North Shore Winter Guide
The snowiest months are among the best times to visit Lake Superior—as long as you know the best spots to stay and play
(page 2 of 3)
Beaver Bay, Tofte
Drive Time: 3.5 to 4 hours
WHERE TO STAY
Cove Point Lodge
On a wintry night, Cove Point’s red and yellow façade, just outside Beaver Bay, glimmers like Santa’s village. The two- to three-bedroom cottages or rooms in the main lodge all offer impressive views of Lake Superior. Spring for a room with a fireplace and a lake-facing whirlpool, and you’ll never regret passing on that Florida timeshare.
You can eat up an entire weekend at Cove Point between the pool, sauna, and hot tub as well as area hikes and outdoor campfires. The lodge also offers free snowshoe rental and is conveniently located near several snowmobile trails. The dining-room menu includes local fare such as Norwegian herring salad and crumb-crust walleye. Or opt for a burger and a pint at the more casual Crossings Bar and Grill. $$
National Forest Lodge
You’ll feel like a true Minnesotan at National Forest Lodge in Isabella, located 20 miles inland from Silver Bay. You can cross-country ski out the back door of one of its rustic cabins, which are heated… and that’s about it. No running water (aside from the main lodge), no cable, and no Internet. You can, however, enjoy one of the greatest of Minnesota pastimes: baking at more than 150 degrees in a wood-burning sauna, then taking a body-numbing dive into Lake Gegoka via a massive hole cut into the ice. Many prefer to simply stay submerged in the large outdoor hot tub.
For dedicated cross-country skiers, there are nearly 20 miles of trail through 2,000 acres of the Superior National Forest. A two-night stay includes six buffet-style meals (BYOB) and Saturday night entertainment—live music, karaoke, and the occasional howling of wolves. $
Surfside on Lake Superior
Keep the sheen on your city slick at Surfside on Lake Superior. These modern Tofte townhomes, among the newest on the Shore, offer expansive, lake-facing views, cathedral ceilings, slate fireplaces, full kitchens, wet bars, whirlpools, and double-headed showers. (This is where you take your East Coast brother-in-law who boasts ties to the Kennedys—even he’ll be impressed.)
The resort is located just eight miles from Lutsen Mountains (lutsen.com) and offers a complimentary shuttle service to and from the ski hill. Free cross-country ski rental is provided through Surfside’s sister resort, Bluefin Bay (bluefinbay.com), as well as ski and snowshoe lessons and sleigh rides. Surfside also offers complimentary kids’ activities, campfires, and s’mores. $$$
Temperance Landing log homes are a solid choice for a guys’ getaway, bachelorette weekend, or family vacation for groups of up to eight. The three-level homes offer full kitchens, stone fireplaces, entertainment centers, and poker tables. They’re also minutes from the ski hill and just a short drive from Grand Marais. $$$
Chateau LeVeaux, located between Tofte and Lutsen, has experienced new vitality after a recent face-lift. Its lakeside suites and condos (which include kitchens and, in some cases, whirlpools and fireplaces) are pleasantly decorated—each with its own flair. Options include a north woods theme (log beds, walleye-patterned quilts) or a seashore room (complete with a blue sky ceiling and carved wood seagulls). Enjoy spectacular lake views, frequent rate specials, and a pool, hot tub, and sauna. (French accent not included.) $$
WHAT TO DO
It’s the moment you’ve all been waiting for: the “Best Pie” reveal. And the honor goes to… Camp 61 Bunkhouse (campsixtyone.com). New owners have converted this Beaver Bay motel and restaurant from a barebones hunters’ retreat to a quaint, expertly styled inn, with antique snowshoes and skis decorating the walls. Despite the lack of lake views, pools, hot tubs, or saunas, this place is truly a hidden gem. The innkeepers are lovely, the herring is delivered fresh from local fishermen, and it employs a team of grandmas who bake what are undoubtedly the Shore’s best pies—don’t miss the mixed berry.
Own Your Yuppie:
In an area where many menus lean heavily on fingers, poppers, and nuggets, Tofte’s Coho Café (bluefinbay.com) offers more gourmet fare, including salmon and arugula caprese, gluten-free pasta, shiitake mushroom pizza, and organic wine—as well as a classic mug of hot cocoa.
Sneak Off to the Spa:
On any ski vacation there comes a decision point—it’s that moment when your feet are so cold they feel painful. Your options are to take another run and wait for them to go completely numb or, around here, sneak off to the spa. On this stretch of the shore, head for Bluefin Bay’s Waves of Superior Spa (wavesofsuperiorspa.com) for facials, massages, and manis/pedis, as well as services with a local bent: wild-rice exfoliations and blueberry-soy hydration treatments.
Hit the Trail:
Strap on your crampons: Most of the Shore’s state parks are open through the winter. Tettegouche’s trails overlook the Sawtooth Mountains and wind down to remote inland lakes. The Cascade River is home to several gorgeous overlooks and walking bridges that span the falls. Depending on temperatures, Temperance River may be flowing freely or frozen solid—an ice formation locked in plummet.
The Shore’s Top 5 Cross-Country Ski Trails
Don’t let those alpine skiers knock it. Cross-country skiing can be just as spectacular and death-defying—if you know where to go. Here are the best places to get out your boards along the Shore.
Tettegouche State Park
With lakeside trails, expansive overlooks, idyllic picnic spots, and a speedy, downhill return, Tettegouche has it all.
Crosby Manitou State Park
Keep an eye out for the Hobbit as you break trail in this forbidden forest, which is home to the rushing Manitou River. For skilled skiers and adventurers only, this secluded, ungroomed trail is marked “ski at your own risk.”
Start the kids and beginners off at Sugarbush. They’ll quickly conquer the inner 2.9-kilometer loop and move on to the many miles of intermediate trails, which feature rolling hills and ridges.
Pay for a flight to Finland or simply ski the Suomi Trail (Suomi meaning “Finland” in Finnish), which is said to look just like it, with sloping hills, hardwood forests, and an abundance of lakes and ponds.
Fair warning: You may be inspired to get down on one knee on Pincushion Mountain, where certain trails are lit up at night for the diehards and romantics.