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Gunflint Lodge Northwoods In Style Or Rough It

Reviewing: Grand Marais, Minnesota Gunflint Lodge Resort  |  Rating:
Joan Young By Joan Young on
Badge: Editor | Level: 34 | Destinations Expertise:
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The Gunflint Lodge Resort in the Minnesota Arrowhead has the facilities for any type of northwoods adventure you might want, whether you’d like to stay in luxury with some outdoor activities, stay in a bunkhouse, or head into the Boundary Waters for a canoe trip.

The northern Minnesota Arrowhead is one of the wildest areas of the midwest United States. A large portion of the area has been set aside as the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW), which connects directly to Quetico Park in Canada, also wilderness. To help preserve both the wilderness and the wilderness experience, users must have a permit to enter, and daily quotas of canoeists and hikers are set. The Gunflint Trail is actually a paved, winding road which splits the BWCAW. On each side of the Trail is a region which is not part of the designated wilderness, and along the road, especially at the northern end, one can find several resorts. One of the oldest is the Gunflint Lodge Resort.

The resort was purchased by a woman from Chicago in 1927, who came there with her college-age daughter Justine. Justine had hoped to become a doctor, but instead threw herself into the efforts with her mother to make the resort a success. Justine became a legend of the Gunflint region as the resort grew and her renown as a hunter, guide, and friend spread. She married Bill Kerfoot, had three children, and her son, Bruce, now runs Gunflint Lodge Resort. Bruce and his wife Sue will personally see to it that your stay at Gunflint will be memorable.

Gunflint has a wide range of lodging facilities. Cabins with one to four bedrooms are available, and depending on the dates and number of people rates range from $99 to $450 a night. These are rustic luxury. I haven’t actually stayed in one of these! Not even advertised on their web site, however, are bunkhouses which can be rented by canoeists and backpackers. This option is actually under the umbrella of the Gunflint Northwoods Outfitters, which is a separate business, but was a spinoff, decades ago, from the resort. The bunkhouses are unheated, but have electricity, and rent for $16 per person per night (in 2009).

Anyone using a cabin or the bunkhouse, or just driving in for the day, may eat or relax in the lodge. The decor is of course “northwoods” with snowshoes, skis, canoes, mounted animals, and some surprises from other cultures. There are a great many historic photos on the walls of Justine and her family. None of the decor is stuff bought at an auction and hung up like sports bar decor. Whatever you see has some personal reason for being there.

The lodge has two great fireplaces, a lounge, the reservation desk and a gift shop. For eating there is a bistro for casual dining at any time, and a dining room for nicer meals. The food is GREAT. It’s hard to believe that you are an hour’s drive from Grand Marais, which isn’t really that large of a town, and several hours from Duluth. There is free wireless internet (you need your own computer), and it’s fine to sit and play games or visit.

The resort has a dock and boats on Gunflint Lake (Canada is on the opposite shore!). Pretty much, if you can do it in the north, you can do it at Gunflint. They have organized activities from dogsledding and sleigh rides in the winter to hiking and canoeing, horseback riding, and fishing in the summer. There are programs some evenings. Expeditions from Gunflint are outfitted from Northwoods Outfitters where they will supply everything you need, or just supplement your own supplies. The Outfitter also offers a lot of gifts, camping supplies, and souvenirs for sale as well. Of course there is cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, sledding, ice fishing, fall color tours and moose calling any time of year.

There is an extensive trail network on the property and the Border Route / North Country Trail runs through their trail system. The Kekekabic Trail continuation of the NCT is just a few miles to the west. Some popular trail destinations are Magnetic Rock or a surprising South Rim cliff trail with fantastic views.

Pets and kids are welcome. Some activities especially for kids are offered.

I absolutely love the Gunflint Lodge, even though I’ve only ever stayed in the bunkhouse. If you want a wonderful northern experience with the personal touch of a family-run business, try the Gunflint Lodge.

The only reason I didn’t give this a full 5 rating is that it may not be what the majority of vacationers are looking for. This is not the place to go for a hot nightlife. This is where you can get away from all that!