Outdoor Activities

Alpine Slide

About
Most North Shore visitors think of the Lutsen Mountains Ski area as a winter-time destination, great for spee ding down a mountainside on skis or a snowboard. Not many realize that high-speed adventure awaits on the North Shore in the warmer months, too! You can get your speed-demon-fix at Lutsen Mountains in the summer thanks to the alpine slide.

The alpine slide at Lutsen Mountains is a half-mile twisting, turning track that riders cruise down on a speed-controlled sled. You hop on the chairlift just off Ski Hill Road to the top of Eagle Mountain, then soar down on the provided sled. Since you are in control, you can go full speed and enjoy the thrilling sensation as you fly down the mountainside, or choose to take it slow and enjoy the beauty and sights surrounding the area, with Lake Superior as your backdrop.

It’s amusement-park-like fun for the whole family, with the North Shore twist that everyone loves. The slide is open from the end of May through mid to late October and is open to all ages. Children ages 2-5 ride free with a paid adult and children under 48” must be accompanied by an adult rider.

Getting There
Two miles south of Lutsen on Highway 61 you will see the sign for the Lutsen Mountains Ski Area. Turn onto Ski Hill Road at that sign (you will turn left if you are coming from Tofte and turn right if you are coming from Lutsen). Drive approximately 1.5 miles until you reach Lutsen Mountains. You will see the alpine slide twisting its way down the mountain on your right side.

Fat Biking

Fat biking is hot! And, it’s only getting hotter – especially on the North Shore!

If you’re not familiar, a fat bike is a bike with oversized tires (usually around 3.8 inches wide or wider) and rims. In addition, the bikes are ridden with less pressure than the average off-road bike. This allows riding on unstable routes, including snow, sand, and mud. Though the sport has been around for well over a decade, it is only the last few years that the sport has become extremely popular, especially among off-road cyclists.

The North Shore has seen a large increase in visitors who are fat biking, as well. Earlier this month, on January 7, the inaugural Norpine Fat Bike Classic was held. Over 150 riders embraced the cold to ride the 16 and 24-mile race courses. Next year’s event is scheduled for January 6.

Superior National Golf Course Trails
In addition, about three miles of new, groomed trails have been opened up to the public on the Superior National Golf Course at Lutsen. With a spectacular view of Lake Superior and the surrounding Sawtooth Mountains, many local and visiting fat bikers have been excited about the new trails.

Day or season passes for the groomed trails at Superior National at Lutsen are available at:

Superior National at Lutsen Golf Club House (when open – winter hours vary)

Lutsen Resort (front desk)
Clearview General Store (in downtown Lutsen)

Skipping Rocks

It’s a favorite pastime of so many who have spent time near a lake of any size.  Skipping rocks.  Challenging your friends and family to see who can skip the most, striving to beat your highest skip count, and teaching your kids the fine art of skipping a rock.

Finding the Perfect Rock
The key to a good skip lies in the spinning of the rock, and by using a flat round rock, you are able to add a lot of spins. When choosing a rock, chose something in the range of four to six inches in diameter. The flow of water around the rock lifts it up, propelling the next hop. The more surface area, the more lift.  So flat and round is best.  However, with enough velocity, you can skip almost anything.

Best Rock Skipping Technique
Throw the rock hard, with a lot of linear and angular momentum, at a 20-degree angle.  Most people find they get the best skips when they throw under and sideways, rather than overhand.  On the water, a rock’s spin keeps it poised on its trailing edge, rather than somersaulting. In the air, spin provides stability, like Frisbee. With each skip, gravity pulls the rock deeper under the surface, and the water creates more drag on the rock. The rock spends 100 times longer in the air than it does on the water. The flow of water around the rock lifts it up, propelling the next hop. Calm water and a thin, roundish rock are ideal. The world record is 88 bounces, so good luck!

Best Spots to Find Skipping Rocks:
Brighton Beach
Located on the east end of Duluth, and at the beginning of HWY 61, this beach offers some of the best skipping rocks on the North Shore. Enjoy skipping rocks into the abyss that is Lake Superior, or go to the mouth of the Lester River and skip rocks under the Lester River Bridge where the water is usually calm.

Grand Marais Harbor
Located in downtown Grand Marais, this beach features a plethora of flat, smooth red rocks that are perfect for skipping. This is a great spot for families to get together, and just get lost in time skipping rocks.

Any Beach Along the North Shore
Pretty much any beach along the shores of Lake Superior in Northern Minnesota will feature numerous rocks that you can skip. Basalt and rhyolite are the most common, and you can recognize these by their bluish black colors with very small crystals. These are the best rocks for skipping.

The North Shore Adventure Park

It used to be that Silver Bay was a town you drove past.  The majority of the town sits back from Highway 61 and many travelers to the North Shore didn’t even realize it was there.  The taconite plant and a lone streetlight on Highway 61 was the only indication that there was anything there at all.  That is, until the summer of 2019 when the North Shore Adventure Park sprang up, seemingly overnight, along Highway 61 just past the street light.

The North Shore Adventure Park is a part of Outdoor Venture Group, LLC, a company that designs, builds, and operates outdoor adventure parks in the US, a concept borrowed from Switzerland. Until now, they existed primarily on the east coast and their parks are mostly connected to larger attractions like museums and aquariums. The North Shore Adventure Park is their first midwestern endevor and is one of the few stand-alone parks they operate.

As a Silver Bay native, I’ve watched the park go up with anticipation it will help to bring visitors to Silver Bay.  The North SHore Adventure Park is a destionation that is designed to attract visitors of all ages and its location compliments local eatiers including Jimmy’s Pizza and the North Shore Grill while also offering fine lodging accommodations like the nearby WIndsong Cottages in Beaver Bay.

The park offers a kid area- called the Adventure Playground, for visitors starting at age 3.  Then the courses, referred to as “trails” at the park,  can be experiences by guests starting at age 7.  The trails have varying levels from easy/beginner to an advanced “double black” trail that requires one to be of very sound mind and body to undertake. Those who don’t wish to climb on the trails can spend time on the ground, walking around and supporting fellow family members up in the trees.  From the youngest in the family to the oldest, the North Shore Adventure Park is something everyone can enjoy- a perfect family day trip.

It was on a bright, sunny day in early June when I had the opportunity to visit the North Shore Adventure Park for the first time. My climbing buddy and I met up with Natalie Rich, the park manager, to get the lay of the land of to experience one of the trails. Your day at the park starts out in the registration office where there is also a small gift shop.  You sign waivers and then head out to the park to watch a brief, very informative video on how the park operates. It is a self-guided tour where you use a series of locking carabineers to work your along the trail of your choosing.  Basic safety precuations are given- such as only having one person on an element at a time and no more than three people on a platform. Then, you get your harness on, grab some gloves, and get ready to climb!  At that point you pick a trail and go- it’s that simple.  A pass gives you about 2 hours to take the trails, which means you can’t complete all of them with a single day pass, but you could easily make it through 2-3 depending on your speed.

On this day, I had wanted to start easy.  I’ve done high ropes courses in the past and know that I’m not the biggest fan of heights. I like to freeze up on higher elements.  I can rock a zip line tour with little fear, but for some reason- adding in elements other than a zip line tends to get into my head. So, I figured I would start with a Yellow (beginner) or Blue(beginner/moderate) course would be the way to go. However, Natalie encouraged us to go on the Green (moderate) Grand Rapids trail.  The course starts at ground level and moves up into the trees as you progress along the different elements including swaying boards you have to steady as you move on at the same time.  Quite a fun challenge!  This course was challenging for me, but I didn’t go up too high in height so I was able to complete it with little trepidation.

As the trails are all self-guided you can go at your own pace as long as you are aware of any groups coming in behind you. I ended up having a father/son duo behind me and figured I should get a move on since I was being shown up by a 10 year old who seemed to have no fear at all. I think this duo actually helped me get over the fear I had and allowed me to complete the course in good time.  It was definitely a fun adventure in the trees and a great way to spend a sunny Saturday afternoon.

We only did the one trail given the time constraints we had to do some other things that were on the list for the day.  I do wish I could have stayed longer and tried another one, but that just means I’ll have to double back someday, probably with my kids, to experience the North Shore Adventure Park again.  It’s definitely worth the stop, especially if you have kids in the 10-16 age range as they can do most of the trails.

You can book your tickets ahead of time, or just stop in and buy tickets at arrival. Know that on a busy Saturday there may be some wait times to start a trail, but since the park can accommodate 120 climbers at a time, it shouldn’t be too long of a wait. They frequently run specials so check out their Facebook page and the top banner on the website to see what savings are available.  The park is seasonal so add this to your “Must Do” list for your next summertime trip to the North Shore.

Check out highlights from my time on the North Shore Adventure Park Grand Rapids trail: