Stepping Outdoors With Craig Blog Stepping Outdoors With Craig

  • Ski the Gunflint Trail!

    Posted by Craig

    One of my favorite places to ski in Minnesota is the historic Gunflint Trail. With two large trail systems, the Upper and the Central, you will find over 170K of well groomed trails to take you deep into the wilderness of Northeastern Minnesota. This was our fourth year in a row going to Bearskin Lodge on the first weekend of March and once again we found excellent conditions.

    Gunflint Ski Track Set

    Bearskin is one of two lodges that serve the Central Gunflint Trail system and trails all wind their way through the Superior National Forest. You can expect to have some scenic overlooks of lakes, a variety of forest to ski through and some big hills to go down...and UP! One of the great things about skiing the trail systems, is with so many trails you will quickly find yourself out with nature, without another skier in sight.

     Central Gunflint Trail

    With the deep snow they have this season, and if the temperatures stay mild there will be plenty more weeks of skiing up there. Since the ski trails start just outside your cabin door, it is easy to go ski for a few hours and come back for something to eat and rest and then be back out on a new trail. Bearskin Lodge Cabin

    Ox Cart is one of most popular trails out of Bearskin, but if you want to really enjoy some thrills head for Bear Cub. Most of our six skiers skied over 50k throughout the weekend and soaking in the hot tub nightly sure felt great! Find more information about exploring the Gunflint Trail or Bearskin Lodge and plan your own get away.

  • High School Mountain Biking Planning Meeting

    Posted by Craig

    Want to learn about the new high school mountain bike racing league in MN?  There is going to be a planning meeting coming up in the Twin Cities. The MN League Kick Off Open House on Sunday March 11th.  This event is for both students and their parents, or anyone interested in this new league. They will have materials on how to start a team, info on the coaching license program, product displays to teach new riders about bikes and gear, and a “Connect Zone” so people who want to form a team can meet others from the same area.

    Colorado Bike League

    Free food and refreshments, posters, flyers, stickers, and there will be MN League t-shirts for sale.  Make plans now to attend the Kick Off for the MN League.  You can help play an important role in getting this new league going.  For questions, please email MN League Director Gary Sjoquist at  Please RSVP to Gary by March 10thif you plan to attend – we need to order food and drink.

    Meeting March 11, 6 to 8 pm at Quality Bicycle Products

    6400 W. 105th St., Bloomington, MN 55438

  • Trying to Reserve a State Park Campsite?

    Posted by Craig

    Yeah, me too! Okay so I'm not sure when I'm going camping this summer but I have a few weekends in mind. Yesterday was the first day the new reservation system was available, and as predicted it was overwhelmed. Here was the message I got a couple of times yesterday, just while trying to set up my account.


    We are having temporary problems with the website. We will be back shortly.

    We apologize for the inconvenience.

    Well according to the DNR this morning the neither the site or phone reservations will be available at least through the weekend. They will be taking reservations for the month of March by calling the specific park directly. I'll keep you posted, and you can always keep checking the website

  • Make your State Park Reservation Now!

    Posted by Craig

    For the past few months you have not been able to reserve a camping spot in Minnesota State Parks. That's because they were busy upgrading to a new on line reservation system. Well beginning today, March 1st, you can once again make a reservation to go camping. Just click here, but be aware you will have to set up an account in the new system.


    The new website has some new features; like showing availability and the campsite location all on page by showing you on the campground map which sites are available.  Remember you can make State Park Reservations for up to a year in advance.

  • Mountain Bike Racing coming to High School

    Posted by Craig

    Starting this fall the Minnesota High School Cycling League is going to offer mountain bike racing in High Schools. Right now it looks the only school team in the area to offer the sport is Bemidji. However, there is plenty of time to get organized and get in on the first races of the new sport. Find more information at the Minnesota High School Cycling League's Website.

    Bike Racing

    This would be great to see in the Northland schools, especially with the expansion of mountain biking trails being discussed for our area.  

  • Snow and More on the Way

    Posted by Craig

    Could we call this a backwards Winter? Don't get me wrong I like all the new snow, but I would have been more excited about it coming in November! But out in the woods now it looks like the middle of winter, and the talk is of another 6-12 inches on the way. After Sunday's snow storm things are Carey Lake were looking great!

    Carey Lake Ski Trails with SNOW!

    I think this is the first time this season where we have had banks on the sides of the ski trails. Get out and enjoy if things change we could be in for a fast March start to the biking season.

  • Middle of February Meltdown

    Posted by Craig

    To the delight of many, and the displeasure of quite a few, the thin snow we had is disappearing. Maybe it is the lack of snow this year, but I have talked to more snow enthusiasts this season than in recent years. I used to think I was one of only a few snow nuts, but that is not the case this year. Snowmobilers and Skiers are pushing more and more north to find usable conditions. Here is shot of the Flathorn Ski Trail in Isabella:

    Flathorn Ski Trail

    And here is one of our local ski trail:

    Carey Lake

    So unless we get some snow, Drive North!

  • Going to State

    Posted by Craig

    The Section Seven Nordic Sections race was held this week at Giants Ridge. Duluth East defended their team titles and will send both the girls and boys teams back to state. Where they will try to defend their state championships from last year. When it comes to cross country skiing those greyhounds are fast! In addition 8 individuals also advance to next week's state meet. Three of them come from the Grand Rapids Thunderhawks. Way to go Bre (my daughter), Solveig, and Ingrid.

    Grand Rapids Section Winners

    Good Luck next week at the State meet at Giants Ridge!

  • Cross Country Skiing Close to Home

    Posted by Craig

    This weekend provided some very mild temperatures, however the snow was holding tough in a couple of area local spots. I skied at both Giants Ridge and Big Aspen over the weekend and in both places I was impressed with the amount of snow out in the woods. We hit the Ridge on Saturday morning with the trees all frosted, and skate skied a few of the milder trails there. Then the sun came out and we switched to classic skiing as the frost fell down like snow in the bright blue sunny sky. Here is picture of what 85% of the Ridge trails look like:

    Giants Ridge Ski Trails

    The Big Aspen trails are located north of Virginia and classic only trails, but provide a great wilderness skiing experience. Once on the trails we never saw any other skiers, but came across deer, wolf and moose tracks out along and on the trails. The weather was so good and the trails were in such good shape we skied more than twice what we had planned to do. Big Aspen is in good shape so get out and explore them:

    Big Aspen

    See on the trails!

  • Making Boundary Waters Plans

    Posted by Craig


    Boundary Waters Campsite

    This past fall the U.S. Forest Service made the announcement they were getting rid of the lottery process for Boundary Water Canoe Area Wilderness. Instead those wanting to travel into the BWCAW, can now go to a website and see what is available and make their selection for a permit. So it's first come first serve and permits are availble now. Actually I did a little spot checking for some summer dates at various entry points and it looks like permits are plentiful now. So if your thinking of a trip into the Boundary Waters this summer, now is a great time to secure your permits. You can do that here.


  • Hibbing Winter Frolic Luminary Ski

    Posted by Craig

    Friday night the annual kick off event for the Hibbing Winter Frolic will take place! This year's luminary ski was of course in question because of the lack of snow. However the recent snowfalls have given us just enough to ski the Black Forest Loop at Carey Lake. The evening is expected to be mild, so bring the family and come out for a bon fire, cookies and cider. Skiing gets underway at 6 p.m. along the lit ski trail, beginning at the first parking area. Below is a current snapshot of the Carey Lake ski trails. Be aware the trail doesn't all look like this and there are some rough spots, and I won't be skiing with my best skis.

    Black Forest Trail at Carey Lake

    See you Friday night at 6!

  • Found IT!

    Posted by Craig

    Over this past weekend I went searching for winter and I found it! After years of threatening to go ski in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, I finally did. The snow is there, as are the cross country skiers, downhill skiers, snowboarders, and snowmobilies. However that is not to say things are crowded, just busy with a lot of happy faces enjoying the snow. I started out skiing a small donation only ski trail called Miljes, which doesn't have a lot of miles of trails yet but has some good plans for expansion. They did, however, have snow as you can see.

    Miljes Ski Trail

    Next up was the Legendary ABR, widely known among cross country skiers as a place for early and abundant snow. While this was the busiest place I skied, with 66K of trail you can quickly find yourself all alone on the trail. Top notch grooming is another thing ABR is well known for and I was not disappointed.

    ABR Trails

    Wolverine Nordic calls themselves the Mountains of the Midwest, and they do have some challenging trails. Which includes working your way to the base of a ski jump and to the top of Big Powderhorn downhill ski area. It also snowed a lot while I was in the UP, but the sun did come out at Wolverine for the afternoon.

    Wolverine Ski Trails

    So if your looking for winter it's not far away. Only about a 3.5 hour drive to Ironwood and you will have plenty of snow to play in. I found a good reasonable ski package at the Indianhead Motel, and look forward to going back again for more skiing soon.