Lake County Winter Adventure Guide

When the snowflakes fall, Minnesota’s North Shore bursts with outdoor adventures! From Lake Superior to the Canadian border, Lake County offers cozy winter getaways with stunning views and easy access to winter recreation.

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snowmobiling on the north shore state trail in two harbors mn

The Trails Are Groomed and Ready for Nordic Skiing and Fat-Tire Biking

fat biking in two harbors north shore mn demonstration forest

The unparalleled beauty of the North Shore State Parks in Lake County provides the perfect backdrop for fat-bike riding or cross-country skiing. The parks feature peaceful forests, varied elevations, and wide-open views of Lake Superior. 

In Two Harbors, try fat-biking in the Lake County Demonstration Forest, which features one groomed and three ungroomed trails. If you’re curious about fat biking and don’t own one, rent a bike from SpokeNGear Bike Shop, conveniently located near the trails. 

Additionally, Split Rock Lighthouse has converted 8.7 miles of multi-use trail, including tracks for classic cross-country skiing and a course groomed for fat bikes, snowshoes, hiking, and skate-skiing. It’s the perfect destination for people with different interests who can share the same trail.

Lastly, skiing enthusiasts can enjoy the Flathorn/Gegoka Trails, located on the north side of Flathorn and Gegoka Lakes just west of Isabella, MN. This Nordic ski trail system highlights open trails with vast, packed areas through the pines — perfect for a relaxing, peaceful ski.

It’s common to see several winter bird species and wildlife. Perhaps you’ll encounter a moose, such as captured on the Erkki Harju Ski Trail.

Snowshoe Practically Anywhere!

snowshoeing in two harbors on the big foot trail

Many folks enjoy snowshoeing on the Superior Hiking Trail; however, in Lake County, you can snowshoe practically anywhere! Just be sure not to walk directly on the path if it is also a groomed ski trail.

Lake County boasts Minnesota’s second-highest percentage of public land —  just more than 75 percent! Venture out for an afternoon wildlife expedition or simply enjoy the peaceful quiet of the forests.

If you are visiting and don’t have snowshoes, several lodging establishments and state parks provide snowshoe rentals or free use for guests.

Snowmobiling & ATV Riding Across Lake County

Ride From the North Shore of Lake Superior to Ely

winter-drone-snowmobiling

Lake County, MN, possesses some of the best snowmobile trails in Minnesota. Nearly 400 miles of groomed trails bring you expansive views of Lake Superior or deep within the Superior National Forest. In addition, the C.J. Ramstad North Shore State Trail delivers some of the most ruggedly beautiful scenery in all of Minnesota.

The North Shore State Trail extends 146 miles from Duluth to Grand Marais. The trail runs through St. Louis, Lake, and Cook counties in northeastern Minnesota, winding its way through the forests on the ridgeline overlooking Lake Superior.

Lake County’sTwo Harbors Corridor Trail/Yukon Trail connects to the North Shore Trail and the Tomahawk Trail, which leads to Ely, MN.

Many sledders can find lodging that easily accommodates groups and is located right off the trails for easy access.

North Shore Ice Fishing

Winter Fishing on Lake Superior

While every lake in Minnesota becomes solid in the winter, Lake Superior rarely freezes over, often allowing open-water fishing year-round. Many folks like to fish on shore for coho salmon, steelhead, lake trout, pink salmon, coaster brook trout, and Kamloops. However, the latter is rarer to catch since the Minnesota DNR has ceased stocking Kamloops in Lake Superior.

Where to fish Lake Superior:

  • Off the Pier in Two Harbors
  • Any public area of shoreline

Some of the best areas to fish are near river mouths and from break walls. We recommend dropping a line early or late in the day, as most catching occurs during dawn and dusk.

Inland Ice Fishing

ice fishing near two harbors mn

Blessed with many inland lakes, Lake County makes an exciting ice-fishing destination. For example, the White Iron Chain of Lakes near Ely, MN, includes White Iron, Garden, Farm, South Farm (BWCAW), and Birch Lakes. These pristine lakes are part of the Rainy/Lake of the Woods Watershed, which encompasses 27,000 square miles and stretches from just west of Lake Superior. Thus, these lakes offer fantastic ice fishing in the heart of the northern Minnesota wilderness.

Several resorts offer easy access to ice fishing and snowmobile trails—fish for crappies, bluegills, walleye, northern pike, perch, and small- and large-mouth bass.

Ice Skating

Outside Rinks in Lake County

Lace up those skates! Lake County offers two outdoor ice skating rinks: The Two Harbors Outdoor Rink, located behind the Lake County Arena, and The Silver Bay public outdoor rink, located on the right side of the Rukavina Arena. Visitors can park in the driveway and walk down the rink. Both rinks offer indoor dressing rooms.

Year-Round Resorts with Winter Recreation

cove point lodge during winter mn north shore

Check out these inland resorts that offer winter recreation: ice fishing, nordic skiing or snowshoeing, and snowmobiling!

Knotted Pine Inn & Tavern- Isabella, MN

A winter paradise awaits the snowmobiler in the Superior National Forest. Enjoy riding excitement through remote forests and over frozen lakes and rivers. The Yukon Trail, between Isabella & Two Harbors, and the Tomahawk Trail, which runs from the North Shore Trail near Crooked Lake through Isabella to Ely, are well-groomed and accessible to food, fuel, and lodging.

Snowshoe Country Lodge – Isabella, MN

Winter in Snowshoe Country offers many opportunities for fun and adventure. Explore our many trails by snowshoe or cross-country skis, request to view a slideshow seminar on local wildlife, and
experience a traditional backwoods wood-fired sauna.

Crooked Lake Resort – Finland, MN

Pack up your skis, snowshoes, or snowmobiles and enjoy the hundreds of miles of groomed trails and unplowed forestry roads at Crooked Lake Resort. The Superior National Forest surrounds Crooked Lake with seven miles of shoreline consisting of 250 acres.

Serenity Lodge – Finland, MN

This four-season lodge accommodates a variety of recreational activities. A path through the cedar forest leads to a secluded bay on Ninemile Lake, where clear waters contain Walleye, Bluegill, and Northern Pike. The property offers easy access to hiking, cross-country skiing, ATV, and snowmobile trails just down the road from George Crosby Manitou State Park. After a busy day of activity, unwind by watching the sunset from the dock or making s’mores around the outdoor fire pit.

Maple Grove Bait Store & Lodging – Finland, MN

This family-owned resort is your winter recreation base camp offering lodging, bait/tackle, a sporting goods store, propane refill, firewood, ice, and DNR Licensing. If you’re up north for a snowmobile adventure, this cozy resort offers quick access to the snowmobile trails.

Wildhurst Lodge – Finland, MN

Discover the North Country at Wildhurst Lodge. Explore the wilderness on ATVs, snowmobiles, snowshoes, or on foot. Return to the warmth of a cozy fire in the lodge when you’re through. The adventure is endless, with direct access to the ATV/snowmobile trails.

With miles of unplowed service and logging roads, we offer some of the best snowmobiling in the region. Leave directly from Wildhurst, taking the Moose Run trail to the North Shore Trail or Moose Walk trail. More than 1,000 miles of groomed trail stretch from Finland to Grand Portage, Ely, and Duluth.

White Iron Beach Resort – Ely, MN

Surrounded by the Superior National Forest, with easy access to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and outstanding fishing, White Iron Beach Resort is the ideal setting for an unforgettable Minnesota getaway!

Silver Rapids Lodge – Ely, MN

Silver Rapids Lodge has plenty to offer if you’re a winter enthusiast. Located right off the Tomahawk snowmobile trail, which is linked to miles of trails, SRL invites you and your snowmobile crew to stay in one of its cabins. Sledders can ride all day and relax in the restaurant and lounge area in the evening. Just outside your cabin, enjoy ice fishing Northwoods style! Cross-country ski over miles of private trails. You may also rent a pair of our snowshoes and create your route.

Timber Trail Lodge

The Tomahawk Trail runs directly through its wilderness resort! Just step out of your cabin, and you’re right there. Try cross-country skiing near Timber Trail Lodge; ski trail maps are available. Snowmobile rentals are also available. Book a guided ice fishing trip with the Ely Fishing Guide Company or a dogsled trip with Chilly Dogs and get a discount on your lodging.

Snowbank Lodge & Outfitters

Situated at the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA) edge, Snowbank Lodge & Outfitters offers an unparalleled opportunity to explore this winter wilderness wonderland. Icefish on the edge of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) for lake trout, walleye, northern pike, and eelpout from a heated ice house. Snowbank Lodge offers guests easy access to a plowed ice road free of charge. For the ice fishing angler who desires a more rugged, off-the-beaten-path location on Snowbank Lake, trek to the BWCAW side of the lake on foot, skis, or snowshoes.

Garden Lake Resort

Garden Lake Resort offers excellent opportunities for the winter enthusiast: Enjoy skiing, snowshoeing, sledding, snowmobiling, ice fishing, and the ever-popular dog sledding. Go wolf howling and view the Northern lights from a frozen lake. Why not sit in a chair by the electric fireplace and enjoy a good book while looking over a frozen white wilderness lake for those who want to relax?

The Retreats on White Iron Lake

Experience a family resort nestled in the calm bay of White Iron Lake. Choose from 11 deluxe, two- to four-bedroom, smoke-free lakeside or lake-view cabins under towering old-growth cedars and pines. The Retreats has everything for a memorable resort vacation in the North Woods.

Winter Camping or Glamping

BWCA & Minnesota State Parks

If you’ve never been winter camping, you may consider glamping with North Shore Camping Co. With no supplies to haul, quick access to winter recreation trails, and a cozy, luxurious tent to rest your head – you’ll enjoy a peaceful winter camping experience with little effort.

winter camping near ely bwcaw

Winter camping adventures can feel exhilarating for brave souls who love to immerse themselves in nature, no matter the climate. However, there’s no more significant challenge than winter camping in the pristine BWCA Wilderness. Winter tents are unique; they are made to allow wood-burning stoves inside, which reduces condensation.

Rewards for the Brave Adventurist

According to the U.S. Forest Service, “Visitors who experience the wilderness during the winter have a very different experience than those who visit during the summer. You are less likely to run into other visitors and can experience a sense of solitude and self-reliance in a way few other places allow. Therefore, winter wilderness travel requires high preparation, planning, skill, and self-reliance.”

Where to Winter Camp in Lake County

Besides the BWCAW, many folks camp in the Superior National Forest or Lake County’s state parks. The park permits campers to stay outside designated campsites during winter. Split Rock Lighthouse, Tettegouche, Gooseberry Falls, and George Crosby Manitou State Parks allow winter camping.