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Trout Lake - Northern Wisconsin in Wisconsin

Trip Overview

Trout Lake in northern Wisconsin's Vilas County is a beautiful lake for a weekend of kayak camping. It's a large lake of nearly 4000 acres and 18 miles of shoreline. The deepest spot in the lake is 117 feet, and being a deep lake it stays quite cold all year. The crystal clear water never has the algae bloom of the smaller inland lakes during the late summer because the water stays so cold. I usually wear a drysuit most of the year except for a few exceptionally hot days in the summer.

There are five islands in the lake. One is a reserve with a huge eagle nest on it. Two are privately owned and the other three are free to explore. The lake is divided by a very short narrow section, and the lake is referred to as North and South Trout Lakes. At the narrows is a place called Cathedral Point, which is a great spot for a rest or a shore lunch. There's a rise in elevation at the point of a 100 feet or so, which allows for fantastic views of the lake between the huge old white pines that cover the point.

80% of the shoreline and land surrounding the lake is within a Wisconsin State Forest park lands, so landing most any place along the wild shoreline is ok. If you're new to kayaking or paddle a recreational kayak be aware of large wind blown waves that are possible when making lake crossings. These waves can get quite big and are fun to paddle with a longer boat.

On the eastern shore of both North & South Trout Lake there is a state operated camp ground, each having a free boat landing. There's also drinking water and bathrooms. For parking you need a state forest parking sticker or you can pay the daily fee. Camping also requires a daily fee.

There is a little known secret which I hesitate to talk about, but I guess I will. Across the lake on the western shore there are six individual campsites, about a half mile apart from each other that you can paddle to. These sites are free and are on a first come first serve basis. They are seldom used except for my wife and I.

There's a beaver lodge to explore on the west side of N. Trout, and very early morning or late evening you might see some activity. Loons are commonly seen out in the deeper waters, but please don't hassle them. They are quit tame. Mergansers are every where. I once saw a hen with 22 little guys following her single file near Cathedral Point, scooting along the shore in shallow water. Eagles and gulls abound, with eagles usually perching high in a white pine along the shore. We once saw a family of six otters feeding on crawfish in eight feet of water along the shore. They kept bobbing up, crunching on their new catch, and watching us 30 feet away. This went on for over a half an hour. There's also the typical deer that comes down to the shore for a drink in the early or late hours of the day.

The highlights of the lake to me are paddling along the wild shoreline, lake crossings on a windy day, playing in the waves on the north shore of S.Trout when the wind is out of the south, and camping on the west side of the lake on a summer night.


To get there from the south come up highway 51 about 5 miles north of Minocqua and turn right onto County M and go about another five miles till you come to the North Trout Lake Camp ground.

Don't put in at the boat ramp. There's a narrow sandy beach 100 yards to the north that is perfect for kayaks with a 50 foot carry to the water.


Google (Trout Lake Vilas County Wisconsin) and a DNR map will pop up of the lake.

  • Duration: Day Trip, 2-3 Day Trip
  • Sport/Activity: Kayaking, Canoeing
  • Skill Level: Intermediate
  • Water Type: Flat/Sheltered Water
  • Group Rates: No

Locations on this Trip