Winter Recreation

Snow covered trees edge a road on the forest.

Winter time is the perfect time to get out and enjoy the forest. While there are great places across the forest to explore, we wanted to provide some of the most popular spots from other visitors.

Suomi Hills

The remote setting of the Suomi Hills semi-primitive non-motorized  area is graced with rolling hills, clear lakes and some of the most spectacular fall color in the area.  Suomi Hills is located about nine miles south of Marcell, Minn. and 14 miles north of Grand Rapids, Minn.  off State Highway 38, along the Edge of the Wilderness National Scenic Byway. The area is named for the small Finnish community of Suomi, situated on the northern edge of the Suomi Recreation Area located near Grave Lake, Minn.  The area was logged from 1905 to 1910, with people settling in the area about 1916. The Day Lake Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camp,  a prisoner of war camp during World War II is located on the north end of Suomi Hills.

Suomi Hills has 19 miles of trails, many small lakes and primitive campsites for day or overnight skiing trips.  The rolling topography offers cross-country trails for intermediate and advanced skiers. The trails are groomed and track-set in the winter. Young aspen stands, maples, basswoods and scattered pine form the landscape of the area.

Shingobee Recreation Area

Nestled along the rolling hills of the Shingobee River Valley, the Shingobee Recreation Area is located five miles southwest of Walker, Minn., along State Highway 34. Shingobee is named after the Ojibwe word for the cedar, spruce, and balsam trees which border the Shingobee River and Shingobee Bay of Leech Lake.

Ski slopes, trails, and a toboggan slide were developed by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCCs) in the early 1930s.  Crews were led by Max von Dalen who had experience in winter sports development in Germany.  In the later 1930s, the Forest Service and local supporters built the warming chalets and tow ropes for downhill skiing.  Volunteers taught skiing to children.  Shingobee was one of the first downhill ski areas in Minnesota and attracted visitors from throughout the midwest to try the "new winter sports fad."  In the 1940s, skiers were shuttled from Walker to the slopes.  The Shingobee Winter Sports Playground operated intermittently as a downhill ski area until 1984, when it became uneconomical and difficult to compete with larger ski resorts. 

The Shingobee Recreation area offers six miles (9.4 km) of trails for cross-country skiing. The ski trails are intermediate to advanced in difficulty and are groomed and track-set each winter.  A sliding hill and a weekend warming chalet are also available for winter fun. 

Snowmobiling

Under a blanket of snow, the Chippewa National Forest becomes a land of unexplored adventures.  Over 380 miles of motorized trails provide access for snowmobilers to 1,300 lakes, scenic woodlands, and frozen wetlands.  Trails connect to nearly 200 miles of routes beyond the Forest. 

The Soo Line North trail, an old railroad grade travels for 148 miles through forest and bog between Moose Lake, Minn. in the south and Cass Lake, Minn. in the north. Soo Line North Trail connects with the 114-mile Soo Line South Trail at Moose Lake.

Snowmobilers may also travel on unplowed National Forest roads unless posted closed to recreational motor vehicle use.  A motor vehicle use map is available on line and at all office to help you navigate your winter adventure. 

Lost 40

Strap on your snowshoes and enjoy a one-mile self-guided trail that winds its way through the majestic pines of the Lost Forty. The old growth pines of the Lost Forty bear witness to our heritage. Most of the mature red and white pine is found on the east end of the Lost Forty.  These trees are up to 350 years old and between 22 and 48 inches in diameter. Old growth such as the Lost Forty is valuable for wildlife, including bald eagles, a number of hawks and woodpeckers, red squirrels, weasels and numerous other species.

Experience winter at the Chippewa National Forest's "Lost Forty”.  From Blackduck, take County Roads 30/13 to Alvwood, travel north on State Highway 46 for 1/2 mile to County Road 29.  Follow 29 east for about 11 miles to Dora Lake and County Road 26.  Travel 2 miles north on 26 to Forest Road 2240.  About 1 1/2 miles west of this intersection you will find a sign for the Lost Forty.

The Forest has over 298 miles of non-motorized trails perfect for snowshoeing.  The trails take you through the winter woods of the Chippewa National Forest

Ice Fishing

When the temps get cold the ice fishing heats up on the Chippewa National Forest! The Forest is a premier Minnesota ice fishing destination with 1,300 lakes in the Forest including three of Minnesota's largest: Leech Lake, Lake Winnibigoshish and Cass Lake!  Whether you are interested in catching panfish or perch, walleyes or northern pike it is just you, the line you drop through a hole in the ice, and the fish you pull back through the hole. If it’s a nice day, you might sit on a bucket on the ice or choose a warm heated ice house. The most important tip for all ice-fishermen is to remain cautious and stay safe.

Lake Winnibigoshish (Lake Winnie) located on the Chippewa National Forest is a popular ice fishing destination! Walleye, jumbo perch and northerns take center stage in the winter on Lake Winnie!