The perfect winter adventure awaits you in Cook County, where in one place, you can find the largest cross-country skiing network in North America, 450 miles of impeccably groomed snowmobile trails, and the rugged Sawtooth Mountains rising above Lake Superior offering alpine skiing and snowboarding at the Midwest’s largest ski resort, Lutsen Mountains.
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!
Winter means something different to everyone. Up in Cook County, Minnesota, it means freedom. Freedom to explore. Freedom to push your limits. Freedom to adventure to your heart’s content, and then relax and recuperate for as long as necessary. No judgment! Up here, winter slows things down, so you can focus on whatever you need in the here and now.
So… what winter adventures do you want to tick off your bucket list on your next stay in Cook County? Here are just a few for inspiration.
For many, seeing the northern lights is a once in a lifetime opportunity. It’s a chance to experience the mystical, feel connected with something almost otherworldly and experience natural beauty at its utmost perfection. There is simply no comparison to seeing the northern lights with your own eyes.
Beware the Gales of November
Fall is a tumultuous time of year along Minnesota’s North Shore. We’re battered by huge, icy swells that pommel our shoreline. Every day is a gamble. Will the Gales of November make it impossible to take to the water? Or will the lake be still as a sheet of glass? Every year, Lake Superior sees about 30 inches of precipitation, most of which falls May through October. Over the years, we’ve had some truly incredible storms pass through the region, wreaking havoc, sinking ships and making the news.
The Minnesota Sea Grant has conducted extensive research into why, exactly, so many epic storms develop around Lake Superior. It all has to do with climate, and what is going on in the air above the big lake. The experts explain that “collisions between belts of low and high pressure from the Gulf of Mexico and Canada generate the region's wildest storms and blizzards.”
During November, the winds really start to pick up. This is caused by low-pressure systems passing over the lake, bringing on the Gales of November. During this time, wind speeds can easily reach 50 miles per hour, and gusts can exceed 100 mph. In Cook County, this natural phenomenon is a cause to celebrate.
Downtown Grand Marais has been hit by major early winter lake storms going back to the turn of the 20th century. In the spirit of the Storm Season🌊, we asked local historian and seasonal Information Center guru, Dan Helmerson, to share some of his favorite stormy season photos and stories he could find from the Cook County Historical Society. We hope you'll enjoy this photographic journey through history.
One of our favorite aspects of Grand Marais, Minnesota, is the strong artist vibe everywhere you look. Even though the town is home to only around 1,300 inhabitants, it is filled with endless creativity. Grand Marais is home to a variety of public art, galleries, adorable shops, artist studios, art festivals, creative restaurants, breweries, and a wide range of classes in everything from making cheese, to knitting, to building a boat. Every time we visit, we have to explore some of the local art scene, and this time around was no exception. We rented electric bikes from Fireweed Bike Cooperative and zoomed around town to a wide variety of artsy sites–the art in Grand Marais is fantastic to say the least!
Summer Adventures at Lutsen Mountains by Wander The Map
Guest submission - Portaging & Paddling: Canoeing to Ham Lake on the Gunflint Trail by Wander The Map
Canoeing is a sport that can be intimidating. There are rules about boats, PFD’s, and a lot of flak from experts on how to hold your paddle correctly. But once you know what you’re doing, padding through the BWCAW can be one of the most memorable and influential experiences of your life. To get you started, or “Wet Your Paddle”, Gunflint Trail Outfitters have banded together to offer newbies a chance to try an hour of paddling for free. AND they’ll even give you one of those experts I talked about earlier to teach you how to do it! This program, called Wet Your Paddle, is an incredible deal and a great way to spend a few hours on your annual family vacation learning something new, together! To prepare you for your first Wet Your Paddle adventure, here is some more information on canoeing, the BWCAW, and how to strut your stuff in the backcountry.