Cook County Blog

Winter Trail Conditions

Posted by Visit Cook County MN on 12/23/20 3:44 PM

Winter in Cook County is like no other.  A plethora of outdoor adventures await those who are willing to bundle up and set outside.  All winter long we'll be updating this page weekly with updates on current conditions. 


Trail Report for 1/7/21

Winter has arrived in Cook County and outdoor activities have begun! 

In Grand Marais, families are enjoying the “Sliding Hill” at the Grand Marais Recreation Area & Campground, along with the skating rinks and new warming house at the Cook County Community Center

Fat Tire Biking is a growing winter sport throughout the mid-west, and there are now opportunities to experience it on parts of the Norpine Trail System in Lutsen.

Snowshoeing is a great way to enjoy winter’s magic, and Cook County has dozens of trails.  Check out “Our Favorite 12 Snowshoe Trails in Cook County.”

Cross country skiers are enjoying Cook County’s more than 400 km of groomed trails, including trail systems in the Lutsen/Tofte area, near Grand Marais, and on the Gunflint Trail.  

Snowmobiling is also getting underway and the trails are starting to shape up, with more snow needed in some areas.  Cook County has more than 450 miles of trails. Check out the Snowmobile Trail Conditions updates on the Visit Cook County website. 

The Pincushion Mountain Trail System
The Pincushion Mountain Trail System is a 25 kilometer silent sport trail system perched high
above Lake Superior, 2 miles north of Grand Marais, Minnesota. Because of its varied terrain,
excellent trail design and spectacular vistas of Lake Superior and Devil Track River canyon, this
trail system is enjoyed by thousands annually for cross country skiing, snowshoeing, hiking,
running and mountain biking. With annual average snowfall of 110", warming chalet, lighted
trails, and Pisten Bully grooming for classic and skate skiing, Pincushion Mountain is a great
Nordic skiing destination!

Groomer’s Report – Dec. 24: Tracks have been set on the entire system. Despite sub-zero
temperatures and continuing high winds, the grooming produced trails that are good to very
good. The base was flattened considerably and the tracks are well formed, for the most part.
The trail is still in need of more snow for perfect grooming. The southeastern end of the
Pincushion Mountain Loop is still showing a few rocks, as is one place on the East Overlook
Loop. Everything else has a solid base that should hold up well as the season goes on.
A Great Minnesota Ski Pass is required to ski Pincushion Mountain Trail System. Passes may be
purchased online or in-person at local gas stations.

The Central Gunflint Ski Trail System
The Central Gunflint Ski Trail System is located approximately halfway up the Gunflint Trail. The
system is made up of 47 km of intertwined loops groomed for classic skiing with some areas for
skate skiing. Trails range from easy to difficult. These trails are in a beautiful location with
many scenic views of lakes and woodlands. Parts are also within the area of the 2007 Ham Lake
fire, so you will be able to visit a recovering forest thick with the low vegetation preferred by
moose, snowshoe hare, and other animals.

Groomer’s Report – Dec. 24: We received 9 ¼” of snow in the last 24 hours, virtually doubling
our snow in the woods and trail base. All our ski trails are now open. Conditions are cold today
which will set up a very nice skate deck for Christmas day and the days following. Everything is
groomed with a classic track and skate lane – all the trails groomed up wonderfully today. The
lakes will continue to be groomed via snowmobile until we get a bit more ice to cross with the
Pisten Bully. There are still a few rocks poking through on the west end logging camp and along
the north-south link trail where the trail meets the lakeshore. Other than that, you should
safely be able to ski on your good skis from this point forward. If there was ever any question
about winter, it’s certainly here now.

Check out the Bearskin Virtual Nordic Race Series where you can race the Central Gunflint Ski
Trail System on your own time. The Race Series is a season long Nordic ski event. Throughout
each month skiers will race a set course on one of the trails at Bearskin Lodge, and record their
time. Prizes will be awarded to the top male and female finisher of each month’s races, and a
grand prize will be awarded to the overall winners based on their finishes throughout the
For Central Gunflint Trail Ski Trail grooming information, specific trail conditions, and
information about purchasing a ski pass for this trail system, contact Bearskin Lodge at 800-338-
4170, or Golden Eagle Lodge at 800-346-2203.

The Upper Gunflint Trail Ski Trail System
The Upper Gunflint Ski Trails are a 47 km system of loops near the end of the Gunflint Trail.
Difficulty varies from easy to moderately difficult.

Groomer’s Report – Dec. 26: This last snowfall allowed us to get our groomer out on the trails
and pack down a really nice base layer for this season. We’re happy to report that the entire
Upper Gunflint system was groomed the other day! People have already been out on the trails
and have said that they are in very good shape for early season grooming. We’ll be getting a
new trail report out every Wednesday, and every time the groomer is able to go out, so keep an
eye out!

This trail system is maintained by the Gunflint Lake Trails Group, and requires an Upper Gunflint
Trail Ski Pass for usage. Funds raised from these passes pay for land lease fees and grooming
expenses. Daily, weekend, week, and seasonal passes are available. Passes are available at
Gunflint Lodge (800-328-3325), Gunflint Pines (800-533-5814), or Heston's Lodge (800-338-

The Sugarbush Ski Trail System
The Sugarbush Ski Trail System  is an extensive cross country ski trail network and a developing single-track mountain bike trail system in Northeastern Minnesota along the shores of Lake Superior. The system provides a variety of recreation opportunities in the Sawtooth Mountains for the beginner to advanced skier and bicyclist.

Groomer’s Report – Dec. 27: The Onion River Road (ORR) portion of the trail has the best
conditions. Classic tracks are set on both sides with a skate lane in the middle. More snow is
needed to improve the condition of the other trails. Picnic Loop and Moose Fence trails are
being groomed this week. The remainder of the system was groomed over Christmas weekend.
We expect lots of visitors skiing on the trails this winter, which is a good way to social distance.
The Oberg warming cabin will remain closed this ski season, due to COVID safety concerns.”

A Great Minnesota Ski Pass is required to ski the Sugarbush Ski Trail System. Passes may be
purchased online or in-person at local gas stations.

The Norpine Ski Trail System
The Norpine Trail System is 57km of machine groomed X-C ski trails between Cascade River and
Ski Hill Road. Trails include Deer Yard Lake, Pioneer Trail, Hall and Massey Loops. The trails wind
through mature maple forests, mixed evergreens, and in the midst of North Country wildlife. A
number of the trails have spectacular view of Lake Superior and connect up to the Cascade
River State Park Trails. The trails are well marked and maps are available.

Groomer’s Report – Dec. 26: The 12/23 storm gave us some much needed snow. Areas that
were sheltered from the wind will have the most snow. Ski conditions fair. All trails rolled and
combed. Ridge Run and Lookout single tracked.
A Great Minnesota Ski Pass is required to ski the Norpine Trail System. Passes may be
purchased online or in-person at local gas stations.

Buy a MN Ski Pass
If you are 16 or older, you must have a Great Minnesota Ski Pass to ski on groomed trails in
Minnesota state parks or state forests, or on state or grant-in-aid trails. Sign your Ski Pass and
be sure to carry it with you every time you go skiing. Your Ski Pass fee helps support Minnesota's
cross-country ski trail system! Call 1-888-MN-LICENSE (1-888-665-4236).

To find detailed trail conditions and more 

Winter Trail Conditions