Winter on the North Shore: Our Top Ten List

wine and feet up by the fireplace. hyggeThe days have gotten shorter, the temps have started to drop and the holiday season is almost upon us. It’s the time of year when we add those extra layers and make plans to gather with friends and family for a winter adventure.

Here’s our top ten list of reasons to visit us this winter along the north shore of Lake Superior:

1. Great Offers! We’ll start with the amazing offers that are available during the winter season. Our most popular special, the Gales Special, has been extended through December 25. In addition, the Winter 4 for 3 Special and the Ski & Stay Packages help you stay for less all winter long.

2. Wave Watching! Undoubtedly, wintertime is one of the best times to view big waves on the Big Lake. Snuggle up with a warm drink or a glass of wine and watch the waves crash into the shore. On really cold days after a layer of ice has formed, you’ll get the added bonus of ice crashing into the shore. It’s mesmerizing!

3. Cross-Country Skiing! Some of the best cross-country skiing opportunities in the country are right here in Cook County. In fact, the Lutsen-Tofte area totals more than 150km and is groomed with the best available equipment. During your trip, you’ll find great ski options on the Sugarbush Trail System and the Norpine Trails.

4. Skiing and Snowboarding at Lutsen Mountains! Do you want to enjoy the midwest’s only true mountain ski experience? Head to Lutsen Mountains! 92 alpine runs across four interconnected mountains, make it nearly three to four times larger than any other Midwest Ski area. In addition, we offer free shuttles to and from the mountain for our guests!

5. Winter Hiking! One of our favorite ways to enjoy the area’s winter wonderland is with a winter hike. The crisp air is invigorating as you wander through picturesque forests and take in the views at stunning overlooks. Head out on your own or join us for a guided hike as part of our complimentary activities.

6. Let’s go Snowshoeing! When the snow is too deep for hiking we bring out the snowshoes. Join a guided tour and complimentary snowshoe rental for a one-of-a-kind winter experience.

7. Snowmobiling! The Lutsen-Tofte Snowmobile Trail System offers 67 miles of groomed trails that connect with the 146-mile-long North Shore State Snowmobile Trail, allowing for an endless combination of routes that can accommodate everything from a one-hour to a full-day ride.

8. Ice Skating! Our outdoor rinks at Bluefin Bay and Surfside on Lake Superior are winter favorites. In addition, skates in all sizes and hockey equipment are available to our guests as a complimentary service.

9. Bonfires & S’mores! Take a break from skating or watch others while staying cozy around the nightly bonfire. S’mores included, yum!

10. Time with loved ones! Winter months on the North Shore are truly magical. With this in mind, we invite you here to spend quality time in nature and savor the cozy moments with your favorite people.


New Winter Adventures!

Snowshoeing Hikes Our activities staff have been busy planning a few new guided winter adventures to add to our broad mix of offerings. Check out these fun new complimentary guided activities. We’ve designed them to help you discover unique places and will feature the best ways to trek along a winter trail based on current conditions.

  • Onion River Snowshoe Hike & Bonfire: This snowshoe hike begins at the trailhead to Leveaux Mountain and will lead you through a beautiful cedar forest for a half mile. Our journey will end at a Superior Hiking Trail campsite near the Onion River. We’ll even have a bonfire, s’mores, and hot cocoa to keep you warm! This is an easy hike with relatively flat terrain making it a perfect family activity or for those new to snowshoeing and winter hiking. While there you may want to take a quick jaunt a bit farther down the trail to a quaint bridge that leads across the Onion River. Keep very quiet and you may hear the river flowing beneath a layer of ice!
  • Snowshoe Hike at the Lookout Mountain Loop: Join us for a guided snowshoe hike to the top of the beautiful Lookout Mountain in Cascade State Park. When the snow is deep and fluffy we will outfit everyone with snowshoes for the trek. When the trail is covered in packed snow we will outfit our boots in traction cleats for a non-slip hike. This adventure starts out gradually along the Cascade River and then leads to a steeper climb to the top of Lookout Mountain. Enjoy the incredible views of Lake Superior and the eastern view of the Sawtooth Mountain range. Photo op! The total trip is 3.5 miles and the difficulty rating is moderate.
  • Benson Lake Snowshoe Hike: We’re excited about this new hike in the beautiful George H Crosby Manitou State Park. This adventure will begin with a half mile hike to the park entrance road until we reach Benson Lake. Once at Benson Lake, the trail loops and takes you on a 1-mile walk through scenic spruce and cedar groves. When the snow is super deep and fluffy we will take out the snowshoes and float on top! Wildlife spotting alert: This is a rugged, wilderness park where bears, wolves, moose, deer, and grouse share the trails with hikers! There are also plenty of opportunities to stop and enjoy the scenery of Benson Lake. The total trip distance is 2 miles and considered easy to moderate in difficulty.


Winter Hiking: NEW Hiking Adventures!

Here on the North Shore of Lake Superior, the winter season provides the opportunity for an abundance of outdoor activities. A favorite among locals and visitors is winter hiking on the endless trails in our area. The Lutsen-Tofte area is home to some of the most beautiful and dramatic sections of the Superior Hiking Trail. 

This year we’ve added several new guided hikes to our winter activity line-up. All of these hikes will help you further explore the Superior Hiking Trail and the extensive effort to build and maintain this fantastic Minnesota gem!  We’ll still have the guided hiking favorites like Oberg Mountain and Carlton Peak, but here are a few more you won’t want to miss!

LOOKOUT MOUNTAIN LOOP: This hike starts at Highway 61 and travels through gentle terrain along a multi-use trail in Cascade River State Park for just under a mile before joining The Superior Hiking Trail. Once on The Superior Hiking Trail, you will start your ascent up to the summit of Lookout Mountain.  At the summit, enjoy views of Lake Superior, Sawtooth Mountains, and Grand Marais.  Enter a mixed boreal forest to begin your descent and rejoin the multi-use trail.  The descent offers fantastic views of Lake Superior below.

DYER’S CREEK HIKE: This hike starts at the trailhead on the east side of Cook County 1 and after a quick trek through a coniferous forest it crosses to the West Side of the road. Thick stands of fragrant Balsam/Spruce hug the corridor of the trail for 1 ½ miles until you reach your turn around point at a 40-foot A-frame bridge over Dyer’s Creek.  Come check out one of the larger structures in the Superior Hiking Trail and learn how trail professionals and volunteers labored to install this magnificent structure. Head back along Two Island River, cross over abandoned railroad tracks and return to the trailhead.

SPRUCE CREEK LOOP: This hike begins on a multi-use trail and brings you by marsh wetlands before entering a thick stand of spruce and other coniferous trees. Join the Superior Hiking Trail and begin a gentle climb to the ridgeline where you will have unlimited views of the Sawtooth Mountains. A short but steep descent will take you to the beautiful Spruce Creek before climbing back uphill to rejoin the multi-use trail. The East Side of the marsh wetlands will take you around the ponds back the beginning of your hike. This hike has been known to have some moose sightings!

MYSTERY MOUNTAIN LOOP: At the End of Ski Hill Road, Lutsen Ski Village, you will begin this challenging hike by crossing over the Poplar River Gorge, with spectacular views of the ski slopes and Lake Superior.  After crossing the Poplar River, begin your trek up the base of Mystery Mountain through thick Spruce Stand that converts into open stands of Maples. After 1 mile you will join the Superior Hiking Trail on the South West Flank of Mystery Mountain.  Enjoy open space in the Maple Stand while you gradually gain elevation to the top of Mystery Mountain. A stop at the Poplar River overlook is a perfect way to start your ascent back to the Poplar River Crossing and the trailhead.

SUGARLOAF TO CARIBOU HIKE: This hike is a one-way hike that offers nearly 2.5 miles of ridgeline views of Lake Superior. Start out trekking through a mixed boreal forest, quickly pass through a mature white pine stand and come to the open birch stand to hike along the ridge. Cross over The Superior Hiking Trails only covered bridge at Crystal Creek and continue towards the Caribou River.  Check out the gorge of the Caribou River on a bridge that was installed via Helicopter before you move onto the observation platform to take in a sweeping view of Lake Superior and if it is clear possibly the Apostle Islands.  One more stop on your trek will take you to the base of the 40-foot waterfall of the Caribou River.

WILDERNESS BONFIRE ADVENTURE HIKE: Are you ready to experience the Northwood’s? Join us for a 3.5-mile hike, Beginning at Sugar Loaf and ending at Caribou Falls.  Where we will stop half way at Crystal Creek to build a bonfire and have a wintery treat (S’mores & Hot Chocolate) before we head to the Caribou River where we can explore the top and base of Caribou Falls!