Vilas County One-Week Vacation – Sample Itinerary
Looking for a great vacation the whole family will enjoy? Visit Vilas County in the Northwoods of Wisconsin!
Home to one of the highest concentrations of freshwater lakes on earth, Vilas County offers some of the best fishing, boating and paddling in the world. Choose from more than 1,300 shimmering lakes and fish for walleye, northern pike, crappie, smallmouth and largemouth bass, and musky, as well as lake trout and whitefish. Explore 51 designated trails, including mountain biking, hiking and nature trails.
Lakeside resorts, motels, cabins and vacation homes—you’ll find a fantastic range of lodging options in Vilas County. Boulder Junction, Conover, Eagle River, Lac du Flambeau, Land O’ Lakes, Manitowish Waters, Minocqua-Arbor Vitae-Woodruff, Phelps, Presque Isle, Sayner-Star Lake, St. Germain and Winchester offer many restaurants, a long list of retailers, a full range of services and a number of fun family-friendly events— which means that you’ll find everything you need for a great vacation. Best of all, Vilas County is a great vacation value: the total estimated trip cost for a weeklong vacation would be $650 to $800 per couple and $800 to $1000 for a family of four.
Let’s see what a week in Vilas County might look like:
Day 1 — Welcome to Vilas County
3pm—Arrive in Vilas County. Check into your lodging and get settled before heading out for your evening activities.
5pm—Dinner. Choose from dozens of restaurants in Vilas County’s twelve communities. From cozy diners to sensational supper clubs, Vilas County offers a wide range of dining options.
8pm—Stargazing. A great way to relax into your weeklong vacation is to take in the outstanding nighttime skies over
Vilas County. You’ll see constellations you’ve never seen before and you might even get a chance to see the Aurora Borealis—the Northern Lights.
Day 2 — Let’s Go Fishing
5:30am—Wake Up Early. Just as the early bird always gets the worm, the angler who is willing to rise at the crack of dawn stands a much better chance at catching fish than the late risers.
6:00am—Go fishing. Meet your fishing guide at the dock and head out onto one of the area’s many lakes. Vilas County is the home-base for a number of excellent fishing guides, many of whom have been fishing these area lakes
their entire lives. Hiring a fishing guide is perhaps the single best way to improve your chances at catching fish. For a list of area fishing guides and services, contact a local Vilas County Chamber. Contact information for each of the Chamber offices can be found at www.vilas.org.
Noon—Shore lunch. Perhaps the most beloved fishing tradition of the Northwoods, the shore lunch of fresh fish is bound to be one of the most
memorable parts of your trip.
1pm—More fishing. Both smallmouth and largemouth bass tend to bite better in daylight hours than other fish species, making them the perfect
fish to target in the afternoon. Vilas County lakes are famous for their outstanding smallmouth bass fishing. The smallies grow incredibly fat and colorful in the clean, clear waters of Vilas County’s lakes.
5pm—Head back to the dock.
6pm—Dinner. Choose another great Vilas County restaurant for dinner.
8pm—Campfire. There’s just something about the smell of woodsmoke and crisp night air that gets people talking. Sit around the campfire and enjoy s’mores and fish tales.
Day 3 — Bicycling Adventures
8am—Breakfast. Have a hearty breakfast to prepare for a day on the trails.
9am—Pack a picnic lunch. Stop by one of the area grocery stores and put together a picnic lunch for later today.
9:30am—Arrive at the trailhead for our day’s ride. Choose from a long list of great Vilas County bicycling opportunities, including:
- Lumberjack Trail
This is one of three trails specifically maintained for mountain biking in the Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest. The Lumberjack trail has two trailheads near Boulder Junction: one on Old K Road and the other off of Concora Road. This 12-mile trail runs through majestic pine forests and includes several wetlands. Expect some hills and many scenic stretches. Bald Eagles are often seen soaring over the large lakes in this area. The Lumberjack Trail also connects with the Escanaba Lake Hiking Trail—a great place for a hike if you want to get off the saddle for a little while. The Lumberjack Trail and the nearby Madeline Lake Trail all require the purchase of a Wisconsin State Trail pass, but they are well worth it.
- Shannon Lake Trail
Located near St. Germain, this system of loops has a nice mix of beginner and intermediate level routes. There’s a loop around Shannon Lake that is especially scenic. You’ll find the Shannon Lake trail 2 1/2 miles northeast of St. Germain, off County Highway G or off Found Lake Road.
- Land O’Lakes Bikeway/Pedestrianway
This is a superb, fully-paved trail running 8 miles west from Land O’Lakes along Highway B. Through the course of this ride, you’ll pass through a landscape bejeweled with postcard-perfect lakes. The bikeway crosses many other paved and lightly-traveled roads that are worthy of exploration—all of the lakes in the area force the roadways to curve and twist through the landscape, making for some interesting road riding.
- Heart of Vilas Bike & Hike Trail
This 27-mile paved trail runs through the communities of St. Germain, Sayner and Boulder Junction. Roll along the smooth paved trail past dense forests, picturesque lakes and charming cottages. Shops, restaurants, amenities and trailheads with parking can be found in each of the communities along the route.
- North Lakeland Discovery Center
If you want a quiet ride that brings you close to nature, check out the mountain biking trails around the North Lakeland Discovery Center. This nature center is home to over 11 miles of trails, and you’ll find nearly every type of Northwoods natural habitat along the way. Be sure to check out the Big River Trail, which takes you along the banks of the mighty Manitowish River. These trails are groomed during the winter, providing some of the area’s best classical cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. Benches are located throughout the trail system for resting or just taking in the serenity of the Center’s 66 acres. These trails are also the site of the annual “Just Tri-it Triathlon,” featuring a 300 yard swim, 10km mountain bike and 5km trail run. Located 1.2 miles east of Highway 51 on County Highway W.
- Bicycling Vilas County’s Quiet Roadways
Ride the quiet roadways of Vilas County for an unforgettable ride. With 1,300 lakes and more than 70 rivers and streams, this area is pure scenery. You won’t go more than a mile without crossing a stream or seeing a lake. Stands of ancient hemlocks and white pine are found throughout the county. This natural bounty combined with an endless variety of quiet roads make Vilas County an ideal place for bicycle touring. For Vilas County road routes, visit www.northwoodsbiking.com.
Noon—Trailside lunch. Bicycling is the perfect way to work up an appetite. Pick a nice trailside spot for your picnic lunch.
Afternoon—Back to the trails.
5pm—Head back to the trailhead.
7pm—Catch a movie. When you’re in Vilas County, you can enjoy all the wonders of the wilderness without giving up creature comforts like first-run films at the movie theatre. Or, rent a DVD and relax after a busy day on the trails.
Day 4 — Northwoods Boating and Paddling
8am—Wake up, grab breakfast and pack your lunch.
9am—Head to the launch. With thousands of lakes and a number of free-flowing rivers, Vilas County is home to a nearly endless list of paddling opportunities. For today’s paddling adventure, we explore the Manitowish River, which runs for 44 miles through the forest. The Manitowish River offers outstanding paddling opportunities, great fishing and excellent birdwatching. The most
popular paddling trips on the Manitowish range from 6 to 17 miles. For today’s trip, we’ll launch at Highway K and paddle for about 16 miles to our takeout spot at Highway 51. Canoe rental
and shuttle service is available. For more Vilas County paddling opportunities, visit www.vilas.org.
Noon—Lunch. Pick a sunny spot on a mid-river rock or some other scenic spot for a picnic lunch on the Manitowish River.
Afternoon – Continue paddling.
5pm—Reach our takeout at Highway 51.
8pm—Campfire. After our day’s paddling adventure, we’ll have lots to talk about around our campfire.
Day 5 — Northwoods History and Culture
8:30am—Late wake up and breakfast. After yesterday’s paddling, sleeping late will feel just plain wonderful.
10am—Tour the George Brown Ojibwe Museum in Lac Du Flambeau. Learn about Anishinaabe (Ojibwe) history and culture through a number of exhibits, including the world-record seven-foot sturgeon, a 200-year old dugout canoe, a four-season diorama timeline, artifacts from the Lac du Flambeau area, birch bark canoes, and over 5,000 historic photos.
1pm—Tour the Northwoods Children’s Museum. Eagle River’s Northwoods Children’s Museum offers fun and creative play through its 22 interactive exhibits that help children learn about their world. Exhibits include a medical center, fire tower, camping area, fishing pond, bubble station, pioneer cabin, dress-up area, music room as well as an Art Center. The Discovery Store offers more than 300 fun and creative toys as well as craft and science kits. Admission is $6 per person.
3pm—International Snowmobile Hall of Fame. Located in St. Germain, this fascinating museum tells the exciting story of snowmobiling and its development as both a leisure activity and a competitive sport. See interesting exhibits and
artifacts, as well as rare photos that chronicle the rise of the sport.
7pm—Mini-golf. Vilas County offers several places to play mini-golf. Look for mini-golf in Eagle River, Woodruff and St. Germain.
Day 6 — Shopping!
10am—Shopping! Vilas County’s twelve communities all offer unique shopping opportunities. Visit Boulder Junction, Conover, Eagle River, Lac du Flambeau, Land O’ Lakes, Manitowish Waters, Minocqua-Arbor Vitae-Woodruff, Phelps, Presque Isle, Sayner-Star Lake, St. Germain and Winchester for unique home décor, handmade crafts, fine art, specialty foods, jewelry, souvenirs and more.
Afternoon—Nature hike at the Catherine Wolter Wilderness Area. Just south of Presque Isle, you’ll find this 2,249-acre nature preserve. The Catherine Wolter Wilderness Area includes 15 wild lakes and ponds, which support a rich diversity of fish and other aquatic species. The surrounding forests provide habitat for many native plants and wildlife species. Birdwatchers have a chance to see a number of varieties of warblers, including black-throated green, blackthroated blue, golden-winged, magnolia and mourning.
8pm—Campfire. Savor your last peaceful night in beautiful Vilas County with one last campfire.