7 Scenic Natural Wonders of Washburn County

By Amy Bayer
Staff Writer

Washburn County is an obvious choice for a scenic getaway when you see all it has to offer on its 150,000 acres of natural public land. Explore diverse hiking routes, paddle down the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway, bike along the county’s two state trails, ATV your way from one end of the county to the other or jump into one of the area’s pristine lakes.

Here are seven scenic natural wonders for you to experience on your next outdoor adventure in Washburn County.

1. Beaver Brook Wildlife Area


Not only does the Beaver Brook Wildlife Area have more than six miles of incredible hiking trails, but this property also is home to an artesian well. At nearly 2,000 acres, the property is bisected by popular trout stream Beaver Brook and also is home to Harrison Lake for even more fishing opportunities.

Located along the Wild Rivers State Trail, four miles south of Spooner, this state natural area also welcomes dogs. If mountain biking is more your style, just five short miles to the east is the Wildcat Mountain Bike Trail. With 20 total trail miles, the area has routes for fat tire bikes, single track, ATV use and snowmobiles.

2. Trego Nature Trail


Nestled along the Namekagon River just east of Trego, this approximately three-mile trail follows a section of the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway and offers incredible wildlife viewing along the river. No need to leave your dog at home, as they are allowed to hike with you.

3. Hunt Hill Audobon Sanctuary


Ten miles of trails await you in this natural haven located just five miles east of Sarona. Observe a variety of wildlife as you explore rolling hills, wide prairies, clear lakes and dense forests. 

There are four lakes on the property that offer several opportunities for bird-watching, as osprey and loons frequent the sanctuary in addition to the beavers and otters that call it home. You won’t want to miss the Bog Trail Boardwalk. Short and sweet, it's a family favorite.

4. Birchwood Canoe Trails


Washburn County maintains two primitive canoe/kayak routes. Located six miles north of the village of Birchwood, both routes are in remote areas that provide a quiet experience along undeveloped shores.

The paddling routes are within a thick forest with a high density of small glacial lakes. The Sawmill Lake Primitive Kayak/Canoe Route accesses nine separate lakes, with most portages less than 100 yards, and the Loyhead Lake Primitive Canoe Route accesses seven separate lakes, with most portages less than 200 yards. Both routes have trail maps available online, and the Sawmill Lake Route offers 20 primitive campsites along the way.

5. Ice Age Trail  Grassy Lake Segment

Just south of Shell Lake is Unit 28 of the Washburn County Forest, also known as the Welsh Lake Unit. Consisting of several acres of land, this property is home to multiple lakes, streams, old logging roads, snowmobile routes and hiking trails, including more than seven miles of the Grassy Lake Segment of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail.

This is a perfect hike for those who like rustic, remote areas. Wildlife viewing is common in this area, as black bears and beavers inhabit the forests and lakes.

6. Stone Lake Wetland Park


This fantastic park near downtown Stone Lake is great for the whole family – even leashed dogs are welcome.

With more than 17 acres of land, the park has a beautiful boardwalk to guide you through the marsh toward woodland ridge trails, as well as overlooks of Stone Lake and a covered walking bridge. Come for a picnic and enjoy this beautiful natural setting.

7. Minong Flowage


Located in both Douglas and Washburn counties just a few miles northwest of the village of Minong, the Minong Flowage was formed in 1936 when a dam was constructed on the Totogatic River.

This 1,564-acre lake is a popular destination for swimming, boating, paddling and fishing, and there is often plenty of wildlife to see on the lake or along its shores, like loons, eagles, bears and even wolves.

Surrounding the flowage are several opportunities for lake access whether you are interested in boating or fishing, and there are also great campsites along the shores at destinations like the Totogatic County Park. For water lovers out there, this is a great scenic destination to explore in northern Washburn County.


Want to read more? Check out these seven statewide natural wonders, and subscribe for the inside scoop on Wisconsin's natural attractions and parks.