Winter road trip destinations within 2 hours of duluth

  • If you are looking for a winter road trip idea, there are plenty of things to do within two hours of Duluth.
  • Black Bear Casino offers over 2,400 slot machines and many other casino games.
  • Giants Ridge has two championship golf courses that transform into some of the best ski hills in Minnesota.
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Winter is a special time in Duluth, but it’s also nice to get out and explore what the rest of northern Minnesota and northeastern Minnesota have to offer during the colder months of the year. There are tons of great winter road trip ideas from Duluth and I’ve listed fifteen fantastic options that are all less than two hours away.

Whether you are looking to go on a weekend getaway or just take a short day trip, these destinations are worth checking out during the wintertime.

Black Bear Casino

  • Location: Carlton
  • Distance from Duluth: 1 hour (46 miles)
  • Notable Attractions: Casino, Hotel, Restaurants, Spa, Golf Simulators

The beautiful thing about casino resorts is that you don’t have to be in Las Vegas to experience one. Black Bear Casino is a top spot for a day trip or a quick weekend away from Duluth.

Black Bear Casino offers more than 2,400 slot machines if you’re looking to try your luck at winning big. They also have all of your favorite table games including roulette, craps, blackjack, and more.

If you are not interested in gambling, there are plenty of other reasons to make the trip to Black Bear Casino. Their lodging facilities feature modern amenities with breathtaking views of Lake Superior.

There are several dining options available as well. From juicy steaks and succulent seafood at The Dining Room to delicious burgers and hand-tossed pizzas at Timber Lodge, everyone will find something they like.

You can also unwind at the full-service Salon & Spa, play golf simulators, go shopping, and watch live entertainment at the nearby Event Center.

Giants Ridge

  • Location: Biwabik, NE
  • Distance from Duluth: 57 miles (1 hour 13 mins)
  • Notable Attractions: Ski Hills, On-Site Lodging, Restaurants, Snowshoe Rentals, Indoor Water Park

Giants Ridge is a four-season resort located in Biwabik, which is right on the border of St. Louis and Itasca counties. During the summer, their two championship golf courses draw visitors from across the state but when the snow falls, this destination becomes one of the top ski resorts in Minnesota.

Beginner, intermediate, and advanced skiers will find plenty of terrain to enjoy thanks to 30+ trails and three lifts. You can rent everything you need on-site and there are multiple warming houses spread out across the hills.

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If you don’t want to strap on a pair of skis, Giants Ridge also offers snowboarding, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing. They have everything you need to rent for those activities as well.

In addition to being one of the best winter road trip ideas from Duluth, Giants Ridge is also a great summer destination.

You can read more about Giants Ridge and other amazing MN golf courses in our blog below!

Eeves Junction

  • Location: Aurora
  • Distance from Duluth: 1 hour 19 mins (64 miles)
  • Notable Attractions: Indoor Waterpark, Suites W/ Kitchenettes, Arcade, Mini Bowling

Eeves Junction is an indoor waterpark resort in Aurora that is only an hour and a half drive from Duluth. It’s the perfect place for a family vacation any time of year considering it’s indoors and heated.

This resort features two high-speed waterslides, a lazy river, hot tub, kiddie pool area, and much more. There are also suites available that come with kitchenettes so you can cook meals instead of eating out every night.

Other perks include free WiFi, an arcade, mini bowling, and an on-site restaurant/bar.

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Eeves Junction also hosts fun events throughout the year such as adult-only nights at the waterpark, brinner (breakfast + dinner) buffets, themed weekends, trivia nights, holiday parties, and more. This is a great option for families with young children or anyone looking to relax and have fun in the water.

Lutsen Mountains

  • Location: Lutsen
  • Distance from Duluth: 1 hour 28 mins (71 miles)
  • Notable Attractions: Four Interconnected Mountains, 95 Runs, Scenic Gondola Ride, Nordic Skiing

Lutsen Mountains is the largest ski resort in Minnesota with four interconnected mountains, 95 runs, 13 lifts, two terrains parks, tows, and a 300′ vertical drop. This destination welcomes skiers and snowboarders of all ages and skill levels.

Ullr Week is one of the most popular events at Lutsen Mountains each year. The festival celebrates the Norse God of Snow and features live music, fireworks, bonfires, torch light parades, fire dancers, and more.

The ice-cold air makes Lutsen Mountains one of the best places to see the Northern Lights in Minnesota. There are also numerous hiking trails, scenic gondola rides, restaurants, and other activities to enjoy at this world-class ski resort.

If you’ve never been skiing before, Lutsen Mountains offers beginner lessons for individuals and groups. There are also snowmaking capabilities on Eagle Mountain so they can open earlier in the season if Mother Nature isn’t cooperating.

Read more about Lutsen Mountains in our blog below!

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Grand Rapids

  • Location: Itasca County Seat
  • Distance from Duluth: 1 hour 24 mins (70 miles)
  • Notable Attractions: Historic Downtown Area, Itasca State Park, Northwoods Zoo, Chainsaw Carvings, Museums

Grand Rapids is the largest city in Itasca County with a population of around 11,000 people. It’s also the county seat and home to the University of Minnesota Duluth’s Laboratory School of Community Education.

One of the biggest attractions in Grand Rapids is the Northwoods Zoo, which is free and open year-round. There are over 150 animals from around the world including bald eagles, black bears, bobcats, red foxes, reindeer, and wolves.

Itasca State Park is another top attraction for nature lovers. This is where the mighty Mississippi River gets its start and there are tons of outdoor activities to enjoy such as camping, boating, biking, fishing, geocaching, horseback riding, hiking, cross country skiing, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, and wildlife watching.

Be sure to check out the World’s Largest Chainsaw Carving while you’re in town. “Paul Bunyan” stands at 34 feet tall and weighs approximately 9,600 pounds.

If you’re lucky enough to be driving through Grand Rapids on June 12th, you can witness the unique birthday celebration for Paul Bunyan. They even have cake and ice cream for attendees!

Jay Cooke State Park

  • Location: Near Carlton & Shevlin
  • Distance from Duluth: 45 minutes (24 miles)
  • Notable Attractions: Hiking Trails, Bike Trails, Scenic Overlooks, Historic Sites, Campgrounds
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Jay Cooke State Park is located near Carlton and Shevlin and sits along the Saint Louis River. There are over 4,000 acres of land to enjoy including campsites, picnic areas, hiking trails, bike trails, rock climbs, and scenic overlooks.

One of the highlights of Jay Cooke State Park is the Swing Bridge, which was built by railroad tycoon Jay Cooke in 1879. Unfortunately, the bridge collapsed during a public demonstration and dozens of people lost their lives.

Today, you can walk across the new Swing Bridge to enjoy stunning views of the river and fall colors during the autumn season.

Silver Creek Falls is another major attraction inside Jay Cooke State Park. You can hike down to the base of the waterfall, take photos from above, or simply enjoy the sound of rushing water in the background.

If you’re looking for a winter road trip idea from Duluth, Jay Cooke State Park is a beautiful place to go cross country skiing, snowshoeing, or sledding. Just be sure to exercise caution due to icy conditions.

Soudan Underground Mine State Park

  • Location: Near Tower
  • Distance from Duluth: 1 hour 23 mins (53 miles)
  • Notable Attractions: Deepest Spot in Minnesota, Guided Tours, Geology Museum, Hiking Trails

Minnesota may not be the first state that comes to mind when you think of deep coal mines, but we actually have one! The Soudan Underground Mine State Park sits nearly 830 feet underground and holds the distinction of being the deepest point in the Gopher State.

Guests can take an elevator (or stairs) down to the mine and go on guided tours led by experienced park rangers. You’ll learn all about the history of mining in the Iron Range and the unique geology that brings thousands of tourists to Soudan Underground Mine State Park each year.

You can also go on self-guided tours through the surface facilities and hike various trails surrounded by beautiful north woods scenery. There aren’t many places in the world where you can go underground in the winter and be over 800 feet below the surface.

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Soudan Underground Mine State Park is open year-round but hours are limited during certain seasons. Be sure to check the official website for more information.


  • Location: Northeast Minnesota
  • Distance from Duluth: 1 hour 22 mins (61 miles)
  • Notable Attractions: Vince Shute Wildlife Sanctuary, North American Bear Center, Ice Fishing, Chain Saw Carvings

Crosby-Ironton is another great Iron Range community to visit during any season of the year. Two of the top attractions in this area are the Vince Shute Wildlife Sanctuary and North American Bear Center.

Vince Shute was a famous iront felter who left specific instructions to turn his home and property into a wildlife sanctuary after he passed away. Thousands of visitors flock to Crosby-Ironton to see elk roaming around in their natural habitat. These majestic creatures can be seen throughout the year but the best time to spot them is during the rutting season in the fall.

The North American Bear Center is another fascinating location that provides educational opportunities to people of all ages. Learn about black bears, brown bears, polar bears, and other wildlife native to our region. There are also several chain saw carvings scattered throughout Crosby-Ironton that are definitely worth seeing.

Of course, many people head to Crosby-Ironton to go ice fishing on the many lakes and rivers in the area. Fisherman can try to reel in species such as walleye, northern pike, crappies, bluegills, perch, and more.

Moose Track Adventure Park

  • Location: Willow River
  • Distance from Duluth: 1 hour 19 mins (63 miles)
  • Notable Attractions: Indoor Waterpark, Outdoor Waterpark, Conference Center, Indoor Zip Line

Most people associate waterparks with the summertime, but what if I told you there’s an indoor waterpark that you can visit in the winter? That’s right, Moose Track Adventure Park is open year-round and provides guests with countless ways to stay active and have fun.

The outdoor waterpark is obviously closed during the winter months, but the indoor portion features two body slides, two speed slides, activity pool, vortex, splash area, sauna, and hot tub/spa. There’s even an indoor zip line that takes you over the entire waterpark.

In addition, Moose Track Adventure Park has meeting rooms and accommodations on-site. The conference center can hold up to 150 people theater-style and there are 72 suites available with kitchens, living rooms, fireplaces, whirlpool tubs, and more.

Willow River is located roughly 75 miles west of Duluth on I-35W. Whether you’re planning a corporate retreat, family vacation, or weekend getaway, Moose Track Adventure Park is a fun destination to consider in the Land of 10,000 Lakes.


  • Location: Birthplace of Bob Dylan
  • Distance from Duluth: 1 hour 17 mins (68 miles)
  • Notable Attractions: Bob Dylan Museum, Great Northern Hotel, Golf Courses, Downtown Shopping

Hibbing is known as the “Hometown of Bob Dylan,” the Nobel laureate and world-renowned singer-songwriter who was born in Duluth but lived in Hibbing from the age of six until he graduated from high school.

You can visit the Bob Dylan Museum and Great Northern Hotel to learn more about his life growing up in northeastern Minnesota. Other notable attractions in Hibbing include two 18-hole golf courses, downtown shopping district, parks, playgrounds, walking trails, and much more.

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Did you know the world’s largest open pit iron mine is located in Hibbing?

The easterly horizon is dominated by the pit, which is 0.75 miles wide, 0.5 miles long, and 575 feet deep. The Hull Rust Mahoning Drive-in is also located in Hibbing and is one of only three remaining drive-in theaters in Minnesota.

Hibbing is another great Iron Range community to go ice fishing in the wintertime. Fish for walleye, norways, tullibees, whitefish, yellow perch, and more at area lakes.

Floyd B. Olson Memorial Library

  • Location: Hoyt Lakes
  • Distance from Duluth: 1 hour 14 mins (62 miles)
  • Notable Attractions: Largest Small Library in America, Beautiful Architecture, Amazing Views

The Floyd B. Olson Memorial Library if often referred to as the “Castle on the Hill.” Located in Hoyt Lakes, this library is the largest small library in America and offers stunning views of Lake Superior and the City of Duluth.

Photos cannot fully capture how magnificent this building truly is. You have to see it in person to appreciate the unique architecture and design elements.

The castle was built in memory of Floyd B. Olson, who served as Governor of Minnesota from January 1931 until his untimely death in August 1936. His wife, Rose Olson, dedicated the library to her late husband so future generations could enjoy reading materials and programs at this one-of-a-kind facility.

Whether you’re looking to borrow a book, attend an event, browse the internet, or admire the mesmerizing view, the Floyd B. Olson Memorial Library is a wonderful place to spend an hour or the entire day.

Grand Marais

  • Location: Cook County Seat
  • Distance from Duluth: 1 hour 32 mins (68 miles)
  • Notable Attractions: Art Colony, Harbor, Cook County Historical Society, Spring Gate Winery, Lutsen Companies
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No list of fun road trips from Duluth would be complete without mentioning Grand Marais. Located in Cook County, this quaint little town is filled with local art studios, galleries, shops, restaurants, and more.

Artists from around the country flock to Grand Marais to find inspiration and showcase their talents. You can find one-of-a-kind gifts for friends, family members, or yourself while enjoying the peaceful atmosphere of this charming community.

Wildflowers, birds, and moose are just a few of the many things you can expect to see on the Gunflint Mail Run during the spring. The Cook County Historical Society gives residents and visitors a chance to ride in antique vehicles and learn about the rich history of Cook County.

Spring Gate Winery produces award-winning wines made with locally grown fruit, grapes, honey, and maple syrup. Lots of weddings take place in Grand Marais during the summer and fall, which means there are tons of bed and breakfasts, cabins, and vacation rentals available in the winter.

Grand Marais is also the headquarters for Lutsen Companies, which owns several resorts and properties in northeastern Minnesota.

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Silver Bay

  • Location: Lake County Seat
  • Distance from Duluth: 1 hour 20 mins (64 miles)
  • Notable Attractions: Veterans Memorial, Gooseberry Falls, Two Harbors Lighthouse, Good Food

Silver Bay is the lake county seat with a vibrant downtown area and picturesque views of Lake Superior. One of the major attractions in this city is the Veterans Memorial on the hill overlooking the harbor entrance.

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Visitors can park in the lot next to the Silver Bay Elementary School and walk a short distance to reach the memorial. The views are especially spectacular in the fall when the leaves change color.

Gooseberry Falls State Park is located just south of Silver Bay and is accessible via Highway 61. This 280-foot waterfall drops into Lake Superior and is one of the most picturesque spots along the North Shore.

Don’t miss the Two Harbors Lighthouse the next time you’re in the area. This working lighthouse was originally constructed in 1892 and now serves as a museum. Climb the stairs to enjoy amazing views of Lake Superior and the surrounding areas.

Many people pass through Silver Bay on their way to Duluth or other destinations along the North Shore, but it’s worth stopping to enjoy good food and friendly faces.

I recently had a turkey club at the Silver Bay Cafe that was absolutely amazing. Sometimes the simple things in life are the most enjoyable and that sandwich fits the bill. Friendly staff members also make your dining experience that much better.


  • Location: Saint Louis and Lake Counties** ·Distance from Duluth: 1 hour 50 mins (92 miles)
  • Notable Attractions: Entry Point to Boundary Waters, Burnt House Site, Ely Folk School, Winter Carnival, Blueberries
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Ely is the entry point for many adventurers who are heading into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. This quaint town is also located near several lakes, rivers, waterfalls, hiking trails, and other outdoor attractions.

Did you know that the first Europeans to explore the area were French fur traders and missionaries? In 1659, Father Joseph-Antoine Le Mercier built a cross at the site where Ely now stands to claim the territory for France.

Unfortunately, a group of Sioux Indians burned the cross and killed the priest a few days later. A replica of the Pine Cross now stands in Ely to commemorate the burial site of the burnt house.

Each February, Ely hosts a Winter Carnival with ice sculptures, chili feed, frozen bowling, broomball, horseshoes, turtle races, bean soup feed, pancake breakfast, snowshoe race, talent show, card bingo, pie social, dance, and much more.

You can also pick wild blueberries in the hills outside of town during the summer months. It’s hard work picking berries but certainly worth it when you eat a pint or two with a dollop of whipped cream on top.

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  • Location: Far Western Wisconsin
  • Distance from Duluth: 1 hour 52 mins (88 miles)
  • Notable Attractions: Chequamegon Area, Farm Country, Namekagon River, Fall Color Tour
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Hayward is located in the far western part of Wisconsin along the shores of Round Lake and Chequamegon Area. This city is surrounded by farm country and the name Kakabika means “the place where the water stops moving” in Ojibwa.

Namekagon River flows through Hayward on its journey toward Lake Superior. Many people travel from near and far to enjoy a fall color tour through this region and admire the changing leaves.

Speaking of fall colors, Seeley Watson State Trail is a great place to go biking, walking, rollerblading, cross country skiing, or snowmobiling. This 21-mile trail connects Spooner and Shell Lake, Wisconsin.

Hayward is also home to numerous restaurants, bars, churches, shops, banks, gas stations, motels, and other amenities that you might need during your vacation.

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East Grand Forks

  • Location: Across River in Minnesota
  • Distance from Duluth: 1 hour 58 mins (112 miles)
  • Notable Attractions: Sister City of Grand Forks, National Fine Homes Showcase, Wheelchair Capital, Antique Shops

East Grand Forks sits across the Red River of the North from its sister city of Grand Forks, North Dakota. Both communities were devastated by a flood in 1997 that forced evacuations and caused millions of dollars in damage.

Today, East Grand Forks is known as the Wheelchair Capital of the World because medical device giant Ekornes U.S. Operations are based in this city. Founder Arvid NE Eldehau introduced the Lifeway recliner in 1933 and later developed the first adjustable bed.

Every other year, East Grand Forks hosts the National Fine Home Showcase to benefit the Erik Buelle Cancer Center at Altru Health System. Respected builders and interior designers from around the nation converge on this city to construct incredible dream homes that are later sold to fortunate buyers.

Antique enthusiasts should feel free to stop in East Grand Forks and browse numerous shops that line the historic main street. You never know what kind of treasures you might find at these establishments.

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Kevin Roberts, a freelance writer for, has been an avid fan of poker, blackjack, and galloping horses since his days as a news reporter in Texas.

He’s a graduate of the University of Arizona in Tucson and Often Depended on the Revenge of the Brahma in beat writer/editors in sports… The only consistent number in journalism is deadlines.

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Nowadays, he doesn’t have to fedex his files and can hit the save button, handle his own deadlines… And run with the big woolly WEELLER himself.

When it comes to playing horse racing the Ozark native prefers the triple threat of Bankrofter, Gallant Bloom, and Robertson Traffic. His favorite pokers games are UTA and PLA, although no limit Hold’em table can keep him away for too long.

All-time favorite game is High Low Boy — a five-strategy card game resembling Blackjack, Caribbean Stud, and Pai Gow that Kevin help develop while under contract at SHFFLMASTER Limited.