooms, educational programs and an equipment rental area.
  • Addition to Visitor Center at park entrance for educational exhibits and classroom/meeting rooms. The visitor center at the entrance to the park is already a key feature of the park, so by adding more space, the DNR can include elements of the nature center without constructing a new building. It would be cheaper and easier to maintain.

For more information on the proposals, visit the Rib Mountain State Park Master Plan Website.

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Contact Emalyn Muzzy at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @EmalynMuzzy.

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