The Best Cross-Country Skiing Adventure in Iowa

By Brad Lane

The Best Cross-Country Skiing Adventure in Iowa

Iowa’s beautiful landscapes make for a whimsical cross-country skiing experience come winter. And Decorah, Iowa, may be among the very best of those winter destinations. Not only are their well-groomed trails to explore, but the people of the town make your experience even more special. The shop owners, rental technicians, and all the friendly faces at the trailhead make everything more memorable. Add it all up and it’s easy to see why Decorah provides the best cross-country skiing adventure in Iowa.

1. Decorah, IA

For some of the best scenery for cross-country skiing in Iowa, your one-stop winter destination has got to be Decorah. Featuring a wide array of trails, including the state-famous 11-mile Trout Run Trail groomed for both classic and skate skis, it’s not just the tracks that draw winter enthusiasts to Decorah. It’s the hilly geography of northeast Iowa that draws the attention, complete with lush woodlands and serene winter scenes. But before you head out, you’re going to need some skis. 

2. Decorah Bicycles, Decorah, IA

If you are interested in the adventure, but don’t find yourself with the right gear, the first place you should stop at in Decorah is Decorah Bicycles. Don’t let the name fool you, because alongside their full arsenal of road and mountain bikes, Decorah Bicycles also offers cross-country skis, snowshoes, and ice skates. Add to it the friendly service and the insider’s guide on the best places to skate, and Decorah Bicycles can be your central hub of activity on your next visit. 

3. Impact Coffee Bar and Roasters, Decorah, IA

Nothing pairs better with the cold breath of winter than a hot cup of espresso or coffee. It’s highly recommended to bypass the gas station cup of joe on your next visit to Decorah, and instead indulge on the flavor and aromas found at the Impact Coffee Bar and Roasters. As a craft coffee shop, Impact Coffee Bar and Roasters offers exclusively pour-over brews and a wide variety of espresso drinks, all of which serve as some great jet fuel for your cross-country skiing adventure.

4. ArtHaus, Decorah, IA

To add some culture to your cross-country experience, the ArtHaus in downtown Decorah is a great stop on any visit. Featuring local and regional art, the ArtHaus lends to a lot of different artistic mediums, including improv acting, acrylics, and finger paint. Whether you go for a class or just stop in to peruse the artwork, any visit to the ArtHaus compliments nicely with the natural art found on the trails. 

5. Decorah Eagles Nest & Fish Hatchery, Decorah, IA

For a little extra wildlife fun on your Decorah visit, the Decorah Fish hatchery, alongside the Trout Run Trail, is a great stop along the way. Set in a picturesque part of the city, the limestone office of the hatchery is worthy of a postcard picture. Users might not find a whole lot of trout activity at the peak of winter, but just above their heads, the nationally known Decorah Eagles Nest is always supporting some wildlife activity. 

6. Mabe’s Pizza, Decorah, IA

Nothing can top of your cross-country skiing adventure in Decorah better than a piping-hot slice of Mabe’s Pizza. Featuring a long list of specialty pizzas that will make your mouth water, and just about every customizable add-on item you can think of, Mabe’s pizzas are all made to order and served fresh out of the oven. For those oddballs and non-pizza-eaters, Mabe’s also provides on their menu many different delicious sandwich, pastas and salads. 

7. Vesterheim: The National Norwegian-American Historical & Heritage Center

With over 33,000 artifacts to explore, the Vesterheim takes a deep dive into the Norwegian-American history that helps define the surrounding city. Named as one of the top small-town museums by Fodor, Vesterheim transports patrons to a whole new cultural world and reality, lending towards hands-on activities and deep interest along the way. As a great counterbalance to the blood-pumping fun of cross-country skiing, the mentally stimulating experience of visiting Vesterheim can even out your adventure quite nicely. 

8. Empty Nest Winery, Waukon, IA

For a little vino after your ski session, the Empty Nest Winery is the place to be. Featuring nine craft beers on tap, plus a few ciders, the real reason to visit the Empty Nest Winery is their house blends and bottles. Closed for the month of January, find this locally favorite winery in the other months of winter to really reward yourself after a long day of skiing. 

YUMMY tasting with Grandma!

A post shared by Shawn Hesse Bobst (@shoegirl1221) on

9. Fern Hollow Cabin, Decorah, IA

If you are looking for a cabin in the woods to link up multiple days of skiing in Decorah, there are quite a few options to choose from. No cabin is quite as fun, quite as cozy, or quite as eco-conscious than the Fern Hollow Cabin though. Patrons and long-term living guests have found shelter and solitude in the Fern Hollow Cabin for over 150 years, and you can be the next guest to continue the legacy. 

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