Where We Ride

Brainerd Lakes, Minn.

Talk about a snowmobiling wonderland – this is it! With more than a dozen lakes strung out like pearls north of the city of Brainerd, this area has been welcoming visitors since the 1920s. There’s lodging aplenty, from basic to deluxe. You can ride through Brainerd itself, and the entire region is a web of trails between and across lakes. The legendary Paul Bunyan State Trail – former Northern Pacific rail line – starts south of Brainerd and runs north 120 miles to Bemidji. It’s one of the longest rail-trails in America. Sleds are big here, so rentals are available from several trailside businesses. Trail Towns: Brainerd, Nisswa, Pequot Lakes, Crosslake, Breezy Point Highlights: Paul Bunyan Trail, Pillsbury State Forest, Gull Lake Info: Crow Wing County Snowmobile Association, www.brainerdlakesareasnowmobiletrails.com; Visit Brainerd Tourism Office, (800) 450-7247, www.visitbrainerd.com
Indian River, Mich.
There’s great riding to be found on the northern tip of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula and Indian River is at the nexus of several major trails. North of town are large Burt Lake and Mullett Lake, as well as the famous Mullett Lake Trail (established after a 10 year legal battle) that runs along its western shore. That’s one of the two main routes northward to Lake Huron and the towns of Cheboygan and Mackinaw City, where an ice trail leads to Bois Blanc Island when conditions are suitable. At Mackinaw City, there are great views to enjoy of the historic Mackinac Bridge. Trail Towns: Indian River, Cheboygan, Mackinaw City, Wolverine, Alanson, Pellston
Highlights: Mullett Lake Trail, Mackinac Bridge views, North Country Trail Info: Indian River Snowmobile Grooming Club,
Allamakee County, Iowa

Tucked into Iowa’s northeast corner and bordering both Minnesota and the Mississippi River, Allamakee County offers snowmobilers a real up and down riding experience – and that’s a good thing. This sparsely populated region is part of the “Driftless Area” that was untouched by glaciation, so that means lots of hills and valleys to enjoy, as well as plenty of rolling farmland. The center of the county features a sizable loop, with trails veering off in three directions – north to New Albin and the Minnesota border, west to Decorah and south to McGregor and Marquette. Just to the north is Minnesota’s Houston County where the trail network is amazing as well.
Trail Towns: Waukon, Lansing, Harper’s Ferry, New Albin Highlights: Hilltop and bluff views toward the Mississippi River
Info: www.iowasnowmobiler.com, Allamakee County Tourism Office, (800) 824-1424
Mono County, California
California may not be associated with snowmobile destinations, but it should be! The majestic Sierra Nevada Mountains feature some of the snowiest and most scenic places in North America. Mono County, on the state’s eastern side near Yosemite National Park, is a potpourri of interesting sites. Two prime venues for riding are the snowy Sierras and the Bridgeport Winter Recreation Area near the town of Bridgeport and Mammoth Mountain (11,059 feet) outside the town of Mammoth Lakes. If you like deep powder and alpine-like views, this is the place for you. Trail Towns: Mammoth Lakes, June Lake, Bridgeport
Highlights: Mammoth Mountain, Bridgeport Winter Recreation Area, Bodie State Historic Park
Info: Bridgeport Rec Area, www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/stelprdb5247632.pdf, Mammoth Lakes Area, www.mammothtrails.org/activity/50/snowmobiling/#overviewTab; Mono County Tourism Office, www.monocounty.org
Dunn County, Wis.

Dunn County is bisected by Interstate 94 on the route between Eau Claire, Wis., and Saint Paul, Minn. It may not look like prime snowmobile country from the highway, but you can find great riding both north and south of the freeway – with enough miles to spend a full day in each half of the county. Menomonie is centrally located with trail-accessible hotels right along the freeway. It’s the perfect starting spot. There are 320 miles of funded trails through farms and forests, including beautiful stretches along and across the Eau Galle, Red Cedar and Chippewa Rivers.
Trail Towns: Menomonie, Downsville, Weston, Eau Galle, Colfax, Connersville, Boyceville
Highlights: Red Cedar State Trail bridge over Chippewa River
Info: Dunn County Snowmobile Association, www.dunncountysnow.com, Trail conditions hotline, (715) 664-7669
Grand Mesa, Colorado

This is the best place I’ve ridden – hands down. It’s the world’s largest flat-top mountain, approximately 40 miles long and 15 miles wide, featuring vast open meadows, forests, numerous lakes and several peaks. Grand Mesa’s elevation means plenty of deep snow, so visiting in late February or early March is ideal once it firms up. There’s a nice trail network, but the real joy is endless off-trail riding -- and there are no wilderness areas to constrain you. Because lodging is limited on the mesa (book early!) due to the lack of towns and people, the mesa is rarely crowded – so you’ll pretty much have this paradise to yourself. Absolutely, make this a top destination if you go out West!
Trail Towns: None – but nearby are Grand Junction, Glenwood Springs and Paonia
Highlights: Land’s End scenic lookout, Sunlight to Powderhorn (SP) Trail
Info: www.alexanderlakelodge.com, www.grandmesalodge.com
Voyageurs National Park, Minn.

This is one of the Midwest’s premier snowmobile destinations – and deservedly so. Located along the Canadian border just east of International Falls, the park features four huge lakes (Rainy, Kabetogama, Sand Point and Namakan) where you can run for miles on groomed trails or in deep powder, passing countless islands on the way. The surrounding region boasts deep forests and plenty of trails, so you can easily spend three days here. The most memorable route is the legendary Chain of Lakes Trail, a one way single track across part of the Kabetogama Peninsula.
Trail Towns: International Falls, Ash River, Ranier
Highlights: Kettle Falls, Chain of Lakes Trail
Info: www.kabetogama.com, www.ashriver.com, www.ridetheborder.com
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