Things to Do in the North Woods of Wisconsin
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Welcome to the North Woods of Wisconsin
Hayward and Minocqua, 100 miles apart in the woodsy heart of northern Wisconsin vacationland, make great bases for exploring and enjoying this region. At hundreds of lakes, swimming, fishing and boating fill summer days. Woods offer trails for four seasons of fun -- including hiking, biking, ATVing, snowmobiling and cross-country skiing. And in an area where lumber once drove the economy, lumberjack shows are a natural. Slides 2 to 6 have information about the Minocqua area; go to slides 7 through 11 for details on Hayward.
There are 3,200 reasons for this area's reputation as an ideal lake getaway -- that's the number of lakes in Vilas and Oneida counties. And there are 1,000 rooms, condos and cabins lining pine-shaded shores. We didn't even count the supper clubs, cafes, shops, shows and other attractions. Despite the expanding resort scene, you can still find natural lakes so quiet that the plunk of a lure echoes from shore to shore. Towns like Minocqua (population: 4,727) are the quintessential resort-area destination -- the one most people dream of when they're stuck in a cubicle on a sunny day.
Min-Aqua Bats Water Ski Show Watch one of the oldest amateur water-ski shows (pictured) in the United States. Each season brings daring, innovative and graceful performances to Lake Minocqua. Crowds gather for the free shows Wednesday, Friday and Sunday nights (715/356-4549; min-aquabats.com).
Fred Scheer's Lumberjack Show The mad skills of champion lumberjacks set crowds abuzz; kids get to test their sawing skills during intermission at some shows. Watch speed carving, axe throwing and more (715/634-6923; scheerslumberjackshow.com).
Activities: On the water
Hawk's Nest Canoe Outfitters Enjoy lazy tube floats, canoe adventures, rafting or kayaking down the Wisconsin River. You might see bald eagle, osprey and loons along the river, which has no portages (whew!) (800/688-7471; hawksnestcanoe.com).
Chequamegon Adventure Company Paddle board, canoe, kayak and ski rentals and outfitters (715/356-1618; paddlerama.com).
Tommy's Fishing Adventures Budding or experienced anglers can get bait, equipment, advice or guide service. Tommy's is based out of Grizzly Bob's Bait and Tackle Shop (715/356-4648; tommysfishingadventures.com).
Northshore Wake and Ski Skiing and boating equipment; waterski and wakeboard instruction (715/356-1681).
Minocqua Pontoon Cruises A relaxing way to see Minocqua is a pontoon cruise. Morning nature cruises, lunch cruises and sunset cruises are among the tours offered (715/892-7777; minocquapontooncruises.com).
Activities: Hikes and bikes
Raven Trail (pictured) Inhale the heady scent of sun-warmed pines at Northern Highland American Legion State Park. The 1.5-mile trail winds through a hemlock glade (minocqua.org).
Bearskin State Trail This popular bike trail starts in Minocqua and heads south for 18 miles along Bearskin Creek. Daily $4 permit required (dnr.wi.gov/org). Rent bikes at Z-Best Bikes (z-bestbikes.com).
More family attractions
Wildwood Wildlife Park Wander with the wildlife at this park (pictured), home to more than 500 animals and birds. You can feed pigs, goats, sheep and even bears; cuddle bunnies; let budgie birds perch on your arm; and peer into tall grass for fawns. While some of the animals and birds are in enclosures, others roam next to trails. Bring your camera and plan on at least a couple of hours at this attraction, popular with both kids and adults (715/356-5588; wildwoodwildlifepark.com).
Northwoods Children's Museum With 23 hands-on exhibits and events, families are sure to have fun. Little ones can explore an ambulance, dress-up attic, mock campground and fire tower, plus paint T-shirts with a squirt gun (715/479-4623; northwoodschildrensmuseum.com).
A hundred miles west of the Minocqua group of lakes, Hayward (population: 17,117) and its neighbors offer another cluster of peaceful retreats for fishing, hiking, golf, canoeing, tubing, bicycling and other outdoor activities.
Activities: On the water
Fishing With 267 lakes in Sawyer County, including the multitentacled Chippewa Flowage, and 2,000 miles of streams, fishing is king here. Sink your line for trout, walleye, crappies, bass, perch, musky, and panfish. There are numerous outfitters and guides in the area (715/634-4801; haywardlakes.com).
Namekagon River Part of the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway, the river offers stunning canoeing, kayaking, cruises and tubing. Hayward to Trego makes a great canoe trip with several low-hazard whitewater runs. Namekagon River Visitor Center (715/635-8346; nps.gov/sacn).
Activities: Hikes, bikes, golf and more
Morgan Falls and St. Peter's Dome Even casual hikers will enjoy the pretty, doable trek (1.2 miles roundtrip) to the 70-foot Morgan Falls (pictured), located in the Chequamegon National Forest, about an hour northeast of Hayward. A rugged climb veers off to the granite outcrop of St. Peter's Dome (3.6 miles roundtrip), with a view of Lake Superior on clear days (fs.usda.gov).
Off-road biking The Chequamegon Area Mountain Bike Association sponsors more than 300 miles of mapped and marked off-road biking trails. The Hayward cluster has almost 100 miles of trails (cambatrails.org).
ATV and snowmobiling The shoulders and ditches of many twisting county highways have ATV and snowmobile trails. Sawyer County Snowmobile and ATV Alliance touts 600 miles of groomed trails (sawyercountyalliance.com).
Golf Billed as the Golf Capital of Wisconsin, Hayward offers a variety of courses ranging from casual to championship. Big Fish Golf Club features a Pete Dye-designed course (715/634-4801; haywardlakes.com).
American Birkebeiner North America's largest cross-country ski marathon draws about 9,500 skiers and 15,000 spectators. The foundation also maintains 88 kilometers of trail for hikers, skiers, runners and mountain bikers (715/634-5025; birkie.com).
Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame and Museum This attraction showcases North America's fishing heritage with 50,000 artifacts (lures, rods, reels and accessories) and a giant 40-foot muskie (pictured). Check out the shrine to anglers, 300 mounted fish and 1,000 antique motors at this 7-acre complex (715/634-4440; freshwater-fishing.org).
Cable Natural History Museum Thoughtfully curated, this gem of a family museum sits in Cable, about 18 miles northeast of Hayward. Kids love the Curiosity Center. Everyone takes away a better understanding of the historical and biological diversity of the upper Midwest. Free (715/798-3890; cablemuseum.org).
Shows and festivals
Lumberjack World Championships The annual Lumberjack World Championships celebrate the logging heritage of northern Wisconsin with three days of logrolling, chopping, sawing and tree climbing. Amateurs and professionals compete in skills that were honed in forests but now are sport (715/634-2484; lumberjackworldchampionships.com).
Lumberjack Village Home to shops, dining, the area's best mini golf, and Scheer's Lumberjack Shows, the village offers a full afternoon of entertainment (715/634-6923; scheerlumberjackshow.com).
Chequamegon Fat Tire Festival This mountain-biking extravaganza draws 2,750 riders each fall (cheqfattire.com).