Grand Marais, Minnesota

Photo: Kyle Kasper via flickr

The leaf peepers are gone. The maple trees are bare thanks to the wind. The temperature is quickly dropping; there are even snowflakes in the forecast. While the only remaining sign of autumn is bits of bronze and gold clinging to the ridge behind the lake. But Grand Marais is still beautiful.

Grand Marais is part of Minnesota’s Arrowhead Region. It’s 110 miles from the port city of Duluth. The Canadian border is less than 40 miles to the north. Sawtooth Bluff and Pincushion Mountain rise behind the small town. State parks, scenic roads, and hiking trails fan out from them. Lake Superior is the focal point, though. Grand Marais lies on the northwest shore of the largest freshwater lake in the world. It looks like the ocean it’s so big.

Like so much of the Great Lakes area, this was once Native American land. The Ojibwe people to be exact. Then French fur traders arrived and named it “Great Marsh” in the 1770s. A farming and fishing village developed after that. Artists and tourists are now drawn to the pretty natural harbor overlooking Artists’ Point (a former barrier island) and the Grand Marais Light (a historic lighthouse).

Photo: East Bay Suites

You’re focusing on three things—hiking, art, and food—during your trip to Grand Marais. The trails are easy to find. A gravel path leads to two overlooks along the Miners Rivers, where water drops 50 feet over a sandstone outcrop into Miners Falls. A loop trail circles Beaver Lake, where moose like to hang out. A quiet road follows the Gunflint Trail, a historic footpath used by fur traders, inland through the wilderness. Offshoot treks lead to lookout points with gorgeous views of the lake. Plus the Superior Hiking Trail, which runs parallel to the lake’s coast for more than 300 miles, heads up Pincushion Mountain en route to Ontario.

Art and food are even easier. The Grand Marais Art Colony, Minnesota’s first art colony, was established more than 70 years ago to nurture local artists. It’s now surrounded by ceramics, glass, painting, and print galleries. Check out the Big Lake for wall art, Yellow Bird Fine Art for jewelry and sculptures, and Nordic Woodenware in Joy and Company for handcrafted bowls. Then go to World’s Best Donuts for cake donuts and skizzles (fried dough concoctions) before they sell out and close for the day. Dockside Fish Market’s boat returns with herring that’s then fried and served with chips. They sell chowder, smoked fish, and herring roe, too. While Voyageur Brewing Company offers tours, craft beers, and pub food long after almost everything else in town has closed at night.

The only thing you seem to be missing is a cute place to stay. Even that’s pretty easy to find. East Bay Suites sits on a private beach just north of Artists’ Point. Gas grills and fire pits are outside. Yoga classes and a book library are inside. Dogs are welcomed with their own pooch packages. Plus its suites, unlike so many other local accommodations, are chic and modern. Your one-bedroom suite has an electric fireplace and a view of the lake. It’s warm, cozy, and the perfect spot to enjoy the last bit of fall before winter weather takes over.

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