Hit the Trails, then Relax with a Local Brew


We are having “snow” much fun this episode as Director of Tourism Mary Motiff gets us ready for our favorite winter activities in Bayfield County. Owner and Brew master Bo Belanger shares what he calls his “living room” vibe at the South Shore Brewery, and Mary reveals some of Santa’s hang outs, the best bazaars to shop and lots of other events to get you in the holiday spirit.  

Bo Belanger

Gearing Up for the Winter Wonderland

If you love to downhill ski, there’s only one hill to hit and that’s Mt. Ashwabay Ski & Recreation Area in Bayfield. You’ll find all your gear to rent onsite to help you enjoy the affordable, family fun at this popular winter venue. It’s a great place to teach your kids how to ski! There is also a cross-country trail which is over 26-km - it’s just one of nine Nordic trail systems in the County. If you’d like to try out some equipment before you rent or buy, check out the new Howl Adventure Center nearby. The center has a cross-country trail and winter fat biking right on its property along with a microbrewery to relax in when you’re done playing outside.

In the southern part of the county, there’s a ski trail called the North End trail with an adorable warming cabin when it’s time to take a break with picnic tables and a wood stove. In the north central region of the county, the Mt. Valhalla Recreation Area is in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest. There are two different cross-country trail systems there, along with a chalet and warming house near the trails. 

Bayfield County also has 39 hiking trails which are great for snowshoeing, as well as frozen Lake Superior (when the ice conditions are right), where you’ll enjoy spectacular views of the cliffs along its southern shoreline. Lake Superior is a fun spot for fat biking when the ice road is open. The ice road from Bayfield to Madeline Island and back is about three miles, and if you are looking for more trails you can visit travelbayfieldcounty.com to learn about other groomed fat biking trails when the conditions are right. Fat Bikes are available for sale or rent at Howl Adventure Center.

Not much can compare to Bayfield County’s incredible snowmobiling trails through its massive forests – over 600 miles of groomed trails through hundreds of thousands of acres of forest, as well as hundreds more miles of ungroomed forest roads.  Snowmobiling is quite popular in Northern Wisconsin, so plan ahead for your visit. Mary mentions that Bayfield County is one of the few places where ATV and UTV trails are open throughout the winter which is perfect for riding ATVs and UTVs when the ground is frozen and before the snow is deep enough to groom. Iron River is the hub of motorized sports in Bayfield County, and there are lots of snowmobile-friendly businesses to visit there and in all of the communities along the trails.

There are also dog-sledding outfitters in Bayfield County that let you drive your own team.  They will outfit you from top to bottom in gear to keep you warm and cozy while enjoying this popular Northwoods activity.

And finally, there are the County’s famous ice caves. According to Mary, these are a must-see if the conditions are right to walk out on frozen Lake Superior to get to them. Wearing lots of layers is recommended because it can get windy and cold walking across the ice. It is more than a mile one way once you are on the ice, so make sure you are prepared for the conditions and a long trek.

If you would like to know more about snow conditions, trail conditions or receive updates about the ice caves, you can find everything you need on the Bayfield County website. There are different menus for the ice caves and trail systems, and when you click on them, you can find out about the conditions.

South Shore Brewery Taphouse

Experiencing the Vibe at South Shore Brewery Taphouse

Influenced by the craft breweries that started on the west coast in the late 70s and 80s, and his love of everything beer, Bo Belanger opened the South Shore Brewery in Ashland in May 1995. Tapping into the area’s natural resources, Bo grows his own barley for the base malt, contracts with hops farms in central Wisconsin, and uses the fresh waters of Lake Superior. Bo says he wants people to see and taste something about where he lives in every beer he makes.

When the Ashland brewery ran out of capacity to distribute beer, Bo expanded and opened the Tap House in Washburn in 2013, so that he could continue manufacturing and be more than just a brew pub.  It’s a great place to hang out with a tasting room, tours and events every month.

The brewery always serves eight beers on tap, but also offers seasonal brews during certain times of the year.  South Shore is most known for its Nut Brown Ale, followed by its Apple Fest Ale, also made with local ingredients like honey and fresh apple cider.

Bo says the tap house is not a bar.  There are no TVs, it’s BYOF (bring your own food), they spin vinyl and you can play old-fashioned tabletop games like shuffleboard and ping pong. He calls it a “living room” vibe with a great sound system and an amazing collection of more than 1,300 records he credits from his own collection and visitors who bring their records in to listen to for the first time in decades.

Brew tours are available, but be sure to call and schedule one, even if it’s just you. They love to show you around and tell you about the history and chemistry of South Shore brewing. Also, check the website for the days the brewery is open.  They are usually open three days a week: Tuesday, Friday and Saturday.

Mark your calendar for Dec. 21 for one of South Shore Brewery’s biggest events, its 3rd Annual Winter Solstice with live music, food, beer and tours. Beachwear and flip flops are encouraged as Bo makes it a point to turn up the heat on the shortest day of the year. Come for a visit!


December Activities

Dec.. 1 – 22:             Wassail Dinner Concerts at the Old Rittenhouse Inn, Bayfield, WI

Dec. 1 – Jan. 2020:  Oulu Glass Blowing Classes in Brule, WI

Dec. 1, 6-7, 13:         Christmas in Cable at Lakewoods Resort in Cable, WI

Dec. 6:                      Merry ‘Ol Christmas Visit with Santa in Washburn, WI

Dec. 7:                      Breakfast with Santa at Legendary Waters, Cable, WI

                                 Holiday Spirit Gallery Tour in Bayfield, WI

                                 Holiday Bazaar at Northern Great Lakes Visitor’s Center, Ashland, WI

                                 “A Dickens of a Christmas” at White Winter Winery, Iron River, WI

Dec. 13 – 14:           Scandinavian Christmas Dinner at Lakewoods Resort, Cable, WI

Dec. 14:                   Santa & Mrs. Claus Arrive on the Ferry from Madeline Island, WI

Dec. 21:                   South Shore Brewery Tap House Winter Solstice in Washburn, WI

Dec. 27 – 29:           Mt. Ashwabay Holiday Mini Camps, Bayfield, WI

View the full schedule of events on our website and Facebook page.

January Preview

Bayfield County Wild rings in the New Year with a preview of two exciting dog sledding races.

Affiliate Notes

Brickhouse Cafe

The Brick House Cafe & Catering is in downtown Cable in the heart of the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest. The Brick House Cafe offers great coffee & espresso drinks, smoothies, pastries, and desserts as well as Breakfast and Lunch. The menu features unique, fresh & creative items utilizing local ingredients. In addition to delicious breakfast options, you’ll find homemade soups, satisfying sandwiches, house-made pastries and desserts all made daily. Open year-round, you can expect outstanding service and hospitality. It’s even on the “triple D” list of restaurants visited by Guy Fieri!

The Bayfield Inn

Bayfield's premier lodging establishment located on the shoreline of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. Our exclusive downtown location is central to restaurants, shops and attractions and within walking distance of the Apostle Islands Cruise Service, and Madeline Island Ferry Line. With 21 rooms onsite and over 40 total vacation rental options, we can find the perfect fit for all travelers.