Winter is full of magical experiences and snowshoeing in Cook County is one of the most incredible ways to explore our dramatic landscape. Our favorite time to get out on the trails is early in the morning after an overnight snowfall, just as the sun rises above the horizon. The utter silence you’ll experience is indescribable – that is until the birds awaken to serenade you. Take the opportunity to strap on a pair of snowshoes and explore miles of trails this winter!
Many trails, including the Superior Hiking Trail, remain open year-round. You'll also often find snowshoe trails adjacent to most cross country ski trail systems. With a good map and a compass, you can also explore miles Superior National Forest and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. With so much to choose from, it's helpful to have a list to start with. Below is our top 12 snowshoe hiking trails on the North Shore and Gunflint Trail.
1. Sugarbush Snowshoe Trail Britton Peak to Oberg Mountain
📍 Tofte | 5.7 miles one way
This favorite fall time hike is also spectacular in the winter! This trail follows the Superior Hiking Trail and features rolling terrain through maple and birch forests, a 0.2 mile spur to Britton Peak, a 1.3 mile Leveaux Mountain Loop, 4 campsites, and an outhouse at the Oberg/Leveaux Mountain Trailhead. Go for a point to point snowshoe hike or just hike a segment, either way, you'll find breathtaking views along the way.
Cascade River State Park is one of several Minnesota State Parks that offer snowshoe rentals for $6.00 per day. You may use the snowshoes on site, (anywhere in the park, or on any trail EXCEPT groomed ski trails) or you may take them to another state park to use. Rentals are for 24 hours. State Park vehicle pass required; purchase at park office or entrance kiosk. Pets are welcome; must be kept on a 6 foot leash (maximum). Park is open 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. Winter office hours vary. Please call ahead; 218-387-6000.
3. Grand Portage State Park, Middle Falls Trail
📍 Grand Portage | 4.5 miles round trip
The Middle Falls Trail at Grand Portage State Park is a challenging trail that begins before you reach the High Falls viewing platforms and leads to a 20-foot waterfall. From the Visitor Center, walk the ½ mile cleared trail almost to the High Falls. Middle Falls Trail will be on the left. Strap on your snowshoes and hit the trail! You will wind over ridgetops, through heavily-wooded forests and along the banks of the Pigeon River, with breathtaking views of the river gorge and Lake Superior. Snowshoes are available to rent for $6.00 per day. Rentals are for 24 hours. There is no vehicle entry fee at Grand Portage State Park. Pets are welcome; must be kept on a 6 foot leash (maximum). Park open 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. Visitor Center lobby and restrooms open 24/7.
4. Grand Portage National Monument
📍 Grand Portage | 1.5 - 8 miles
- Snowshoe around the grounds of the historic depot (stockade).
- Snowshoe the Grand Portage footpath from the depot to new Highway 61 (1 1/2 mile round trip).
- Snowshoe the Grand Portage footpath from the stockade to Old Highway 61 (8 miles round trip)
- Snowshoe the Grand Portage from Old Highway 61 to Fort Charlotte (nine miles round trip)
- Snowshoe the entire Grand Portage footpath from the stockade on Lake Superior to Fort Charlotte and back (17 miles round trip).
Grand Portage National Monument, a unit of the National Park System, is located within the Grand Portage Indian Reservation in Minnesota’s northeastern “Tip of the Arrowhead.” The Grand Portage National Monument Heritage Center is open year round. The Historic Site (Great Hall, Kitchen, Canoe Warehouse, Ojibwe Village, Voyageur Encampment and Three Sisters and Kitchen Historic Heirloom Gardens) is open seasonally. There is no admission fee. Snowshoes available for use at no cost. For more information call 218-475-0123.
George Washington Pines Winter Recreation Trail is a relatively short 3.3 km trail located fairly close to Grand Marais, only 7 miles up the Gunflint Trail. It passes through a beautiful grove of pines, the George Washington Memorial Pine Plantation. The plantation was established when 13 boys from the Grand Marais Boy Scout Troop #67 planted 32 acres of land with 14,570 Norway Pine and 7,500 White Pine in 1932 after a 1927 fire. More recently, in the summer of 2010, some of the understory was cleared to reduce hazardous fuels and create a better wildfire situation.
Both skiers and snowshoers are welcome on the George Washington Pines Trail. The trail is groomed for classic skiing on one side and snowshoeing or skate skiing on the other. Please respect other users by not snowshoeing on groomed ski tracks. The trail is shared between cross country skiers, snowshoers, and people using dogs for skijoring. Please respect other users by not fouling groomed ski tracks and by alerting dog users of your presence so as not to spook dogs by rapidly passing them on skis. Pick up any dog droppings, and try to repair tracks melted out by dog piles.
In addition to snowshoeing on the trail itself, you may strike out from the trail and blaze your own path through the center of the groomed loop. The Forest Service has done a lot of understory clearing at George Washington Pines as part of their wildfire mitigation efforts, making it easier to “bushwhack” through the forest. You may also walk across the Gunflint Trail to the east side of the road and snow-shoe around the forested area there, also part of the George Washington Pines Plantation. You won’t find any trails or skiers in that part of the plantation.
6. Pincushion Mountain Recreation Area - Superior Hiking Trail reroute
📍 Grand Marais | 3.5 miles round trip
The Superior Hiking Trail Association recently announced the opening of a new winter route at Pincushion Mountain in Grand Marais! Winter walkers, runners, and snowshoers are asked to use the new trail and to avoid groomed ski trails. The official start/trailhead for the new trail is at the combined hiking/fat biking kiosk which is at the EAST side of the parking lot, not the main kiosk which is located at the north end of the parking lot.
Follow signs from the #SHT trailhead at the east end of the Pincushion Mountain Recreation Area parking lot (not the kiosk at the north end) to experience the new route. As a courtesy to our fellow outdoor enthusiasts, please do not hike, run, or snowshoe on groomed ski trails at Pincushion Mountain or elsewhere on the SHT. Where the Trail crosses groomed trails, please be careful to avoid stepping on groomed tracks or leaving behind deep footprints. Dogs are allowed on the Superior Hiking Trail, leashed at all times, and poop scooped!
The Pincushion Mountain Recreation Area parking lot has an outhouse in the parking lot that is open 24/7, and a nearby warming Chalet, open daily from 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.
7. Golden Eagle Lodge Trails
📍 Gunflint Trail | 0.6 - 0.7 miles round trip
For the snowshoe enthusiast, or the first time snowshoer, try Golden Eagle’s marked trails or make your own. This sport is a great way to enjoy the quiet solitude of nature and to see birds, animals, and their tracks. Golden Eagle maintains two designated snowshoe trails; Little Foot, 1.3 km round trip (0.7 miles), and Big Foot, 1 km round trip (0.6 miles). Golden Eagle Lodge is a Nordic ski center and offers equipment rentals, including snowshoes. For more information call 218-388-2203 or 1-800-346-2203.
8. Devil Track Hunter Walking Trails
📍 Grand Marais | various lengths
Devil Track Hunter Walking Trails were developed for the conservation of ruffed grouse and woodcock and to provide hunting opportunities for these upland birds. They also provide good habitat for birders to observe these and other species. The area consists of several miles of inter-connected loops through forest and openings. There is no motorized usage allowed on these trails, they are intended strictly for foot travel. Paper maps of Hunter Walking Trails are available at the Visit Cook County Information Center in Grand Marais, 116 W. Hwy 61. You can also download a map to your phone from the Avenza Map App. Avenza will work without cell service, so can be very helpful. Be aware of hunting seasons and wear orange when using hunter walking trails.
9. Kadunce River Hunter Walking Trails
📍 Gunflint Trail | various lengths
Explore the upper Kadunce River area just below Trout Lake. The Kadunce River Hunter Walking Trails were developed for the conservation of ruffed grouse and woodcock and to provide hunting opportunities for these upland birds. They also provide good habitat for birders to observe these and other species. The area consists of several miles of interconnected loops through forest and openings. Bring a map of the area when you visit. There is no motorized usage allowed on these trails, they are intended strictly for foot travel. Paper maps of Hunter Walking Trails are available at the Visit Cook County Information Center in Grand Marais, 116 W. Hwy 61. You can also download a map to your phone from the Avenza Map app. Avenza will work without cell service, so can be very helpful. Be aware of hunting seasons and wear orange when using hunter walking trails.
10. Superior National Golf Course
📍 Lutsen | various lengths
Enjoy the beautiful setting at Superior National Golf Course in Lutsen on snowshoes! Superior National is a 27-hole public resort golf course set amidst the unparalleled beauty of Lake Superior’s North Shore in Lutsen. There are no designated snowshoe trails, so feel free to blaze your own! According to golf pro Heath Ekstrom, there are no restrictions on where you may explore, but please use caution near the Poplar River. In addition to snowshoeing, sledding (or sliding!) is also allowed at Superior National!
11. County Rd 6 to Forest Service Rd 158 (Bally Creek Rd) on the Superior Hiking Trail
📍 Grand Marais | 3.7 miles one way
Tamer Ibrahim, Trails Operations Director for the Superior Hiking Trail Association recommended snowshoeing this section of the trail, saying “word on the street is that County Rd 6 west towards Sundling Creek is a lovely hike.”
12. Snowshoe Trails at Gunflint Lodge
📍 Gunflint Trail | various lengths
People are welcome to use Gunflint Lodge’s hiking/snowshoe trails for free, but an Upper Gunflint Ski Trail Pass is required for use of the lodge’s ski trails. In winter, most of the activities (snowshoe, dogsled, Nordic skiing, snowmobiling) are on separate trails. The only exceptions are: Amperage Run Ski Trail (skiing and skijoring), South Rim Ski Trail (skiing and snowshoeing), and the Magnetic Rock Trail (skiing and snowshoeing).
Gunflint Lodge & Outfitter’s main hiking trails can all be accessed from the parking lot behind Gunflint Northwoods Outfitters. They are:
- Lonely Lake Hiking Trail - This trail is an easy 1-mile trip to the shores of Lonely Lake. You go in and out on the same trail. Lonely Lake is spring fed and is never safe to walk on. 30 - 60 minutes.
- Lookout Point Hiking Trail - This is an easy .7 mile round trip hike to a nice overlook of Gunflint and Magnetic Lakes. There is a small loop on the top. This trail is basically a spur off of the Lonely Lake Trail, and it is worth it to do both hikes on the same trip. 20 - 40 minutes.
- Lost Cliffs Hiking Trail - This is a very challenging hike to a beautiful overlook of Gunflint and Magnetic Lakes. This should not be attempted by those who are out of shape. Modern snowshoes (with crampons) or similar extra traction devices should be used on this hike. 2 - 2 1/2 hours.
- High Cliffs Hiking Trail - This very challenging trail uses the steepest parts of the Lost Cliffs Hiking Trail, and continues to an overlook significantly higher. At the overlook of Gunflint and Magnetic Lakes, you are approximately 380-feet above Gunflint Lake, and that elevation is gained in 3/4 of a mile. Modern snowshoes (with crampons) or similar extra traction devices should be used on this hike. 2 - 3 hours.
- Hidden Trail - This hike is of moderate difficulty. For the first part of the winter, you have to go in and out on the same trail. Once we get enough ice over the Lonely Lake wetland, this trail turns into a loop which connects the Lonely Lake/Lookout Point Trails with the Lost Cliffs/High Cliffs Trails. 45 - 60 minutes.