03 Feb Grand Marais Through the Seasons: From Summer to Winter
Grand Marais is an adorable little town situated along the shores of Lake Superior in northern Minnesota. While there are only about 1,300 residents, the town booms in the summer and it is a peaceful retreat in the winter. But don’t get me wrong, peaceful does not mean devoid of fun!
There are ample opportunities for camping in both summer and winter. State Parks and campgrounds surround the town and many sites are open throughout the year. A few outfitters in town offer packages where you can rent equipment and purchase food packages for your time out in nature; all the fun without the hassle of traveling with supplies. The scenery is gorgeous, and sites range all the way from busy campgrounds to more private, rustic hike-in sites. Cascade River State Park was our home for a few nights last summer, and we really enjoyed it—the site was at a larger campground, but it was still fairly private and close to numerous great hikes. We have yet to try winter camping, but it’s high on our list to do sometime soon!
As with any area surrounded by great nature, Grand Marais offers a plethora of outdoor activities. The region is home to rivers, waterfalls, mountains (really more like hills according to most people’s standards—this is Minnesota after all), and lakes, both large and small. Our favorite adventures in the area consist of hiking, kayaking, canoeing, rock climbing, boating, fishing, swimming snowshoeing, skiing, ice skating, snowmobiling, dog sledding, and the list could go on. You may even have a chance to see the northern lights in the winter, as well!
Lutsen is a town about 30 minutes south of Grand Marais, and it is home to Lutsen Mountains, a ski resort that offers a wide range of activities all year long. In the winter, they offer downhill skiing, Nordic skiing, sleigh rides and snowshoeing, and in the summer there is an alpine slide, mountain tram rides and ample opportunities for hiking. We haven’t had a chance to stop in the winter yet, but it seems to be a favorite amongst our friends and family that have had a chance to visit.
Another great area to explore is the Boundary Waters—Grand Marais is often the starting point for a trip to the area’s western side. There are multiple outfitters in town that you can book tours through or get supplies from. The Boundary Waters are a region along the border of Canada and Minnesota filled with waterways and forests; the area is a wonderful spot for multiday canoe/camping trips, fishing and getting in touch with nature.
Restaurants and Shops:
Whether you stay in town and take day trips to the surrounding area, or vice versa, Grand Marais is one of the best towns to spend time at in the area. A few of our favorite restaurants are Java Moose for a coffee stop, My Sisters Place for the famous Goober Burger (mayo and peanut butter—yes it’s actually delicious!), Gun Flint Tavern for great music, drinks and delicious food, Sven and Ole’s for pizza, or the Dockside Fish Market for fresh fish caught in Lake Superior.
The town is fairly small so it isn’t overloaded with shops, but there are definitely several cute gift shops and mercantile stores such as Moose Tracks and Viking Hus, mixed in with numerous outdoor and sporting goods stores. One great stop for outdoor gear is Stone Harbor Wilderness Supply—they offer a range of gear, supplies, tours and rentals, as well as great advice on what to see in the surrounding area!
Places to Stay:
Located downtown along the edge of Lake Superior is the East Bay Suites hotel—The rooms range from 2 person suites to three-bedroom, 8 person suites, many with kitchens, wifi, a patio and a fireplace. Another great hotel is the Best Western Plus Superior Inn and Suites; it’s not located right on the downtown strip, but it is on the shore of Lake Superior and offers free continental breakfast, wifi and some rooms with balconies and fireplaces.
Some nice campgrounds in the area are Cascade River State Park which is 9 miles south of town and Judge C.R. Magney State Park is located about 20 miles north of town. Both offer great hiking and gorgeous scenery—they are perfect spots if you want to get out of a hotel for a few nights!
Grand Marais is one of our favorite towns in Minnesota—we fell in love with the adorable downtown area, the spectacular scenery and abundance of outdoor activities. We will definitely be making our way up to the area on a yearly basis and can’t wait to explore again soon!