A Guide to Winter in Door County: Outdoorsy Getaway

Even the most active outdoor enthusiasts can fall into a rut in the depths of winter. Short days, cold temps, and the post-holiday slump make it much more appealing to hibernate indoors until spring. Fortunately, Door County has endless winter activities to inspire your next outdoor adventure. A bowl of something warm in front of a fire feels better when you’re still flushed and invigorated from your trek outside.

If you want more ideas for how to spend a winter getaway in Door County, check out our other guides: Romantic Getaway and Foodie Adventure.

Take in the famously dark night sky while snowshoeing at Newport State Park

The Milky Way sets over Newport State Park. Photo by Denny Moutray, originally published by darksky.org.

Newport State Park is Wisconsin’s first state park in Wisconsin to be designated as an International Dark Sky Park, one of just 48 parks in the world to earn the designation.

Cross-country ski through Peninsula State Park

Cross country skiers gliding away.

While every state park in Door County (except for Rock Island) offers groomed cross country ski trails, Peninsula State Park’s 22 miles are hard to beat. The trails are groomed for both traditional and skate style skiing, so no need to worry about whether you’ll be accommodated. Plus, rental options abound if you’re just testing the waters. Try Nor-Dor Sports and Cyclery in Fish Creek or Bay Shore Outfitters in Sister Bay. For snow and trail conditions, check out Door County Visitors Bureau.

Snowmobile to dinner in Sister Bay

If you want to spend time outside in a more thrilling fashion, consider renting a snowmobile. Door County boasts 250 miles of trails — you could even start in Green Bay and ride 50 miles north to the southern Door County Line. For an afternoon of engine-fueled fun, rent a snowmobile from Power Sports Rental Network in Appleton (plan to pull a trailer with to your destination or have them deliver to the trail head of your choice for a fee). Start in Baileys Harbor and head north to cross areas that are nearly impassable when they’re not frozen over. The trail ends in the heart of Sister Bay, where you’ll find a number of restaurants to fuel up. Check out our Winter Dining Guide for our favorite spots.

Go off road on a fat tire bike

Popping wheelies on the shore of Newport State Park. Photo by Door County Visitor Bureau.

Fat tire biking has taken the upper Midwest by storm, and Door County is no exception. The wide tires and low pressure allow riders to traverse terrain that would be off-limits on a regular bike. Peninsula State Park is an obvious choice when deciding where to ride, but Newport State Park has a special loop designed just for fat tire bikes. If you don’t have a fat tire bike, Nor Door Sport and Cyclery has you covered.

Feel like a kid again sledding down Hill 17 in Peninsula State Park

Kids brave one of the largest sledding hills in Wisconsin. Photo by Door County Visitor Bureau.

Caution: “The hill is steep,” says the Department of Natural Resources on its website. Locals call that an understatement. The hill is heavily trafficked during the winter months and well worth getting out of breath to trek back to the top once you’ve made it to the bottom. Hill 17 got its name for a matter-of-fact reason: it is the fairway that leads to the 17th hole of the Peninsula State Park golf course.

Stroll Wisconsin’s first designated land trust

Luminaries line the boardwalk at Ridges Sanctuary. Photo by Ridges Sanctuary.

Learn about Wisconsin’s most biologically diverse ecosystem from a trained naturalist on a guided winter hike at Ridges Sanctuary. Hikers are treated to hot chocolate or locally roasted coffee at the nature center when the hike concludes.

Test your ice fishing skills at Kangaroo Lake

Return home with a fish story. Photo by Door County Visitor Bureau.

Kangaroo Lake is Door County’s largest inland lake. Its maximum depth is only 12 feet, so while it covers 1,100 acres, it tends to freeze early in the season. You’ll find the lake dotted with ice fishing huts throughout the winter. If you’ve been ice fishing, or if you don’t want the hassle of bringing your gear, there are a handful of guides who will make sure you’re properly outfitted — some will even clean the fish you catch when you’re out on the ice.

Ready to plan your winter adventure getaway?