Superior National Forest/BWCA

Cross-Country Skiing - Pincushion Mountain Ski Trail System


Other Trails
Astrid Trails
Birch Trail
Coxey Pond Trail
South Farm
GW Pine Plantation
Herriman Lake
Jasper Hills Trail
Big Moose Trail
North Junction
Pincushion Mountain
Slim Lake Trail
Tucker Lake
Bird Lake

The Pincushion Ski Trail System is claimed to be one of the best in the area for cross-country skiing. This system of trails offers a variety in trail length and difficulty. There is a short beginner loop, a longer more scenic intermediate loop, and several challenging advanced loops. Parking is adequate for 20 vehicles. All intersections are marked with a "You Are Here" map. Trails are usually groomed once a week.

Recreation Opportunity Class: Roaded Natural
Location: Two miles northeast of Grand Marais
Access: From Grand Marais take County Road Number 12 (the Gunflint Trail) north for two miles. Turn right into the Sawtooth Mountain Scenic Overlook access road. The distance is 0.25 mile into the trailhead and parking area.

The trail starts from the overlook with a short uphill section, then descending to intersections where the beginner, intermediate and advanced loops begin. The beginner loop is 0.3 mile (0.5 km.) long running counterclockwise in a circle back to the beginning of the trail.

The intermediate loop is 4.75 miles (7.6 km.) long and offers the best in scenery. The first 1.25 miles (2 km.) goes up and down several draws bringing the trail to the Devils Track Canyon.

Here the "Rim Run" offers an impressive view of the canyon with the Devils Track River two hundred feet below the trail. The "Rim Run" gives the skier almost a mile of gentle downhill gliding before reaching Pincushion Mountain. The trail comes within 300 feet of the top of Pincushion Mountain. Here skiers must take off their skis to hike to the top. The view at an elevation of 1,160 feet, is spectacular, stretching for several miles east and west on the Lake Superior shoreline and north across the Devils Track Canyon area. Soon after the trail leads west from the mountain, there is a caution hill and then the trail levels out for the next mile of easy skiing. The last 0.5 mile is a gradual climb to the trailhead.

The advanced trails provide a mixture of hills, dips and corners that have earned them nicknames like "Snowbank Run," "Pulse Pounder," "Freefall" and "Double Dipper." Skiing all of the advanced trails in succession would amount to 3.75 miles (6 km.), beginning, and ending, at the overlook. Most of the advanced trails are one-way only. They can be combined with the beginner and intermediate trails to create a variety of scenery and difficulty.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 20 Apr 2011
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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