Looking for a great, amazingly scenic North Shore experience? Want to stroll and enjoy the view rather than hike and clamber? Head for Lutsen Mountains. The gondola ride to the top of Moose Mountain is like an express train to Beautyland.
There is a great 4.2 mile hike from the top of the gondola back down on the Superior Hiking Trail. The maples of Mystery Mountain are amazing. The Via Ferrata-like scamper below the Moose Mountain ridge is remarkable..and difficult. That hike is Hike #35 in Hiking the North Shore, and it definitely lives up to the book's subtitles as one of "50 fabulous hikes."
It's the peak of fall colors. It's gorgeous up top of the mountain. Why watch every step and grab every handhold deep in the dark forest when you could be sauntering about enjoying the views?
It turns out that while the Superior Hiking Trail scampers around for a half mile below the ridge, a wide, flat ski run follows the very top of the ridge. And while only a few people were taking the Superior Hiking Trail challenge, fully half of the folks up on the mountain this weekend were strolling up that ski run...a lovely wooded way.
The ski run is basically a wide road that connects the top of three Moose Mountain chairlifts back down to the Summit Chalet. On the maps, it's called the Ridgeline Trail. With a blanket of fallen leaves on the ground and great views opening up down the ski runs, strolling there was like walking through a fine art gallery.
Fall colors are quickly fading in the Lutsen area, especially with the recent wind. Come back next year and have a lovely stroll on top of the world.
If you go:
The gondola, or "mountain tram", runs from the base of the Lutsen Mountains ski area, up the Ski Hill Road from Highway 61 in Lutsen. A round-trip ticket costs about $12/ person. Dogs and young kids ride free.
On top of the gondola, you'll find the Summit Chalet, where you can enjoy food and beverages.
Check out the Lutsen hiking trail map to get oriented.