Top Ten North American Cross-Country Skiing Centers

Gunflint Trail, Minnesota
By Sproule Love

Often referred to as the "Norwegian Riviera," Minnesota's north shore of Lake Superior is home to a huge network of cross-country ski trails, which extends north and west into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA). This entry in the Top 10 list is more an amalgamation of several ski areas than a distinct destination.

The Gunflint Trail Association is made up of the lodges that dot this 60-mile stretch of winter heaven from Grand Marais, Minnesota, up County Road 12 and into the Sawtooth Mountains. These establishments team up to maintain the Nordic trails and cater to aerobic vacationers; most offer both ski rental and lessons.

There are four separate trail systems along the Gunflint Trail. The Pincushion Mountain Trail System has 25 kilometers of varying difficulty just 3 miles outside of Grand Marais, on the Sawtooth Mountain Ridge and along the Devil Track River Valley. Along the midsection of the Gunflint Trail, up near East Bearskin and Flour Lakes, you can ski the 60 kilometers of trails in the Central Gunflint Trail System.

The Upper Gunflint Trail System surrounds Gunflint Lake with 97 kilometers of trails in the heart of the BWCA. The 35-kilometer Banadad Ski Trail is a moderate rolling link between the Upper and Central Gunflint systems that creates an immense complex of routes for Nordic skiing.

Getting There: Gunflint Trail

Trails: 200 Kilometers open to skating, classic, and snowshoeing

Rentals: Yes, offered by the lodges that serve each system

Lessons: Yes, offered by the lodges that serve each system.

Directions: Grand Marais, Minnesota, is located 115 miles northeast of Duluth on Highway 61.

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