The great outdoors rank pretty high up on the list of reasons why people love to live in Northeast Minnesota and Northwest Wisconsin. Outside Magazine voted Duluth the #1 best place to live, citing the city’s direct access to nature, entrepreneurial spirit, and love of wilderness. These same perks apply to the region as a whole. There aren’t too many places where both your work and the woods are a short drive away or just within walking distance of your home. But this is true throughout much of the Northland.
The thick forests and abundant lakes, rivers, and streams that shape this region are just waiting to be explored, so here are our top recommendations for getting outside during the summertime!
A starting point? The intricate system of trails in our region dedicated to hiking, biking, and more. There are innumerable small trails that you can stumble upon or seek out basically everywhere. But there are three major trails to be aware of, too:
- Stretching from the Minnesota-Wisconsin border and Duluth to Grand Marais and just short of the Canadian border, the Superior Hiking Trail follows the ridgeline overlooking Lake Superior (a portion at Oberg Mountain near Tofte is pictured at right).
- On the Iron Range, the Mesabi Trail connects Grand Rapids, Hibbing, and Ely.
- To the north, the Gunflint Trail (pictured at the top of this post) stretches from Grand Marais to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCA).
Duluth’s mountain biking trails are recognized as some of the best in the country and helped earn the city a title as Best Town in America according to Outside Magazine in 2014. Further inland, the Mesabi Trail welcomes ATVs, dirt bikes, and more off-road vehicles in Gilbert, MN.
If you feel like going off the beaten path, tent, RV, and resort camping in Minnesota and in Wisconsin open up endless possibilities for fishing, boating, pontooning, water skiing, canoeing, and kayaking — or just swimming and sunbathing on the beach!
State parks can take you to unexplored corners of the map, from Jay Cooke State Park along the St. Louis River to Gooseberry Falls, Split Rock Lighthouse and Tettegouche up the North Shore. Wisconsin is home to gorgeous Pattison Park as well as white water rafting destination Brule River State Forest. Ideal for boating are the scenic Apostle Islands, including Madeline Island just off Bayfield.
It’s easy to be carried away by all the options for getting out on the water in the Land of 10,000 Lakes, but don’t forget the biggest draw of all: Lake Superior is perfect for sailing, paddleboarding, dragon boating, and more. During the summer, the Duluth boat regatta takes place every Wednesday evening and includes a sailboat race.
There’s all this and much more to be discovered throughout the Northland. Just to name a couple more leads, there’s a Rowing Club based off Duluth’s Park Point, and summer activities on Spirit Mountain. The latter is of course a world-class skiing destination during the winter, which brings up the flip side of the coin when it comes to outdoor activities here: winter in the Northland. We’re talking skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing — but we’ll stop right there. It’s summer, after all.
Check out these links for more leads on outdoors activities in the Northland:
- Hiking, Biking, Camping & More
- AllTrails Minnesota
- AllTrails Wisconsin
- Explore Minnesota
- Minnesota Department of Transportation
- Minnesota DNR
- TrailLink Minnesota
- TrailLink Wisconsin
- Travel Wisconsin
- Wisconsin Department of Transportation
- Wisconsin DNR
- Wisconsin Trail Guide