Things To Do on Minnesotas North Shore in the Winter
In Northern Minnesota, we love the outdoors. Summer may be the most popular season for visitors, but we personally love winter time. Many think we’re crazy, considering our high snowfalls, but we view it as a powdery-white wonderland from late November until March. We take advantage of that lovely white stuff with plenty of fun outdoor activities. If you’ve never experienced a North Shore winter, we highly recommend making the trip and trying out some of our favorite winter-time activities for yourself. Here are our top ten:
- Downhill Skiing/Snowboarding: The Sawtooth Mountains rise an impressive 1,000 feet above the shoreline of Lake Superior, creating some of the most rugged terrain in the Midwest. These mountains are home to the Lutsen Mountains, a ski destination for thousands. The ski area features four mountains spanning 1,000 acres, almost 100 unique runs ranging from a bunny hill to double black diamonds to appease all experience levels, and 50 acres of ski trails. There are also five terrain parks, a new six-person high speed chair lift, the Summit Express Gondola, and, of course, breathtaking views of Lake Superior.
- Cross Country Skiing: Cook County is home to a 250 mile cross-country trail system, making it the largest in North America. Whether you’re an experienced skier looking for a challenge, or putting on a pair of skis for the first time, these well-groomed trails will be sure to meet your needs and provide a beautiful backdrop to experience this invigorating activity.
- Snowmobiling: With over 450 miles of groomed trails, the North Shore attracts riders from all over the country. Riders can experience some of the most breathtaking views in Minnesota. The Ridge Riders Snowmobile Club sponsor rides, contests, and other events throughout the season.
- Snowshoeing: Experiencing a revival in recent years, snowshoeing has really started to attract visitors to the North Shore, visitors who want to experience a new way to see the North Shore attractions. Just strap on a pair of snowshoes and enjoy a stroll to a waterfall, overlook, or scenic destination throughout the area. There are plenty of trails, some groomed and some not, as several of the local state parks rent out snowshoes for visitors to enjoy. If you enjoy hiking state park trails during the summer, you will be amazed at how some snow drastically changes the landscape.
- Fat Biking: Similar to snowshoeing, fat(tire) biking has grown in popularity in recent years as mountain bikers have taken to exploring the north woods in the winter season. Fat bikes are specially designed with large tires and more grip, meaning your ride will be surprisingly smooth for even the novice bikers. There are several well-kept trails for fat bikes, with even more coming soon. There’s even a fat bike race in Lutsen every year called the Norpine Fat Bike Classic. Sawtooth Outfitters in Tofte and Fireweed Bike Coop in Grand Marais are great resources for finding groomed bike trails and bike rentals.
- Dog Sledding: This activity has a rich history with the north woods, dating back before John Beargrease did his infamous mail runs by dog sled. Fortunately, you don’t need to have a pack of your own to enjoy this activity! In Cook County, there are several dog mushing companies that will take you out for an adventure of a lifetime. Pick from 2-hour, half-day, or full-day trips with a dog sledding professional and their well-trained pack. If you’re looking just to spectate, the North Shore is home to two bigger dog sled races; the Gunflint Mail Run and the John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon.
- Ice Fishing: The area’s 850 lakes are filled with northern, walleye, rainbow trout, and lake trout, just waiting for you to try your luck at catching them. There are several area businesses that can supply you with proper equipment and tackle and even guide you to the best places to cast in. Be sure to check the ice reports to ensure the lakes you want to visit are safe to be on!
- Viewing the Northern Lights: The Aurora Borealis, AKA the Northern Lights, are part of what makes Northern Minnesota so unique. We are one of the few places in the United States where these spectacular natural light shows can be viewed, and they are spotted more often in the winter months. You will likely only catch them by chance, on a cold, clear night with little to no moonlight when the aurora conditions are just right, but if you do they are a sight you will never forget. When you will actually see them is difficult to predict, but the Aurora Service Forecast is your best resource for determining your chance of seeing them during your visit.
- Taking a Class: The North House Folk School and the Grand Marais Art Colony both offer year round classes on a variety of topics, many of which take you outdoors to enjoy the unique beautiful winter landscape of the North Shore. You can also watch skilled artists and crafters at work and partake in free/affordable public classes throughout the year to sample what they have to offer.
- Festivals/Events/Music: The North Shore remains a lively mecca of creativity and entertainment year round. The live music does not stop in the winter months, with many local restaurants and venues hosting music nights and concerts throughout the season. Many up-and-coming artists from the cities love to make trips to the North Shore for skiing and will put on a performance while they are here. Lutsen Mountains hosts several activities and festivals, as well.