Where are the Pincushion Mountain trails
Pincushion Mountain is located just up the Gunflint Trail from the small Lake Superior town of Grand Marais. The Gunflint Trail cuts 60 miles into the Minnesota wilderness to lodges and lakes and is the entry point into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area and Quetico Provincial Park in Canada.
In the winter the road is the access point for snowmobilers and cross-country skiers. The first stop along the road is a scenic overlook of Lake Superior and Grand Marais. The parking lot for this overlook is also the trailhead for the Pincushion Mountain Trails.
Pincushion Mountain Trails are loop friendly
The trail system features so many loops that it makes you dizzy just looking at the map. If you are a cross-country skiing attorney looking for a loophole, then this is the ski destination for you.
There are over 10 little loops in the system ranging from as small as the Hilfilker Hill Loop at 1 kilometer to the Granddaddy of them all loop, which is the Pincushion Mountain Loop at 6.8 kilometers. There are a variety of loop distances in between.
This provides great flexibility for the cross-country skier as one can tailor their loops to the distance and the ability level of their choosing. If you want to ski only one kilometer and go home then do the East Overlook Loop. If you want to do twenty kilometers then find a group of loops that fit this distance and include the 6.8 kilometer Pincushion Mountain loop or just ski the East Overlook Loop twenty times.
I recommend heading out on the West Overlook Loop Trail to the North Advanced Loop. I would also add the Ole Hyevaa Loop and the Hilfilker Hill Loop. From here you can either return via the North Advanced Loop or you can do the Pinchushion Mountain Loop if you are ready for 6.8 kilometers of skiing.
Pincushion Mountain trails are a good training ground for the Birkie
The terrain is rugged, so there are a lot of good ups and downs. I was preparing for the Birkebeiner, and I found this trail to be very comparable to the race and a great training ground. One of the best hills was on the back end of the North Advanced Loop after you pass the ski shop.
The trail system also has a lot of fast runs without turns, which is great fun for beginners. When I first started skiing I hated the hills with the turns at the bottom. Many of the hills, especially on the easier to moderate trails in Pincushion are straight, so it is not super technical.
Speaking of ski shops, Devil’s Track Nordic is located on the road just about a half mile up the Trail from the overlook. They rent skis, so if you do not have a pair, this is a convenient spot to procure them.
I love lighted skiing trails, and Pincushion Mountain has a good one. The West Overlook Trail and a portion of the East Overlook Trail near the beginning are lighted, so you have about 1.5 kilometers of lighted trails including the nice hill just down from the ski shop.
One great recommendation is to time it where you can finish skiing around sunset. Treat yourself to a Lake Superior sunset at the overlook. Then enter back into the trail system and utilize the lighted trails for a twilight ski. Once you are finished, head into Grand Marais for Sven and Ole’s Pizza.
A Minnesota ski pass is required to use the trails. The price is $6.00 a day or $20.00 for the winter season.
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