Winter is the season that many people love to hate. But around the Whitefish Chain, we love to love it — and that’s because there’s no shortage of fun things to do, and beautiful scenery in which to do them.
The Whitefish area is chock-full of great places to head out with snowshoes and enjoy the woods in all their winter splendor. Chiarella Forest Management Area and walking trail has 77 acres of forest to explore with trails to walk throughout. Meadows are complemented by stands of Norway pines. It’s located on County Road 11, three miles west of the intersection of County Road 11 and County Road 3. Signs are posted.
Another great place to take the snowshoes is the Uppgaard Wildlife Management Area, with 110 acres of woods with trails that look out over small lakes, mixed deciduous and coniferous forest, and meadows. It’s not only a great place to hike the woods, but also to watch for local bird species and winter wildlife. Both Chiarella and the Uppgaard WMA can be skied, as well, but are not regularly groomed for the activity.
Perhaps the area’s favorite non-motorized winter activity is cross-country skiing. The Crosslake Community Center is a popular location for the sport, and recently opened several kilometers of new trails. Crosslake’s trails go through several different types of forest, and wrap around a small lake. No ski pass is required and the trails are free to use. The community center provides free maps, just ask at the front desk.
West of Pine River are the Cut Lake and Spider Lake cross country ski trails on County Road 2, 10.5 miles from the intersection of CR 2 and Hwy. 371. The ski area has around 10 km of trails and is groomed by the local ski club. Be sure to grab your Minnesota DNR ski pass before hitting the Cut Lake trails.
Thanks to the good work of several area snowmobiling clubs, snowmobile trails throughout the Whitefish Chain are regularly groomed and popular among locals and visitors alike. The Ideal Sno Pros, the local snowmobile club based in Ideal Township, grooms 110 miles of snowmobile trails in the area that wind around and through the Whitefish Chain, with plenty of opportunity for stop-offs at local resorts and restaurants. Check the latest trail conditions on the Ideal Sno Pros Facebook page.
There are several free, public skating rinks in the area. Crosslake’s skating rink is located at the community center, on a lit pond. It opens as soon as the pond freezes to a safe ice thickness. The nearby community center offers a place to warm up, restrooms and drinking water during operating hours. A light over the pond that can be turned on by a switch on the pole. To find out if the skating pond is open for the season, call 218-692-4271.
Nisswa also has two free skating rinks at its community center, which is just up the road from most of the town’s shopping and restaurants. The city has one cooled rink and another that relies on cold weather. When both are open, one is reserved for free skating while the other is used for hockey. The rinks are free to use and the city rents donated skates for free during operating hours. Lights allow the fun to go on even in the shortest days of the season. Call 218-963-0047 for this season’s operating hours, or visit the Nisswa Park & Rec Facebook page for the latest conditions.
Ice fishing is big on the Whitefish Chain, and local resorts are ready to help you find your way out onto the ice. You can find a great fish house rental from any of these local guides and rental services. Furthermore, bait stores are ready and happy to help not only with bait, but friendly advice.
Darkhouse spearing is also popular on the Whitefish Chain, and some residents and visitors are even known to spear using handmade decoys, darkhouse and even handmade spears.
So whatever you enjoy most, whether it’s on the snow or the ice, bundle up and get out there! Winter awaits.