Fall is a gentler, slower time in the Northwoods. Vacationers are back home, and full-time residents and second homeowners have nestled in for the season. And, there’s no better time to be here to enjoy these great al fresco activities.


Former railroad tracks turned to trails offer a low-grade and packed stone surface for easier riding through some very scenic terrain but without all the ups and downs. Wild Rivers State Trail stretches 104 miles from Rice Lake up to Superior. The 83-mile Mountain Bay State Trail connects Wausau to Green Bay. In Minocqua, rent a bike from Chequamegon Adventure Co. and pedal 18 miles south on the modest Bearskin State Trail to County K near Harshaw and you’ll cross 13 train trestles. Alternatively, find beginner-level single-track for mountain bikers at LAMBO Zip Trails or intermediate trails at Raven Trails, both in Minocqua.


The North Country National Scenic Trail connects New York to North Dakota and Wisconsin currently has 132 miles of it completed through some of the wildest woodlands and lakes in the north, from where it enters from Michigan near Hurley to where it crosses into Minnesota near Superior. The segment through Copper Falls State Park offers waterfall views. Over 600 million years ago the Penokee Mountains, west of Hurley, rose higher than today’s Alps. Humbled to hills by geological time, the Penokees offer a hike along a forested ridge with rock outcrops and scenic overlooks. In Ironwood at Joe’s Pasty Shop, pack some traditional pasties for the trek. Bigger appetites may prefer a post-hike pizza at Liberty Bell Chalet in Hurley.


The Northwoods have thousands of fishing holes in all sizes, from a Great Lake to spring-fed hidden gems only reachable by canoe. Vilas County alone has 1,300 lakes and is home to Boulder Junction, the Musky Capital of the World. Rent a boat complete with fish finder at Boulder Marine Center and explore 14 lakes just in the township. The 3,864-acre Trout Lake is the biggest and deepest, great for walleye, musky, and bass. In contrast, about 2,000 feet east lies much smaller Allequash Lake, totally undeveloped and full of crappie, bass, walleye and northern pike. But all the lakes have a little of everything—check in with local guide Bob Bertch to find those sweet spots.


Pack your tent or load the camper for the best season for camping. If bigger and busier is your thing, state parks such as Copper Falls or Tommy Thompson State Forest provide electric and rustic sites with shower facilities and flush toilets as well as firewood vendors onsite. For the true backwoods experience, seek out one of the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest campgrounds: rustic camping with pit toilets, a water pump, and only a picnic table and fire ring at each site. In campgrounds such as Chipmunk Rapids or Lost Lake, and several others just off Highway 70 west of Florence, you may be the only campers in a circle of a dozen sites.


When colorful reflections abound (and eventually fade), it’s time to hit the water one last time for the season. The Turtle-Flambeau Flowage is like a mini-Boundary Waters, offering 19,000 acres of pristine waters and 212 miles of shoreline to explore. Paddle-up rustic campsites—some of them on your own little island—are first-come, first served and free. Hawk’s Nest Canoe Outfitters in Manitowish Waters can hook you up with kayaks or canoes here or on the upper Wisconsin River in the Eagle River area.


Most state parks, as well as the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore and Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, allow you to bring your dog along. The standard rule is to clean up after them and keep them on a leash of eight feet or less in recreational areas. Leashes are also recommended in remote areas where one might encounter wildlife. The municipal forest in Superior has a dedicated dog park and Wisconsin Point, a long sand bar jutting out into Lake Superior, has nearly three miles of pet-friendly beach. Heading east from there to Ashland, stop at White Winter Winery in Iron River with its dog-friendly front porch where you can enjoy some of their mead (honey wines). Dogs are welcome in Ashland at AmericInn, Bay Area Pet Spa & Resort, and Maslowski Beach, a shallow and warmer bit of Lake Superior on Chequamegon Bay, with a popular artesian well for filling water bottles (and doggie bowls).

Image courtesy of Brian Malloy/TravelWisconsin.com.

This article originally ran in Lakeshore Living Northwoods’ fall/winter 2018-19 issue. Lakeshore Living Northwoods is another publication owned by Nei-Turner Media Group.


Kevin Revolinski is a Wisconsin outdoors and beer writer and author of "Backroads and Byways of Wisconsin" a guidebook to the best paddling throughout the Badger State. See his website at themadtraveler.com.