County Highway 12, better known as the Gunflint Trail, runs 63 resort-lined miles through the Superior National Forest from Grand Marais to Saganaga Lake on the Canadian border. You can paddle into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, roam the endless trails, and maybe spot some of the myriad moose.
There is no shortage of outfitters ready to send you out into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Two well-known and highly experienced operators, Voyageur Canoe Outfitters (189 Sag Lake Trl., 218/388-2224 or 888/226-6348, www.canoeit.com, 7 a.m.–7 p.m. daily summer) and Way of the Wilderness (12582 Gunflint Trl., 218/388-2212 or 800/346-6625, www.wayofthewilderness.com, 8 a.m.–8 p.m. daily), sit at the far end of the road and have lodging available on-site.
Boundary Country Trekking (11 Poplar Creek Dr., 800/322-8327, www.boundarycountry.com, 7 a.m.–10 p.m. daily) specializes in inn-to-inn trips for bikers, hikers, and paddlers, plus offers yurt cross-country ski touring and dog-sledding. It also has on-site lodging.
One of the first resorts up the trail is also one of the best. Each of the ever-so-cozy cabins at Bearskin Lodge (124 E. Bearskin Rd., 218/388-2292 or 800/338-4170, www.bearskin.com, $230) are widely spaced along East Bearskin Lake and come with a fireplace, grill, and private dock. Amenities include a whirlpool and sauna that can be reserved for private use.
Famous for its friendliness, the Gunflint Lodge (143 Gunflint Lake S., 218/388-2294 or 800/328-3325, www.gunflint.com, $220) has been run by the Kerfoot family since 1927. All of the two dozen cabins have fireplaces, many have whirlpool tubs, and most have private saunas. There’s a busy schedule of activities for young and old, including horseback riding. Both resorts offer boat and canoe rentals and some of the state’s best cross-country skiing is right out your door. They are expensive, but low-season rates are more reasonable.
Another year-round destination with an enthusiastic following is Hungry Jack Lodge (372 Hungry Jack Rd., 218/388-2265, www.hungryjacklodge.com, $99–499). The beautiful setting offers a wide variety of cabins—from rustic to almost luxurious, in a Northwoods sort of way, sleeping from two to 20 people—and both tent and RV sites. It has boats for rent on-site and is just a mile from the Boundary Waters Canoe Area.
Gunflint Lodge serves excellent food, but you should have at least one meal at Trail Center Lodge (7611 Gunflint Trl., 218/388-2214, 8 a.m.–9 p.m. Sun.–Thurs., 8 a.m.–10 p.m. Fri.–Sat., closed Apr. and Nov., $4–36), which is as close to a neighborhood tap as you can have in these parts. The menu has all the usual, but also choices like peanut butter and mayo burgers, Italian fried chicken, and a popular peppermint schnapps malt. Not only is the food great, but so are the Northwoods atmosphere and friendly service.
Way of the Wilderness (12582 Gunflint Trl., 218/388-2212 or 800/346-6625, www.wayofthewilderness.com, 8 a.m.–8 p.m. daily) runs the Trail’s End Café (8 a.m.–8 p.m. daily, May–Oct.), with pizza, burgers, and the like.
For more area information contact the Gunflint Trail Association (800/338-6932, www.gunflint-trail.com). They run the Gunflint Trail Information Center (218 Wisconsin St. W., 218/387-3191, 8 a.m.–5 p.m. Mon.–Sat., 8 a.m.–3 p.m. Sun. June, 8 a.m.–7 p.m. daily July–Aug., 9 a.m.–5 p.m. Mon.–Sat., 9 a.m.–3 p.m. Sun. rest of year) in Grand Marais and keep a vacancy list.
© Tim Bewer from Moon Minnesota, 3rd Edition