Access and Resources
ANNUAL VISITS: 19,463
(high: August, 6,848; low: October, 252)
CONTACT: 906-482-0984, www.nps.gov/isro
MILES FROM NEAREST MAJOR AIRPORT: 300 (Minneapolis) DON'T MISS: Angry Trout Cafe, waterside in Grand Marais, serves whitefish, salmon, and lake trout.
SUPERIOR NATIONAL FOREST
ANNUAL VISITS: 209,000
CONTACT: 218-626-4300, www.superiornationalforest.org
ISLE ROYALE NATIONAL PARK
Kayakers come to this roadless, carless Lake Superior island for its rocky shoreline; fishermen and canoeists, for its 47 inland lakes; and backpackers, for its wooded basaltic ridges populated by moose and timber wolves. A savvy and intrepid handful of park visitors know how to really get lost here: Venture below the lake's forbidding surface for SHIPWRECK DIVING. Ten major vessels have come to rest in park waters in the last 127 years, and the same frigid 40-degree water that forces divers to don drysuits has drastically slowed the wrecks' decomposition. Visibility is often so good you can survey a ship's exterior 40 feet down without a light. The shallower remains are most popular, such as the America, a package freighter that sank in 1928 and whose bow lies just a few feet below the surface. Others sit deeper; the Kamloops, a Canadian freighter not located until 50 years after it succumbed to a blizzard in 1927, lies between 175 and 260 feet under. Join an outfitterSuperior Trips (763-785-9516, www.superiortrips.com) or RLT Divers Inc. (507-238-4671, www.rltdivers.com)and spend a week diving and living off a boat. Isle Royale is open mid-April through October; the ferry from Grand Portage, Minnesota, takes three hours.
SUPERIOR NATIONAL FOREST
Just as Isle Royale island fever sets in, the ferry hops you back to Grand Portage, on the doorstep of the wet wonderland of Superior National Forest. This vast two-million-acre area is home to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and its 1,500 miles of routes on silvery lakes and streams choked with northern pike and walleye. But here's the surprise: Superior also hosts some fine MOUNTAIN BIKING, particularly in the rolling, moose-trodden highlands above Tofte and Lutsen. Minnesota's Cook County is composed almost entirely of public lands, which translates to more than 500 miles of rideable forest gravel roads, two-track logging roads, and ski trails. (You may want to carry an inflatable pool toy to float your bike across deep water.) Start by driving an hour from Grand Portage on Highway 61 south to Grand Marais, your base for fat-tire fun; the Pincushion Bed & Breakfast (doubles, $95$120; 800-922-5000, www.pincushionbb.com) is a piney retreat overlooking Lake Superior. Try the 25-mile Devil's Track Lake Loop, which starts out from the nearby campground on County Road 8. Superior North Outdoor Center (218-387-2186) has rentals and maps, and outfits inn-to-inn rides.