Northern Wilds Magazine

Gunflint Adrenaline Rush

By Shelby Gonzalez

When it comes to winter recreation, it can be tempting to stick to the same activities year in and year out. After all, you’ve already got the gear and know-how. But trying a new activity challenges your body (and brain!) and can help ward off mid-season boredom. Here are five Gunflint Trail area adventures that just might reheat your love affair with winter.

Climb ice in Devil Track Canyon

Ice climbers get their kicks from scaling frozen waterfalls with crampons and wicked-looking ax tools. Ultra-strong equipment and rigorous safety checks make this sport far less dangerous than it might appear. Devil Track Canyon near Grand Marais sports some of the nicest climbing ice between Duluth and the border, including the dramatic route “Nightfall.”

Intrigued? Start with a guided group session through an adventure company, such as Stone Harbor Wilderness Supply in Grand Marais.

Go sledding on the shore

Steve Lashinski, owner of Steve’s Sports & Auto in Grand Marais, says of the snowmobiling trails in the Gunflint area, “The G Trail is nice. We go up to Poplar Lake, have lunch and come back. It’s a three or four-hour ride. We enjoy the scenery—the woods and the wildlife. We’ve seen wolves, moose, deer and just about everything else out there. And there are connecting trails to Grand Portage, Duluth, Ely, or almost anywhere in the state if you want.”

Mush the Boundary Waters

Animal lovers may prefer dog power to horsepower. Travel deep into the wilderness and connect with the heritage of the Gunflint with a skijoring or dogsledding excursion into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Though the days of mail delivery by dogsled are gone – probably much to the mail carrier’s relief – dogsledding lives on as a beloved part of the northern culture. In early 2010, the Grand-Marais-based organization Mush for a Cure raised over $28,000 for the National Breast Cancer Foundation despite inadequate snow coverage that prevented an actual race. Hopes are high that conditions will be better for winter 2011 mushing events.

Ski or snowshoe Pincushion Mountain

Over 15 miles of snowshoe and groomed ski trails thread the slopes of Pincushion Mountain, which slants up from the shore by Grand Marais. Amenities include restrooms, a warming chalet, scenic Lake Superior and Devil Track Canyon overlooks and a lighted trail. You’ll need a Great Minnesota Ski Pass.

Some public and Grant-in-Aid ski areas in the Northern Wilds are the Banadad, Bally Creek, Deer Yard and Cascade River Trails. More information at

Fish and camp the backcountry

With proper equipment, you can get your fishing fix year-round. The Gunflint area is known as a great fishing spot—summer or winter—for a reason.

“Most of the inland lakes have lake trout—you don’t find that south of here,” says Bob Baker from Gunflint Pines Resort and Campground on Gunflint Lake. His favorite fishing spots are Gunflint North, Saganaga and “the smaller brook trout lakes in the area.”.

Which lake? He’s not saying.

Many Gunflint-area backcountry lakes are relatively easy to access even in winter. Or, if adventure, not easy access, is what you’re looking for, trek into the Boundary Waters, set up a winter camp and fish for your supper.

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