Day Trip: Snowmobiling The C.J. Ramstad North Shore Trail
Do you have day-trip snowmobiling destination? It’s good to have a go-to place where you can load up the sled and head there for a ride, especially during seasons like this when snow is scarce. For me, these destinations typically vary from season to season as conditions allow. For example, last year my destination was right outside my garage as the trails near home were in fine shape from December into March. This year … not so much. Central Minnesota has received about 12 inches of snow so far, and never more than a couple inches at a time.
This season, my go-to snowmobiling destination has been the C.J. Ramstad North Shore Trail near Lake Superior in Minnesota. This trail runs parallel with the shore of Lake Superior — about 5 miles inland — between Duluth and Grand Marais, Minnesota. The area is generally reliable in terms of snow cover. The band of snow might not be very widespread, but whether it’s on forest service roads or trails, ambitious snowmobilers can usually find a place to ride there.
I’ve made the trip to the CJ Ramstad North Shore Trail three times in the past 11 days, and rode in the area one other time last month. I left my house at 5 am yesterday and was riding out of the trail access lot in Finland, Minnesota, five hours later. I stopped after a few miles to peel off a layer and switch balaclavas — the trail was rough so I quickly worked up a sweat. I was riding our Ski-Doo MX Z X demo with the 600 E-TEC engine and it was handling the bumps pretty well.
I stopped again after another 10 miles or so when I reached the south Temperance River bridge near the bottom of Heartbreak Hill to jot down some notes and snap a few photographs. Skies were clear and the sun beat down during the break. There was a bird singing above me in the trees and I could smell the treated timbers that were part of the bridge abutment. This same bridge was out of service last winter. I looked over the new one during my break, and it seems like it could last for ages.
I traveled farther up the C.J. Ramstad North Shore Trail, eventually making my way to the groomed section and for lunch at The Landing on Devil Track Lake. It was fun weaving between the hardwoods and flowing up and down the hills while dodging random holes. I basically had the trail to myself because I think most snowmobilers from Minnesota and Wisconsin have given up on this winter, assuming there isn’t any snow nearby. They’re wrong.
Conditions are actually quite good on the northern end of the C.J. Ramstad North Shore trail near Grand Marais, Minnesota, and on the other trails and Superior National Forest service roads in the area. If you’re fussy, making a run up there probably isn’t for you because some parts are really rough and hard. But if you have a burning desire to go snowmobiling and your only requirement is snow cover so the sleds can run, go for it.
I also seized this opportunity to further test out the RevArc Sled Ramp. I’d used it a few times so far this season to load sleds into a pickup, but I hadn’t taken it on a road trip. Since it’s 90 inches long and arched, the ramp was tricky to fit alongside the sled inside my pickup’s cargo box. The ramp had to go in a certain way and I had to stuff a durable piece of foam between it and the sled’s spindle to prevent damage to the finish. I’ll write a complete product review with more details and photos for an issue of Snow Goer next fall.
— Andy Swanson, Snow Goer managing editor