MidwestWeekends.com — Your Travel Guide to the Upper Midwest

Winter adventure on a budget

At non-profit lodges, you can go to the dogs, or wolves, at bargain prices.

A cross-country skier in Minnesota.

© Beth Gauper

A skier enjoys a trail in Minnesota.

In winter, it's hard to find a lodge getaway that fits every budget.

Lodges that offer skiing on groomed trails, wood-fired saunas and home-cooked meals aren't cheap.

But if you'd like to try those things and be greeted by a plate of warm chocolate-chip cookies afterward you have a friend in environmental learning centers.

These non-profit centers are the low-cost Club Meds of the north woods, offering all-inclusive weekend packages that include lodgings, meals and winter fun cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, ice fishing, even wolf-tracking and sled-dog mushing.

Here are some great budget adventures in 2019

Dog mushing on the Gunflint Trail

In the northeast corner of Minnesota, the Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness offers an annual Winter Weekend Jan. 18-21, with mushing, skiing and snowshoeing out of Camp Menogyn on the central Gunflint Trail. 

Cost is $195 for adults and $100 for children 6-12, including meals and bunks in heated cabins. Reserve as soon as possible.

Youths ages 12-18 also can go to Winter Camp Dec. 27-30. Cost is $300.

Groups can rent the camp for a weekend of their choice. They'll be greeted by cookies, served meals in the cozy lodge and allowed to mush dogs on the lake. The bigger the group, the lower the price.

Running with wolves in Ely

In the northern Minnesota town of Ely, the International Wolf Center is offering  Wolves and Women's Weekend Feb. 22-24, based in rustic cabins at the Northern Tier High Adventure Canoe Base.

Activities include dog-mushing, wolf-tracking and snowshoeing. Cost is $275, $250 for members.

Dog sledding at Camp Menogyn.

© Beth Gauper

A guest at Camp Menogyn mushes her own dog-sled team.

More adventure in Ely

North of Ely, on the North Arm of Burntside Lake, the YMCA's Camp du Nord offers many family and adult weekends in winter, all featuring outdoors sports and use of the camp's wood-fired sauna next to the lake.

Women's Ski & Snowshoe Retreats are Jan. 24-27 and Feb. 21-24. Cost is $365.

A Winter Couples Getaway is March 7-10. Cost is $475-$575 per couple.

Family weekend in eastern Minnesota

Near Sandstone, Audubon Center of the North Woods is hosting a Winter Family Weekend Feb. 15-18, with sleigh rides, kick-sledding and a high ropes course in addition to skiing and snowshoeing.

Cost is $325 for adults and $265 for children 5-18, including lodging and nine meals.

Becoming an Outdoorswoman in four states

BOW workshops are offered year-round by state DNRs. Costs include lodgings, meals and gear unless noted. Often, scholarships are offered.

Minnesota offers many weekends for women and families that include dog mushing, cross-country skiing, snowshoe biathlon, dark-house fishing and outdoor survival. 

In east-central Minnesota, the Audubon Center of the North Woods offers a Winter Workshop Jan. 25-27 that includes cross-country skiing, snowshoe archery biathlon, nordic walking and dark-house fishing. Cost is $195.

In north-central Wisconsin, Treehaven, a natural-resources center operated by the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point between Tomahawk and Rhinelander, is offering a Going to the Dogs mushing and skijoring weekend Jan. 11-13, in Springstead, Wis. Cost is $515.

Treehaven also is offering a Becoming an Outdoorswoman Winter WorkshopFeb. 15-19.

Activities include dog mushing, cross-country skiing, ice fishing, bow-hunting, winter survival, trapping and kayaking. Cost is $399.

In Michigan, a BOW Winter Workshop will be held at Bay Cliff Health Camp overlooking Lake Superior, between L'Anse and Marquette, Feb. 22-24. Amenities include a sauna.

Activities include dog sledding, skijoring, winter camping, winter biking and geocaching as well as skiing, snowshoeing and fishing. Cost is $200.

In Iowa, the Women's Winter Gathering will be Feb. 8-10 at Springbrook State Park and Firefly Ranch near Guthrie Center, $50-$200. Activities in addition to snow sports include yoga, nature photography and winter survival.

High ropes course at Wolf Ridge.

© Wolf Ridge

At Wolf Ridge, guests brave the high-ropes course year-round.

Tracking wolves in Wisconsin

The Timber Wolf Information Network organizes Winter Wolf Ecology workshops at nature centers around the state. Register in advance.

At Beaver Creek Reserve east of Eau Claire, it's Jan. 26-27. Cost is $70, plus $13 for lodgings.

At the Sandhill Outdoor Skills Center west of Wisconsin Rapids, it's Feb. 2-3. Cost is $90, including lodgings and two meals, plus $20 for Friday night, too.

At Treehaven near Tomahawk, it's Jan. 26-27. Cost is $135-$175, including lodgings and four meals. 

Adventures for people over 50

North of Virginia on Minnesota's Iron Range, Laurentian Environmental Center is offering a Young at Heart Winter Getaway for people 50 and over Jan. 20-23.

Cost is $175, including lodgings, activities and meals. Cross-country skis are available.


For more on ELCs in Minnesota, see Minnesota's environmental learning centers.

Would you like to create your own winter weekend adventure? For more about inexpensive group lodges, see Cabins for a crowd.

Last updated on January 8, 2019