Bruce and I are Minnesota natives, so one of our favorite summer activities is to go Up Nort’ to escape the summer heat. When we do, our destination is often the town of Grand Marais, MN and the surrounding area. The name Grand Marais, which means Great Marsh in French, was given to the town by the French fur traders in the early 1800’s. It is a quaint harbor town on Lake Superior that offers plenty to do for both the outdoor enthusiast and for those that prefer a more ‘civilized’ camping experience.
Over the centuries, Grand Marais has been a fur trading post, a fishing village and a lumber town. Today it is a small tourist town with a great mix of art, shopping, dining and entertainment opportunities. Our favorite camping destination when staying in town is the Grand Marais Recreation Area, a municipal campground located on the shores of Lake Superior just west of the harbor in Grand Marais. The location of this campground makes it easy to walk into town to do a little shopping or to grab a bite to eat. For a small town, they offer a multitude of dining establishments. For breakfast we like to grab a donut at the ‘World’s Best Donut’ shop or sit down for a hearty breakfast at the Blue Water Cafe. For lunch may we suggest a slice of pizza at Sven and Ole’s, or the catch of the day at the Angry Trout Cafe. For a great dinner experience, we heartily recommend Chez Jude or The Crooked Spoon Cafe, either of which will tempt your palate with artfully prepared Minnesota cuisine. When our tummies are full, we enjoy wandering through the shops in town, which offer a variety of items from paintings and sculptures created by local artisans to up nort’ knick knacks and souvenirs. We have also been known to spend the afternoon hiking through the woods and climbing the rocks on Artist’s Point or to take a day trip to Grand Portage or the Split Rock Lighthouse. Both are great places to explore a bit of Minnesota history.
Grand Marais is also the entrance to the Gunflint trail, a Minnesota scenic byway that cuts through the heart of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW), a region of wilderness straddling the US and Canadian border. If you are looking for more of an outdoor experience, then the Gunflint Trail and the BWCAW is for you. The Gunflint Trail is home to several resorts, many of which have been family owned for many generations. Hungry Jack Lodge and Campground is located about half way up the trail and is a location that we have stayed at many times over the years. They have a lodge with a bar and offer home-cooked meals that are just the ticket for those rainy days when you just can’t get the campfire started. It is also located near the Trail Center which has a full menu for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Along the Gunflint Trail you will also find numerous National Forest campgrounds for a more primitive camping experience and of course if you really want to rough it, there is the BWCAW. The BWCAW is a true ‘back to nature’ experience, and all of the campsites are accessible via water from entrance lakes, often with multiple portages to reach your final destination. The BWCAW is pack in/pack out true wilderness camping, but if you are looking for a chance to get outside, fish, explore, and most of all get away from it all, then the BWCAW is what you are looking for.
So if you are looking for a camping destination that has a little bit of something for everyone, point your GPS toward Grand Marais, MN… the jewel of the north on Lake Superior.