Winter Wonderland

Winter Wonderland

Winter on the Chippewa is a truly special time of year. From the fresh blankets of snow covering the trails to clear nights made for stargazing, winter is the perfect time to get out and enjoy the Forest.

Ice Fishing

When the temperatures 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 on the Forest. This includes three of Minnesota's largest lakes, Leech Lake, Lake Winnibigoshish and Cass Lake. Whether trying to catch pan fish, perch, walleye, or northern pike, nothing better than ice fishing on the Chippewa. On a nice day, a fisherman can brave the elements perched on a bucket or choose a warm ice house. Remember no ice is 100 percent safe and be prepared with a survival plan.


The Chippewa National Forest becomes a land of unexplored adventures under a blanket of snow. More than 380 miles of motorized trails provide snowmobile access to 1,300 lakes, scenic woodlands and frozen wetlands. Trails connect to nearly 200 miles of routes beyond the Forest. Snowmobilers may also travel on unplowed national forest roads unless posted closed to recreational motor vehicle use.  A motor vehicle use map is available online and at all Forest offices to help navigate winter adventures. The Soo Line North trail, is an old railroad that 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 also connects with the 114-mile Soo Line South Trail at Moose Lake.

Skiing and Snowshoeing

The sound of skis gliding through the trees across new snow and the scent of balsam while rushing down hills are some of what visitors will experience skiing on the Chippewa National Forest. There are more than 298 miles of non-motorized trails on Forest that are perfect for skiing and snow shoeing. These trails give skiers a sense of the diversity of the Forest, whether in the birches of Suomi Hills or hilltops and wetlands of Shingobee. Some cross-country trails may require a ski pass. Skiers are advised to inquire at national forest offices about local conditions and to bring area maps, drinking water, warm emergency clothing, and high calorie snacks.

Winter Camping

Winter camping has its perks; fewer bugs and crowds while you experience the beauty and peacefulness of a pristine winter wonderland. But, if you’re not prepared, it can also be cold and challenging. To set yourself up for a successful winter campout, make sure you have a warm sleeping bag and pad, enough layers to keep you toasty and more than enough food and water. You can use a 4-season tent or a tarp for shelter. You can also try building a quinzee, which is a type of snow shelter that you sleep inside of. 

Winter Night Skies

The best season to view the wonders of the night sky is winter. It may be cold, but the lessened humidity and extended night-time hours create excellent stargazing opportunities. Tips for watching the sky:  Decide on a location that is away from city lights to get as little light pollution as possible.  Next, watch the weather forecast for a night clear of clouds or any precipitation. Preferably this happens when there is no moon, or as little of a moon as possible, because a full moon will make the sky too bright to view most stars.  Remember to bring plenty of warm clothes and maybe some hot coffee or cocoa.

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