Plan Your Visit
Welcome to Grand Portage National Monument! The changing seasons offer an abundance of cultural and natural history experiences at Grand Portage.
Spring - Remaining hummocks of spring snow are replaced by carpets of moss and wildflowers, the fiddleheads of ferns and shafts of grasses. Spring along the Mount Rose Trail includes not only spectacular views of the largest freshwater lake in the world, Lake Superior, but also miniature marvels; white flowerets of Bunchberry (Cornus Canadensis) and False Lily-of-the-Valley (Maianthemum canadense) with the irregular white petals of Juneberrys (Amelanchier sp.) in an overstory of white spruce (Picea glauca) and jack pine (Pinus banksiana). A spring hike up the Grand Portage provides picturesque views of golden-yellow five to seven sepaled blossoms of Marsh Marigold (Caltha palustris), yellow and purple violets (Viola sp.) sprinkle the forest with color while the white blossoms of declining trillium (Trillium flexipes) are veiled beneath their large triangular leaves. Embraced within an overstory of white spruce (Picea glauca), Norway pine (Pinus resinousa), paper birch (Betula papyrifera) and quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides), occasional small soft pinkish-white blossoms of choke and pin cherry shrubs (Prunus sp) mingle with mountain maple (Acer spicatum), alder (Alnus sp.) and beaked hazel (Corylus cornuta).
Summer - If you like history, summer is the time to visit the North West Company's (NWCo.) reconstructed headquarters on Lake Superior. Although similar gatherings were held on Grand Portage Bay by French traders, the Scottish managed NWCo. probably held their first rendezvous here in the early 1780s. Scope of operations at Grand Portage continuously grew so by 1789 the NWCo. had constructed a stockade with 16 to 18 log buildings with cedar or birchbark shingles and some had copper or tin roofs. Today, you can visit the stockade area rebuilt in the mid 1930s to 1970s with four log buildings: great hall, kitchen, canoe warehouse and a gatehouse. Each building is staffed by knowledgeable employees dressed in clothing of the late 1700s performing activities needed by the NWCo. Canoe building, carpentry, making bread, working with flintlock muskets, gardening, crafting baskets and carving paddles were just some of the activities necessary to make the NWCo. one of the most successful companies during the fur trade.
If you like to camp and backpack, take a hike up the Grand Portage to Fort Charlotte, site of a former post on the Pigeon River which has not been reconstructed. The Pigeon River was the gateway to trading posts west of the great lakes. The hike can give you the feeling of toil and drudgery French-Canadian voyageurs experienced carrying two 90 pound or more loads up and down this challenging footpath. When you reach the Fort Charlotte site, you can camp underneath majestic white pine (Pinus strobus) and black and white spruce (Picea mariana and P. glauca) for the night.
Winter - The Heritage Center is open year round even on some Saturdays. A limited number of adult and children's snowshoes are available to check out for free. Even though the stockade is closed in the winter, a snowshoe hike of the Grand Portage on a crisp winter or early spring day can be one of serenity and good exercise with cool fresh air in abundance! NWCO. employees often snowshoed from one post to another sometimes up to 80 miles in several days. Cross country skiing of the Grand Portage can be demanding of a skier's skills due to sharp turns at the bottom of short steep hills but the beauty of the boreal forest embraces you in the evergreens between large clearings left after the broad leaved trees have lost their leaves.
Did You Know?
Nor’Wester Alexander Mackenzie jumped off from Grand Portage to reach the Pacific Ocean in 1793, 13 years before Lewis and Clark crossed the continent.