Winter is upon us here on the North Shore! It’s an exciting time where we transition from summertime outdoor adventures to wintertime outdoor adventures. Many of which are still very much happening this year, including Lutsen Mountains re-opening on November 21.

You may notice many changes that have happened along the North Shore as a result of the COVID-19 Pandemic. Things are going to be quite a bit different here for quite some time. We do not know yet the extent of the changes and when things will be back to “normal”. We do expect that the winter of 2020 will be unlike any we’ve ever seen before. Here is an idea of what to expect.

Still Full of Beauty

Things are changing. Many things will be different. But one thing that will stay the same is the beauty of the North Shore. The area boasts nine state parks, several state forests, the Superior Hiking Trail, the Superior National Forest, and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. For the most part, access to these places will not change for the winter of 2020, at least as of now. It appears that trail grooming will be happening as usual so that you may continue to enjoy the great outdoors along the shore. 

One thing is still true- there are many miles of skiing, snowshoeing, and fat bike trails that you are free to enjoy. The North Shore is outdoor recreation at its finest. If you are planning to come up to hunt, fish, and explore, you are in luck! Those options are still readily available.

Changes in Lodging

This will likely be the first change many notice. Where you can stay, when you can stay there, and for how long. Plus, noticeable changes from the moment you step into your room or rental. All of these things will see changes in the winter of 2020. In addition, how each resort and lodging service is adjusting to the COVID-19 pandemic will be different business to business. In order to re-open, many were asked to create a “Best Business Practices” plan. These plans were not submitted to the state, but rather written as a way for the companies to decide what changes they needed to make to re-open their businesses. 

Some of these changes include requiring 3-7 night stays, even during the winter. Leaving gaps between stays, which will limit availability for mid-week check-ins. Later check-in times, earlier check-out times to allow for more cleaning time. The removal of bedding, linens, and throw pillows from rooms and homes. Staff members wearing masks. Changes in cancelation policies. You should check the website of, or call, the resort, lodge, or business you are staying with to find out their policy changes before you arrive.

Some resort amenities may remain closed throughout the winter of 2020 and beyond. Pools, hots tubs, saunas, etc. may or may not be open. Check with the resort you are staying at to see which of their services are currently being offered, and which will remain closed.

Visit Cook County is a great resource for knowing what lodging options are available.

Changes in Dining

As of November 13th additional regulations have been placed on restaurants and bars throughout Minnesota. Restaurants can still offer indoor seating at a limited capacity, but need to stop indoor services at 10pm. They may continue delivery and carry-out later than that, but we expect that most places on the shore will simply close at 10. As seating is limited, many restaurants are requiring reservations. Many restaurants are offering curbside pick-up and delivery for those who wish to continue to avoid in-person dining. Please refer to our COVID-19 Business Operations Changes page for information on what restaurants in the area are doing. Things change frequently, and we may miss some updates from time to time. So, we recommend you visit the website or Facebook page of the restaurants you plan to visit to find out what their current policies are.

Some restaurants have already decided that they will not re-open their dining rooms even when allowed to do so by the state. Some places are opting to open only outdoor dining spaces. For that reason, it is important to check first before heading out, especially if the restaurant of your choice is a distance away.

Changes In Retail

As of now, no additional regulations have been places on retail businesses. There is still a mask mandate in place in Minnesota, and occupancy limits. Many stores will continue to operate as they have been all summer. However, we may start seeing further regulations and closures again as we head further into winter, so be prepared to plan ahead. Check the Facebook pages of the the businesses you wish to visit to see their updates.

These things may change at any moment and we will do our best to maintain our list of COVID-19 Business Operations Changes as they come up. Currently we are only keeping track of all stores in Cook County and grocery stores only in Lake County.

New Closures

Anticipating further regulations, some businesses have had to make many tough calls in regards to how and when to be open and stay open for the wintertime. Some have decided to close for the winter when usually they would have been open. These are not easy decisions. And as we get further into the winter we may again see further tightening of regulations that affect all businesses.

Whatever your plans are for heading north, it’s best to double check that they are still going to be available. We will add changes to our COVID-19 Event Cancellations Page as we hear about them.

Event Cancellations

This has been the hardest one for many of us on the North Shore. We love our annual celebrations, and love celebrating them with you. With regulations limited capacity and group sizes, most indoor festivals and celebrations will be canceled this year. Other events like the John Beargrease Dog Sled Race are still on! The requirement of layers for warmth and natural distancing of such races and events taking place outdoors may allow for them to still happen. So keep an eye out on the event pages! Visit Cook County is maintaining their event lists. We have decided at this time to close ours down. So, head over to Visit Cook County to find updates on your favorite wintertime event to see its status.

Border Closure

Currently, the US/Canada border is closed to non-essential travel. US citizens cannot travel to Canada and Canadian citizens cannot travel to the US. 

If your plans include travel to Canada, you may need to change your plans. Keep an eye on the news coming from the border as closures may even be extended longer. 

This will affect travel in the BWCA, which serves as a popular destination even in the winter months. Some lakes, like the popular lakes Gunflint and Rose, are partially in Canada, and passports are required for travel on these lakes even during non-COVID times. Until the border closure ends, those traveling within the BWCA need to be aware that travel into Canadian territory is not allowed. Use caution and be vigilant when traveling on border lakes. 

The current date of the closure is unknown. While a specific date is set, that date has been consistently pushed further and further back. We do not expect the border to reopen in 2020.

Availability of Medical Care

It is important to realize prior to coming to the North Shore that health care is limited here. There is one hospital in Grand Marais that services Cook County. There is one hospital in Two Harbors that service Lake County. That is it. Both hospitals are limited as to what they are able to accommodate as far as treatment is concerned. Neither is capable of helping a patient in need of an ICU bed. These patients will be transferred to Duluth for care. At this time, beds are filling up quickly in Duluth as they head closer to full capacity. For this reason, we ask that you stay home if you are feeling ill or have been contacted for possibly COVID-19 exposure. If you fall ill while visiting contact the local clinics for testing information, although you will likely have more availability of services back home.

Our hospitals are still here, available, and capable of caring for those needing emergency care for injuries, accidents, and other health concerns. Just as they always have been. The staff at our hospitals are wonderful. Our services are just limited due to our size and location. 

General Atmosphere

Many places on the North Shore have been practicing an abundance of caution during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. We still have an incredibly low number of COVID-19 cases, although cases here have been increasing rapidly, like elsewhere in the state. For this reason, precautions are held to a high standard in many places. But, we made it through the summer of 2020 without a surge in cases and know we can safely host visitors to the North Shore.

When you come up North, especially into Cook County, you will notice that wearing a mask in public has become a social norm here. We have embraced the idea of wearing a mask to help protect essential workers and our elderly and at-risk populations. Don’t be surprised to see people standing around even outdoors wearing masks. In addition to helping prevent the spread of COVID-19, it’s a great way to keep your nose warm on frigid days!

We Hope to See You This Winter

Change is never easy, and there has been a lot of changes lately. We understand many of these changes will be hard to adjust to. But, as stated earlier, many things are still the same. Lake Superior is still her same, beautiful, moody self. The trees stand tall, the snow will fall, and the lakes will continue to be here. As they always have been. Waiting for you to visit. We hope you come. See you soon!