Fall is my favorite season here in Grand Marais. The sun, the colors, the smells, and... the views! It is tough to squeeze in hikes with Art Along the Lake (the annual fall studio tour I participate in for 10 days each fall), so here is a list of my favorite family-friendly vistas and hikes.
My favorite hike is Oberg Mountain in Lutsen. I've done it every year with either a baby or toddler. It takes me about an hour at a good clip (with a baby in a carrier). It takes much longer hiking with (or carrying) a toddler! What I like about this hike is that it starts with an uphill section, but then is relatively flat as it loops around the top of the peak. I generally have carried our kids uphill, but my oldest was able to walk the entire loop when he was two. There are lots of boardwalks and vistas that kept his attention. Oberg is a very popular fall hike, so plan to either go early (before 10am) or late (after 3pm) to avoid crowds, especially on weekends during peak fall colors. The trail has warning signs for steep cliffs, but the trails feel very safe as long as kids stay close by.
White Sky Rock
My favorite short hike is White Sky Rock on the Caribou Trail. It is an out-and-back trail with a very rewarding view. It's steep and rocky (slippery when wet), but my son was able to walk the whole route when he was two. It is popular during peak colors, but I've never encountered more than a handful of groups on the trail. As you near the top, have your kids nearby. The trail splits and one path goes very close to the edge of the cliff. Stick to the left and you'll have lots of safe distance.
If you (or your kids) aren't in the mood for hiking, you can drive to the parking lot of the Pincushion Mountain trail system for a sweeping view of Grand Marais harbor and the Sawtooth Mountains.
(You can add on a short hike around any of the many ski trails, or a longer hike to the Pincushion Overlook. To get there, follow the Superior Hiking Trail signs east out of the parking lot. I have not done this with kids yet - it's about 4 miles with some steep parts as you approach the overlook).
Lutsen Mountains Gondola
The gondola at Lutsen Mountains is another great way to see some colors without hiking. Our kids had a blast this year - riding the gondola is fun for all ages! We ate lunch at the top, walked the short trails to see the views, and headed back down. The tickets are spendy for adults (free for young kids!), but totally worth it on a beautiful day. (The gondolas don't always run in poor weather, so check the forecast).