Snow or No, Winter Wows in Northeast Minnesota


A winter sunset over Split Rock Lighthouse in Two Harbors / Photo by Bob Israel

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Winter Wows Great Grey OwlIn winter, northeast Minnesota is synonymous with outdoor adventures like snowmobiling, skiing, fat biking and playing in the snow. But what happens if the snow doesn’t cooperate? As we like to say up on The Arrowhead, "No snow, no problem!"

Whether there's snow on the ground or just in your imagination, check out these weather-proof vacation ideas for a guaranteed good time during your next winter getaway to the north.

Hit the Trails in Orr/Pelican Lake

Winter is a magical season to visit Pelican Lake in Orr. Go a few miles south of Orr to ride your fat tire bikes on the multi-use Gheen Hill Trails. Open year-round to hikers, mountain bikers and hunters, the trails are groomed and tracked in the winter with marked intersections. Check out a complete listing of the numerous trails in the Orr area and come experience northeast Minnesota’s unspoiled beauty.

Experience Icebox Days in International Falls

Icebox Days is the zaniest winter festival in North America! Come to International Falls, where “Only the Bold Run the Cold,” during this famous border town’s Freeze Yer Gizzard Blizzard Run. The festival includes other wacky events, such as frozen turkey bowling, smoosh races, frozen golf and boot hockey. Find your winter fun in the Icebox of the Nation, Jan. 17–20.

Slip into Some Snowshoes on the Mesabi

Minnesota Discovery Center on the Mesabi Iron Range hosts guided snowshoe treks all winter long, but you don't need a guide to have fun. Visitors who prefer heading out solo or with their own group can borrow a pair of their in-house snowshoes to explore this one-of-a-kind museum's grounds on your own. You'll find designated 'shoeing at Giants Ridge, too! 

Take a Hike in Silver Bay

Boundless hiking possibilities are just an agate’s toss from Silver Bay. You can take the Superior Hiking Trail to Bean and Bear lakes, hike to the easily accessible High Falls at Tettegouche State Park, or enjoy a shoreline hike at Split Rock Lighthouse State Park to snap your own picture of the park's iconic, namesake lighthouse. If there’s no snow, you can see the pebbles, sands and rock formations at the uniquely beautiful Black Beach Park.

Go Fat Biking in Proctor

Winter Wows Fat TireJust a short drive from the Twin Cities, Proctor is the primary entrance to the Spirit Mountain Bike Park. Proctor boasts amazing trails and challenges for every biker, but cemented its notoriety in fat biking circles by opening the nation's first lift-accessed downhill fat biking trail (and still the only one in the region). Spirit Mountain’s Bike Park allows fat bikers to cruise down a snow-covered trail or hill, and whether there's snow or not, the trails and challenge course are open year-round.

Historical Theater on Lake Vermilion

The Lake Vermilion area offers movies year around at the longest continuously running movie screen in the state of Minnesota, The Comet Theater in downtown Cook. Live music and theatrical performances are also offered from time to time throughout the year. For current show information, call (218) 666-5814.

Be Bold in Grand Rapids This Winter

Grand Rapids probably has more to offer than you realize. Outdoorsy types can partake in wintry activities from fat biking to snowshoeing, cross country skiing, downhill skiing, snow tubing, snowmobiling and ice fishing. More cosmopolitan travelers can get tickets to a Broadway-style show at The Reif Center, sample a flight of beer at Klockow Brewing, savor Minnesota cuisine and shop the fashionable boutique shops downtown. Take in the night life by enjoying art and music at a variety of locations every week. Do more this winter in northeastern Minnesota. Be bold.

Mush a Dogsled in Ely

Dubbed one of “16 Unexpected Adventures You Need to Experience” by Expedia, dogsledding in Ely is a winter must-do. Ely-area dogsled outfitters offer a wide variety of options; there are day trips, overnight yurt trips and even trips for ice fishing. Best of all, no experience is required—anyone can participate. Explore the wilderness by dogsled for a unique winter adventure.

Get Your Hygge On in Grand Marais

Winter Wows Hot Chocoate

Offering winter beauty, adventure, relaxation and coziness for miles, this beautiful little harbor village on Lake Superior is your ideal hygge destination. This winter, Grand Marais celebrates its second annual Hygge Week, Feb. 8–14. Visitors will find dogsledding, snowmobiling, stargazing, fireside gatherings and cross-country skiing, with additional, unique events to encourage the celebration and enjoyment of winter on the North Shore.

Discover Bentleyville in Duluth

Discover the magic of America's largest walk-through lighting display, with more than 4 million lights surrounding Bayfront Festival Park along the Duluth waterfront. You'll be amazed by the themed displays, the 128-foot LED tree, and the free hot cocoa, popcorn, cookies and roasting marshmallows. Bentleyville runs Nov. 17–Dec. 26.

Enjoy the Off Season in Crane Lake

The Crane Lake area offers hiking and snowmobile/ATV trails, unbelievable night skies for stargazing, or simply a new place to visit and relax—crowds not included. Join hundreds of your fellow snowmobile enthusiasts on Saturday, Mar. 2 for the great Crane Lake Challenge snowmobile races.

Hike or Bike in Two Harbors 

Whether there's snow or no, trails abound in Two Harbors! Winter hiking provides a beauty unlike any other season, and Two Harbors has countless miles of hiking trails to explore. From the lakeside Sonju Trail, to the rustic Superior Hiking Trail and the two state parks nearby, the hiking possibilities are endless. Or fat bike more than five miles of groomed trails at the 400-acre Lake County Demonstration Forest.

Discover even more reasons to explore Northeast Minnesota this winter, and find places to stay, eat and play, at