Fall and Winter Activities

While the less informed may migrate south for warmth and sun

Fall and Winter Activities

Fall is the gentle season in the great northwoods. A season for relaxation, renewal, and solitude, a season to use the three great senses of sight, sound and smell to enjoy the changing rhythms of nature.

It's our quiet time after our many summer visitors have returned home, after the hectic pace and unceasing energy of summer has subsided, until warm weather returns next year. It is a time when the days are warm but the evenings crisp, and a stroll in the woods produces patterns of light and color unparalleled during any other time of the year - all without fear of being carried away by our unofficial state bird - the mosquito.

That's not to say that life becomes boring, without plenty of things to do and see. Fall fishing remains strong well into "freeze over" in November, and its an absolutely fabulous time to hike, bike, canoe, horseback ride, golf, camp, hunt, stroll, or just sit and watch the hundreds of migrating birds among some of the most brilliant fall color to be experienced anywhere in Minnesota.

While the less informed may migrate south for warmth and sun, thousands know better how exhilerating or just plain emotionally renewing a winter vacation can be in the great northwoods of northcentral Minnesota.

Snowmobile among snow-draped pines. Cross-country ski along a scenic lakeshore. Snowshoe, dog-sled or ski sojourn through pristine, untracked forest. Take a thrilling toboggan ride down the old ski slope at the Shingobee Recreation Area southwest of Walker? Go ice fishing for that trophy lunker, or winter camp beside a roaring fire under a crystal clear winter moon as big as a pumpkin. All this and more is available for a day, a week or an extended holiday break.

Looking for a more relaxing change of pace? Take a few hours visiting one of the county's many gift and craft stores with that special, northwoods flavor. Stroll through a nature preserve and watch for signs of wolf, beaver, mink or coyote. Catch a glimpse of a fox, or listen for the screech of an eagle or owl. Spend a leisurely evening enjoying a gourmet-prepared, wild game and wine dinner. Snuggle up with a great book before a mellow fire in a classic, northwoods-style fireplace, or watch the constantly changing hues of a brilliant, northern sunset from the comfort of your rustic lakeside lodge.

Ice Skating

What with all the other great things to do outdoors in Cass County during wintertime, why would anyone be interested in tieing on a pair of skates just to shuffle around an ice rink for a few hours? You might, if you need to recapture some of those early childhood memories with the neighborhood gang, or maybe see if you can still do that fancy spin you mastered in your teens. How about if you are looking for a great way to get some exercise, or maybe spend some quality time with the kids.

Because of all the other great outdoor activities competing for your time in our winter wonderland, ice skating may not rank high on your list of options, but it just might be the perfect change of pace for that slow afternoon.

We can offer five good "fresh air" locations for those with the itch to strap on some skates. The towns of Backus, Longville, Pine River and Walker all offer friendly, outdoor, municipal skating rinks which are available at no charge to the general public. The Backus rink is immediately east of their elementary school which is located on the north side of town. The Longville rink is just south of downtown along MN Hwy 84 below the elementary school. The Pine River rink is located on the elementary school grounds on the northside of town just off Co.Rd.42. The newly opened, 15,000 sq.ft., Walker rink is lighted and located behind the high school, near the city water tower (on the hill at the end of 4th St). None provide or rent skates, so be advised to bring your own.

For a different approach, consider Moondance Ranch, 6 miles south of Walker on MN Hwy 371. Moondance, Cass County's year round wildlife park, petting zoo and general all-around "fun spot", offers two adjacent skating areas on a real outdoor pond, one for adults, the other for the kids. Be mindful, however, Moondance Ranch does charge admission.

Sleigh Rides

And if you call ahead, you just may be able to arrange your very own horse-drawn, sleigh or hay ride as well. Facilities in or very near to Cass County offer great opportunities to take that "jiggle bell ride", just like the one you and the family always fantasized about whenever that classic Budweiser beer commercial started playing during the holidays, or after seeing one of those famous "Currier & Ives" paintings gracing a Christmas card. The four following locations offer at the very least winter sleigh rides as soon as the snow begins to accumulate. Some also offer fall hay wagon rides as well, so call ahead for reservations and availability.

Dog Sledding

Want to try one of northern Minnesota's fastest growing, most popular, outdoor winter sports - dog sledding? Well, while this is still a new activity in Cass County and we are still lining up area dog sledders to provide a greater array of services, we do have one place available right now that can offer you an exhilarating ride - Cragun's Resort on Gull Lake.

Also, don't forget to check out the Minnesota 150 Dog Sled Race at Remer, usually scheduled annually (conditions permitting) the first Saturday in February. In addition to seeing over 50 dog sled teams up close (many of the same that race Duluth's John Beargrease and the Alaskan Iditirod) and mighty dog pulling contests, you can also take in dog sled ride or two. The Remer event also offers a hotly contested - and delicious - local Chili Cook-Off. Try some!

World-Class Cross-Country Skiing

Cass County offers spectacular, often unforgetable cross-country skiing for every skill level from beginner to expert. Take one of our many well marked routes through thick pine and hardwood forests, with breathtaking views across frozen lakes and wetlands or for the more adventuresome, cut your own backcountry route along one of our deep forest trails for mile upon mile of unbroken solitude.

Combine that with Cass County's wide range of Winter Lodging options from rustic lakeside log cabins, to clean, modern, full service motel facilities, and charming Bed & Breakfats; add our terrific selection of Area Restaurants and Specialty Shopping, and you have the makings for a truly memorable visit. Whether you plan to stay for a day, a long weekend or for as long as you like, no other place in northern Minnesota can offer you both the quality and quantity of choices that await for you in Cass County.

Say you want to know the latest skiing conditions before deciding to join us? Well, we have listed the agencies and individuals responsible for grooming the various trails along with their phone numbers. Generally trails are groomed at least weekly if conditions permit, and often within 48 hours after significant snows. Their reports generally include information about latest conditions, recent snowfall, accumulated base depth and date of the last grooming. Much of this information is posted with the Minnesota Tourism Office's "Hotline".

Looking for trails groomed to accommodate "skate-style" skiing? The Forest Service has groomed 3K of the Shingobee Trail in the Chippewa National Forest near Walker for skate-style in the past. So has the MN/DNR groomed the south portion of their Washburn Solitude Area Trail in the Land O'Lakes State Forest near Outing.

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