Skijoring in Wisconsin: Dog-Friendly Winter Adventures
Skijoring is a winter sport that combines cross-country skiing with sled dog racing. You provide power with skis and poles while your dog adds additional power by running and pulling, following your verbal commands. It's an activity that allows both human and four-legged athletes to enjoy exercise in the refreshing outdoors during winter.
The term “skijoring” comes from the Norwegian word for "ski driving," and one to three dogs are commonly used. Although skijoring has been around for hundreds of years, its popularity is rapidly growing in Wisconsin. As more races and tour companies feature skijoring, dog enthusiasts recognize it as an exciting activity they can participate in with their dog and minimal equipment.
Whether you’re looking to learn or are an experienced skijorer, read on to discover some great places to skijor in Wisconsin!
Learning How to Skijor
Skijoring falls under the category of sled dog sports, so before you begin it is smart to review the sled dog care guidelines. Most medium-sized dogs (30 pounds and up) will be able to safely skijor if properly trained.
Visit Minocqua Winter Park to attend regular skijoring clinics hosted by the Wisconsin Trailblazers Sled Dog Club. These are a great opportunity for you and your dog to learn to skijor, and it’s a fantastic location to practice after you’ve learned the basics. Warmer weather sled dog races, called dryland races, are also held here, and you can watch professionals racing on bikes and other wheeled rigs as they’re helped along by furry friends.
Where to Skijor in Wisconsin
When you and your pup are ready to hit the trails on your own, look for dog-friendly parks around the state that have multi-use trails or trails that have not already been groomed specifically for cross-country skiers. Here are some popular skijoring locations throughout the state:
- Chase’s Point (Orange Trail) – Superior (Shared with snowmobiles/ATVs.)
- Chippewa Moraine State Recreation Area – New Auburn
- Indian Lake County Park (Pet Area) – Cross Plains
- Interstate State Park (Point Trail) – St. Croix Falls (While the park doesn't have official skijoring trails, they have more multi-use trails than other state parks in the region.)
- MECCA Trails – Mercer (Dogs are allowed on untracked areas.)
- Pike's Creek & Jerry Jay Jolly Trails – Bayfield (Note dogs can’t access via the Mt. Ashwabay/Skill Hill Road entrance.)
- Seeley Hills Trail – Hayward
- Southern Kettle Moraine Unit - Lapham Peak (Prairie Path) – Delafield
Skijoring Races in Wisconsin
Here are just a handful of iconic skijoring competitions held in Wisconsin every winter.
Barkie Birkie – Hayward
The Slumberland American Birkebeiner is a four-day event in the Cable/Hayward area that hosts thousands of skiers from around the world. Included in this skiing extravaganza is the Barkie Birkie, which loops through Hayward and has two courses: one for fast, experienced teams and another course for novice teams. Cheer on the dogs (and people) in these races that are part of the Thursday Thrills events.
Three Bear Sled Dog Race – Land O’ Lakes
The Three Bear Sled Dog Race is one of the premier spectator races in the northern Midwest. The Three Bear's course near the northern border of Wisconsin is known for its beautiful trails and welcoming hosts. From six-dog sled races to skijoring, this event is a favorite among dogs and their owners.
Willow Springs Round Barn Sled Dog Race - Wausau