Gunflint Trail

Fall is a great time to stay at East Bay Suites in Grand Marais. You can put on a jacket and enjoy walking around the harbor and lake during the cooler weather. This artist’s community is now covered with the natural paint of fall colors.

As far as the north shore goes, the lowlands around Grand Marais are already good for fall colors. It is in the vegetation zone regional experts Chel Anderson and Adelheid Fischer call “Mesic birch-aspen-spruce-fir”. So there are plenty of deciduous trees mixed in with the evergreens.

But people really seem to love the bright red fall leaves of the maple tree. Along the north shore, these trees are heavily concentrated along the ridgeline you’ll find a little inland from the lake. Much of this ridgeline is labeled “northern hardwood-conifer” by Anderson and Adelheid. Driving along these ridgelines is a good place to take a fall color drive. You will also pass into the other zones and see other trees mixed in.

An easy way to check out the maple zone is to head up the Gunflint Trail. You will pass along the side of the ridge and go through the maple zone for a few miles. Six miles up you will reach the appropriately named Maple Hill right before the lumberyard. A few miles after the lumberyard, you will notice the evergreens have really taken over.

If you decide to turn around, you can just come back to the resort on the Gunflint Trail. If you still want to see some more colors, you can make a right on Highway 8 (Devil Track Road.) You will then go straight when you reach Highway 6 and take 6 until you make a left onto Highway 7 East back into town.

This will take you into some good maple areas and through the ridge. Most of this area is thick woods, with few people.

If you are looking for a really long red ridge experience, you can take Highway 7 west from Grand Marais. When you get to Highway 45, make a right to continue west.  If you keep going on Highway 45, you will go straight onto Murmur Creek Road, which winds itself through the ridgeline all the way to the Caribou Trail. The trip to the Caribou Trail is 18 miles. According to Google, this should take about 45 minutes.

Be warned that this route involves traveling many miles of dirt road. But, it will get you deep into the woods and deep into those brilliant colors.

If you make a left, Caribou Trail becomes paved after a few miles. Going down Caribou Trail is an easy drive and also very good for colors. At the end of Caribou Trail you can make a left back toward Grand Marais.

For an easier fall color tour, you could also just drive down Highway 61 to the Caribou Trail and go up about 7 miles and come back. Like the Gunflint, it cuts through the colorful ridgeline.

In these back woods areas, you may not have a cell signal. So, it is a good idea to save the section you will be traveling offline on your Google Maps app. You could always bring a paper map as well.

This ridgeline is far from the only place to see trees and fall colors, but it is one of the best. There is something about these highlands that makes them particularly suited for maples, and for that beautiful red color we all love to see.