By Mpls.St.Paul Magazine / Inspired by Chad Greenway's My North
Now that beloved Minnesota Viking middle linebacker Chad Greenway is retired, he has a lot of time on his hands. While his young daughters demand a lot of it, as does his role as ceremonial captain of the 10,000-strong Super Bowl Host Committee volunteers, he still manages to find plenty of free time in the winter to indulge one of his passions: snowmobiling. And because there’s no place better for it than Minnesota, here are five great places around the state to take a snowmobiling vacation this winter.
Nestled into the far southeastern shoreline of Lake Mille Lacs, Appeldoorn’s puts some of Minnesota’s best snowmobiling trails right at your fingertips. Although no snowmobile rentals are available from the resort itself, there are plenty of rental shops nearby to get you outfitted for Appeldoorn’s next-level trails. Ride epic snowmobile flows like the Ten Bruin trail, Rep Top ATV Trail and the Minnesota Soo Line Trail, which used to be—you guessed it!—home to the Soo Line Railroad. The resort also rents ice fishing houses, so you can always take your snowmobile out on the lake to do that as well.
When people think of the Brainerd Lakes area, they tend to think of boating and golf, but all those lakes and all that land make for great snowmobiling as well. There are a handful of Brainerd Lakes resorts that stay open year round, but Kavanaugh’s has the added benefit of being the only resort located on remote Sylvan Lake—ideal for low-traffic snowmobiling. If you want to get into the more typical Gull Lake snowmobile flow, though, Kavanaugh’s has handy proximity to Brainerd’s broader swath of trailers, including an illuminated one along Gull itself.
Voyagaire butters its bread with the steady flow of summer houseboat tourism in Voyageurs National Park, but when the temperature dips they don’t close up shop—they just trade their pontoons for Polaris and keep on exploring. The remote national park makes for an epic snowmobiling backdrop, and its many miles of groomed and maintained trails have something for riders of every skill level. If you’re lucky, you may even catch a glimpse of the northern lights during your stay.
In the wintertime, Ely-ites put away their canoes and throttle up their snowmobiles to take advantage of the Superior National Forest’s enviable trail system. While many Ely resorts close for the winter, Timber Trail Lodge & Resort remains very much among the living, which is a good thing, because the Tomahawk Trail—one of Minnesota’s premier snowmobile trails—cuts straight through its backyard. And of course, Tomahawk’s not the only one—Superior National Forest and the surrounding area is a veritable maze of trails.
Cratered with lakes and trails in a manner that’s quintessentially Minnesotan, the Big Sandy Lake area is a fantastic snowmobiling destination. Found about a half hour north of Lake Mille Lacs, Big Sandy Lodge & Resort offers snowmobile rentals on-site, and has direct access to Aitken County’s 600-plus miles of groomed trails, which themselves offer access to 1,500-plus additional trail miles in the overall region.
With more than 22,000 miles of groomed and marked trails leading to every nook and cranny of the state, snowmobiling opportunities in Minnesota are just about limitless. Layer up and explore more of Minnesota’s epic snowmobile trails.