This two-part district running north of the main Iron Range  communities and over toward Beaver Bay  on the North Shore was named after the north–south continental divide, aka the Laurentian Divide, that runs the length of the forest. In this part of the state, rain falling south of the divide flows into the Atlantic Ocean via the Great Lakes, while to the north it heads up to Hudson Bay.
Straddling the Laurentian Divide on Highway 53/169 four miles north of Virginia  are the Lookout Mountain Trails. The series of loops extends 15 miles back toward a fantastic vista—great for fall-color viewing—though unfortunately you have to walk pretty far in to get away from the highway noise.
There is a mile-long fitness trail and a brief interpretive trail at the front end, while geological markers in the parking lot present the area’s unique geology. The 10 groomed miles are some of the area’s most challenging cross-country ski trails.
Another well-known ski path is the Sturgeon River Trail, nine miles north of Chisholm  on Highway 73, with 23 mostly easy (the Jean Lake Loop is somewhat hilly) miles groomed. It’s a beautiful summer hike, especially the parts that follow the river, though parts get pretty wet at times.
Other worthy and easy hiking opportunities in this portion of the district include the two-mile, river-fronting North Dark River Trail on County Highway 688 near the Sturgeon River Trail, and the 2.5-mile Pfeiffer Lake Trail at its namesake campground. The latter includes a short interpretive trail.
The 20 miles of the Big Aspen Trail are open to multiple users, including ATV, horse, and mountain bike riders in the summer and cross-country skiers in the winter. There are some steep hills leading to scenic vistas, but for the most part these three trails are pretty easy.
The main trailhead of the Bird Lake Trail lies five miles southeast of Hoyt Lakes and leads to a rolling two-mile loop with a bog boardwalk on the east side of the namesake lake. There is also a nice picnic site here. The majority of the 11-mile trail leads back to town on the south side of the highway, and portions are too wet to hike in the summer but groomed for cross-country skiing in winter.
Just south of the Cadotte Lake Campground on Forest Road 416 is the Otto/Harris Trail with a path linking loops around these two quiet fishing lakes. The easy 2.8-mile loop around Otto Lake stays quite close to the shore and is the most scenic part of the eight-mile trail; there are two campsites along it.
At the White Pine Picnic Area on County Highway 2, just north of the byway, a thousand-foot interpretive trail surfaced with gravel circles through a stand of white pines where a 150-foot giant is still standing.
For an easy walk with a payoff for history buffs at the end, visit the Longyear Drilling Site (206 Kennedy Memorial Dr., 218/225-2344, www.boartlongyear.com ) in Hoyt Lakes. Look for an information booth in the parking lot and signs to the quarter-mile path. The walk leads to the 1890 drill site where the multinational corporation got its start, with original equipment in place.
The Laurentian District has three lakeside campgrounds (218/229-8800 or 877/444-6777); all have beaches and take reservations. With 52 sites in four loops, Whiteface Reservoir, south of Hoyt Lakes, is one of the forest’s largest camps and one of just two with electric hookups. Quieter are the 27 sites nearby at Cadotte Lake. Pfeiffer Lake’s 16 sites are located between Tower  and Cook .
The Laurentian Ranger Station (318 Forestry Rd., 218/229-8800, 8 a.m.–4:30 p.m. Mon.–Fri.) is located in Aurora.