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Destination – Minoqua, WI

Destination – Minoqua, WI

Three and a half hours north of Milwaukee, once you’re clear of corn fields and crisscrossing interstates, an all-season retreat lies hidden in the midst of thousands of acres of pristine national and state forests. The town of Minocqua, sitting serenely between lakes Kawaguesaga and Minocqua, at the dead center of Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, might very well be the beating heart of Wisconsin’s Northern Highlands.

As you might imagine, outdoor adventures abound in Minocqua. With over two thousand bodies of water and access to forests that span the width of the state, the town offers endless activities during every season. In the winter months, Minocqua transforms into a Nordic ski Mecca. Between the Minocqua Winter Park and the North Lakeland Discovery Center, you will have access to over 100 km of trails expertly groomed for both skate and classic skiing, which can also be traversed by fat bike or snowshoe. Whatever snow sport you fancy, the team at the Winter Park can outfit you and set you loose on their world class terrain—at a fraction of the cost of any big mountain alpine trip. Lessons and tours are also on offer, along with a family friendly snow-tubing area.

Come summer, those same Nordic trails link up with the extensive trail network of Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest; all together, the Minocqua area boasts over 600 (yes, you read that right: six hundred) miles of rolling trails for any and every level of walking, running, hiking or biking. Paths range from grassy lakeside strolls to hardpacked, hilly ascents—with scenery that varies from impressive deep woods to wildflower-strewn fields to wildlife-filled bogs.

The vast waterways in and around Minocqua promise possible adventures that rival those to be found on dry land. Stop by either Chequamegon Adventure Company or Trek and Trail outfitters to get geared up with your choice of watercraft and to load up on local knowledge. The literally thousands of options might seem intimidating, but expert advice and Minocqua’s  user-friendly guide will have you enjoying the water in no time.

Just as its activities run the gamut from the thrilling to the tranquil, Minocqua offers lodgings that will suit your every need. For a simple and affordable stay in the center of Minocqua, check out Northwood Inn and Suites. Looking for something more romantic? Birch Trail Resort offers everything from luxurious lakeside cabins to cozy Bed and Breakfast-style suites. And of course, clean and well-maintained campsites are never hard to find in the Northwoods.

Hungry after your day of trekking by ski or by foot along the trails, or paddling through pristine lakes? Parched from all that fun in the sun, or craving a warm beverage after a long ski in the brisk Wisconsin winter air? A twenty-minute drive past Minocqua proper will bring you to Smokey’s Fine Dining, where Northwoods comfort meets old world elegance in a cozy hideaway serving fine dining classics accompanied by a well-curated selection of wines from around the world. Back in downtown Minocqua, partake in a quintessential Wisconsin experience: at Norwood Pines Supper Club you’ll sit side-by-side with supper club regulars, and enjoy a good old fashioned fish fry or a full rack of falling off the bone ribs.

From the supper club to the ski trail, from the bike paths to the lakes, Minocqua offers grand adventures with small town midwestern comfort—so head on in to the heart of the Northwoods, and experience for yourself what truly is, as the town motto goes, “nature’s original water park.”

About The Author

Pete Wilson

Pete is a Vermont native with a lifelong love of being outside. Ever since he bushwhacked a ski trail through his parents’ property, he’s been hooked on getting into the woods--whether it’s on skis or snowshoes, or going out for a trail run or a long hike. He studied English at Carleton College, and now after four years in Minnesota is back in the Green Mountains exploring the endlessly beautiful and intriguing locales across the Northeast.

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