I have visited Three Lakes, Wisconsin regularly ever since I was little. My grandparents owned a cottage on the lake (actually it’s a peninsula property on two lakes) and would let my family spend a week there each summer. Originally, Three Lakes was only a summer destination for my family, but once I learned how to drive a snowmobile, it became a winter destination for us as well. Over the past few years, my dad and I (and sometimes my brother) have made a point to make the trek Up North each winter and hit the trails. Below, I’ve assembled some of my favorite trails, landmarks, and eateries across Oneida County, Vilas County, and Forest County, Wisconsin!
Trail of Choice: 12
Honestly, this new-to-me trail is arguably the best ride I’ve ever had. It winds along the outskirts of the Nicolet National Forest, so road/driveway intersections are at a minimum, traffic is minor, visibility is surprisingly better than its hardwood forest counterparts, and turns are gradual when present. Not to mention that you’re in a National Forest and it is absolutely beautiful.
Eatery of Choice: The Habit
Open from 9 AM to bar close, this oasis is the perfect place to stop, warm up, eat a good meal, and find some wifi in an area that otherwise has no cell phone reception. They even sell oil, antifreeze, and other sled necessities if you need to stock up!
Pro tip: The Snow Trails by Rider X app from Polaris is a lifesaver! It operates using GPS, so you can still see exactly where you are, even if you don’t have service.
Trail of Choice: Alternate/Old 13
Oneida County is home to the city of Three Lakes, which in turn is home to the largest inland chain of lakes in the world. This trail takes you right into the heart of the chain, from which you can veer onto the lakes themselves!
Pike’s Pine Isle Lodge offers your classic northern bar experience, but with a more diverse and accommodating menu than most. The Sunset Grill, located along the shores of Big Stone Lake, is a great daytime stop, has a family-friendly atmosphere, and serves the best breakfast food in the area. The White Stag Inn near the town of Sugar Camp is an iconic Wisconsin supper club, with salad and baked potatoes so good, I almost forget I’m not eating an entrée.
Pro Tip: Designated lake trails are great for newer riders to explore during the day, as they are wide, flat, and open!
Trail of Choice: Route 6
There’s always a chance of lake effect snow in Vilas County, so this east-west forest trail near its northern border is a dream compared to some of its higher-trafficked counterparts in and around Eagle River.
Eatery of Choice: Pine Cone Cafe
Enjoy breakfast or lunch just south of the Wisconsin-Michigan border at this cozy cafe just off of the trail. The hospitality there is great! If you don’t eat meat, I recommend ordering something that never has contamination issues (i.e. French toast instead of hash browns, as their Facebook cover photo shows them being fried right next to the bacon).
The notable Ice Castle is not constructed every year, so be sure to do your research ahead of time; if you are in luck, this photo-op is accessible just as easily by sled as by car! Then head over to the southwestern part of the county to explore the Snowmobile Hall of Fame in St. Germain, which is filled with vintage machines, including some from iconic snowmobile races throughout history.
Pro tip: If you’re headed through Eagle River, do it early in the day! Eagle River is the Snowmobile Capital of the World, so traffic is a thing here, and it usually picks up midday.
What Wisconsin counties are your favorite for snowmobiling? Help your fellow snowmobilers plan their next weekend on the trails by leaving a comment below!