Are you in search of Gunflint Trail resorts for a northeast Minnesota vacation? Maybe you’re taking a canoe trip, fishing for trophy walleye, or hiking to historic places on a northern Minnesota adventure? Whatever the case may be, you’ll want comfortable and convenient accommodations.
Don’t we all? From campsites and secluded log cabins dot to luxury resorts, a modern lake home, and budget hotels, there are lots of family-friendly lodging options along the historic Gunflint Trail.
Some are even pet-friendly! Also known as County State-Aid Highway 12, or County Road 12, the Gunflint Trail is a 57-mile paved roadway. This National Scenic Byway is in Cook County, Minnesota.
The historic Gunflint Trail begins in Grand Marais mn 55604 on Lake Superior and ends at Saganaga Lake, which is located within the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) near Ontario at the Canadian border.
You’ll likely come across this area during your trail travels. It is immense. The BWCAW, accessible by canoe, is a 1,098,000-acre wilderness area located within Superior National Forest in northeastern Minnesota. It has more than 1,100 lakes with 1,500 miles of canoe trails. Dog sledding and ice fishing are quite popular in the winter months.
Northern Minnesota’s famed Gunflint Trail isn’t just a winter resort destination. Along with snowmobiling and cross-country skiing, the area is popular for camping, canoeing, fishing, swimming, and kayaking.
There aren’t major towns along the trail, but you’ll find side roads leading to boat ramps, campgrounds, resorts, and unique small towns with restaurants, and shops.
Breathe in that fresh northern air and imagine a sand beach and rustic log cabin nestled amid tall pines in Gunflint Trail Grand Marais. Let’s get started!
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Looking for something different to do in Duluth? Moose Lake Triple Cross Dune Buggy Adventure is perfect for those who want to get out there and explore the different terrains. You'll be kitted out with a helmet and goggles before hopping on your assigned 2-person buggy and hitting the trails. This is a great way to see the wilderness and the surrounding landscape in a unique and exciting way.
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Best Hotels, Cabins, and Lodges
Arranged from south to north (more or less) along the trail, we’ve compiled a list of some of the best Grand Marais and Boundary Waters resorts, lodges, and campgrounds.
1. Croftville Road Cottages
About 3.5 miles from the entrance to the trail in Grand Marais, Croftville Road Cottages’ vacation rental features two bedrooms, one bathroom, a living room, and a fully equipped kitchen in a cute cottage.
It sleeps up to six guests (there’s also a futon). There is internet access but no broadcast TV. It’s the only lodge in this area of Minnesota’s historical Gunflint Trail. Outdoors, there’s a fire circle, seating, and a grill with beautiful lakefront views.
A stairwell leads to a rocky beach. It’s situated among seven other vacation cottages as well as an office and the owner’s quarters. This is a perfect anchorage from which to explore both the trail and northeastern Minnesota.
2. Best Western Plus Superior Inn
Hotel amenities include free breakfast, a spa tub, and a fitness center. The hotel is pet-friendly and can accommodate your pooch for an additional fee. Enjoy the cobblestone beach after exploring the historic Gunflint Trail and fishing for lake trout.
See Related: Best Hotels in Duluth, Minnesota
3. Trout Lake Resort
Trout Lake Resort has lakeside cabins overlooking scenic Trout Lake. Open year-round, it’s the only resort on the lake. Cabins feature knotty pine walls, kitchens, living areas, and decks in a secluded setting.
Feel free to pull your canoe right up on shore in front of the cabin. Humans aren’t the only visitors who frequent this lakefront resort. Dogs are welcome too, and you’re also likely to see (or hear) loons, sparrows, warblers, and wrens.
4. Bearskin Lodge on the Gunflint Trail
Bearskin Lodge, located on East Bearskin Lake at mile 26, has been open since 1925. This year-round resort is the perfect anchorage for dog sledding trips, cross-country skiing, and BWCAW excursions. Guests can hike or cross-country ski right from their door.
Bearskin Lodge Cabin lakeside rooms have fireplaces or wood stoves as well as a cozy beds, full kitchens, and private docks. Amenities include massage therapy, private hot tubs and saunas, high-speed internet, a private dock, grills, and boat and canoe rental.
The main lodge has a beautiful stone fireplace and a gift shop with fishing tackle, souvenirs, groceries, and other items. There is also a campground situated around East Bearskin Lake.
5. Clearwater Historic Lodge & Canoe Outfitters
Clearwater Historic Lodge & Canoe Outfitters is an original outfitter along the Boundary Waters area since 1919. There are bed and breakfast suites, cabins, bunkhouses, and campsites along Clearwater Lake.
Enjoy sausage, flapjacks, French toast, bacon, and more in the breakfast room of this classic Grand Marais lodge.
6. Golden Eagle Lodge
Golden Eagle Lodge has two and three-bedroom cabins and campsites in pristine woods. Cabins have aspen, spruce, and ponderosa pine interiors with amenities such as fireplaces, full kitchens, bathrooms with showers, wraparound porches, picnic tables, and boat docks.
Campsites can accommodate tents, RVs, trailers, and campers. There’s a bathhouse with hot water and flush toilets. A dump station is available. This is one of our top choices for Grand Marais campgrounds due to the beautiful location and abundance of amenities.
See Related: Outdoorsy vs RVShare: What is Better?
7. Hungry Jack Lodge and Campground
The Hungry Jack Lodge and Campground is approximately 2.5 miles off the trail and two miles from the Canadian border. It’s one mile from the Boundary Waters Wilderness on Hungry Jack Lake.
Decorated in antiques and pine, the main lodge at Hungry Jack Lodge has a dining room, a gift shop, a sitting area, lakefront dining, and the Logger’s Lounge bar and game room.
Deluxe and premium log cabins have kitchenettes, bathrooms, outdoor decks, grills, and microwaves. Premium cabins can sleep up to 20 guests, so bring along the whole crew.
Camping sites can accommodate tents, RVs, 5th wheels, travel trailers, and pop-ups. Secluded and wooded sites have fire rings and picnic tables.
Campers have access to free showers and flush toilets in a central bathhouse. The northern Minnesota lodge restaurant is open to campers and canoeists on Hungry Jack Lake.
8. Trail Center at Poplar Lake
Trail Center at Poplar Lake, located at mile 29 on beautiful Poplar Lake, has been open since 1938. Originally built as a logging camp, it has a restaurant, a grocery store, a gift shop, and a gas station.
Choose from cabins or a small motel. Motel rooms have knotty pine walls and living areas with gas fireplaces, coffeemakers, and a small refrigerator.
Lakeside cabins have two bedrooms, a private sauna, bunks with sleeping bags, and a deck with a firepit and a grill. Guests can use canoes at their leisure. Dogs are allowed for an additional fee.
9. Nor’Wester Lodge & Canoe Outfitters
Situated at mile 30 on Poplar Lake, Nor’Wester Lodge & Canoe Outfitters offers townhouses, cottages, and RV sites.
The six cottages have names like pine, spruce haven, balsam grove, ash, aspen, and birch view. Amenities include fiber optic Wi-Fi, coffeemakers, microwaves, decks, a grill, free parking, and a dock. Pontoon boat rentals are available.
Four larger townhouses can accommodate four to 10 guests and have lakeside decks, patio furniture, fireplaces, and grills.
Check out this lakeside Northwoods resort for complete or partial BWCAW outfitting services. They have several varieties of canoes, top-quality gear, a selection of ultra-lite food, and personalized routing guides.
10. Rockwood Lodge and Outfitters
Rockwood Lodge and Outfitters, at mile 37 on the trail, offers eight Northwoods cabins on Poplar Lake.
One and two-bedroom modern housekeeping cabins have fully equipped kitchens, bathrooms with showers and linens, a deck, a grill, a canoe, and a dock.
There are four private bunk rooms. Each sleeps up to nine guests and has a bathroom and high-speed Wi-Fi. Guests can rent canoes, kayaks, and paddleboards to explore Gunflint Lake, Grand Marais, and other areas in the BWCA Wilderness.
11. Loon Lake Lodge
Cabins have one to three bedrooms and amenities like rock fireplaces, fire pits, decks, seating areas, and kitchens. Guests have free use of canoes, kayaks, and paddleboards.
Breakfast and dinner are served in the Diamond Willow dining room. Listen for loons and watch the sunrise from this pet-friendly Grand Marais resort.
12. Heston’s Lodge
Heston’s Lodge is on the south shore of Gunflint Lake in Grand Marais. The rustic log cabins have kitchens, wood stoves, and outdoor decks with patio furniture to help you appreciate the amazing views.
It’s on the edge of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, which makes it perfect for fishing, canoeing, and kayaking.
13. Gunflint Pines Resort & Campground
Gunflint Pines Resort & Campground is a family and pet-friendly resort with the best of both worlds in accommodation choices. Choose from lakeside fireplace cabins, camping cabins, tent campsites, and RV sites.
Cabins come in classic Northwoods A-frames, two-bedroom cottages, or lakefront three-bedroom cedar log cabins.
The lodge has snacks, groceries, gifts, and supplies for a day on the trail or water (or to take home as a souvenir). Visit the marina for kayak, pontoon, paddleboat, and canoe rentals.
In the summer, go hiking, horseback riding, fishing, and biking. In the winter, enjoy ice fishing, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and snowmobile riding.
14. Gunflint Lodge & Outfitters
Gunflint Lodge & Outfitters, located at mile 43 on Gunflint Lake Grand Marais, offers one to five-bedroom cabins with fireplaces, private saunas, spa tubs, hot tubs, and kitchens or kitchenettes.
This family-oriented Gunflint lodge is popular for honeymoons and weddings. Couples’ cottages have king-sized beds, two-person spas, saunas, full kitchens, and fireplaces.
Enjoy relaxing with freshly baked cookies, coffee, and hot chocolate at Gunflint Lodge. Justine’s at Gunflint Lodge restaurant serves scratch-made recipes and regional specialties for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Activities at this north woods Gunflint lodge include swimming, dog sledding, snowmobiling, fishing, canoeing, and soaking in the hot tub.
Visit the massage therapist after an active day for aromatherapy and hot stone massages. It’s about the only resort with a full-service spa. Yoga sessions are also available. Pets are allowed as long as they’re on a leash.
15. Cross River Lodge
Cross River Lodge is located on the north shore of Gunflint Lake. Previously known as Moosehorn Lodge, cabins and suites at the lodge offer panoramic views of the boreal forest and lake from a bedroom window. Enjoy the sight of moose, bears, timber wolves, and the northern lights in this rustic setting.
Originally built in the ‘20s, the lodge offers lakeside cabins with wood-burning stoves, satellite TVs, full kitchens, and decks with grills and lake views. Cabins have two, three, or four bedrooms. Lodge suites are larger and have seating areas, a hot tub, and wet bars.
See Related: Best Ski Resorts in Minnesota
16. Way of the Wilderness
There are overnight accommodations available, including a café with three daily meals, showers, a trading post, and deluxe bunkhouses. This Gunflint Trail Scenic Byway resort has hiking and biking trails, dock space, mooring buoys, and a boat ramp.
For those who enjoy roughing it, camping may be just the way to go. Campsites are typically quite rustic. Some have enough room for a moderate-sized vehicle, but there’s usually not enough room for an RV.
17. Devil Track Lake Campground
Devil Track Lake Campground, located on Devil Track Lake, is a rustic wooded campground with 16 sites tucked in among pine trees. It has a carry-down boat launch and a pier. There’s a drive-down boat ramp about a half-mile away if you bring your own boat.
18. Iron Lake Campground
Located along Iron Lake, this campground is small and remote. It’s popular with the fishing and canoeing crowd. There’s a loop of campsites along the lake. The campground doesn’t have electric hook-ups, but there are vault toilets and drinking water. Go fishing for walleye, canoeing, or blueberry picking.
Birdwatchers will want to pack the binoculars to catch sight of black-backed woodpeckers at Iron Lake Campground.
See Related: How to Pack For a Camping Trip
19. East Bearskin Lake Campground
East Bearskin Lake Campground, set on the 643-acre East Bearskin Lake, is backed by red and white pines, fir, spruce, and birch. It’s a popular spot for loon nesting and canoeing on the BWCAW.
Reserve standard or walk-in tent sites or go car camping. Some tent sites have water views. All are within walking distance of the water. There are vault toilets and a solar-powered drinking water system.
This campground also has four camp cabins for up to seven people. Cabins do not have running water, electricity, heating, or cooking. Cabin renters can use toilet and water facilities at the campground.
20. Kimball Lake Campground
Kimball Lake Campground is a terrific spot for camping and fishing for rainbow trout on Kimball Lake. It’s state-managed, so you must have a permit with a trout stamp.
The campground has a picnic area, a boat launch, and access to a fishing trail. Nearby Mink Lake has a beach for swimming and a fishing pier.
See Related: Best Beaches in Minnesota to Visit
21. Flour Lake Campground
Flour Lake Campground is set among pine and hardwood trees on the 352-acre Flour Lake.
There’s great access to BWCAW for fishing, canoeing, kayaking, and fishing. Look for wildlife such as beavers, bald eagles, bears, moose, and loons. Pets are allowed at this Gunflint Trail campground.
There are about 37 campsites with picnic tables, campfire rings, and grills. There are vault toilets, trash and recycling facilities, a solar-powered drinking water system, and a public boat ramp.
A dump station is located nearby (for a fee). Campers have access to pay-per-use showers, grocery items, and other amenities at Golden Lake Lodge, which is about a mile away.
22. Trail’s End Campground
Tucked in among red and white tall pines, Trail’s End Campground is at the north end of the Gunflint Trail. It’s within easy access to the Seagull River where you can launch a canoe or swim.
Many of the sites are hike-in and very rustic. Most will not accommodate an RV. There’s a camp café, showers, canoe rental, and a restaurant, as well as boat and canoe launches.
Attractions and Activities Along the Gunflint Trail
Canoeing and Kayaking
There are 44 access points to the Boundary Waters Canoe area along the Gunflint Trail. Go canoeing on crystal clear lakes surrounded by forests or take advantage of the excellent fishing.
Side roads take you to boat and canoe launch ramps, scenic overlooks, and hiking trails.
Gunflint Hills Golf Course is just past Grand Marais at mile point four. It is a pristine and relatively isolated course where you can peacefully enjoy the glorious walk amidst stunning nature!
See Related: Best Golf Bachelor Paty Destinations to Visit
Anglers can go fishing for walleye, northern pike, perch, and trout at shore adjacent to Gunflint Lake or Trout Lake.
There’s ample opportunity to enjoy swimming in North Shore inland glacial lakes located all over the historic Gunflint Trail – just maybe not during winter!
You can also visit the beach and go swimming at Seagull Lake at mile point 51.
Hiking trail day trips include Honeymoon Bluff, Caribou Rock, Magnetic Rock, and Border Route Trail.
Cascade River State Park, listed on the National Register, is just south of the trail entrance at Grand Marais, MN 55604. If you need a fun day trip idea in the wilderness, this is ideal.
Berry picking is extremely popular on the Gunflint Trail Grand Marais. You’ll find blackberries, blueberries, and thimbleberries. Blueberry season is from mid-July through mid-August.
Make sure you’re on public land, and you can pick as many berries as you want. The trail even has a “biggest blueberry” contest!
Snowshoeing is one of the best things to do on the trail in the winter. You get to see this stunning landscape transformed under blankets of snow.
There’s also an official Gunflint Snowmobile Trail system. You can take it all the way from the beginning to the end of the trail.
Ice fishing is a Minnesota staple in winter, and another incredibly popular winter activity in Grand Marais and along the Gunflint Trail.
Museums and Attractions
Chik-Wauk Museum and Nature Center is at mile 52. The historic lodge has a museum, nature center, boat exhibits, and nature trails set on 50 acres.
Still operational, the square skeleton-style Grand Marais Lighthouse was built in 1885. It’s located on Lake Superior at the southern end of the trail. You can walk along the breakwater from Artist’s Point.
Lakes on Gunflint Trail
There are a ton of lakes, big and small along the Gunflint Trail. Aside from the obvious and enormous Lake Superior, here are the other lakes you can enjoy;
- Gunflint Lake
- Trout Lake
- Poplar Lake
- Clearwater Lake
- Saganaga Lake
- Seagull Lake
- Loon Lake
- Sea Gull Lake
- East Bearskin Lake
- Iron Lake
How to Get Around the Gunflint Trail
The Gunflint Trail offers miles of terrain and scenic overlooks. Whether you’re in a car, on a motorcycle, or pedaling a bike, you’ll be rewarded with places to pull over and check out local scenery such as the Pincushion Mountain Overlook.
There are shops and dining along the way as you drive through pine, birch, and aspen forests and past wilderness lakes.
There are easy to difficult trail hikes along the trail. Be sure to check with Visit Cook County for trail guides and updated rules and regulations. You must have a permit to enter the BWCAW. Overnight campers must have an entry point permit.
Cross-Country Skiing and Snowshoeing
With more than 100 inches of annual snowfall, the trail is wildly popular with cross-country and downhill ski enthusiasts. The areas of Central Gunflint, Banadad, and Upper Gunflint are groomed and tracked making them ideal for cross country skiers.