Gunflint Trail in Cook County
Explore the Gunflint Trail and Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness
The number one question we hear from first time visitors is “what is the Gunflint Trail?” Do not let the name deceive you, once upon a time the Gunflint Trail was a primitive trail used primarily by foot or dogsled to move goods down to the port of Grand Marais on Lake Superior for trade. Flash forward several decades to today and you’ll find the Gunflint Trail is a 57-mile paved National Scenic Byway that winds through the heart of the Superior National Forest at the edge of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) and Canada’s Quetico National Park.
We all romanticize about a quaint, little lodge in the woods on the edge of a beautiful lake. And on the Gunflint Trail, it’s real! It’s easy to find cozy Gunflint lodges and resorts set on shimmering lakes with a million acres of pristine Minnesota forest as the backdrop. Imagine yourself pulling up a chair to the fireplace, soaking up the sun on the dock or treating yourself to a sauna—sounds good doesn’t it? The lodges and resorts along the Gunflint Trail have a history of being hosts for weary travelers since the days of the fur trade. These warm and welcoming hosts will make sure you won’t ever want to go home.
Top things to do on the Gunflint Trail
- The number one reason people visit the Gunflint Trail is to paddle through the glacially-carved lakes of the BWCAW. This vast wilderness is so spectacular that National Geographic has listed it as one of the world’s “50 Places of a Lifetime.” But don’t just take our word for it, plan a trip yourself with the help of an outfitting expert. Never planned a boundary waters trip before? Read our trip tips and download our BWCAW packing guide to get started.
- Take a hike! Whether you’re looking for a day hike or a multi-day backpacking excursion, wandering the hiking trails on the Gunflint is sure to pique your interest. Download this map of day hikes on the Gunflint Trail.
- Shhh, is that a moose? Not only is the Gunflint Trail scenic, it is also one of the best places to see a moose in Minnesota! Moose are the largest members of the deer family and thrive in the woods and waters surrounding the Gunflint Trail. In addition to the elusive Minnesota moose, watch for wolves, bear, deer, loon, fox and lynx to name a few. Keep an eye open at all times, because you never know when something spectacular will appear.
- Gaze at the stars. In fact, the end of the Gunflint Trail features the darkest sky in the USA east of the Mississippi! That means when the skies are clear, the ability to see the night sky is greater than in the rest of the state. And if you are lucky, there could be a chance that the northern lights will make an appearance overhead.
- Don’t forget about winter! Bundle up and experience the Gunflint Trail during the winter months. World-class cross country ski resorts, hundreds of miles of groomed snowmobile trails, dog-sledding and access to some of the best ice fishing lakes in the state – winter is worth celebrating on the Gunflint Trail.
- Eat local. Whether your prefer to catch your own dinner, forage for wild blueberries or simply let someone else cook for you – you are guaranteed to find some mouthwatering treat on the Gunflint Trail.
- Embrace the slow down movement. Do not miss the opportunity to allow yourself to disconnect with the outside world and find that inner peace. Try relaxing by catching a few snowflakes on your tongue or let your toes dangle in the water on the edge of the dock. Relaxation is the number one pastime of Gunflint Trail visitors, the simplicity is better than you can imagine.
Whether for a day or a week, solo or with family, the Gunflint Trail is the place to experience nature at its best and most pure. Come see how this extraordinary place will fill your spirit and move your soul.
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