Winter magic at the historic Tettegouche Camp

A feeling of warmth washed over me as I walked into that cabin in the historic Tettegouche Camp. The midday sun cheerfully kissed the log walls as I breathed in the comforting scent of the previous night’s fire. I couldn’t help but picture myself cozied up next to a fire in that very wood stove someday.

Tettegouche State Park Winter Camp
Tettegouche State Park Camp in Winter, all photos by Holly Scherer

While it feels like it was yesterday, that memory is more than a decade old. During a long hike at Tettegouche State Park that summer, my husband, Jer, and I wandered into the historic Tettegouche Camp for the first time. As we explored—imagining what it must have been like during its heyday—we ran into a park employee performing maintenance on the cabins. We chatted with him about the park and he eagerly shared how grateful he was for his job there. After a few minutes of small talk, he offered us a tour of one of the cabins.

“This is the best one,” he told us. “You’re right on the water and tucked away from the other cabins.” He unlocked the door and welcomed us in with pride. Without saying a word to one another, Jer and I immediately knew that we would one day call this cabin home for a few nights.

Back then, it wasn’t easy to secure reservations along Minnesota’s North Shore, but we always found a way to spend time at our dream locations. As the years progressed, and we collectively became more prosperous and flexible—and as these special places became popular on platforms like Instagram and YouTube—trying to make weekend reservations can feel like going on a quest to capture sasquatch. Nevertheless, I decided last summer that the time had come for us to stay at the wonderful and remote Tettegouche Camp.

I knew that attempting to reserve the cabin we wanted over a holiday weekend would be a stretch, so we discussed going in a couple of days early to hopefully beat the high demand. I scheduled a notification in my calendar for 15 minutes before our dates would be available for booking. Then we eagerly waited for the opportunity to make this decade-old dream come true.

When the day came, I logged on and was crushed to see that all the cabins were already booked. I called my spouse, defeated and disappointed. Sounding a bit flattened himself, he reassured me that we’d stay there someday when the timing was right. We discussed other options and began working on alternate plans – opening support tickets with the reservation system and trying to reserve at other parks. Six weeks passed since trying to make that initial reservation for our Tettegouche Camp log cabin dream. The seven to 10 days on my open tickets had come and passed several times. We had another epic adventure on the horizon, so I decided to let it go. We’ll make it work when the timing is better, I told myself.

Before crossing the task of booking that cabin off of my quarterly to-do list, I quietly gave it one last look. Shocked at what I was seeing, I hit refresh. Then I double-checked the dates I’d entered and wondered how this could be.

“You’re not going to believe this,” I said to Jer as he sat across from me. “All the cabins in Tettegouche Camp are available for the weekend we’re trying to book.” “You should book it,” he replied. “But I just talked myself out of it,” I said with a smile.

It turns out the entire Tettegouche Camp was closed the previous summer for some much-needed repairs. Not sure when they’d be ready to go, the park removed them from the booking calendar. And I just happened to give it one last check after they were released for booking. So, we reserved the cabin we fell in love with 10 years earlier and began planning for our dream to finally come true.

Expecting a good amount of snow by late December, we purchased a new pulk to haul our gear down the two-mile trail. We even upgraded the old snowshoes we bought on Craigslist many years earlier. But with rumors of a strong El Nino, I kept a close eye on the weather. From time to time, I checked in with friends who live along the North Shore. “No snow yet,” they said as the trip drew nearer and nearer.

The weekend before we were ready to leave, there was still no snow. So, we removed the sled portion of the pulk and replaced it with a cart. Although it’s gorgeous, snow can be a bit messy and a pain to travel through. We were bummed about the lack of snow no doubt, but it was a contented sort of bummed. Knowing how unpredictable the weather along the North Shore can be, I packed the sled and our snowshoes in the bed of my truck just in case.

As we enjoyed our coffee around the wood stove that first morning in our remote log cabin, we looked out the northside windows in unison as the wind picked up. “Maybe we should’ve hiked first thing in the morning,” I said to Jer. We just as quickly shrugged it off and continued to enjoy the leisurely start to our day. Then as we got up to begin preparing brunch, it started snowing. We were delighted by this unexpected gift and eager to get out and play in it.

As soon as we cleaned up after brunch, we bundled up for a snowy hike. We marveled at the beauty of the trees and plants painted with a fresh coat of soft snow. The trail we hiked that day is minimally maintained and sees very few people. And given the surprise winter storm, we only saw one other couple during the entire seven-mile hike. It was magical and completely unexpected.

Our stay at the historic Tettegouche Camp was better than we could have imagined. And that’s saying a lot considering this dream was 10 years in the making. Here’s everything else you need to know to plan your very own Tettegouche Camp getaway.

History of Tettegouche Camp

Tettegouche State Park’s website shares a brief history of how the Tettegouche Camp came to be. You can learn more about the camp’s history by reading the signage in the camp and in the historic lodge that’s available for day use.

“In 1898, the Alger-Smith Lumber Company began cutting the virgin pine forests of Northeastern Minnesota. A logging camp was set up on the shores of a lake the loggers called Nipisiquit. In 1910, after removing most of the Norway and white pine, the logging company sold the camp and surrounding acreage to the “Tettegouche Club,” a group of businessmen from Duluth who used the area as a fishing camp and retreat. One of its members, Clement Quinn, bought the others out in 1921 and continued to act as protector for the area until 1971 when Quinn sold Tettegouche to the deLaittres family. The deLaittres continued Quinn’s tradition of stewardship for the land, beginning negotiations several years later for the preservation of Tettegouche as a state park. During these years, the Nature Conservancy, a private land conservation organization, played a vital role (along with other concerned individuals and groups) in the transfer of ownership. Finally, on June 29, 1979, legislation was enacted establishing Tettegouche as a state park.”

A walk through the historic Tettegouche Camp will transport you back to the early 1900s as you tour the old dining hall, search for the root cellar, and inspect the remains of the old boat house.

Remnants of logging camp at Tettegouche State Park

Planning your stay

Whether you’re planning a day trip or a week-long stay, you won’t regret the trek into the interior of this 9,000-acre park. The historic Tettegouche camp is only accessible by bike, foot, ski, or snowshoe. From the park’s main trailhead, it’s a beautiful three-and-a-half-mile hike. The second option—and the one we chose—is a 1.7-mile steep hike from the Lax Lake Road trailhead. You will need to carry in all of your gear so you’ll want to pack light. We’ve hiked this route countless times and can attest that it’s much more challenging when hauling in a long weekend’s worth of luxuries.

There are four cabins for rent. All of them sleep a maximum of six people except for Cabin D—which sleeps two. Each cabin is equipped with a wood stove, firewood, a kitchenette, and even includes the use of a canoe during the summer months. There is no indoor plumbing in the cabins. You will need to haul in water from the hand pump or the shower building. Come prepared with your own towels and bedding and plan to allow extra time before your departure to clean the cabin with the supplies provided.

Learn More

Tettegouche State Park (MN DNR)
Lodging at Tettegouche Camp (MN DNR)
Tettegouche Camp Restoration (WTIP)

Editor’s Note: Tettegouche Camp is a remnant of the history of logging, which obliterated much of the old-growth forest in MN. Continue the conversation about logging and timber management practices past and present on our Facebook Page.

Holly Scherer is a Minnesota-based writer, photographer, outdoorswoman, and guide. She’s most at home in the great outdoors; camping, hiking, paddling, cycling, and gardening. When she’s not on an adventure, she and her husband live in the Twin Cities where they’re fond of saying, “home is where we store our outdoor gear.”

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