Unhinged Adventure in Door County, Wisconsin

Wisconsin's Door County is famous for its cheese and endless miles of coastline, but hides a more adventurous side. Photo: Jason Heflin

WASHINGTON D.C., August 26, 2013 — Door County in Wisconsin is known for its fantastic access to both Lake Michigan and Green Bay. Beyond the water access, Door County’s famous draws are its delicious artisanal cheeses and locally-grown cherries. But this tranquil little peninsula also has an adventurous side. There is incredible opportunity for stand up paddle boarding (SUP) in the bays. The rugged shoreline draws kayakers from around the world, and the cycling is top-notch.

Spin Class in the Great Outdoors

When it comes to cycling in Door County, the options are varied nearly as much as the cheese flavors. For the hardcore roadie, long rides with open skies, cornfields, and cherry groves can be scored in the interior of the peninsula. These roads are well maintained, for the most part, and can provide easy out-and-backs from the quiet resort towns on the coast, or longer loops that take the rider deep into the pastoral farmland. Riders should invest in a good map; the roads are laid out in grid patterns and many intersections look the same. They are also named for the letters of the alphabet, which can throw out-of-towners off a bit and add to the déjà vu factor. “Didn’t we just pass the intersection of P and S? Or, was it R and S?”

Stopping for a break in Peninsula State Park

For those seeking an off-road adventure, there are plenty of trails to be tackled. The Sunset Trail at Peninsula State Park is an ideal introduction to the landscape of the region. Large hardwood trees line a path of fine gravel for more than 10 miles of this looped trail system. It is non-technical, weaves in and out from shore to forest, and is enjoyable for beginners and advanced riders alike. For bikers seeking a challenge, there are several single track side trail opportunities that make the trip longer and more technical.  Bikes can be rented from Edge of Park. With their convenient location at the trailhead, the rental company can provide guidance on the best loop for every skill level.

Kayaking the Cliffs

The waves on Lake Michigan can get quite big, often resembling the ocean. They create a challenging and interesting paddle experience for those accustomed to flat water.  Door County Kayak Tours offers guided trips in both tandem and single-person kayaks. The excursion includes a little background on the area while shuttling to the put-in. The spunky guides are funny, tell great stories, and accommodate both experts and newbies. These guided trips visit cliffs and sea caves not visible from shore. Paddling up into a dark grotto and listening to the waves smack and splash against the cave walls is an exhilarating experience, to say the least.

SUP in the Bays

Stand up paddle boarding (SUP) has moved from a “craze” to a legitimate and recognized water sport. Finding its way into every corner of the world over the past several years, it is now an option for adventurers in Door County as well.  DC Adventure Center, whose headquarters is adjacent to the beautiful and historic Rowley’s Bay Resort, provides rentals and instruction for the sport. Balance and upper body strength are what is needed to master this sport. The small bays are sheltered from the gustier winds and make for fairly still water – a great place to learn to SUP. DC Adventure Center also offers a short zip line course, ideal for beginners. After a day playing on the water or gliding through the air, a weary adventurer can refuel with a delicious fish boil buffet at the resort. This local tradition comes with all the trimmings, including a hilarious storyteller.

Making it Happen

Gustave’s Getaway

For those having trouble finding Door County on a map, it’s often thought of as the “thumb” to Wisconsin’s “mitten” shape. Chicago O’Hare International Airport can be reached easily by any hub in the country. Once there, the flight into Green Bay is a short hop. After landing in Green Bay, Door County is less than an hour’s drive north. For accommodations, Gustave’s Getaway is a beautiful cabin that sleeps six and makes for a great escape.


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Jason Heflin

Jason spent his youth exploring the creeks, trails, and back roads of his home state, Kentucky. His final year in college he joined a study abroad trip to Ireland.  His time exploirng the hills and pubs of the Emerald Isle sparked his passion for  travel.  Since then, his journeys have landed him on five continents and in dozens of countries.

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