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The Best Outdoor Activities In and Around Wausau, Wisconsin

Horseback Riding in Wisconsin | © Eden, Janine and Jim / Flickr
Horseback Riding in Wisconsin | © Eden, Janine and Jim / Flickr
With not many big cities and lots of land, Wisconsin does outdoor activities right. Wausau, surrounded by parks and placed right next to one of the highest mountains in Wisconsin, is a prime spot for just that. With a full four seasons, almost any outdoor activity can be enjoyed in Wausau, so here are the best ones.

Fishing

Some may not know this, but fishing is a year-round activity. BlueGill Bay Park provides access to Lake Wausau with boat launch options and piers, both usable for fishing as well as ice fishing. Riverside Rentals in nearby Schofield is located right next to Wisconsin and Eau Claire rivers – and their bait shop is there for a reason! Finally, Wisconsin Angling Adventures, also in Schofield, is run by a seasoned fishing expert who guides patrons through stunning views to their fishing dreams-come-true.

Ice Fishing Shanties © IrishFireside / Flickr

Winter

During winter, the Wausau area has a lot more to offer in outdoor activities than just ice fishing. In fact, it’s one of the best areas in Wisconsin for winter sports. Skiing and snowboarding are available at the nearby Granite Peak on Rib Mountain. The numerous nearby parks provide trails for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, while Sylvan Hill Park is known state-wide for its tubing. Kronenwetter Forest even has trails specifically for snowmobiling for those who like some motorized speed in the snow.

Biking

With all the parks nearby, it’s not hard to find beautiful cycling options – regardless of the season or your preferred challenge level. Big Eau Pleine County Park has 12 miles of trails for biking and over 17 miles of trails for snow biking! At just under 5k acres, Nine Mile County Forest offers 10 miles (despite what the forest title otherwise implies) of mountain biking trails. Then there’s Sunny Vale County Park Trail with seven miles of trails for fat tire biking.

Fat Tire Bike © Jereme Rauckman / Flickr

ATVs

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ATVs in Wisconsin | © Forest Service, Eastern Region / Flickr
ATVs in Wisconsin | © Forest Service, Eastern Region / Flickr
There are two ATV trails near Wausau: the Edgar-Fenwood ATV/UTV Trail and the Burma County Forest Trail. The Edgar-Fenwood Trail is a 9.75-mile (15.69-km) long abandoned railroad trail that passes through the villages of – you’ll never guess – Edgar and Fenwood. The Burma County Forest Trail is 12 miles long. Dirt bikes are not allowed on either trail, so ATV riders will have them all to themselves. And don’t worry as both trails are closed during hunting season.
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Water

When it comes to outdoor water activities, Wausau has an impressive array of options. Starting simply, the Rothschild-Schofield Aquatic Center offers swimming, water slides, and water aerobics. Going a little deeper, Klein Scuba offers scuba diving classes and certifications. Divepoint Paddle and Adventure Center offers classes and certification for both scuba diving and kayaking. Kayaking and canoeing are actually quite popular in the Wausau area due to the internationally recognized course at Whitewater Park in Wausau. Less experienced kayakers don’t need to feel excluded though; Whitewater Park is used for both competition and recreation.

Horseback Riding

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Another way to connect with nature, horseback riding is a lovely outdoor option in Wausau. Places like the Kronenwetter Forest Unit and Big Eau Pleine Park have excellent trails to accommodate the pursuit. On the other hand, if you’re fond of horses, but don’t actually want to be on one, check out horse-drawn rides, like winter sleigh rides, at Starwood Farm.
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Hiking

Wausau is filled with parks and gardens, all offering fantastic trails with wildlife and stunning scenery. There are trails on mountains, on islands, and in forests. Starting with some of the milder walks, Willow Spring Garden and Monk Botanical Gardens would be more for the sights – though they also make a great excuse for some exercise. The Isle of Ferns is a little island that has caught the attention of hikers and wedding planners alike. Marathon Park is the extensive park named after its county and is used for running trails as well as events such as state fairs. Rib Mountain State Park and Nine Mile Forest are natural treasures in the area, ripe with hiking trails and other outdoor activity opportunities. Finally, there’s Mountain-Bay State Trail, extending from Rib Mountain to Green Bay. Attempt this 83-mile long trail, if you dare!

Rib Mountain Trail © Joshua Mayer / Flickr