The Picnic Loop Loop: A 25k North Shore Wilderness ExperienceHannah Hoaglund
Are you an avid Nordic skier who wants an incredibly unique experience on Lake Superior’s North Shore? If so, we highly recommend checking out the Picnic Loop. Skiing the 25k (15 mile) loop will not only offer you a great ski, but a great wilderness experience.
Our Recommendation: The Picnic Loop
The Picnic Loop, a loop that winds through the Superior National Forest near Tofte and Lutsen, Minnesota, is unlike any other in the region. When skiing this loop, you’ll feel like you’re in the deep wilderness. There aren’t any developments along the trail and unlike other North Shore trails, it is not interrupted by roads or highways. It’s a true north woods experience!
The trail rests on magnificent ski terrain that takes skiers along a ridgeline, through old growth boreal forest, and down into the Temperance River Valley. This means the trail offers long climbs and great descents, as well as outstanding views.
The ridge introduces another enhanced element to the experience: SNOW! Because of the higher terrain that rises up from Lake Superior, the ridge creates an environment that accumulates a lot of snow. Typically, there will be much more snow on the ridge than there will be at lower elevations. What does that mean for skiers on the Picnic Loop? Incredible skiing!
Even though this trail is relatively remote (in the sense that there aren’t developments around it), it is still maintained extremely well. In fact, the Sugarbush Trail Association who
maintains the trails, recently purchased a $190,000 Pisten Bully that is used to groom the trails. The new equipment levels, packs and processes the snow which creates immaculately groomed full width ski lanes for both classic and skate disciplines. Read more about the upgraded equipment and experience HERE.
Things to Keep in Mind
If you’re planning on heading out, make sure you have enough food and water along. We suggest allowing at least 2 to 3 hours for advanced skiers and up to 4 hours for intermediate skiers to complete the loop. With the undulating and remote terrain, we recommend only intermediate and advanced skiers take to the trail.
To get there, take Onion River Road outside of Lutsen up to the parking lot. Ski west out of the parking lot to intersection L and proceed to Junction M, where you will access the Picnic Loop ridge. Ski the trail to the southwest where the Picnic Loop ridge will meet the Hogback trail. To complete the loop, take Hogback to upper Homestead to the Oberg Connector trail to return to the parking lot near Onion River Road.
Looking for a different or easier route? Check out the routes listed on our SKI PAGE or visit the SUGARBUSH SKI ASSOCIATON WEBSITE for additional maps and information. Or, if you can find maps for the entire county (Cook County) HERE.