Hayward is a popular fishing destination due to the many lakes in the area including Lac Courte Oreilles, Grindstone Lake, Round Lake, Moose Lake, and the Chippewa Flowage, which are known for yielding trophy-sized Muskellunge ("muskie" or "musky"), Northern Pike, Walleye, and Smallmouth Bass. It is also home to the "Quiet Lakes" (Teal, Ghost and Lost Land Lakes) which are mainly fishing resorts. Hayward is home to the National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame.
In addition to fishing, Hayward is also a hot spot for deer hunting, golfing, Cross Country Skiing, and Snowmobiling, as well as road & mountain biking. Hayward is the site of many festivals and events. The annual Chequamegon Fat Tire Festival is the largest gathering of off-road mountain bike riders in the world, and 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. Both the Birkebeiner and Fat Tire Festival are the largest races of their type in the country.