Written By: Joseph Friedrichs
Each season on the Gunflint Trail creates and shares its own magic. Visitors and residents alike have a variety of reasons for which time of year makes the Gunflint and Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness their favorite. However, when it comes to a quality overall experience, it’s tough to argue that there is a better time of year on the Gunflint Trail than fall.
Think of it, the biting insects have all but vanished by September. For anyone who gets pestered by black flies and mosquitoes (and frankly who doesn’t?) that is a major plus right there. Furthermore, the crowds have slowed from peak season in July and August, wildlife is on the move, the temperatures are perfect for outdoor recreation and there’s all kinds of room to enjoy the activities that brought us here in the first place. In many ways, fall on the Gunflint Trail has that feeling of coming home. So with this in mind, here are five activities that will contribute to the ultimate fall trip on the Gunflint Trail.
1. Go For a Scenic Drive – The paved Gunflint Trail is the main nerve for vehicle transportation on the eastern side of the Boundary Waters. It’s possible, even likely you can see bear or moose from the Gunflint during the fall, as the forest understory fades back and viewing along the roadways becomes easier. Speaking of the forests, there are fewer places better than the Gunflint to view the fall colors. Maple, birch and aspen make for spectacular viewing along the Trail. Also, side roads such as Pine Mountain or Lima Grade are prime for both natural scenery and the chance to see wildlife.
2. Take a Hike – Hiking alongside or through the Boundary Waters during the fall is an enchanting experience. Golden, red and orange leaves decorate both the forest floor and cling to the swaying tree branches into October. Some of our favorite fall hikes include the Centennial Hiking Trail, Magnetic Rock Trail or Caribou Rock Trail. All three offer stunning vistas of the varying landscape, include fall colors, rugged outcroppings and everything from beaver ponds to lakes that are more than 100 ft. deep. Hiking during the fall is essentially a must-do activity during a visit to the Gunflint.
3. Go Fishing –
Lake trout and walleye in the same afternoon on a sunny afternoon along the Gunflint Trail. Does it get any better than that? Fall is the perfect time to catch both of these species on the same trip, or on our home waters here on Gunflint Lake, in the same hour! Trolling with large Rapalas or jigging with minnows are great approaches at this time of year for lakers and walleyes. Please note that the lake trout fishing season ends on Sept. 30. However, fishing for rainbow, brook or brown trout on some of the nearby lakes continues until Oct. 31. The fish are hungry in the fall as they prepare for winter. Coupled with the natural beauty surrounding our many lakes here along the Gunflint, this is the perfect time to enjoy the solitude and end the day with a dinner of fresh fish.
4. Gaze At the Dark Skies – Plain and simple, the Gunflint Trail is amazing location for stargazing. Cooler night temperatures in September, October and early November make for an excellent time to participate in this timeless but trendy activity. If you are looking for particulars, the Orionid meteor shower is set to peak Oct. 22-23 this year. That event coupled with our legendary dark sky in northeastern Minnesota could mean it’s the perfect time to visit and keep your eyes on the skies.
5. Canoe the Boundary Waters – If you’ve ever experienced a trip to the Boundary Waters where a number of your favorite campsites are taken, it likely means you weren’t on a fall trip. Autumn is the (in our humble opinion) best time for a canoe trip to the Boundary Waters. In fact, a canoe trip that begins and ends on the Gunflint during the fall can provide elements of all four categories previously mentioned on this list. And when you’re out there, the odds are stacked in your favor that the perfect campsite you always dreamed of will be waiting just around the next turn.
We’ll see you this fall on the Gunflint Trail!