How Safe Is Grand Marais for Travel?

Grand Marais, United States
Safety Index:
80

Grand Marais, Minnesota, offers artsy and outdoorsy options in an eclectic North Shore getaway.

This area is also known as the Arrowhead Region, and you can see why when you look at the shape of the four counties included in it.

Grand Marais is in Cook County, which includes more than 74 miles of shoreline, a hearty length of the Ontario Canadian border, and an overlapping western boundary with Superior National Forest.

Minnesota is the land of 10,000 lakes, and nearly 2300 miles of lake shoreline are in Cook County.

FUN FACT: Minnesota actually has more than 14,000 lakes.

This northeastern part of the state is rugged, rural, and remote.

This is where you come to get away from fast-paced life or go hunting and fishing deep in the woods or on a fine stretch of Lake Superior shoreline.

The entire county has 5,000 people, and 1,300 of them live in Grand Marais.

Grand Marais means “Grand Marsh” and is pronounced, “Grand Muh-ray.”

It has earned several travel magazine accolades, including America’s Coolest Small Town, Best Beach Getaways, and Next Great Adventure town.

NOTE: There is a Grand Marais in Manitoba, Canada, 500 miles away from Minnesota’s Grand Marais. With Canada also bordering Cook County, it’s important to confirm you aren’t looking at the wrong Grand Marais. Avoid getting it confused with Grand Marais, Michigan as well.

Warnings & Dangers in Grand Marais

Overall Risk

OVERALL RISK : LOW

There's a low risk here when you look at crime rates, but the rugged nature of the North Shore is not to be taken lightly. You'll have mobile service and indoor plumbing in the city, but the natural areas are largely primitive.

Transport & Taxis Risk

TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : LOW

You can easily walk Grand Marais, which is good because there isn't a public bus system. You'll need a car or shuttle service to get from the nearest U.S. commercial airport in Duluth. Taxis and rideshares will be hard to come by. If you're going on an adventure, get a car with all-wheel drive (ideally four-wheel drive). If you're comfortable driving in rural and rugged areas, there's a low risk. Be prepared with first aid and safety kits.

Pickpockets Risk

PICKPOCKETS RISK : LOW

Your risk is low here with theft rates that were already low, but have plummeted 400% since 2012. The biggest theft category is items left in the wild or at campsites, so don't leave valuables lying around when you're exploring.

Natural Disasters Risk

NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : MEDIUM

Winter storms can be especially brutal here, with ice storms, blizzards, rough waters, and dangerous frozen tree limbs falling. Wildfires are another risk, and Cook County teams with the Firewise USA™ organization to provide safety guidance. Severe thunderstorms with intense lighting, winds, and flash flooding are possible, with a tornado risk as well. Cook County Emergency Management is the best source to learn safety tips and guidance. The Duluth branch of the National Weather Service is a great resource too.

Mugging Risk

MUGGING RISK : LOW

This is a very low-risk category considering the entire county hasn't had a robbery since 2009.

Terrorism Risk

TERRORISM RISK : LOW

This is another low-risk, as it's so small the wildlife population is larger than the human population. The one concern would be anything illegal making its way across the border, which is just 35 miles north, and the main road runs right through Grand Marais. This is more of a "See Something, Say Something" point than a safety risk.

Scams Risk

SCAMS RISK : LOW

While the locally reported scams involve phone calls, text messages, and emails, those are directed at residents. The Minnesota Attorney General's website has an updated list of common scams, and you should review this before you visit. Elderly people are more likely to be targeted.

Women Travelers Risk

WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : LOW

As long as a woman can survive in the wild, avoid a 900-pound angry moose, and deal with pests and invasive plant risks, there's no reason to worry about safety here. It's the same for every gender - know the risks, plan for the worst, but hope for the best.

Tap Water Risk

TAP WATER RISK : LOW

The water quality is superb, according to the 2021 Water Quality Report. If you're staying at a cabin or a place where the water pipes have been stagnant, let the water run for one minute to clear about any potential pipe debris. Check with county and city restrictions for water use during droughts or deep freezes.

Safest Places to Visit in Grand Marais

You have several safe websites to view for events, attractions, and advice in this region.

North Shore Visitor, Visit Minnesota, and Visit Cook County all include updated information, maps, and suggested itineraries from the people who know this region best.

Grand Marais sits on two bays, Grand Marais Harbor and Easy Bay, which then open to Lake Superior.

There’s a slice of land called a tombolo between the two, with Artist’s Point being a scenic stop and a great parking option to explore the rest of the town.

Please note there’s an Artist’s Point trail in Washington State, so don’t get the two confused.

Artist’s Point rides a rocky shoreline between a lighthouse and a forested area, and there are parts it might not be safe for children, seniors, or mobility-challenged guests.

The beach portion of the tombolo is filled with small pebbles, so keep your shoes on.

Winter weather makes it even more challenging with slippery ice and snow.

The forested portion does have a narrow wooden walking path.

When you wrap up there, you’ll walk Broadway until it meets Wisconsin Street, and you’ll be downtown.

It’s about as robust as you can expect a small, remote town to be, but you’ll be able to get homemade fudge, massive meal servings, and coffee or happy-hour drinks.

Visit the Cook County Historic Museum while you’re there.

Circle around the bar past the Angry Trout Cafe and Campground/Marina to once again take a sure-footed rocky step to the lower lighthouse.

If you don’t want to walk the rocks, look for the “Photogenic Point” at the shoreline.

Tired of rocks?

Get crafty at the North House Folk School on the shoreline, where you can take a class or purchase locally iconic items.

SAFETY NOTE: Even at its warmest, Lake Superior’s water is rarely above 56°(F).

Since this area is so large, use a map when you’re looking for a tourist attraction.

For example, the Gunflint Trail Historical Society is a wonderful place to visit seasonally, and with a Grand Marais address, it might seem close.

In reality, it’s 55 miles away, closer to the Canadian border than the Great Lake.

It is on the Gunflint Trail, which is a popular scenic drive and also leads to the Boundary Waters Canoe Wilderness Area.

If you aren’t ready to explore the wild solo, you can get guided tours for just about any outdoor activity during all four seasons.

This includes camping, snowshoeing, dog sledding, hiking, and canoeing.

The guides customize the trip for your pace and fitness levels.

Use the North Shore Visitor Guide website to help you find a waterfall.

Each waterfall has a safety risk, a season for maximum flow, distance, and difficulty level to get to it.

The closest one to Grand Marais is Fall River Falls.

I find it funny that you can find more information about how to find a moose in Cook County than how to prevent yourself from being attacked by one.

October’s visitors to Grand Marais will be able to enjoy the Moose Madness Festival.

That said, there are scenic roads where moose sightings are more likely, or you can go on a Moose Safari and have a guide find them from a safe distance.

Places to Avoid in Grand Marais

You won’t find any dangerous neighborhoods or high-crime hot spots here.

That’s the good news.

The bad news is the places to avoid are likely not going to be evident until you’ve made a bad choice.

I’ll use an example from my travels to explain.

We were standing at the edge of a breakwater in Florida as a tropical storm roared.

The crashing waves on the breakwater seemed ominous, even though I’ve walked those rocks dozens of times.

Too smart to risk it, I stayed back, but a stranger beside me couldn’t resist the urge.

We warned him, but he insisted he needed an Instagram photo.

Moments later, a crashing wave broke his balance on the slippery rocks, and he scampered back to the beach with cuts and bruises (mostly bruised ego).

Those are the places to avoid in Grand Marais and Cook County:

  • The slippery rocks you’re sure you can run across
  • One step closer to the edge of the waterfall
  • You’re “pretty sure” you can handle a moderate trail even though you’ve only hiked your suburban neighborhood trail.
  • The canoe trip in Boundary Waters and you are too tired to paddle back but too isolated to call for help.

This region is built to accommodate all fitness levels with people who want to help.

Start slow, and build your way up to bigger adventures.

Leave your ego at home.

Safety Tips for Traveling to Grand Marais

  1. Grand Marais gets law enforcement through the Cook County Sheriff’s Office, and there’s a station in Grand Marais. Follow them on Facebook, and to make sure you get the correct Grand Marais, that handle is “CookCountyMNSheriff.”
  2. Sign up for CodeRED emergency notifications through the sheriff’s office website. You can’t afford to miss a weather watch, which warns of potential severe weather, so you can get to safety. By the time a warning is issued, you’re unlikely to have time to get to safety.
  3. Those going into dead zones for mobile service should bring a NOAA battery-powered radio. Be sure to get it programmed by an expert before you go. Bring extra batteries.
  4. If you’re staying in a cabin or camping in winter, watch out for ice-laden branches or heavy snow buildup. This region averages five feet of snow with little respite for melting during the bitterly cold winter. Falling branches and thawing ice can be dangerous to people, cars, and buildings. They can also knock out power, so have a backup plan to keep warm.
  5. Use the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Fire Danger & Burning Restrictions map to help plan your outdoor adventures. Too many wildfires are started by people who ignore campfire rules, toss out a lit cigarette, or fail to extinguish a legal campfire properly.
  6. To check the water quality of any Minnesota lake, check the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s website. There’s an entire section dedicated to Lake Water Quality and risks to be aware of, like algae blooms.
  7. Don’t assume a coffee-colored lake is dangerous, but it’s another reason why you should know nature’s water quality elements. The dark color comes from tannins, which are often used in chocolate, coffee, and wine. Tannins come from tree bark and can discolor lake water without making it dangerous.
  8. The Grand Marais city website lists snow and trail conditions, which should be reviewed before any hike. Even in summer, trails can become dangerously muddy or slick. Never go past a closed trail barrier, and always wear hiking boots that support your ankles and fit your feet comfortably.
  9. Don’t think you’ve been getting the seasons wrong all this time when you hear about Hygge Season. It’s a Scandinavian phrase meaning “comfort and coziness.” I think a better explanation is saying it loosely translates to, “It’s so darn cold outside, let’s build a whole brand around staying warm, cozy, and comfortable while still enjoying endless activities.” Hygge is pronounced, “HEW-guh.” There’s a whole social media #Hygge I learned while researching this article.
  10. Cook County is an amazing place to see the Aurora Borealis, otherwise known as the Northern Lights. However, it’s not that simple to plan a trip around this. Use the Visit Cook County guide to find the Northern Lights section. You’ll see how to find the elusive lights and the best photography and safety tips.

So... How Safe Is Grand Marais Really?

Crime won’t be your biggest concern here, but you should always use the standard safety steps and common sense you’d use in a bigger city.

The county hadn’t seen more than 11 violent crimes in a year since 2004, but that number jumped to 18 in 2020, falling to 16 in 2021.

Just two homicides have been reported since 2000, and there hasn’t been a robbery since 2009.

Among the 16 violent crimes that did happen in Cook County in 2021, just one of those was against a stranger.

Larceny rates have dropped 400% since 2012.

The wilderness and remote nature bring the biggest safety risks, and the “How safe is it REALLY” largely depends on your behavior and knowledge.

Safety risks include novelties like moose crossing concerns.

It’s far too common in Moose Country to have moose hit and killed by cars.

Along the Gunflint Trail, two most were killed in one weekend.

The dark-colored animals and poorly lit rural streets make a dangerous combination if drivers are speeding or not paying attention.

Keep in mind, you’d be slamming into a 900-pound dense animal.

The carcass can go through the windshield and leave both man and beast hurt.

The rocky shoreline truly stuns, but it’s also dangerous with rocks that can be covered in slimy but invisible layers.

It’s easy to get distracted by the beauty and end up on your backside with a busted ankle.

I know I sound like a nervous mother saying this, but just be careful and study safety extensively for any outdoor activity you plan to do.

Also, learn some first-aid in case you come across someone else who didn’t do their research and is hurt.

How Does Grand Marais Compare?

CitySafety Index
Grand Marais80
Philadelphia60
Houston59
Atlanta58
St. Louis58
La Paz (Bolivia)52
Sao Paulo (Brazil)45
Rio de Janeiro (Brazil)43

Useful Information

  • Visas - To get into the U.S., you'll need a passport and visa designated for your purpose (travel, student, work), and the travel visa is by far the longest process due to a backlog. Review the new 2023 rules about travel visas on the U.S. State Department website, as those could save you some time. For crossing into Canada, visit the Canadian Border Services Agency website.
  • Currency - Despite being this close to the border, you should only plan to use the U.S. Dollar and exchange all currency at Duty-Free should you choose to go back and forth across the Canadian border.
  • Weather - I think another reason Hygge Season is so popular is to avoid the reality of the brutal winters. I've lived in every climate imaginable, and bitter cold *can be fun if you are properly layered up. Any sporting goods store expert can help you with the base, middle, and outer layers, with proper accessories. I actually took my dogs to the park while it was -4°(F) during this article and managed just fine since I know how to layer. You should also have comfortable warm weather outdoor gear, knowing it will be humid here. Bring bug spray, sunscreen, and hydration containers.
  • Airports - Ride the Voyager Highway along the lakefront for 113 miles to get to Duluth International Airport. Technically, the closest airport is 77 miles away in Thunder Bay, Ontario, but factor in border crossing time and the different time zone.
  • Travel Insurance - You should get travel insurance that protects more than just your flight costs. Since this area is so remote and rugged, you want insurance that covers the costs of a potential accident and associated rescue costs, plus medical care.
Click here to get an offer for travel insurance

Grand Marais Weather Averages (Temperatures)

Jan -10° C
Feb -8° C
Mar -3° C
Apr 4° C
May 8° C
Jun 12° C
Jul 17° C
Aug 17° C
Sep 13° C
Oct 7° C
Nov 0° C
Dec -7° C
Choose Temperature Unit

Average High/Low Temperature

Temperature / MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
High
°C
-5-3281317222217114-3
Low
°C
-15-13-8-137111283-4-11
High
°F
232736465563727263523927
Low
°F
5918303745525446372512

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