With more than 25,000 miles of pristine snowmobile trails in Wisconsin, it’s no surprise the snowmobile is an important part of winter fun in the state. In fact, the first sled was invented in 1924 by Carl Eliason in Sayner, and it now resides at the Vilas County Historical Museum. There’s even a Snowmobile Hall of Fame located in St. Germain.
We called on some local experts to give us some great spots for the ideal northern Wisconsin snowmobiling experience. They even tossed in some delicious spots to eat and comfortable places to sleep while you travel along the state's scenic snowmobile trails.
Eagle River Snowmobile Trails
The History: Eagle River, officially registered as “The Snowmobile Capital of the World” in 1964, has five snowmobile clubs that groom 600 miles of trails daily. These snowmobile trails weave through Vilas and Oneida counties, the Nicolet National Forest and around 2,400 lakes.
A Must-See: The city’s annual Ice Castle creation is an icy architectural wonder that has changed in design every year since it was first built in 1927. It’s built by a team of volunteers headed by area firefighters who put in more than 700 man hours to cut nearly 3,000 ice blocks from a local lake and haul them into place. Trail #13 passes right by it adding more winter fun to your snowmobiling journey.
Snowmobile Guides and Rentals: Just like fishing guides, these three businesses will take care of everything for your snowmobile expedition. There’s Decker Sno-Venture Tours, Have Sled Will Travel, and Eagle River Touring Company. You can rent snowmobiles from The Toy Shop, Boat S’Port Marine, Track Side, and Watercraft Sales.
Where to Eat: A stop at Pitlik’s Sand Beach Resort is almost required. The extensive menu, with traditional favorites like meatloaf and Friday Night “shore lunch,” also includes a selection of bison entrées. There’s also Lumpy’s Bar and Grill where a full panini menu includes a prime rib version. Be sure to fuel yourself up before heading out again on the snowmobile trails.
Where to Sleep: The Chanticleer Inn, where the history dates back to 1922, provides villas, each with a view of Dollar Lake, fireplaces and full kitchens. The lodge homes at Wild Eagle Lodge also feature stone fireplaces. Or you can reserve a cabin at Eagle Waters Resort, where you can choose from units with wood-burning fireplaces or wood-burning stoves. Wisconsin’s snowmobile trails provide all the comforts of home along the way.
Three Lakes Snowmobile Trails
The History: Lit by antique-inspired lampposts and lined with little gift shops and restaurants, the Three Lakes downtown area has an old-fashioned charm to it.
A Must See: Winter fun is always close by.The Northern Lights Snowmobile Club holds overnight rides, on-trail weenie roasts, bonfires and weekly club rides. There’s also the Three Lakes Winery where the first cranberry wine was made, and the Northwoods Petroleum Museum with an extensive collection of classic gas pumps, neon signs on display from floor to ceiling.
Snowmobile Rentals: Snowmobiles and helmets may be rented at Watercraft Sales in Three Lakes, Three Lakes Power Sports, and Three Lakes Do-It- Best Hardware & Rentals.
Where to Eat: Jumpstart the day with a double espresso and some baked oatmeal at Déjà Brew. Ask about the “Mapler,” “Baconizer” and “Hockey Puck” breakfast entrées at Jake’s Bar & Grill. Also, be sure to try the “Three Lakes Poacher” at Sunset Grill. These wonderful entrées are essential during any snowmobiling trek.
Where to Sleep: Stay at the Northernaire Resort, a legendary place of years gone by reborn with whirlpool tubs, fireplaces, flat-screen TVs and complete kitchens with stainless steel appliances. There’s even a full-service day spa to soothe weary muscles after a long snowmobile ride. Or, sled right in when you stay at Little Pine Motel & Resort or Oneida Village Inn.
St. Germain Snowmobile Trails
The History: You might say St. Germain is in the center of it all for snowmobilers. Head in any direction and there will be snowmobile trails to accommodate your wanderlust.
A Must See: Seeking more winter fun? Every year there’s a Radar Run where riders can race their sleds on a 1,000-foot track of ice and be timed by a radar gun. In the unlimited class, speeds can top 160 mph.
What to Eat: All the soups and entrées are homemade daily at Golden Pines where every Thursday is German Night. Relax in front of one of the most beautiful stone fireplaces in the northwoods at Whitetail Inn where Angus prime rib is served nightly.
Where to Stay: After a long day of snowmobiling, rent the home at Rustic Manor Motor Lodge and enjoy the wood burning fireplace. There’s also a large heated garage for snowmobile repairs. Black Bear Lodge on Little St. Germain Lake has condo-like deluxe lodge homes with stone gas fireplaces and amazing lake views. The homes and cottages at Elbert’s Resort are appointed with fireplaces too.
Minocqua Snowmobile Trails
The History: One of the favorite snowmobiling trails in the Minocqua area is the Bearskin State Trail that stretches 18 miles through the forests of Oneida County. Traffic is two-way with several rest spots along the way. This area also has more than 1,600 miles of snowmobile trails that traverse 1,300 glacial lakes and 233,000 acres of public forestland.
Where to Eat: The Black Bear Bar & Grill is known for its charbroiled burgers and now has breakfast too for those snowmobilers who are early risers. The Thirsty Whale is a 100-year-old landmark on Lake Minocqua – you’ll want to sample their Wisconsin deep-fried cheese curds followed by a fire-roasted Delmonico steak.
Where to Sleep: You can’t beat Black’s Cliff Resort in nearby Hazelhurst, with its cabins with fireplaces and the resort’s sauna, for warming up and slowing down. It’s been a family tradition for nearly 100 years. The Beacons is nestled on 13 acres with easy trail access and their condo units and cabins are appointed with fieldstone fireplaces. And if you want more winter fun, take advantage of their sledding hill and ice skating rink.
Hurley Snowmobile Trails
The History: Who can argue Hurley is the state’s snow capital with snowfall totals known to top 300 inches. People often snowmobile here right into the first week of April. Off-trail snowmobile riding is also available on 175,000 acres of public land. This is for the adventurous rider and a certain type of sled is necessary to take into the deep snow.
Of special note: A GPS is required – get a copy of the Hurley snowmobile trail map that outlines the acreage with GPS coordinates from the Chamber – and there is no cell phone service in the boondocking areas so you need to travel in a group.
A Must See: Additional winter fun abounds. Hurley'sbig snowmobile event of the year is the Pro Vintage Snowmobile Olympus which takes place on a half-mile oval track at the Gogebic county Fairgrounds. There’s a parade planned too for New Year’s Eve with vintage sleds making their way down Silver Street, Hurley’s main avenue. Along with snowmobiling, this town is known for its mining heritage. In fact, you can snowmobile right up to the site of the world’s deepest iron mine and explore the interpretive park there called The Plummer Mine.
Snowmobile Tours: Eagle All Sports can set up day trips for snowmobilers. For rentals, ring up Ofstad Auto & Sport.
Where to Eat: Should you get hungry during your snowmobiling adventure, there’s a trio of pit stops on the main drag, Silver Street. Warm the soul with a cup of coffee or hot chocolate at Sharon’s Coffee Company. Branding Iron Pub is known for serving up steak with all the fixings.
Where to Sleep: Stay at Haven North Condominiums or Eagle Bluff Condominiums, both on Lake Michele, where the owners supply the wood for the fireplaces. Another perk – you can snowmobile right from your front door.
Boulder Junction Snowmobile Trails
The History: Boulder Junction is ideally located in the Lake Superior snow belt, which means lots of snow for snowmobilers. Trail #8 in the area is especially scenic and serene. And when riders want to take a break from the trails, they should spend some time shopping in this town’s many artsy shops and galleries.
Snowmobile Rentals: Boulder Marine Center is your spot for snowmobile rentals.
Where to Eat: Headwaters Restaurant and Tavern is a great place to stop for a warm meal and a stupendous view of the Manitowish River. Added bonus is that this eatery is easy-off and easy-on the snowmobile trail. For that great cup of coffee or hot chocolate, stop by McGann’s Café. Gooch’s A-1 Bar & Grill is an excellent spot to watch the Packer game while enjoying a tasty burger. You’ll never go hungry on these snowmobile trails.
Where to Sleep: Need to relax after a long day of snowmobiling? Boulder Junction Motor Lodge has a toasty fireplace in the lobby and a large whirlpool. It’s also conveniently located next door to Boulder Marine Center. For a large family or group, Lake View Lodge on Boulder Lake is ideal. This newly renovated home has five bedrooms and two fireplaces. For end-of-the-road seclusion, rent the three-bedroom cabin with fireplace at Eagle’s Post Resort.