Variety of species is a major reason why anglers have great success here. You can push off from the dock in the morning intent on a shore lunch of fresh pan-fried walleye, find the going a bit tough and instead “settle” for a banquet of delicate northern pike. Dredge the fillets in seasoned flour, slide ‘em into an oiled pan and slice a few fresh lemon wedges. Now that’s eatin’ - Northwoods Country style.
Ferocious muskies, predatory northern pike and log-sized walleye aren’t all you’ll find here. Set your hook into a largemouth bass and get ready for the fight of your life. Like a bit faster action? Then go after pan fish with an ultra light and hang on, because they’re easy to find and catch, and a slab-sided crappie or chunky bluegill feels surprisingly powerful on the business end of light gear. About the only outdoor meal that might top fresh walleye or northern pike is a mess of caught-today panfish.
Folks who fish the sixty lakes of the Minnesota Northwoods enjoy the reality of landing trophy fish. Our pristine lakes have not been discovered or over fished by the general public.
Over 60 lakes are located in our region and represent hundreds of miles of lake shore and thousands of acres of water. Those who enjoy waterskiing, sailboarding, boating and sailing will find plenty of room to move about. With all the miles of lakeshore, there's plenty of beach for everyone. Most of these entertaining water activities are happening at the area resorts! Take the kids tubing or just go for a relaxing and refreshing swim. And those who sail will have plenty of wind to cruise along or sit quietly in calm water and snuggle into a bay.
Whether you prefer paved trails, dirt trails, highways or quiet country roads, you have several options in the Minnesota Northwoods. A new paved trail in the Chippewa National Forest meanders along the shoreline and campgrounds. In total, the Forest offers 160 miles of trail for non-motorized use. A four-page handout featuring eighteen different loops and bike routes for the experienced mountain biker as well as the casual touring family are available by calling (218) 335-8600. The 20-mile paved bike trail around Lake Itasca, in the Itasca State Park (sometimes spelled Itaska), near Park Rapids, the source of the Mississippi River, is just minutes from any Minnesota Northwoods location. The 34-mile Heartland Trail provides a paved wooded path from Walker to Park Rapids. It was recently re-paved. The Paul Bunyan Trail is a similar path which stretches from Hackensack to Brainerd.
Golfers can pick a different course every day of the week in the Minnesota Northwoods area. Golfing in the northwoods provides a setting for golf like none other - including rolling, wooded terrain, picturesque pines and birch with crisp clean Minnesota air. For your convenience, a listing of area courses is included below:
There’s more to Minnesota than its famous 10,000 lakes. Minnesota is an excellent place for hunting, particularly for pheasants, grouse and waterfowl. There are 528 designated hunting areas in the ruffed grouse range covering nearly 1 million acres and 11 million acres of public hunting land such as the Chippewa National Forest. Minnesota offers some of the best grouse hunting in the country.
There is also a wealth of waterfowl habitat to explore. The abundance of areas open to the public is ideal for a waterfowl hunter. The diversity of hunting areas ranges from large lakes, reservoirs, and rivers, to shallow lakes, wild rice lakes, potholes, bottomland and beaver ponds.
For more information on hunting options where you are staying, be sure to ask your resort owner.
Birdwatchers return to the Minnesota Northwoods year after year to view our many migratory birds. Prairie lands, peat bogs, old pine forests and hardwood forests are all found in our area allowing enthusiasts to check off many rare and beautiful species on their life lists. Of special interest to birdwatchers are the excellent opportunities to view Minnesota's State Bird, the common loon and Bald Eagles. Canoe or paddleboat the shoreline of the local lakes to view many species of birds.
Chippewa National Forest boasts the largest community of nesting Bald Eagles anywhere in the lower 48 states with over 150 active nests. They can often be photographed quite closely if you approach them carefully from the water. Additional free literature about eagles is available from the Chippewa National Forest office (218) 335-8600.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources provides check lists that you can print right from your home computer of birds to look for in Northern Minnesota and in the various state parks such as Chippewa National Forest and Itasca State Park. What a fun way to spend an afternoon with your family!
The Minnesota Northwoods is a hikers paradise. You can tramp through the big woods, stroll down a backwoods lane, walk around lakes and even hike around a lake within a lake on Star Island.
The Chippewa National Forest makes maps available for most of their 78 miles of hiking trails, ranging from .5 to 68 miles. Some trails are known for their eagle viewing, others are self-guided nature tours; all of them are breath taking. Throughout the year, these trails also provide excellent cross-country skiing and wildlife viewing opportunities. Call (218) 335-8600 for a handout of twelve Chippewa National Forest hunter/walking trails.
Nearby is world famous Itasca State Parks which also has its own trail systems. You can even walk across the mighty Mississippi River at its source in Itasca State Park. (Itasca State Park is sometimes misspelled Itaska or Itasca National Park) Six other State Parks are located within the region and each offer different experiences for the hiker and nature lover.
Under a blanket of snow, the Chippewa National Forest becomes a land of unexplored adventures. Over 330 miles of snowmobile trails provide snowmobilers access to 1,500 lakes, scenic woodlands, and frozen wetlands. Trails connect to nearly 200 miles of routes surrounding the Forest. The Soo Line trail, an old railroad grade extending from Cass Lake to Moose Lake, is the longest motorized recreation trail in Minnesota. Snowmobilers may also travel on unplowed National Forest roads unless posted closed to recreational motor vehicle use. Cross-country travel off of Forest roads is prohibited. Snowmobiles must be operated in compliance with State and Federal laws and regulations.
The sense of freedom you get while riding a snowmobile over Minnesota's snow-covered lands and frozen lakes can be very exhilarating and the Park Rapids area is a perfect place to come for that experience. There are several hundred miles in inter-connected and groomed snowmobile trails for your riding enjoyment in and around the Park Rapids area. Two Inlets State Forest, Paul Bunyan State Forest, Itasca West Area in Itasca State Park are all part of the trail system. Visit the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources for more information on snowmobile regulations and winter sports.
Downhill Skiing/Cross-Country Skiing
Cross-country skiers will find an unlimited landscape of skiing opportunities in the Minnesota Northwoods with a varied topography of scenic trails. Groomed trails are available in Bemidji and Itasca State Parks as well as the Shingobee recreation area (near Walker) 25 miles from Cass Lake. Groomed trails are also available at the Buena Vista Ski Area near Bemidji.
For downhill enthusiasts, Buena Vista outside of Bemidji has four chair lifts and 15 downhill runs, the longest running for 2,000 feet.