MADISON, Wis. (June 10, 2014) – Nothing says Wisconsin like a trip “Up North!” There are hundreds of ways to create your own personal Northwoods vacation, but here are a few suggestions of can’t-miss favorites and hidden gems that will guarantee an authentic experience. So grab your hiking shoes, your swimsuit, an axe and some flannel (we’ll explain later) for the perfect Wisconsin Northwoods getaway.
LUMBERJACK AND JILL COUNTRY
In northern Wisconsin, we like to think we’re the originators of fashionable flannel. From the state’s earliest days, logging and lumberjacks have been an important part of Wisconsin’s history. Today, we embrace and celebrate that heritage with a line-up of events, shows and competitions.
Grab that axe and head to Rhinelander for the first ever Boom Lake Log Jam on June 20-22. The event honors the history of the area with lumberjack shows, as well as educational activities to teach event goers the basics of logging from some of the biggest names in the forestry equipment industry. It’s a fun combination of learning and doing, as former lumberjack champions will teach guests how to log roll or cross cut.
Head to Marinette for the Logging and Heritage Fest, July 12-13. Now in its fourth year, the event will include lumberjack shows, a parade and fireworks to celebrate the unique logging history and Marinette’s foremost lumberman, Ike Stephenson.
When it comes to the Big Daddy of all lumberjack competitions, the Lumberjack World Championships in Hayward on July 24-26 is the answer. With events like axe throwing, wood chopping, hot saw and the log roll, the Lumberjack World Championships is a national event, welcoming the best lumberjacks and jills from around the country.
Not much of an axman? Try a show. In Hayward and Woodruff, Scheer’s Lumberjack Shows offer a one-of-a-kind lumberjack show experience for families. Sheer’s summer shows are “sheer” fun – with exciting lumberjack events as seen on ESPN’s Great Outdoor Games like the pole climb, canoe joust and an obstacle course.
All aboard an old-fashioned steam train to visit a Northwoods Logging Camp in Laona. Journey to the late 1800s on the Lumberjack Steam Train, an authentic “4-spot” Steam Locomotive and the only prairie style steam locomotive operating in the state of Wisconsin. Start at the Soo Line Depot and end at “Camp 5,” the site of an old logging camp. Kids will enjoy exploring the camp that includes a blacksmith shop, petting zoo and museum. The train runs June 20- Aug. 23.
When in Rome (or Wisconsin) eat like the lumberjacks do. Stop by Paul Bunyan’s Cook Shanty in Minocqua. If you stop for breakfast, enjoy a hearty stack of flapjacks with real Wisconsin maple syrup. In true lumberjack style, meals here are all you can eat.
OUTDOOR RECREATION, NORTHWOODS-STYLE
A trip up north means getting away from the hustle and bustle of life to breathe in the fresh, pine air of the Northwoods forests. Hundreds of trails are ready to be explored by foot, bike or ATV.
The North Country National Scenic Trail is the longest continuous hiking trail in the country. Clocking in at a total of 4,600 miles, it winds through seven northern states from New York to North Dakota. Two hundred of those miles are in Wisconsin. Our portion of the trail clips the northwest corner of the state passing through Douglas, Bayfield, Ashland and Iron counties. The trail meanders through the glacier-carved forests, lakes and streams, passing through three state parks, including Pattison State Park, Brule River State Forest and Copper Falls State Park.
Feel the wind through your hair and log even more miles by touring on ATV. The Tuscobia State Trail is a 74-mile trail spanning four counties in northern Wisconsin. When it was built in 1914 as a rail line, it was the best way to transport logging materials, but by the 1940s it was abandoned. It was redeveloped and now makes for excellent ATVing. The trail from Birchwood east to Park Falls offers some terrific scenery and plenty of ATV adventures. With six towns along the route, lodging, food and fuel are readily available. Be sure to call for trail conditions ahead of time, as rain and flooding can impact the riding experience. Don’t have an ATV? Rent one at Mudpuppy ATV Rentals in Birchwood.
Catch some air in the Northwoods astride a mountain bike. And what better place than in the state’s 1.5 million acre Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest. This national park forest land is also home to the CAMBA Trails (Chequamegon Area Mountain Bike Association), an off-road bike trail system consisting of more than 300 miles of marked and mapped routes through the beautiful forest. Gear up and get your “fat tire” bike rentals or regular mountain bikes at Riverbrook Bike and Ski in Hayward.
FUN IN THE LAND OF 15,000 LAKES
Minnesota may claim 10,000, but Wisconsin boasts even more at 15,074. Start in Eagle River, home of the largest freshwater chain of lakes in the world. Rent a boat and pack a cooler and hit one of the 28 lakes that make up this man-made flowage. Pontoon rentals are available at The Toy Shop in Eagle River, which rents for a day and up to a week through the end of September, or Dave Rents Boats, which can deliver boats to Eagle River, Minocqua, Rhinelander, St. Germain, and others. And what’s boating without pulling a round inflated piece of plastic behind? Don’t forget to bring the tube.
Prefer to be eco-friendly and boat sans motor? Rent kayaks and canoes from Hawk’s Nest Canoe Outfitters. The outfitter offers group day trips, overnight camping trips, or boats for you to paddle around on your own for a few hours along the Turtle Flambeau Flowage and Wisconsin River. Hawks Nest has two home bases – Eagle River and Manitowish Waters.
Make sure you cast your way over to Florence County for some prime fishing spots. The area is a fisherman’s haven with 265 lakes and 165 miles of rivers and streams. If you’re looking for a variety, you’ll find pan fish, musky, walleye, trout, northern pike and more. And since Florence County has more forests, trees and natural land than people, you can guarantee you’ll get some one-on-one time with Mother Nature.
WIND DOWN AT A SUPPER CLUB
All that outdoor activity is sure to work up a hearty appetite. Swing by a traditional Wisconsin supper club for wood paneling, deer mounts, the classic Old Fashioned and a fun time. What constitutes an iconic supper club? From its original origins, it was an actual club for weekly diners. Today it’s a combination of things such as the relish tray, the bread basket, the Old Fashioned and a menu of steaks, chops, chicken or Friday fish fry.
When it comes to northern Wisconsin supper clubs, the list is endless. A few favorites include Norwood Pines Supper Club and Marty’s Place North in Minocqua, Northernaire Supper Club in Hurly and Indianhead Supper Club in Balsam Lake. The White Stagg Inn in Rhinelander is another hidden gem. Purchased with a handshake in 1955, this dimly lit supper club, adorned with stuffed game and an eclectic display of wall decorations is known for its steaks and after-dinner ice cream drinks. We recommend the Grasshopper.
The drink of choice at a supper club, and Wisconsin’s unofficial state cocktail is, of course, the Old Fashioned. Look for a new, pre-made Old Fashioned mix in liquor stores in Wisconsin this year. The Meyer Brother’s Old Fashioned mix was created by six brothers who grew up around their father’s supper club in Manitowoc. The secret recipe calls for real Angostura bitters and cane sugar for that made-from-scratch cocktail taste.
CATCHING Z’S UNDER THE STARS
Whether you prefer to snuggle up by the fire in a sleeping bag, or hit the hay in a cozy cabin, the Northwoods has lodging options to suit every traveler. Just don’t forget to look up; you can see a lot of stars out here.
Namekagon Waters Retreat in Trego offers a 24-foot diameter domed tent or “yurt” for you to relax. Part of the St. Croix Scenic Riverway, these secluded retreats aren’t necessarily “roughing it,” but it’s the simple details like whirlpools, saunas, and massages by appointment that make all the difference.
Grand Pines Resort in Hayward combines nostalgic Northwoods décor with modern amenities in fully furnished cabin rentals. Each log cabin comes with a pontoon rental and your own private dock on Round Lake. While the cabins fill up quickly (book now!), the resort also offers a motel with two queen beds and ample room for a family weekend away. In Boulder Junction, try Kerecman’s Fishtrap Resort for another lakeside experience. With one, two and three bedroom cabins to rent, they come fully equipped and the resort even has boat rentals and fishing supplies nearby.
If you plan to go all out and bring your tent and Coleman cookware, try Wisconsin’s national parks and forests. The Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest is so massive, it stretches as far west as the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway all the way to Marinette in the east. The Namekagon Campground, in the Great Divide district of the forest, is one place to camp – with RV camping, tent and backpack camping. It’s also located right on the Namekagon River, aka a “built in shower” for all you naturalists. The forest also offers camping at the Smith Rapids Campground in the Centralized Parks Falls area, and in the Nicolet Area camping at the Franklin Lake Campground.
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