A bench overlooking Trout Lake gives snowshoers a place to rest.
A bench overlooking Trout Lake gives snowshoers a place to rest.
To friends from my hometown of Escanaba, I’m sorry to say this story is not about snowshoeing in or around our quintessential Midwest community on Bay de Noc in Upper Michigan. And it is definitely not about snowshoeing in Jeff Daniel’s spoof on U.P. culture and hunting in his 2001 movie, “Escanaba in da Moonlight.” 

Then what is this about? Well, not many people are aware that there is a 303-acre lake on a chain of lakes in Vilas County, Wisconsin, just southeast of Boulder Junction. This state-owned lake is named Escanaba Lake.  

The picturesque body of water sits in the Northern Highland American Legion (NHAL) State Forest, as do 68 other wilderness lakes. A neighbor of Escanaba Lake is the 173-acre Pallette Lake that lies directly to the west, while the 249-acre Lost Canoe Lake is to the northwest. Many other lakes dot the landscape in this scenic 232,000-acre Wisconsin state forest. This woodland region is actually located in three Wisconsin counties: Vilas, Iron and Oneida.

Some years ago, a friend and I explored these lakes by canoe. We began our trip paddling and camping on White Sand Lake, portaging to Lost Canoe and Escanaba lakes, then to Pallette where we set up camp at one of the rustic canoe campsites for the next night. 

The lakes are pristine and offer an excellent backcountry adventure, be it by water or trail. Having been to Escanaba Lake in the summer, I have longed to see it in winter. I heard that the three lakes are a winter wonderland with majestic views and trails for cross-country skiing. Snowshoeing is permitted off trail, but not allowed on or along groomed ski trails. On snowshoes, one can access Escanaba Lake by way of a hiking trail called Lumberjack Trail. 

Snowshoeing, hiking and skijoring are also not permitted on the Escanaba Trails and other groomed cross-county ski trails in the NHAL, including Raven, McNaughton and Madeline Nature Trails.

Since the ski trails are prominent in this tri-lakes area, I set out to learn about what snowshoe trails exist in the NHAL State Forest. In a call to the Department of Natural Resources, I was pleased to be pointed to some interesting trails with plowed parking areas designated for hikers and snowshoe enthusiasts. So I packed up my snowshoes and my daypack, and headed north the day after Christmas. The conditions were excellent with a foot of snow and comfortable temperatures.

The entirety of Jim Joque's account of snowshoeing to Escanaba Lake appears in the February 2014 print edition of Silent Sports magazine. To order a copy, call 888/706-4045. Or subscribe online here and avoid missing a single issue!