Average temperature 23 degrees, seasonal snowfall 60 inches, frozen wilderness waters 17,000 acres. For winter outdoor enthusiasts, that right there is the definition of nirvana. And just where is this winter wonderland? It’s Hayward, well known as a summer vacation favorite that turns into a winter playground for groups of friends and families.
First stop when you roll into town – the famous Norske Nook, where you can warm up with Lefse, a traditional Norwegian flatbread. For dessert, go ahead and buy an entire pie, no kidding, as you’ll devour every last bite of bakery bliss before you ever leave town.
If you’ve trailered your snowmobile, then get out on the trails already. There are 600 miles of groomed and marked snowmobile trails in the area, all maintained by volunteers. Sawyer County has the largest fleet of snowmobile grooming equipment in the state, so you know they mean business. Trail 63 is a popular path with places to stop for gas and grub. If you prefer to rent a sled, head to Hayward Power Sports. For up-to-date information on snow conditions check the Wisconsin Snow Report.
Choose your haunts for the weekend based on your likes. Deer Foot Lodge & Resort is considered the heartbeat of the Chippewa Flowage in the winter. Cozy Treeland Resorts are Hayward staples with 28 lodging options. Park your snowmobile out front, where sleds are as ubiquitous as cars. If cross-country skiing is your jam, try Trail's End Resort. The cottages here have views of Lac Courte Oreilles’ clear lake water, plus there’s live music every weekend all year long.
Every “going up north” weekend must include a Friday night fish fry. The Landing has an all-you-can-eat spread with broiled and deep-fried options. Lots of locals say Lost Land Lake Lodge has the best fish fry, plus you can belly up to the bar in their large barroom. Both spots are accessible by snowmobile.
The Hayward landscape is dotted with pubs, like Pat’s Landing Bar & Grill on the flowage, where patrons are known to wash down white cheddar cheese curds with a cold beer. As for where the locals go, it’s Angler’s Bar & Grill right on Main Street, established in the early 1930s with a décor style that leans all things taxidermy. For kitschy, make sure the Moccasin Bar is on your itinerary. It features its own taxidermy museum.
Fuel up at family-owned River Street Family Restaurant, where menu items with names like Piled Up and the Hungry Man's Steak Platter indicate you will leave full.
The cross-country skiers in the group have 200 miles of trails in the county to explore. Beginners should try the seven-mile Hasta Trail while the more advanced skiers can head right to the 26-mile American Birkie Trail, the same trail that 10,000 skiers take to in February for the annual Birkebeiner cross-country ski marathon, the largest in North America.
Louie’s Landing Resort on Moose Lake is a perfect little lunch spot. It’s been around since the 1930s. Another way to weave in a workout is with fat biking. Up North Guided Tours works in concert with CAMBA, short for Chequamegon Area Mountain Bike Association, in creating and grooming trails. They also offer a combo fat biking/snowshoeing tour.
Saturday is supper club night in the Northwoods. The big picture window at The Fireside puts you eye-to-eye with the deer while you enjoy a decidedly upscale menu that includes favorites like roasted duck and beef tenderloin. Tally Ho Supper Club opened in the mid-1940s, and back then ice for the Brandy Old Fashioned cocktail was chiseled out of frozen Spider Lake.
Save room for a beer from Angry Minnow Brewing Co., where the suds are brewed in the basement brewhouse of their 1889 building.
Backroads Coffee and Tea is a local microroastery with decadent morning pastries best enjoyed in one of their comfy chairs. Firehouse Bakery & Deli is known for its artisan breads, and the coffee cakes are tempting too. Snag a sampling of both before heading out ice fishing.
You can catch just about anything ice fishing here, thanks to 496 lakes in the county. Grab bait from Hayward Bait & Bottle, and wind down the weekend with an afternoon on the ice.
Keep exploring Wisconsin's Northwoods with our guide to 48 hours in Eagle River and Minocqua!