Top Picnic Areas on Minnesota’s North Shore and Gunflint Trail

The quintessential summertime activity is picnicking in a scenic location. Fortunately for you, the North Shore of Lake Superior and Gunflint Trail are chock full of incredible picnic spots! To help you narrow down the list, here are a few things you need to know to plan the ultimate picnic.  

A successful picnic is made up of a few main factors: location, food and company. You are already on the right track by selecting Cook County, MN as your destination, you’ve selected your traveling companions and with local restaurants offering complete menus for takeout, all you have to do is put it all together! 

 

Find your picnic style

There are many types of picnicking to enjoy. You can backpack into a scenic overlook, take a canoe out to a boundary waters campsite or drive up to a designated picnic area. The opportunities for adventure are endless! 

summer trip couple canoe in boundary waters canoe area wilderness (BWCAW)

Adventure picnic. Paddling through the pristine lake of the boundary waters is not only beautiful but it also provides a great opportunity to potentially see wildlife and catch fish. Explore day trips by canoe or contact a local outfitter for a suggestion and canoe rental. 

Mountain top picnic

Mountaintop picnic. Pack your backpack full of goodies and pick a trail. There are over 400 miles of hiking trails to explore in Cook County and all of them offer countless locations for a perfect picnic. Explore hiking trails

Dining al fresco

Dine al fresco. Having a picnic lunch isn’t for everyone. If you would prefer to have some of the service features of a restaurant but still enjoy the outdoors, consider sitting outside on the patio or deck of one of these great restaurants

Wayside picnic lunch

Drive up picnic. Every part of your day up north is an adventure. Why not treat yourself to a scenic picnic location that you can literally drive right up to. Especially when you have a toasty hot pizza from your favorite local restaurant waiting to be devoured! 

Choose your perfect picnic location

Here is a map of designated picnic areas in Cook County that you can drive or walk up to. 

Planning the perfect lunch

Setting out on a day’s adventure with a pack full of food is exciting but you’ll need a few things to make it successful. What do you plan on eating? In Cook County, Minnesota there are a plethora of restaurants that offer delicious meals to go. Treat yourself to a locally crafted meal, browse this list of restaurants that are providing food to go and their hours.  Of course, some of you may want to cook your own food. If grilling is a part of your perfect picnic plan, you’ll want to make sure to pick a picnic site that offers a grill or fire grate. Check our picnic map above for picnic sites with grills/fire grates. 

Be sure to check the weather and be prepared in case the weather drastically changes. Remember, in the summertime, it is usually cooler by Lake Superior than it is inland, you’ll want to be sure to dress accordingly and pack layers. Bringing any utensils, plates, napkins and other dining accouterments along as well. If you are picking up to-go food, it will most likely be provided to you.

Leave No Trace - Recreate Responsibly

Recreate Responsibly 

Part of what makes picnicking up north such a fun activity is the gorgeous backdrop that surrounds the table. Be sure that no matter the location, you follow the Leave No Trace principles and take any trash or disposables with you when you are finished. By doing so, you’ll help keep this area as clean and beautiful as you found it. 

 

COVID-19 considerations

Due to the covid-19 or coronavirus pandemic, Minnesota restaurants are only allowed to seat indoors starting June 10, 2020 at no more than 50% total capacity. Not all restaurants offer onsite outdoor seating with table service. Reservations may be required for table seating. It is recommended you contact the restaurant directly for information on their service features and hours during this time.

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