Top 5 winter activities to do while visiting the North Shore

There are many winter activities and sights to explore on the North Shore

To say it’s been a little chilly ‘up here’ is a bit of an understatement. We’ve had some brutally cold temps in the past two months and frankly, just in the last few days. Get ready, a heat wave is a-comin‘. With the temps set to warm up this week and through the rest of the month, there is no time like the present to venture up or over to the North Shore for some outdoor winter fun! Here’s a list of our staff’s top 5 favorite winter activities.

  1. Cross-country skiing

    The North Shore has the best cross-country ski trail systems in the state. We’d like to think so. With hundreds of kilometers of well-maintained trails, coupled with the plethora of terrain and beauty of the Northwoods, you just can’t have a bad day skiing. We have trails for all experience levels, trails that connect resorts and lodges where you can plan a stop for a cup of joe or to warm up midway through your ski and of course, trails with breathtaking views of this place we call home. Check out maps of various systems here.

    Did you know? If you are a guest of Lutsen Resort, you can join one of our guided cross-country ski tours or borrow ski gear (skis, boots and poles) for free. If you ski on a state trail, you will need to purchase a ski pass.

  2. Snowshoe hiking

    Not everyone is up for a go on the skinny skis and that’s ok. Heading out for a snowshoe hike can be just as rewarding. Hiking the Superior Hiking Trail is a popular option, but snowshoes also give you the flexibility to go “off trail” and explore the uncharted areas. Lutsen Resort guests can also borrow snowshoes or join a snowshoe hike, all complimentary.

    **Candlelight XC Ski & Snowshoe** 
    Sugarbush Trail Association will be holding their annual candlelight cross-country ski and snowshoe this coming Saturday evening, February 17th beginning at 6 pm. Meet in the Oberg parking lot and hit the trails lit by candlelight. When you’re done with your hike or ski, meet back at the bonfire and warm up with a cup of cocoa.

  3. Alpine skiing or snowboarding at Lutsen Mountains 

    When talking about things to do on the North Shore in the winter, Lutsen Mountains inevitably comes up in the conversation. Lutsen Mountains is the Midwest’s largest alpine and snowboard park and they are only a couple miles up the road from us. The park boasts four mountains, 95 runs, a 825′ vertical rise, new eight-passenger gondola and ample amounts of snow that make for the ultimate ski and snowboard experience.

    We offer ski and stay packages and we have a shuttle that runs to and from the ski hill. We’ll pick you up at your room (lodge lobby if you are staying in the main lodge) and take you to the ski hill and back. Please make sure to schedule a time with us in advance.

  4. Songwriter series at Papa Charlie’s

    If you are looking for something with a little less snow or you want to wind down after a long day of outdoor adventure, then you need to check out Papa Charlie’s Songwriter series. During the winter months, you can find live music every night of the week somewhere in Cook County. We are fortunate to have an abundance of talented, local musicians that play at various establishments and venues – however, the Songwriter series is a staff favorite. The series features the Midwest’s most talented songwriters in a theater-like setting. These are free to the public and run every Monday and Wednesday night during the winter. For a complete schedule, visit Papa Charlie’s event calendar

  5. Eat!

    After an eventful day in the great outdoors, you’re going to need to refuel. The area offers a number of great eateries, pubs and tap rooms. Whether you are looking for fine dining or a casual, sit-back and watch the game experience, there is something for everyone. We have two restaurants on site; our Lakeside Dining Room and our Poplar River Pub. The dining room provides a spectacular view of Lake Superior and the Poplar River Pub features Minnesota-made brews and spirits.

Enjoying the remnants of snow

Believe it or not, we still have snow along certain sections of the Superior Hiking Trail. I took our guests on a guided hike to Lake Agnes, a pristine lake located about five miles inland up the Caribou Trail. The photo (below to the left) is of the surrounding maple forest, which is fitting because this time of year the trees are tapped to make syrup.

When the temperature drops below freezing during the night then rises to well above freezing during the day, the sap flows through the tree and therefore can be best extracted by placing a “tap” into the tree allowing the sap to drip out. Caribou Cream and Wild Country, our two local maple syrup facilities, are busy at work this time of year tapping and boiling the sap into delicious maple syrup concentrate.

Maple forest, Superior Hiking Trail

Maple forest along the Superior Hiking Trail

There is still about a foot of snow up over the ridge line, so we brought snowshoes along for the hike. Once we made our way closer to the lake, the trail along the shoreline was pretty bare due to its direct exposure to the sunlight.

Beaver tracings

Beaver tracings

Lake Agnes houses a large population of beavers. Along the trail by the lake, we found many trees that beavers had cut down for their food and homes. Beavers are the only mammals besides humans that restructure the environment around them to build their homes, by honing the ability to build both dams and lodges.

My adventurous snowshoe clan

Our group of snowshoers

Our hiking group made it all the way to our destination of Hunter’s Rock overlooking the entirety of the lake. From this spot, you can see the rolling hills in the distance, the looming white pine over the lake (right side of this shot) and a beaver lodge, which I could not get a close picture of. You will just have to go see for yourself!

Wild juniper

Wild juniper

One of my favorite parts of the Lake Agnes hike is the wild juniper plant at the top, a rarity, as far as I’ve noticed, along the trail. I discovered this time that the snow has melted off (for now) and we can enjoy its distinct and awakening smell again.

The smells, sights and sounds of spring are in the air, the season is young but one heavy snowfall can bring us right back into winter again. We can only wait and see what the weather will do, and from there find joy in whatever we get.