There are so many great outdoor adventures to experience in the winter in Door County, Wisconsin.
You’ll find the perfect blend of snow and ice creating a beautiful winter wonderland.
This was my first visit to Wisconsin in the winter months. My previous visit was in the summer to Wisconsin Dells.
I’m sharing some of my favorites to try during your next snowcation/winter getaway to the peninsula.
Where is Door County, Wisconsin?
If you are unfamiliar with the area, Door County is a peninsula located about 45 minutes north of Green Bay, Wisconsin.
What is Door County Known For?
Door County is known for its picturesque views of Lake Michigan. You’ll also find cherries, fish boils, year-round outdoor recreation, and charming towns including Sturgeon Bay, Sister Bay, and Baileys Harbor.
If you visit during the winter months you will find plenty of outdoor recreation that is fun for all ages.
Door County offers a range of winter activities for a variety of comfort zones and abilities.
Go Ice Fishing on the Sturgeon Bay
I assumed that ice fishing would be REALLY cold and kind of miserable.
Kind of like the movie Grumpy Old Men… but I still wanted to try it anyway.
I found the experience to be quite the opposite and really fun! It also didn’t hurt that I caught a fish which is perfect for an impatient fisherman.
Our ice fishing adventure started with Captain JJ Malvitzi, the owner of JJ’s Guide Service.
He drove us in a side-by-side UTV to an ice shanty located about 3 miles out on Sturgeon Bay.
We traveled on 20-inch thick ice and even traveled across a little bridge where there was a crack in the ice.
I appreciated that our first ice fishing experience was with the pros who knew where to drive and what to look out for along the way.
What Should You Bring Ice Fishing?
Another perk of ice fishing with a guide is that all you need to do is show up dressed in warm clothes. (I would also bring your phone or a camera.) The rest is taken care of by your ice fishing guide.
Your guides have your bait, fishing gear, ice shanties, and know the best fishing spots. Captain JJ also provides lunch for his customers.
He demonstrated the tiny movement that we needed to make on the fishing line in our quest to catch a whitefish that day.
The ice shanty had benches on each side to sit on or store your gear. We kept nice and toasty with the heater inside.
Ironically, the ice shanty was REALLY warm inside which is why I decided to fish outside.
I packed an extra pair of thick ski gloves and didn’t wear any that day. It was about 27 degrees and thankfully not windy.
Captain JJ made several other ice fishing holes for our group outside too. I started at a fishing hole and dropped my line about 100 feet to the bottom.
My Ice Fishing Catch of the Day
I discovered the sweet spot was the second hole about 60 feet to the bottom.
The fish only gave a slight tug on the line. I almost didn’t notice because it wasn’t as dramatic as my handful of previous fishing experiences.
Captain JJ coached me while I reeled it in and thankfully took care of getting the fish off of the line.
Would I normally kiss a fish?
I got caught up in the moment of my first ice fishing catch and went for it when it was suggested for the photo op.
The whitefish was also put back into the water afterward…but I did enjoy eating a different whitefish at a fish boil that evening.
….Confession: I might have accidentally dropped him when he squirmed out of my hand. But regardless he did still make it back into the water.
The ice shanties are allowed to stay on the ice until March 15 and the ice is typically ready around the New Year.
If you want to go ice fishing on the weekend I would suggest booking your guide several months in advance. The weekends are very popular for ice fishing, especially for Captain JJ.
Captain JJ Malvitz offers fishing charters for whitefish, northern pike, and walleye.
On the way back we also stopped to take some pictures of this lighthouse with ice formations along the cliffs.
Explore Peninsula State Park
9462 Shore Rd, Fish Creek, WI
Peninsula State Park is a popular park for activities year-round. In the summer months, there is an 18-hole golf course, a lighthouse, camping, a large beach, bike trails, fishing, and hiking.
In the winter months, you can go snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, ice fishing, snowmobiling, and sledding.
You can bring your own sled or rent sledding tubes with Nor Door Sport and Cyclery.
Be on the lookout for the Eagle Tower, a new 60-foot observation tower with scenic views.
You can climb the stairs or walk up the 850-ft long accessible ramp.
Make sure that you also stop at Eagle Panorama for another scenic view and selfie station.
While we were at Peninsula State Park we demoed a newer winter activity brought to the states from Finland called Kicksledding.
What is Kicksledding?
A Kicksled is a small sled with a handlebar and a chair mounted in the front. The kicksled is powered by your kicks.
The best part about kicksledding is that it’s very easy to learn and doesn’t require any special skills.
You literally just hold on, kick, and ride. We practiced in the parking lot at Peninsula State Park before moving to the trails.
The kicksled can fold down making it easier to transport in your vehicle.
There is a seat on the front of the kicksled that can transport an adult or child. The seat on a kicksled can also be used as a place to hold additional gear or bags.
You can ride a kicksled on snow or ice. We discovered that we could go even faster on a snow-covered road vs. the trail.
I will say that my calf muscles definitely felt it. It’s recommended to try five kicks with the same leg before switching legs.
Ideally, you want your kick to be as long and smooth as possible while holding the handlebars with a light grip.
The sliding is of course the best part so don’t forget to enjoy the ride with both feet on the runners too.
If you encounter a hill you can either kick your way up it on the sled or walk it up.
The kicksled is fun for all ages and provides an opportunity for seniors to be more active during the winter months. They can feel more stable and balanced on the snow with the handlebar on the kicksled.
How much are Kicksleds?
Kicksleds retail for around $325. You can purchase an ELSA Kicksled from Finland online or locally with Door County Kicksled.
Go Cross-Country Skiing
There are lots of cross-country trails in Door County.
We skied on the scenic groomed trails through the woods at Peninsula State Park. If you don’t own equipment, cross-country ski rentals and snowshoe rentals are available at Nor Door Sport & Cyclery.
If you are newer to the sport, you’ll find that cross-country skiing can be counterintuitive to downhill skiing.
I’d only tried cross country skiing twice before in Michigan and one of those times the trail conditions were REALLY icy.
How Cross-Country Skis are Different Than Downhill Skis
Cross-country skis are thinner than downhill skis. The ski boots are more flexible because they only click into the ski at the toe.
Your back foot is able to lift off of the cross-country ski to help you get more movement.
For cross-country skiing, your ski poles need to stay to your side and behind you.
You also want to stay on the “tracks” on the trail. Cross-country skis don’t have edges like downhill skis which is an adjustment when you go down a small hill.
It’s easy to work up a sweat quickly so dress in layers.
During my previous time cross-country skiing in Michigan, I quickly learned that my hands can get HOT quickly with thick ski gloves.
I started without gloves on until I fell. After that, I put on thin running gloves.
The only thing that hurt when I fell was my ego. I’m determined to try cross-country skiing again so that I can do better next time.
6329 WI-57, Sturgeon Bay, WI
Cave Point Paddle and Peddle provides riders a scenic fat tire e-bike tour to Cave Point County Park.
The e-bike tour lasts about 2 hours and includes two picturesque stops by Lake Michigan.
Before you go on the tour, you’ll learn more about the e-bike features and test them out in the driveway and the main road.
All riders are required to sign a waiver and wear a helmet.
How is a Fat Tire Electric Bike Different than a Regular Bike?
With an electric bike, you have additional power that can assist you during your ride. You can choose to use the power as much or as little as you want while you pedal.
The fat tires on the bike also handle snow and non-paved trails with more stability than bikes with thinner tires.
If you have never ridden an e-bike before, you will love it! I have an e-bike at home that I LOVE.
Our guide led the way to the County Park and had us stop as a group before the busy intersections.
There were a few roads where we could ride next to each other. Otherwise, we traveled on the e-bikes single file.
When we stopped for a scenic view of Clark Lake, I found it easier to pedal through the thicker snow with a boost of power.
The highlight of the tour was definitely taking in all of the views at Cave Point County Park.
We were given plenty of time to explore the park before returning back to the rental shop. (More pictures coming below)
The e-bike tour travels around 5 miles roundtrip. I would recommend wearing shoes with a good grip for your time walking in the park.
This is a great tour that allows you to experience Door County in a unique way.
Enjoy Scenic Views of Lake Michigan at Cave Point County Park
5360 Schauer Rd, Sturgeon Bay, WI
Cave Point is a very popular park year-round in Door County for its incredible views by the water.
Our e-bike tour took us directly to Cave Point. Another option is to drive and hike around the overlooks with limestone cliffs and underwater caves.
During the winter you’ll be treated to incredible ice formations along the edges of the rocks. The contrast next to shades of turquoise blue water is absolutely stunning.
There are definitely some really icy spots near the edges so make sure that you have something to hold onto nearby.
I speak from experience. The “pose” above happened when I squatted down so that the ice formations could be seen behind me.
Thankfully I didn’t slip on the ice very far to the ground or near the edge.
If you come with kids, keep them SUPER close.
It can turn very dangerous quickly if they wander off the trails or get too close to the edge. There were even a few holes in the ground for the sea caves.
I would also recommend wearing shoes with a good grip and layers because it gets really cold if it’s windy.
After you visit the popular spot for cliff jumping in the summer, you have the option of going farther to the left or exploring to the right.
If you are facing the water you’ll want to explore farther to the right for the most dramatic formations.
Cave Point is definitely a MUST-SEE park when you visit Door County!
Hike The Ridges Sanctuary
8166 WI-57, Baileys Harbor, WI
The Ridges Sanctuary was Wisconsin’s first land trust and is a natural gem located within the Baileys Harbor community.
Why is it called the Ridges?
The name for the Ridges Sanctuary comes from a series of 30 ridges and swales.
Ridges were formed over 1400 years by the changing movement of water from Lake Michigan.
You can learn more in-depth about the 1600 acre nature preserve with a guided hike from a naturalist.
Our guide Bill, was a wealth of information and very passionate about the area.
The Hidden Brook boardwalk makes it easy for wheelchairs and guests of all abilities to access the beauty within the forest.
There are also hiking trails if you want to explore beyond the boardwalk. In the winter, the snow might be covering the sand and you can walk around the conifer forest.
The Ridges provides protection for the most biologically diverse ecosystem in Wisconsin, including nearly 500 species of plants.
The Ridges are home to over 60 species of breeding birds. There are also 12 threatened or endangered species including the Hine’s Emerald dragonfly.
Check out the impressive holes on the tree above created by a woodpecker that are hard to miss!
Sign Up for an Educational Program at The Ridges
The Ridges offers lots of educational programming throughout the year for both adults and kids.
If you don’t have time for a guided hike stop inside the educational building to learn more about the area through the exhibits on display.
Baileys Harbor Range Lights
During our hike, one of the highlights was the Baileys Harbor Range lights that were built in 1869.
The Upper Range Light and the Lower Range Light have a straight path between them.
These are the only lighthouses of this type of design that are still functional to aid with navigation.
The Lighthouses helped keep ships away from the shallow water and the reefs near Baileys Harbor.
The goal for the sailor was to vertically align with the white light from the Upper Range Light, which shone at 39 feet above the water, with the red light from the Lower Range Light, which shone at 22 feet.
You can learn more about the tours offered at The Ridges from their website.
Sign Your Name or Enjoy a Photo Op at Anderson Dock
3083 Anderson Ln, Ephraim, WI
Anderson Dock in Ephraim, Wisconsin is a very popular location for pictures year-round.
Thousands have left their mark on the outside walls of the colorful structure where The Hardy Gallery has resided since 1961.
This is one of the rare structures where you won’t get in trouble for signing your name tastefully. (Just keep your spray paint and carving knife at home.)
The tradition started with sailors who signed the walls with their boat name and year that they docked somewhere between 1910 into the 1950s.
The graffiti tradition has continued to live on for generations who visit the area.
If you want to use the building for a photo backdrop I would suggest wearing a bright color to make your photos pop even more.
Go Snowshoeing at The Rushes
3014 Rushes Rd, Baileys Harbor, WI
If you are a guest staying at “The Rushes,” you can enjoy using their snowshoes and cross-country skis for free on their scenic trails. The Rushes have loaner equipment available for both adult and children’s sizes.
Most guests borrow the equipment in the morning and return them the following morning so that they can enjoy the trails at their leisure.
Snowshoes are really easy to use. You step into them with your snow boots and secure them with straps around the ankle and in the front.
While you are on the Rushes Wilderness Preserve Trail you want to be mindful of the tracks for cross-country skiers.
Make sure that you snowshoe on the opposite side of the cross-country tracks so that you don’t mess them up with your snowprint.
I would still recommend wearing snow pants if it’s cold or if the snow is really deep.
You can enjoy the trails through the woods or along the water.
After our snowshoe trek, it was really convenient to be able to walk to my condo.
Accommodations at The Rushes
3014 Rushes Road, Baileys Harbor,WI
The Rushes is a great option for families. The condos have a kitchen, a working fireplace in the family room, and two or three bedrooms options.
Each condo comes with a garage, which is even more appreciated if you are visiting in the winter.
In addition to the trails, there is a recreational center with an indoor pool, whirlpool, steam room, exercise room, and lounge.
Are You Ready to Plan a Winter Getaway to Door County?
This was an exploratory trip by Destination Door County. All opinions are my own.