Superior National Forest is prime for the mountain biking enthusiast. It’s trails may not be as technical as designed trails, but they have a lot to offer the off-road adventurer. There are miles of trails to ride that include old logging roads, forest roads, county roads, old railroad grades, grassy cross-country ski trails and natural surface trails. You will definitely want to bring your GPS unit along to keep from getting lost. Upon doing research for this article, I was hard-pressed to find mountain bike trail maps despite the large number of listed trails I found on the internet. I did find some information and maps. The links are listed below.
Tofte/Grand Marais Area Trails
- Sugarbush Trail (17 miles)-Tofte Map
- Timber/Frear/Cross River Lake (30 miles)-Tofte
- Eliason Tower Trail (12 miles)-Grand Marais
- Gegoka Flathorn (20 miles)-Isabella Map
- Pancore Trail (16.5 miles)-Tofte Map
- Pincushion Mountain (15 miles)-Grand Marais Map
- Devil’s Track Lake (Up to 25 miles)-Grand Marais
- Old Gunflint Trail (5 miles)-Grand Marais Map
- Lima Mountain Trail (10 miles)-Grand Marais Map
- Hogback Lake Trail (13 miles)-Schroeder
Ely Area Trails
- Hidden Valley Recreation Area (12 miles)-Ely Map
- Big Aspen Trail (21 miles)-Virginia Map
- Nickel Lake Area
- Fenberg Tower Area
- Fenske Lake Area
GORP (Great Outdoor Recreation Pages) provides some Superior National Forest mountain bike trail information on their website. The list contains descriptions, mileage and trail surface type, but lacks any maps for those trails.
There are several other resources that contain much more information and maps than the internet. You can go directly to the source at the Forest Service’s National Forest Store and purchase a Superior National Forest map for $10. Pay a visit to the Lutsen-Tofte Tourism Association to pick up maps before heading into the forest. Log on to the Request more information page on the Lutsentofte.com website where you can fill out a form and check the box for Mountain Biking to have the information sent to you. Also, a stop at the Tofte Ranger Station or the Gunflint Ranger Station are good spots to purchase maps and get information.
Mountain Biking Minnesota by Steve Johnson is another great source of information you can take with you on your outing. It has maps and trail information for over a dozen trails in Superior National Forest.
The forest is vast and remote in locations, so make sure you let someone know where you are going and when you will be back before heading out. It is also a good idea to bring along some lifesaving essentials such as water, maps, a compass, GPS device, food, tire patch kit, portable tire pump, bike tool and warm clothing/rain gear, just to name a few. These will prove useful if you get into trouble.
If you are looking for accommodations for your visit, Superior National Forest has a few camping options available. Depending on how much you want to “rough it”, there are RV camping areas, campground camping, dispersed camping and group camping available throughout. You can contact the National Recreation Reservation Service at 877-444-6777 or on their website at Recreation.gov to make reservations before heading up north. Many of these sites can be reserved up to six months in advance. If you prefer a little more comfort in your lodging accommodations, contact the Lutsen-Tofte Tourism Association, Grand Marais Area Tourism Association or the Ely Chamber of Commerce for more information.
So if you are feeling adventurous and would like to see the remote areas of the big woods in northern Minnesota, these trails are sure to keep you busy all week. With its abundance of trails, beautiful scenery, wildlife and solitude, Superior National forest should be on your list of places to bike this summer.
Chris Chavie is a Twin Cities cyclists who runs the website MN Bike Trail Navigator.