Sunset over Grand Marais as seen from the scenic overlook along the Gunflint Trail
Apparently the construction on I-35 in Duluth and scattered locations along the North Shore’s Highway 61 is keeping some people from visiting the region. I just returned from a week trip along those very roads and my assessment is that it’s being overblown.
Is there traffic? Yes. But no more than usual it seemed, and I drove through on the way up during the Grandma’s Marathon rush in Duluth. Was there construction? Yes. But this is summertime in Minnesota and construction is a given.
Our trip took a stop in Grand Marais like it always does simply because it’s one of the best cities on the face of the earth. Such an eclectic mix of people, culture and cuisine.
Rainbow over Artist's Point in Grand Marais
There is also the strong presence of majestic Lake Superior. If you haven’t seen the lake from Grand Marais then you haven’t yet truly experienced Lake Superior! My favorite sunsets over Superior feature the Sawtooth Mountains, the lighthouses to the harbor and the beautiful trees along Artist’s Point.
Grand Marais sunsets feature plenty of blue, gold and orange
Grand Marais is also my preferred way of accessing the BWCA Wilderness Area. Oh I’ve been through Ely and will again. There’s nothing wrong with Ely, but it just feels more touristy and traffic-ridden. The tough part about Ely is there’s such a high concentration of entry points in a single area. You have to go a day or two in to get away from the crowds.
On the Grand Marais side there are several main roads to the edges of the BWCA and the ever-popular and winding Gunflint Trail is 50 miles of staggered entry points. Driving along the Gunflint Trail is a magical experience with wonderful twists and turns through spacious woods. It only takes part of a day to get away from the crowds on the Grand Marais side of the BWCA.
A variety of experiences await in Grand Marais
While on my most recent trip we stopped by to visit our good friends Dave and Nancy Seaton who own Hungry Jack Outfitters about halfway up the Gunflint Trail. They are great people and run a top-notch business. Like most every outfitter up there, they offer both full and partial outfitting services.
I know there are many other high-quality outfitters, but my family will never go anywhere else. Both Dave and Nancy are BWCA paddling enthusiasts and they have traversed most every path imaginable throughout the Gunflint area. They are always good for a tip about the best fishing hole, the secret blueberry patches and the best campsites on any given lake (and the campsites to stay away from!).
So maybe there will be a closed lane or two along the way. Maybe there will be a line-up of cars that slows your journey by 10 minutes. Any time lost in construction traffic on the way to Grand Marais seems to be returned tenfold once you arrive and that makes it all worthwhile.
My family's traditional Lake Saganaga group photo