One of the hardest parts of the day when you're camping on the North Shore can be dinner time. I love company at meals, but I don't relish being the meal. Whether it's mosquitoes or blackflies, the bloodsuckers come out right about the time you want to be calmly preparing your campfire delicacies.
So I've come to really appreciate a nice campground restaurant. You can dine at your leisure, even into the evening hours when just the hum of mosquitoes gets unbearable. Then you can dash back to your tent. Dine and dash, except in this case you pay the bill before you go.
"What?," I hear you ask. "Campground restaurant? What is this, a KOA?" No, it's some mighty fine and wild North Shore-area campgrounds.
The lovely and wild Trail's End Campground sits at the very end of the Gunflint Trail, almost 60 miles from Grand Marais. It's in the middle of the big Ham Lake Fire:
It's right on the river connecting Seagull Lake and Saganaga Lake. There's even a portage running right through the campground:
But wonder of wonders, there is a cafe right next to the campground. The Trail's End Cafe is run by Way of the Wilderness Outfitters and has a funky groove. The food is very basic and tasty. Mark Darling's burgers are just fine. According to their website, they serve "what some people say 'The best burgers in Minnesota.'" That has to do as much with the setting and the work it took to get there as with the quality of the food. Perfect food, perfect location...what else do you really need?
Oh, and the beer is cold. Best Coors I ever had. Really.
If the far end of the Gunflint Trail is too far for you, you can "dine and dash" at Cascade River State Park (eat at Cascade Lodge), Lambs Resort (eat at Schroeder Baking Company), and of course Grand Marais Municipal Campground (eat anywhere in town).
Eat, and do not be eaten.
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