Best Time to Visit Northern Wisconsin: What to Expect Month by Month when visiting the Ashland, Bayfield, and Washburn, Wisconsin Areas
This is a tough topic. The question should really be: When is the best time for ME to visit Northern Wisconsin? Yes, the answer depends on the individual. So while we can’t answer this question for you, we can give you some information to help you make your decision.
Realistically, anytime is a great time to visit Northern Wisconsin–depending on what kind of vacation you are looking for. If you want to do outdoor summer activities such as boating, fishing, hiking, and exploring, your best bet is spring, summer and fall. If you are coming for a romantic getaway and plan to stay in a cozy little cottage or cabin all weekend winter would be perfect. And if you are looking for ways to fill the endless winter days there’s nothing like heading out onto the ice covered Lake Superior for some ice fishing or snowshoeing. There are also many options for places to downhill ski, cross country ski, and even skijoring around Ashland, Bayfield and Washburn Wisconsin.
What to Expect Month by Month
January in Northern Wisconsin
Expect Winter Weather
Average High 22, Low 1
Why people come: Ice Fishing, Ice Races, Snowmobiling, Skiing, Dog Sledding, Ice Caves (weather permitting), Snowshoeing, Cross Country Skiing
The month of January attracts winter outdoor enthusiasts to the Northern Wisconsin Area. There is typically a generous amount of snow on the ground, which makes it perfect for skiing and snowmobiling. There is a small ski resort and sledding hill at Mt. Ashwabay in Bayfield Wisconsin only 20 minutes from Ashland Wisconsin, and some great large ski resorts 50 minutes away in Ironwood Michigan and 60 minutes away in Duluth Minnesota. There are also numerous public snowmobiling trails all over Bayfield County so you can’t go wrong no matter what you chose to do this time of year
January Area Events: Apostle Islands Ice Caves (weather permitting), Northwest Harness Club Sleigh and Cutter Rally at The Northern Great Lakes Visitors Center in Ashland Wisconsin.
February in Northern Wisconsin
Expect Winter Weather
Average High 28, Low 4
Why people come: Ice Fishing, Ice Fishing Contests, Ice Races, Snowmobiling, Skiing, Sledding, Dog Sledding, Ice Caves-weather permitting, Snowshoeing, Cross Country Skiing
The month of February is typically when ice fishing season is in full swing. Chequamegon Bay and a good portion of Lake Superior is covered with ice by this time of year. There are also a few nationally renowned events for cross country skiers taking place in the area in February: The Birkenbiner in Hayward Wisconsin, and the Book Across the Bay in Ashland, Wisconsin. Along with these events, there are many ice fishing contents in Northern Wisconsin in the month of February. The Neighborly Bar in Ashland hosts the “King of the Bay” ice fishing contest and it always attracts many people due to its generous prizes, raffles, and giveaways.
Area Events: Apostle Islands Sled Dog Race, Northern Pines Sled Dog Race, Book Across the Bay in Ashland and Washburn Wisconsin, Birkbiner in Hayward Wisconsin, Apostle Islands Ice Caves access–weather permitting, King of the Bay Ice Fishing Contest.
March in Northern Wisconsin
Expect Winter Weather
Average High 37, Low 16
Why people come: Ice Fishing, Ice Fishing Contests, Snowmobiling, Skiing, Sledding, Dog Sledding, Snowshoeing, Cross Country Skiing
March is one of those “you never know what to expect” kind of months in Northern Wisconsin. Typically you can still ice fish, snowmobile, and ski–and that is what brings most people to our area this time of year. The snowmobile trails are open through the month of March. It’s also a great time of year to plan a weekend getaway with your friends or loved ones to beat the winter blues with a change of scenery. There are many unique restaurants and cafes in the area. And there are many little Resorts and Inns where you can find discounted prices during these slower months.
Area Events: Ice-O-Rama Ice Fishing Contest in Ashland, Wisconsin on Chequamegon Bay, Rod and Gun Club Kids Fishing Contest in Ashland Wisconsin.
April in Northern Wisconsin
Expect Wintery or Spring Weather
Average High 51, Low 28
Why people come: Smelting, Wild Leek hunting, Weekend Getaway, Waterfall Viewing, Watching the Salmon Run, Craft Shows.
Spring in the Ashland Wisconsin area is always a welcome sight! With the snow melting this is typically the best time to visit area waterfalls. Copper falls in Mellen is beautiful this time of year with the runoff from the melting snow making the waterfalls fast and beautiful. If the ice is out of Chequamegon Bay this is the time of year for smelting. Those little fish taste amazing deep fried in beer batter and you can find people selling them on the side of the highway by the gallon.
Area Events: Farm and Garden show with 4-H Dairy Breakfast in Ashland Wisconsin, Northern Great Lakes Visitors Center Spring Bazaar, Chequamegon Theater Association Spring Production
May in Northern Wisconsin
Expect Spring Weather
Average High 65, Low 38
Why people come: Bass Fishing, Salmon Fishing, Bird Watching, Smelting, Watching the Salmon Run, Wild Leek Hunting, Hiking, Waterfall Viewing, Northland College Graduation, ATV riding, Hiking, Waterfall Viewing
Spring is officially in the air in Northern Wisconsin in May! While the ice on Chequamegon Bay may or may not be out by the end of the first or second week, bass fishermen are planning their spring trips and parents are planning end of the school year trips to Ashland to pick up their kids from college. Meanwhile, this is a great month to head into the thousands of acres of the Chequamegon National Forest to find some mushrooms or just ride around enjoying the scenery on your ATV.
Area Events: Chequamegon Bay Birding & Nature Festival, Northland College Graduation, Fat Tire Bike race in Cable Wisconsin, Madeline Island Marathon
June in Northern Wisconsin
Expect Spring and Summer Weather
Average High 74, Low 49
Why people come: Apostle Islands, Fishing, Bird Watching, Hiking, Waterfall Viewing, ATV riding, Boating, Big Top Chautauqua Summer Concerts, Racing at ABC Raceway, Kayaking, Lake Walk Trail in Ashland (biking, walking, inline skating), Berry Picking
Summer tourist season is beginning in Northern Wisconsin in June! People from around the world head to Bayfield Wisconsin to see the beautiful Apostle Islands and explore the shores of Lake Superior. June is also the beginning of summer concerts at the Big Top. This unique concert venue has seen performances from a variety of high profile performers such as Johnny Cash, Brandy Carslile, Vince Gill, Ziggy Marley, and even the Beach Boys. Anyone planning a trip up north would be remiss to not plan to attend a show. The warm days and cool nights make it the perfect time of year to spend the days hiking and exploring and the evenings sitting around the campfire telling stories of past adventures and making plans for tomorrow.
Area Events: Big Top Chautauqua summer concert season begins, Apostle Islands Inline Marathon, Bayfield in Bloom, Bayfield Garden Tours, Races at ABC Raceway
July in Northern Wisconsin
Expect Summer Weather
Average High 80, Low 55
Why people come: Apostle Islands, Boating, Fishing, Hiking, ATV riding, Big Top Chautauqua Summer Concerts, Racing at ABC Raceway, Kayaking, Lake Walk trail in Ashland (biking, walking, inline skating), Berry Picking
Summer tourist season is in full swing in July. Lake Superior is warming up making it a great time of year to head into the water kayaking, boating, and swimming. Bayfield is filling up with tourists checking out orchards and vineyards, taking the ferry over to Madeline Island, booking their sea cave kayak tours, and lining up for boat cruises of the Apostle Islands. There are numerous unique area events and festivals. And the weather makes it the perfect time of year to relax around a campfire with your friends and family after an exciting day exploring the beauty of Northern Wisconsin.
Area Events: Big Top Chautauqua Concerts, Apostle Islands Boat Cruises, 4th of July Parades and fireworks, Ashland’s Bay Days Festival, Washburn’s Homecoming (every 5 years) and Brownstone Days, Iron Rivers Blueberry Festival, Races at ABC Raceway, Ashland Summer Movies in the Park, Bayfield’s Concerts by the Lake.
August in Northern Wisconsin
Expect Summer Weather
Average High 78, Low 54
Why people come: Apostle Islands, Boating, Fishing, Farmers Markets, Hiking, ATV Riding, Big Top Chautauqua Summer Concerts, Racing at ABC Raceway, Kayaking, Haywards Lumberjack World Championship, Ashland and Bayfield County Fairs, Berry Picking
Everyone is trying to squeeze in their end of the summer vacations in August and you will need to plan ahead if you want a place to stay on a weekend night. Expect lodging prices to be high and you will need to get lucky to find last minute accommodations during the month of August unless you are coming on a weekday. You can expect hot summer weather, but you should still pack a sweater for cool evenings near Lake Superior. Awesome time of year to come if you are fishing, boating, hiking, kayaking and interested in outdoor adventures.
Area Events: Big Top Chautauqua Concerts, Apostle Islands Boat Cruises, Races at ABC Raceway, Ashland Summer Movies in the Park, Bayfield’s Concerts by the Lake, Farmers Markets, Ashland and Bayfield County Fairs
September in Northern Wisconsin
Expect Summer Weather
Average High 69, Low 46
Why people come: Fall Leaves, Bear Hunting, Duck Hunting, Salmon Fishing, Apostle Islands, Boating, Fishing, Creek Fishing, Farmers Markets, Hiking, ATV Riding, Racing at ABC Raceway, Kayaking, Apple Picking and Orchard Tours
September is a great time of year to visit Ashland, Bayfield and Washburn Wisconsin. The bulk of the tourists are gone and the weather is usually close to perfect. Warm during the day, and cool nights reminding you that winter is just around the corner. Restaurants aren’t as full, Apostle Island Boat Tours aren’t as full, and overall, it is more peaceful and enjoyable strolling the streets of Bayfield while window shopping and hiking along the trails of Copper Falls nd Houghton Falls. If you are planning on experiencing the charm of cottage life on the shores of Lake Superior plan ahead as the weekends in September fill up at least 4 weeks in advance. It’s fairly easy to find a place to stay on a weeknight so those of you able to squeeze in a last minute week day trip shouldn’t have trouble finding a charming place to stay.
Area Events: Big Tap Chautauqua, Apostle Islands Boat Cruises, Red Clay Classic at ABC Raceway, Mural Fest and Car Show in Ashland, Apple Picking
October in Northern Wisconsin
Expect Fall or Winter Weather
Average High 56, Low 34
Why people come: Bayfields Apple Fest-First Weekend in October, Ashlands Whistlestop Marathon-Second Weekend in October, Fall Leaves, Fall Fishing, Hiking, Kayaking, Bow Hunting, Apple Picking, Wine Tasting, Washburn’s Zombie Days-Last Weekend in October, ATV Riding, Duck Hunting
The two main events in Northern Wisconsin in October are Bayfields Apple Fest and Ashland’s Whistlestop Marathon. People book the these weekends a full year in advance. Apple Fest brings 50,000 people to the town of Bayfield which usually has a population of 500. It is ranked one of the best fall festivals in the midwest, so while you may have to fight the crowds, you can guarantee that it will be worth it! Expect to pay high prices for a place to stay, and if you are looking for a quaint cottage to stay in rather than a hotel, don’t expect to find anything available last minute so plan ahead. The Whistlestop Marathon ends with the Blues and Brews Fest in Downtown Ashland, Wisconsin on Saturday night. They bring in some big name bands and craft beer tasting comes with the price of admission making this event a local and tourist fall favorite.
Area Events: Blues and Brews Fest in Ashland, Wisconsin, Whistlestop Marathon in Ashland Wisconsin, Apple Festival in Bayfield, Wisconsin, Madeline Island Fall Festival, Zombie Days in Washburn Wisconsin
November in Northern Wisconsin
Expect Fall or Winter Weather
Average High 40, Low 23
Why people come: Duck Hunting, Deer Hunting, Fishing, Hiking, Romantic Getaways, Fat Bike Trail Riding
While November in Northern Wisconsin is not known as the best time of year to visit the area, there are still many things to do for the outdoor adventurer or the couple looking for a romantic getaway. Most hiking trails are open year round and it should come as no surprise that they won’t be crowded this time of year. While the best way to see the Sea Caves is on the water by kayak, the end of the hiking at Meyers Beach offers amazing views of the lake and sea cave viewing too. You can hike out to Houghton Falls for beautiful views of Lake Superior and Copper Falls is stunning this time of year with the start of the accumulation of some ice when the weather turns cold.
Area Events: Deer Hunting Rifle Season the Saturday before Thanksgiving through the Sunday After Thanksgiving, Big Water Film Festival at the Bay Theater in Ashland
December in Northern Wisconsin
Expect Fall or Winter Weather
Average High 26, Low 8
Why people come: Bow Hunting, Ice Fishing, Hiking, Snowmobiling, Romantic Getaways, Skiing, Sled Dog Racing, Fat Bike Trail Riding
December in Northern Wisconsin is one of those months when you expect it to be cold and snowing but it could just as easily be wet and muddy. Great time of year for a romantic getaway as all of the tourists are gone and you will have many great restaurants and activities all to yourself. Weather permitting, hiking trails are still open, and the Northern Great Lakes Visitors Center is a great place to spend the day exploring indoor exhibits and outdoor winter nature trails. You can likely still take the ferry to Madeline Island and visit their cute shops and museum. It’s always exciting to get out on the water on a cold winter’s day. Warm up when you get back to the mainland with dinner at Maggies in Bayfield for an amazing meal that can only be beat by the amazing atmosphere!
Area Events: Limited Hunting Seasons, Local Christmas Parades and Tree Lighting Ceremonies, Winter hiking, Weather permitting: Ice Fishing, Snowshoeing, Cross Country Skiing, Snowmobiling
Looking for a great place to stay when you are vacationing in Northern Wisconsin? Mission Springs Resort in Ashland is open year round, easy online check-in, and pet friendly! With two private beaches and centrally located this Hotel-Plus experience can’t be beat!
Source of Average Monthly Temperatures: U.S. Climate Data
Ice Caves Photo Credits from Flickr:
Ice caves with people
Ice cave entrance one person
Inside Ice Caves