Many Ways to Go
Logging Days, copyright Buena
Vista Ski Area
Most folks start in Brainerd, at the trail's southern end (follow signs to the trailhead). If you've got your own snowmobiles, plan on a 3-4 day trek north from here, stopping at lodgings and towns along the way. Otherwise, set up "base camp" at a nearby resort, lodge, or B&B. After a day of playing in the snow, hop in the car and head north on Hwy 371 to explore new terrain.
At Cragun's Resort, 8 miles northwest of Brainerd on Gull Lake, sleek snowmobiles in jellybean colors are available to resort guests first, then day-trippers. There are plenty of routes on the lake and resort grounds, including one that goes directly to the Bunyan trail.The resort also offers cross-country ski lessons, afternoon dogsled rides, and an ice rink.
Ski Gull, a downhill ski area near the resort, caters to families, with 14 runs and lessons for children. Crosscountry skiing fans can head to the nearby Northland Arboretum, a 540-acre nature preserve with a lighted, 2-kilometer trail. (There are also snowshoeing trails.)
As you follow "the Bunyan" north out of Brainerd, smaller snowmobile routes branch off the main trail through aspen forests and across frozen lakes. Most lodges provide maps of the offshoot trails maintained by local clubs -- don't venture off the main trail without these guides, or unless it's a well-marked path.
A popular "renegade" route, 13 miles north of Brainerd near Nisswa, goes straight across Gull Lake (about a half-hour trip). The main path meets the western lakeshore at Quarterdeck Resort and Restaurant. This is the place to de-ice: Find a window seat, fill up on hot lunch buffet, and watch the action outside.