Travel: North Shore, Minnesota

Snowy trails and breathtaking views of Lake Superior will leave you wanting more!
North Shore Minnesota Lake Superior snowmobile trail view
There is no other place like Minnesota’s North Shore for truly incredible nature stops, trail riding, off-trail excursions, well-maintained routes and systems, and, of course, breathtaking views of Lake Superior. It’s tough to beat, and always an adventure!
Photo by Rick Dobson
Riding Minnesota’s North Shore along the western edge of Lake Superior offers pristine trails, picturesque vistas and more photo ops than you can shake a selfie stick at!

And that’s not even scraping the surface. There are world-class lodging and dining options in many of the small lakeside towns dotting the shoreline from Duluth to Grand Marais. This area more than earns its prominent placement on the ever-prestigious “Snowmobile Bucket List.”
North Shore Minnesota snowmobile Lake Superior
Photo by Rick Dobson
North Shore Minnesota snowmobile trail Gooseberry Falls
Editor Mark Boncher realizes the massiveness of the Gooseberry Falls system.
Photo by Rick Dobson
Starting with a view
Our home base for this particular adventure was Grand Superior Lodge in Castle Danger, Minn., just up the road from Two Harbors. Those in search of a view over Lake Superior won’t even need to start a sled, as the waves from the lake wash up on shore right outside your bedroom.

While it’s easy to get lost in panoramic views of the glistening ice floating through swells in the water, more rewards await once you hop across Highway 61 and hit the C.J. Ramstad / North Shore State Trail. It’s the main trail corridor that runs 153 miles from Duluth to Grand Marais, connecting towns and more miles of spur trails along the way.

Just a short 10-minute ride from the lodge, we stopped at Gooseberry Falls State Park. You can ride right up into the parking lot, but you’ll want use caution, as the last mile of the trail into the park is multi-use and shared with skiers, snowshoers, hikers, etc. As the name suggests, multiple waterfalls greet you after a short walk from the parking lot. In the summer, the flowing falls are one of Minnesota’s most popular destinations for vacationers. But in the winter, the frozen falls are equally impressive and no less photogenic.

After getting our fill of scenery, we hopped back on our steeds and racked up miles on immaculately groomed trails. We rode mid-week, so trail traffic was basically nil, and conditions were perfect. We ran into more groomers than snowmobiles!
North Shore Minnesota snowmobile trail
You’ll find some of the very best groomed trails on the North Shore.
Photo by Rick Dobson
John Allan Brandt Memorial Shelter snowmobile trail North Shore Minnesota
Photo by Rick Dobson
Trails to your liking
The rocky, rolling topography of the North Shore is a thing of beauty for sledders. It gives avariety to the ride that is tough to duplicate. Around one corner, you’re whipping through a frozen swamp, the next, you’re hauling up a steep incline and down the other side of rocky crag, and then to a throttle squeeze down a railroad grade. You never quite know what lies ahead, which is part of charm of these trails.

There’s plenty to see between trail stops, as it’s a pretty good distance between most of them. Distance here between towns is a little greater than most Midwest trail riders are used to. It’s not uncommon to have 40 or more miles between available pit stops, so fill up that gas tank when the opportunity presents itself.

The long distances between towns is not lost on the local clubs and organizations who maintain the trails. You’ll find shelter buildings frequently along your ride. These stout buildings are well equipped for a night out in the woods if needed. Some offer wood-burning fireplaces, a supply of dry wood, and a few even offer grills (gas or charcoal) and a protected bonfire ring if you prefer to dine trailside.

The trail-accessible mini cabins are maintained by the clubs. You’ll usually find a map on the wall and a few more for you to take in exchange for a small donation to the club. We stopped at the John Allen Brandt Memorial Shelter overlooking state forest land to the west and Lake Superior off in the distance to the east.
North Shore Minnesota snowmobile trail lighthouse
Photo by Rick Dobson
Similar scenic overlooks dot the trail as you wind your way over streams and rivers. The trails continue to dart in and out of state and national forest lands as you head north. You’ll also weave your through some of Minnesota’s state parks along the Lake Superior shoreline, with some of the most breathtaking views this part of the country has to offer.

What made this area even more appealing were the snow conditions in a year where most of the Midwest saw very little in the way of rideable snow totals. Taking one step off the trail usually put us waist-deep in powder. Minnesota’s Arrowhead Region sees the most snow in the state. In a good year, 70-plus inches will easily fall along the shores of Lake Superior. It provided a safe, white haven for us in the middle of one of the worst Midwest snowmobile seasons in recent memory.

So, have you added this destination to your snowmobile bucket list yet? If so, we’ll leave you with a fair warning: You might never fully cross it off, even after you’ve been here. There’s just so much to explore, you’ll want to keep coming back!
North Shore Minnesota snowmobile Grand Superior Lodge
Photo by Rick Dobson
Grand Superior Lodge offers a comfortable, rustic retreat on the shores of Lake Superior. With a full service bar and restaurant on site, fantastic eats are available with a cozy table and a lakeside view.

A roaring fire in the stone fireplace of the lobby greets snowmobilers, along with a friendly staff that is there to ensure your stay is as comfortable as possible. Accommodations range from hotel rooms with lake views in the main lodge, to 1- and 2-bedroom cabins, to 3- and 4-bedroom lakehomes with stone fireplaces and full kitchens.

No matter the size of your group, Grand Superior Lodge will make your stay a comfortable one. More info:


Grand Superior Lodge, Castle Danger, Minn.
Distance from:
Minneapolis/St. Paul – 200 miles (3 hours)
Milwaukee – 430 miles (6.5 hours)
Winnipeg – 420 miles / 677 km (7.5 hours)
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