A family on the Riverbend Skate Path in Warroad

Skate the Country's Longest Ice Path in Warroad

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A family on the Riverbend Skate Path in Warroad / Jonah Cory

Skate the Country's Longest Ice Path in Warroad

By Andrew Parks

Having already earned its “Hockeytown USA” rep due to its deep connection to pro, Olympic and collegiate players, Warroad recently elevated its profile even further by plowing the country’s longest skate path along its winding river.

The pandemic-inspired project started out as a low-key ice rink linking the land of a couple brothers (Jared and Travis Olafson) and their close friend (Craig Kennedy), but quickly grew into the 5.2-mile Riverbend Skate Path — a point of pride for the community, and yet another way to celebrate the winter, #OnlyinMN style.

Warroad can be easily reached from such nearby cities as Bemidji, International Falls, East Grand Forks and Winnipeg. Follow our Trip on a Tankful route to experience its prime Lake of the Woods location firsthand.

A pair of skis propped up against Doc's Harbor Inn in Warroad

A pair of skis propped up against Doc's Harbor Inn  / Andrew Fisher

1. Rent a pair of skates, skis or snowshoes from Doc’s Harbor Inn

Want to make the most of the Riverbend Skate Path but don’t have the equipment? Randi Oftedahl’s family-run property has you covered all season long, including during FriluftFest. Named after the Norwegian word friluftsliv (translation: “open-air life”), the annual fundraiser helps support Riverbend’s maintenance efforts and other volunteer-led programming. 

If you’re looking to book a room (or four) and spend a couple of nerve-settling days up north, Oftedahl’s century-old Victorian home also happens to be a popular lodging spot with space for up to eight guests, a full kitchen, and many nearby groomed and marked trails to meet all your motorized needs.

A bartender pulls a pint at Lake of the Woods Brewing Company

A bartender pulls a pint at Lake of the Woods Brewing Company / Andrew Fisher

2. Connect the dots between Canada and Northwest Minnesota at Lake of the Woods Brewing Company 

Lake of the Woods Brewing Company is a nod to the sixth largest body of water in the U.S. — a not-quite-Great Lake that brushes up against the brewery’s Warroad location and its flagship up in Kenora, Ontario. The latter first opened in 1898 and received a reboot in 2013 after decades of dormancy due to mounting competition from Canada’s macro breweries. A similar keep-it-craft spirit presides over Warroad’s taproom, a former fire hall that serves everything from honey-kissed pale ales to dry-hopped lagers. Not to mention non-alcoholic options like old-fashioned lemonade and a root beer dubbed — what else — Hockeytown USA.

3. Look for the green stoplight outside The Shed

One of the state’s most prized car collections happens to be hiding in plain sight in Warroad. Staffed by volunteers, The Shed doesn’t follow a typical 9-to-5 schedule; green means go inside, where you’ll most likely be greeted by longtime caretaker Rick Wiseman. A close friend of The Shed’s owner — Bob Marvin of the booming family business Marvin Windows — Wiseman is happy to show you such rare finds as a Ford Model T, an International Woody Wagon that was used at North Dakota’s Minuteman Missile Site, and a Lincoln Premiere that appeared in the TV show “Laverne & Shirley.” And since Marvin has a stake in the Minnesota Wild, The Shed also has a small-but-mighty collection of hockey memorabilia that reflects Warroad’s roots perfectly.

Lake of the Woods Coffee Company in Warroad

Lake of the Woods Coffee Company  / Andrew Fisher

4. Grab some laser-engraved goods from Lake of the Woods Coffee Company

The second life of the Etsy shop Familylaser presents its popular line of home décor and custom gifts — everything from cutting boards and crystal ornaments to bamboo coasters and cribbage, depending on the day — alongside a full menu of breakfast and lunch items and specialty drinks. In other words, you might just come for a latte and leave with a laser-engraved cake pan.

A couple sits at the bar of Nomad Tavern

Nomad Tavern / Andrew Fisher

5. Pick up a pizza from Nomad Tavern

Nomad Tavern's 16-inch cheese, pepperoni and margherita pies are just the beginning of a menu that boasts such signature combos as a note-for-note shrimp scampi, a Penn Station tribute pelted with pepperoni, sausage, salami and capicola, and a supremely cheesy blend of brie, gouda, Havarti and mozzarella (a.k.a. the Fancy Pants). Twelve beers are always on tap as well, ranging from easy drinkers like Stella Artois, Blue Moon and Guinness to experimental offerings from Hallock, Minnesota’s own Revelation Ale Works (e.g., a double dry-hopped New England IPA and a smoothie sour rounded out by passion fruit, orange and guava).

A snowmobiler at Zippel Bay State Park in William

A snowmobiler at Zippel Bay State Park / Andrew Fisher

6. Knock another state park off your list

Located 30 minutes east of Warroad is Zippel Bay, a 3,000-acre park with ample recreational opportunities all year round. While the summer months draw swimmers and picnickers to a white sand beach, and birdwatchers looking for sandhill cranes and piping plovers, winter promises small crowds, seven miles of cross-country skiing and three miles of snowmobiling. Still not satisfied on the great outdoors front? Drive just 90 minutes further east to find International Falls, Voyageurs National Park and some of the country’s most pristine Dark-Sky-certified locations for stargazing.

Andrew Parks

Andrew Parks is the multimedia editor at Explore Minnesota. His past lives include copywriting and content strategy for such clients as Food & Wine, Apple, Condé Nast Traveler, Bandcamp, AFAR, Bon Appétit, and Red Bull.