I had been told several years ago that Highway 7 was a tougher ride than the Gunflint. The only way to really know was to do them back-to-back. So, yesterday was finally the day. It was a nice crisp 50°F, with a slight breeze from the East—not enough to affect the ride. I started with the Gunflint. About 1.3 miles into the ride, the road does a switchback—on a killer slope. I looked at the cyclometer: 8.1 MPH. I felt like I would need to get off and walk. After the switchback, it levels off some and I was able to get up to about 17-18 MPH again. Then there was another steep section and I dropped down to about 10-11 MPH. I got to the top, went over the ridge a bit and then turned around and rode down.
The view is normally beautiful, but yesterday it was so foggy you could barely see the lake. Artist's Point was wreathed in fog; it made me wish I had a camera. I hit the switchback at 23 MPH, coasting, and in less than an 1/8 of a mile, I was going 35 MPH, still coasting. I must say, coming down was a lot easier!
At Highway 7, I turned and began the climb on it. Going west is a relatively gentle slope, 5 miles to climb 600 feet. At the end of Highway 7, I took a right and rode to Cascade State Park, where I turned around. The lake was definitely fogged in! I couldn't see more than 50 yards out. It would be easy to believe I was at the end of the earth.
The real challenge was climbing the hill on Highway 7 going East. It starts out very steep. You go from cruising along to creeping in about 50 feet! I looked at the cyclometer: 10.6 MPH. Then, I heard a deer beside me in the woods, heading toward the road. I stopped pedaling and let it cross—hitting or being hit by a deer in not on my bucket list! My speed dropped to 9.6 MPH instantly. The road leveled off some, only to get steep again. 10.1 MPH. Then it leveled off again. One more steep incline: 10.6 MPH. Then it was relatively mild until the top. The descent was fast and easy.
So, I can definitely say that the Gunflint is the harder of the two. I did the climb on Highway 7 after riding 20+ miles, and I still managed to stay about 2 MPH faster. Granted, the climb going East starts out with a bang! That is probably why people say it is the harder climb...
Here's a screenshot of the route, complete with elevations.