Hayward is a popular fishing destination because of the many lakes in the area including Lac Courte Oreilles, Grindstone Lake, Round Lake, Moose Lake, Spider Lake, Windigo Lake, and the Chippewa Flowage, which are known for yielding trophy-sized muskellunge, northern pike, walleye, and smallmouth bass. It is also home to the “Quiet Lakes” (Teal, Ghost and Lost Land Lakes), which do not allow water sports as do the larger lakes.

The National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame is located in Hayward. It contains a 143-foot fiberglass musky, the world’s largest fiberglass structure. In addition to fishing, Hayward is also a hot spot for deer hunting, golfing, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, canoeing, kayaking, horseback riding, and road and mountain biking.

Sawyer County, where Hayward is located, has over 600 miles of groomed snowmobile trails, including 335 miles that run through county forests and connect with trails in adjoining counties.

ATV (quad bikes) riding along existing county forest logging roads is permitted. There are 95.7 miles of state-funded ATV trails for winter use and 80.8 miles designated for summer use. State owned trails include the Tuscobia Trail (51 miles), which runs from the Flambeau River to the western county line and the Dead Horse Connector (38 miles) in the eastern Flambeau Forest.

The annual Chequamegon Fat Tire Festival is the largest mass start mountain bike race in the United States. The first Fat Tire Festival was held in 1983 with 27 riders, and in 2008 the race was capped at 2500 competitors. The two main races include the 40-mile “Chequamegon 40”, and the 16-mile “Short and Fat.

Participants in the annual Lumberjack World Championships compete in a variety of lumberjack games such as log rolling, chopping, sawing, and chainsaw events.

Hayward hosts the American Birkebeiner cross-country skiing race, the largest cross country ski marathon in North America.