C.J. Ramstad/North Shore State Trail

OHV riders on the C.J. Ramstad/North Shore State Trail

The C.J. Ramstad/North Shore State Trail is a 146-mile long multi-purpose, natural surface trail from Duluth to Grand Marais. The trail runs through St. Louis, Lake and Cook counties in northeastern Minnesota, winding its way through the forests on the ridgeline overlooking Lake Superior. The trail provides access to some of the most rugged and beautiful scenery in Minnesota. In winter, the trail connects with hundreds of miles of snowmobile club trails and many communities in the area.

Landscape

For most of its length, the trail provides a back-country, wilderness experience. The majority of the trail is in a remote, natural and undeveloped setting with few roads and many river crossings. Native wildlife includes moose, deer, bear, fox, raptors, grouse, waterfowl, songbirds and timber wolves. Views of rivers, lakes, valleys and scenic overlooks are a part of the trail experience, as are logging, forestry, farming, wildlife and fish management, and cabins. Fall colors are usually quite spectacular because the trail follows maple-covered ridges, as well as birch and aspen stands.

Wilderness safety

When traveling through remote forests, you should take a map, GPS or a compass, cell phone, extra food, clothing and water. Share your travel itinerary with someone and tell them where you are going and when you will be back. During insect season, be prepared for usual Northwoods conditions. Know local weather conditions and learn about wildfire safety. In the winter, follow snowmobile safety tips.

Trail uses

Motorized vehicles are not allowed for recreation purposes on the trail, except for snowmobiles and ATVs (where designated). 

hikingHiking

mountain bikingMountain biking

horsebackHorseback

snowmobilingSnowmobiling

all-terrain vehicleAll-terrain vehicle

All-terrain vehicles (ATVs) are allowed on a 6.6 mile portion of the trail (see map), which connects with 60 miles of grant-in-aid ATV trails.

Horseback riding and summer hiking is best from the town of Finland to Cook County Road 6, north of Grand Marais (approximately 70 miles). The trail between Finland and Duluth is hikeable but has seasonal wet areas that make for hard travel.

Camping is available at shelters along the trail, and on adjacent public land (except where posted as prohibited). Respect private property and follow any posted restriction signs. Pack out all garbage and litter. Use wildfire safety.

Hikers can stay on the trail by following periodic snowmobile trail signs and diamond-shaped orange blazes on trees and posts. In some places the trail follows backcountry roads for long distances - these stretches are also posted with snowmobile trail signs and blazes. Use extreme caution if you encounter logging activity.

Fishing enthusiasts will find the trail a good walk-in access to remote, lightly fished streams. Since much of the land is for public use, hunters can use the trail as a walk-in access to many areas.

Snowmobilers should follow all standard snowmobile safety tips. Dress for the cold, and review local conditions before your visit. The trail is groomed for snowmobiling weekly, and groomers may be on the trail at any time. Stay on the trail or intersecting trails at all times. Use caution in the vicinity of active logging operations. Plan ahead for refueling.

Trail events

Events Calendar

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There are currently no event listings.

Permits
Parking
  • Duluth parking area: The Martin Road lot is located at the northern edge of Duluth city limits.
  • Normanna Road parking area: Parking is located west of County Road 44.
  • Alger Grade parking area: Parking is located 9 miles north of Two Harbors on County Road 2.
  • Silver Bay parking area: The lot located on Superior National Forest Road #11, 7 miles west of Silver Bay.
  • Finland parking area: The trailhead is located 2 miles north of Finland, on County Road 7.
  • Sawbill Trail parking area: A small parking area is located 5 miles north of Tofte on the Sawbill Trail (County Road 2).
  • Caribou Trail parking area: The parking lot is located 7 miles north of Lutsen on the Caribou Trail (County Road 4).
Mileage chart

The chart shows the trail distance in miles from Duluth to Grand Marais.

Grand
Marais

Lutsen

26

Caribou Trail Parking Area 

8
28

Sawbill Parking Area 

14
17
41

Schroeder 

14
27
31
55

Ely 

74
78
91
95
119

Isabella 

39
35
39
52
56
80

Tomahawk/Trail Junction 

24
63
11
15
28
32
56

Finland 

20
44
83
31
35
48
52
76

Silver Bay 

17
37
61
100
48
52
65
69
93

Alger Grade/Two Harbors Parking Area 

34
37
57
81
120
68
72
85
89
113

Pequaywan Trail Junction 

21
55
58
78
102
141
89
93
106
110
133

Normana Road Parking Area 

5
26
60
63
83
107
146
94
98
111
115
139

Duluth Parking Area 

14
19
40
74
77
97
121
160
108
112
125
129
153
Restrooms

Restrooms are available at trailhead parking lots and shelters along the trail.

Trail features
  • Scenic overlooks, rivers and lakes.
  • Over 146-mile trail corridor.
  • Rustic campsites, rest areas, parking lots and bridges.
  • Hiking, backpacking, mountain biking and horseback riding on 75 miles.
  • Snowmobiling and cross-country skiing.
  • Fishing, hunting, nature study and observation. 
  • Solitude in a backcountry setting.
  • Flexibility to accommodate long or short visits.
  • Connections to other trail systems. 
About C.J. Ramstad

Photo of C.J. Ramstad (1945-2007). Known as "Mr. Snowmobiling," C.J. Ramstad (1945-2007) was a passionate, highly respected journalist and photographer in the off-road community. For nearly 40 years he dedicated his life to the promotion, preservation and enjoyment of Minnesota snowmobiling and off-road riding. His tireless efforts ensured that trails, and the access they provided, were open for all to enjoy. Ramstad often declared the North Shore State Trail a "treasure," and a favorite among the many he traveled.