The North Shore is Minnesota’s most spectacular landscape.
Exploring Lake Superior’s North Shore
The easternmost part of Minnesota snuggles between the north shore of Lake Superior and Canada. It’s an area of dramatic cliffs, rocky beaches, pine-covered hills, and stunning vistas.
State highway 61 is a Scenic Byway and the main route through the region, with small cities, state parks, and tourist services along the route as it winds north from Duluth to the Canadian border.
Inland, the Gunflint trail leads through wetlands and atmospheric lakes to the watery wilderness of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area.
Although most visitors come during summer and fall, the North Shore is popular for outdoor activities throughout the year. For example, Grandma’s Marathon brings masses of runners in early spring. During the winter, mushers and spectators alike come for the John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon.
Because the North Shore is so scenic, it’s a popular place for photography workshops. These can be a great way to improve your photography and discover new places to practice your photography skills!
The following lists things to do and see along the route, along with a few of my favorite places to eat, drink, or shop.
Duluth might be Minnesota’s favorite summer weekend get-away.
Minnesota’s largest northern city and an international port, this popular tourist destination was once a rather dreary industrial city. While it retains an active port and related activity, the city also boasts amenities that draw hordes of tourists during the summer and fall.
While many visitors are content to wander canal park and watch the lakers pass under the lift bridge, there is a lot of history, art, and culture for those looking for more to do.
Canal Park and the Lakewalk
When Duluth was booming, the area that is now Canal Park was filled with warehouses and other industrial infrastructure. Once a wealthy city, by the 1970s many of Duluth’s most important industries had closed and the area around the harbor was pretty desolate – actually, the whole city was rather desolate, with a declining economy and what looked to be a bleak future.
All that began to change in the 1980s, when the city started reclaiming the waterfront as an entertainment district. An entertainment and convention center (the DECC) was built along one end of the lakefront. More importantly, antique shops, bars, and restaurants began to locate in Canal Park.
At the same time, the city began work on the Lakewalk – the 4.2 mile walking/biking/skating path along the shoreline from the DECC, through Canal Park, past the Fitger’s brewing complex (now housing a brewpub, restaurants, and shops), through Leif Erikson Park and on into the rose garden.
This green strip along the shoreline provides easy access to all of the city’s lakeshore amenities, but it also the perfect place to wander and watch the lake.
Bayfront Park, the Great Lakes Aquarium and the DECC
Bayfront Festival Park marks the southern end of the lakefront entertainment district. Largely an open area with a large permanent stage, the park is home to events throughout the year. The park is often used for outdoor concerts and music events (including the long-running Bayfront Blues Festival), athletic events, and the brightly lit Bentleyville Christmas display (be prepared for loud obnoxious music when the link opens). There isn’t a better place to take in a show on a lovely day.
The Great Lakes Aquarium features exhibits on watery habitats nearby (Isle Royal and the Baptism and St. Louis Rivers) and around the world (the Amazon), along with art exhibits and various other educational offerings. I haven’t been here, so don’t have any first-hand information on the aquarium or its programs.
The DECC is simply a convention center like many other convention centers. It hosts conferences, concerts, and events of all sizes and is the main venue for big name entertainment in the city. It’s a bit of a hike from the DECC to either Canal Park or downtown, although a skyway connection allows visitors to comfortably reach downtown hotels and restaurants no matter what the weather. There are no restaurants or hotels at the DECC itself.
Canal Park, located at along the shipping canal at the foot of the aerial lift bridge, is the heart of the waterfront area. This is where most of the city’s hotels, restaurants, and tourist shopping can be found. It’s also the place to go to watch the ships (called Lakers) enter and exit the port.
Recommended spots for shopping along Canal Park include the shops of the Dewitt-Seitz building (including art galleries, a women’s clothing store, a cooking and cookware shop, and the fabulous smoked meats and fish of Northern Waters Smokehaus), the Duluth Pack store, and Siiviis (formerly and generally still referred to as Sivertson Gallery). There is also a nice antique mall and the wonderful gift shop/home decor store/fine art gallery that is Waters of Superior (my new favorite store in Duluth, after Northern Waters).
There are a number of restaurants in the area, all are fine. Stop for lunch (or goodies for the road) at Northern Waters. Grandma’s may not have the most exciting food in town, but it has a patio in back (not always open) that overlooks the canal and lift bridge, while Angie’s patio has views across Canal Park. Vikre Distillery by the bridge has wonderful concoctions and a lovely appetizer platter.
- Feeding the Gulls in Canal Park (July 2013)
- A Grey Day (March 2010)
- Lake Superior View, Before Sunrise, and A Chilly Day (January 2009)
- Behind the Building (August 2008)
- Morning Along the Waterfront (August 2008)
- Good-Bye, Duluth! (September 2007)
- The Shipping Season has Begun (April 2007)
Aerial Lift Bridge and Shipping Canal
Duluth’s Aerial Lift Bridge is a city icon. In operation since 1905, the bridge provides land access to the spit of land known as Park Point without impeding ship traffic through the canal that connects the harbor to the rest of the world. Watching giant ships (called Lakers) move through the canal below the upraised bridge is probably the number one tourist activity in Duluth. (You can find out what ships will be coming through the canal, and when, by checking the regularly published schedules.) Visitors can also walk out to the light that marks the canal entrance.
- Duluth Tall Ship Festival (2016)
- Lift Bridge at Night (August 2011)
- Evening by the Lift Bridge (August 2008)
- Below the Lift Bridge (August 2008)
- Duluth (September 2007)
Leif Ericson Park and the Rose Garden
The Interstate highway through Duluth was one of the last pieces of the national highway system built anywhere in the country. That means it was constructed at a time when people were beginning to recognize the destructive impact of urban freeways on the surrounding community. In order to address some of these concerns, a portion of the freeway was capped and public gardens were created literally on top of the freeway. This is Lief Ericson Park, where the wonderful gardens that overlook Lake Superior are definitely worth a stop. (Full disclosure: My cousin helps maintain these gardens, but they really are spectacular.)
- The Gardens of Leif Ericson Park (July 2013)
If you really want to see Duluth, take a cruise tour that includes a tour of the working harbor. The Vista Fleet offers a variety of cruises that provide an introduction to the city and its history. All provide a relaxing time out on the water.
- Duluth Harbor Cruise (August 2008)
The Ariel Lift Bridge connects the seven-mile spit known as Park Point (its official name is Minnesota Point) to Canal Park and the rest of the city.
Park Point is largely a residential neighborhood, although today a couple of hotels have been added to the mix. The peninsula used to be lined with the tiny homes and shacks of working fisherman; today most of those original buildings are gone, first replaced simply by larger homes and then by even larger homes – some of which may serve only as summer cottages. Despite this shift, the area retains a bit of the feeling of Cape Cod, with plenty of cedar shakes and water visible on all sides.
There’s an airport at the end of the point, but there is also a large grassy park sprawling across the peninsula. It’s a popular place to swim and play even if the peninsula’s beaches extend far beyond the park, wrapping around six miles of shoreline.
A number of annual events are held on Park Point, including a spring garage sale and summer art show.
Visitors to Park Point should allow plenty of extra time, as it is possible to get “bridged” at any time as the Ariel Lift Bridge is raised to allow traffic through the canal and traffic backs up in both directions.
Although still a bit down-at-the-heels, visitors who neglect to make the short trek up the hill to downtown Duluth are missing some great restaurants, galleries, and lots of grand historic architecture. Much of the downtown core is designated as a historic district, but little information of use to tourists seems to be available. (Duluth seems ambivalent about its trove of historic buildings. Little is done to highlight their existence and periodically one is lost to fire or simple neglect.) Unlike the city’s building stock, the city’s restaurant scene is pretty dynamic, with new restaurants regularly bursting onto the downtown scene even if they don’t always stick around very long. Downtown restaurants cover the full range, from dive bars and pubs to casual spots like Pizza Lucé to fancy upscale spots.
(For those of you who’ve visited downtown in the past few years, it’s worth noting that the head shop is finally gone and the atmosphere downtown has improved accordingly.)
- Martinis for Dinner (August 2011)
The restored Depot is now a museum housing several exhibitions at any given time. Permanent residents include the Lake Superior Railroad Museum, Duluth Art Institute, and the Saint Louis County Historical Society. I have to confess that – despite my best intentions – I’ve never actually made it to a show at the Depot. I will have to get there soon though, as some of the shows look quite interesting.
Galleries and Shopping
The retail scene downtown has struggled for years (at least a generation), but there are some shops and galleries worth searching out. Among my favorite is Lizzards Galley, which always has a wonderful selection of art and high-end craft by local artists.
The Skyline Parkway Scenic Byway snakes along the hillsides above Duluth. The road began to take shape as a scenic highway in 1889 and, although sections run through rather ordinary urban development, much of it runs along parks and a ridgeline that offers stunning views of the city and lake beyond. The northeastern end connects to/becomes pretty little Seven Bridges Road.
Thompson Hill Rest Area
Visitors coming from the greater MSP area can begin their tour of Skyline Parkway right off the freeway at the Thompson Hill Rest Area. Besides being a great spot to pick up maps and tourist information, the patio behind the rest area provides a good view over the city.
- At the Rainbow’s End (September 2007)
Enger Park sits on a hill above the city, which means it offers great views of the city. But if the view from the ground isn’t enough, the five-story tower that has stood on the site since 1939 offers an even more dramatic view. Long a rather desolate spot, Enger Park today includes a golf course with stunning views and a beautiful public garden.
Located just off Skyline Parkway, Hawk Ridge is a great spot for birders – especially in spring and fall when hundreds or even thousands of birds pass overhead each day. Various events and activities are scheduled throughout the year, but visitors are welcome any time.
The Tweed Museum of Art at the University of Minnesota in Duluth is another spot that has been on my must-visit list for some time without my actually getting there. The museum has a collection of over 9,000 objects and puts on special exhibits that generally look fabulous.
Seven Bridges Road
At Amity Park, Skyline Parkway becomes the Seven Bridges Road. This historic route (with fully restored bridges) crosses back and forth over the cascades along Amity Creek for about 5 miles. It is a scenic, little-traveled route with a couple of spots where hiking trails connect with the road to make it perfect for exploring.
I last visited the Glensheen Estate, the home of Duluth’s uber-wealthy Congdon family, years and years ago. It was an interesting enough house museum, but in those days most visitors were there to see a murder scene that docents were prohibited from mentioning. Things have changed over time. In the aftermath of a multi-million dollar renovation, a new series of tours allows visitors to see the house from every vantage point and to peek into every room. While the mansion is still a spectacular example of how the one percent of 1908 lived, the home’s 39 rooms and surrounding gardens are used to paint a more complete picture of that time in history. And the infamous 1977 murders are no longer a deep dark secret within the house. It’s time for a return visit.
Just in case there isn’t enough going on in Duluth to keep you busy, remember that there is another whole city on the other side of the harbor. I haven’t spent a lot of time as a tourist in Superior over the years, but can heartily recommend the Red Mug coffee shop and pizza and beer at Thirsty Pagan Brewing.
Between Duluth and Two Harbors
As you leave Duluth you’ll come to Brighton Beach. If you aren’t stopping the beach, you have a choice to make: take the old (two-lane) road along the shoreline or the new (four-lane) bypass inland. Sure, the bypass lets you zip up to Two Harbors in no time at all (and there aren’t significant attractions along the old section of road), but why are you up here anyway? Isn’t it to relax and enjoy the lake? This is place to start!
There are a few cafés and restaurants along the way, including the deservedly popular New Scenic Café, but mostly it is just a nice drive along the lake.
If you want to extend your drive, take the (short) detour along Stoney Point Road. Along the way, stop to check out the fish shacks or hike out to the beach to watch the waves. Keep an eye out for surfers when the waves are up.
Two Harbors to Silver Bay
The next section of the route includes a number of attractions, the first of which are found right in Two Harbors. Farther along you’ll find Gooseberry and Split Rock, a couple of the state’s most popular state parks.
There’s no doubt at this point that you have reached the North Shore!
As indicated by its name, there are two harbors within the city. Actually, these harbors once anchored two separate communities (Agate Bay and Burlington) that became one in 1907. The Agate Bay harbor is a great place to watch a 1000 foot laker maneuver into what seems like an impossibly tiny harbor and then load up with taconite pellets. Just walk down to the breakwater for a great view. (You might have to wait awhile though, while ships come in here regularly, they don’t come in very frequently.) There is a historic – and still functioning – lighthouse here too. When you are finally ready to turn your back to the lake, there is a traditional little downtown with a few nice shops just waiting for you to visit. (There are also shops along the highway.) Two Harbors has plenty of restaurants and cafés too, including an outpost of the small northern Minnesota chain Blackwoods.
Castle Danger Brewing
Truly local beer is now available in town too, now that Castle Danger Brewing has a taproom in town. We haven’t gotten there yet, but apparently the lakeside taproom provides chips and salsa to accompany their line of beers and the view. Food is can also be brought in from local restaurants.
Two Harbors Lighthouse
The red brick lighthouse in Two Harbors is the oldest continually working lighthouse on Minnesota’s north shore. (This implies there is an older one still operating in Canada, but I can’t figure out which one that would be. If you know, leave a note in the comments.) Today the Lake County Historical Society runs the lighthouse as a bed and breakfast, with volunteers responsible for maintaining the facility and its light. (The light itself is operated remotely from Duluth.) Three of the lighthouse buildings (including the light tower) are open for tours, but the main house is only open to overnight guests.
The beach below the lighthouse is perfect for walking and gawking even if you don’t visit the lighthouse itself.
- Two Harbors Lighthouse (2007)
The Edna G. Tugboat
The Lake County Historical Society as operates the Edna G. Tugboat museum. This was the last coal-fired steam tug on Lake Superior. It was built in 1896 and retired in 1981 after serving all but two years of that time in Two Harbors. The tugboat is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is open for tours.
Highway 61 has always been scenic; it used to be a little harrowing as well, with tight curves and steep drop-offs that many drivers found intimidating. One of the most harrowing – and difficult to maintain – sections was along Silver Cliff. In 1994 that changed when a 1,344-foot tunnel through the cliff was opened to traffic.
The section of highway abandoned when the tunnel was completed is now part of the Gitchi Gami State Trail. This section trail offers pedestrians and bicyclists the incredible views that drivers on the old road had little opportunity to enjoy as they navigated the curves and fallen rock. There is a parking lot on the south side of the bridge that can be accessed by northbound traffic. To the north, the Silver Creek Cliff Wayside provides access to the parking area from either direction.
Gooseberry Falls State Park
One of Minnesota’s favorite parks, Gooseberry Falls State Park is wonderful in every season. There are easy walking paths circling the lower falls, along with a path to the upper falls. The falls are also lovely in early and late winter, but trails are slippery.
There is a large visitor center near the falls. The rest of the park has lots of hiking trails, lake views, and wildlife. It is a great spot to camp.
- Gooseberry’s Upper Falls (2012)
- In a Fantasy Land of Tree Roots (2012)
- Early spring at Gooseberry Falls (2012)
- A Glimpse of the Big Lake (2012)
- Spring Thaw at Gooseberry Falls (2010)
- Gooseberry Falls (2007)
Iona’s Beach Scientific and Natural Area
I haven’t visited this spot, but apparently there is a lovely pink beach at Iona’s Beach Scientific and Natural Area. I’ll be sure to check on it the next time I pass this way.
Split Rock State Park and Lighthouse
Split Rock State Park has a gorgeous location along Lake Superior with plenty of trails, but the real draw is the historic Split Rock Lighthouse. The lighthouse operated between 1910 and 1969. Today it is a museum. The park itself is open year-round, although the lighthouse itself is only open for tours during the summer and early fall.
The lighthouse beacon is lit on November 10th of each year to commemorate the 29 lives lost on the Edmund Fitzgerald in 1975.
- Split Rock Lighthouse in Minnesota (2013)
- Split Rock Lighthouse From Our Usual Vantage Point (2012)
- Split Rock at Sunset (2011)
Beaver Bay is the oldest settlement on the North Shore. It’s a tiny town (with a population of 181), but there are tourist facilities here. For example, if you’re feeling hungry, Camp 61 offers BBQ and other tasty meals in an old-fashioned north woods scene.
Beaver River Waterfall
The Beaver River tumbles below Highway 61 in Beaver Bay, with the falls clearly visible from the roadway.
Silver Bay Marina
With its rocky coastline, the Minnesota section of Lake Superior’s North Shore has very few harbors suitable for small boats. In order to provide additional harbors, the state and U.S Corps of Engineers developed a harbor of refuge/marina program for the North Shore. The Silver Bay Marina was the first of these harbors. Located south of the city of Silver Bay, the marina offers a range of services for boaters. It also has a large public picnic area and a dramatic breakwater.
This is also the site of the 1905 wreck of the steamship Hesper, the remains of which still lie in 30-50 feet of water near the jetty.
Silver Bay to Grand Marais
Continuing north, the lovely scenery continues.
There aren’t many places to stop along the road and enjoy a view of Lake Superior, but there are plenty of parks, so plan to settle in for a while!
Along the way, large resorts like Bluefin Bay and Lutsen and small towns like Tofte and Schroeder offer travelers a variety of services and dining options.
Silver Bay is a mining town, with limited options for tourists. There is an AmericInn near the Black Beach and a small motel in town. There is also basic lodging and camping just off County Highway 11 at the Lax Lake Resort. Watch for deer if you head inland here, as the town is filled with deer.
For years Cliffs Natural Resources dumped iron ore tailings into Lake Superior just outside Silver Bay. Over time, those tailings turned the beach black. Today the water is clean and cold, the surrounding cliffs are rugged and red, and beach is broad and black. It’s a gorgeous spot for a picnic or even a dip in the lake on a really, really hot day.
Technically part of Tettegouche State Park, Palisade Head is a rocky outcrop high above Lake Superior. It has steep cliffs and rocky meadows – on windy days you can feel the spray from the waves crashing against the cliff more than 300 feet below. The first time I visited here we ran across the meadow singing songs from “The Sound of Music” – it’s that kind of place. On other visits, we’ve picked the sweetest (tiny) blueberries. The view over the lake is spectacular here too, with beautiful views of Shovel Point.
Tettegouche State Park
Tettegouche State Park offers a range of options for visitor – visitors can walk out to a point high above the lake at Shovel Point, hang out on a rocky beach along the lake, visit the high falls on the Baptism River (the highest waterfall completely within the state) or Illgen Falls or one of the other falls within the park, or hike the Sawtooth Mountains. There are also camp sites and good fishing lakes within the park. It’s a gorgeous area and is one of my favorite parks.
Minnesota Highway 1
If you’ve had enough of the shoreline and want to head inland, Minnesota Highway 1 will take you over the Sawtooth Mountains into the lakes and woodlands of northern Minnesota’s lake country. The drive to Ely (and on to Lake Vermilion) would be particularly lovely in fall. If you are looking for a serious road trip, you can continue on all the way to North Dakota.
George H. Crosby Manitou State Park
Mostly a park for backpackers and serious hikers, I’ve never stopped at George H. Crosby Manitou State Park. It sounds lovely, with challenging trails that reward hikers with waterfalls and lake views. I just wish I wasn’t such a wimp.
Caribou Falls Wayside
A pull-off along the roads allows visitors to hike up to Caribou Falls. I haven’t done this hike yet, but it looks like an easy hike to a pretty spot, so I’ll have to check it out.
Friends introduced us to lovely little Sugarloaf Cove years ago. The beach here is amazing, changing from sand, to cobbles, to large boulders along a small cove. There is a visitor’s center here (open sporadically) and a few hiking trails. However, the real reason to come is for the beach and its picture-perfect setting.
I’ve never stopped here, but apparently there are pretty views down by the harbor and the potential to see a laker unloading coal for the power plant. I’ll check on it next time I’m in the area.
Cross River Falls
The Cross River is another one with a dramatic waterfall visible right from the highway. A lovely new highway bridge somewhat obscures the view for photographers, but provides a much safer viewing area for pedestrians. (One used to have to dodge cars on the highway to observe the falls.) A new rest area here makes the site even more accessible.
Temperance River State Park
Most visitors to the North Shore make at least a quick stop at Temperance River State Park, as the highway wayside is located right above a dramatic waterfall with fantastically eroded canyon walls. There’s almost no walking necessary and a state park permit isn’t required to stop here. But the Temperance River is worth more time, as it the hiking is wonderful in either direction (toward the lake or toward the Sawtooth Mountains).
Sawtooth Mountain peaks
North of the Temperance River, the Sawtooth Mountains offer fabulous hiking along the Superior Hiking Trail. Luckily for me, much of this area, including the hikes to Britton, Carlton, and Oberg peaks are accessible even to hiking lightweights like me. These are fantastic hikes at any time, but they are especially beautiful in the fall.
- Peak Experiences (2007)
Located within Temperance River State Park, an easy climb leads to Carlton Peak and stunning views along the Sawtooth Mountains and over to Lake Superior.
An even easier hike than Carlton Peak, the scenery from Britton Peak is almost as dramatic.
The hike up Oberg Mountain is a little longer and more strenuous than the others, but the views from the top (1000 feet above Lake Superior) are worth the effort. (And the trail is lovely.) Once on top, the trail wanders around, providing dramatic views in most directions. There is sure to be an amazing view to photograph here at any time of day.
Cascade River State Park
Over the past year Cascade River State Park has gone from being a place I had always passed by to a favorite stop along the North Shore. This park has a bit of everything: rocky shoreline, forests, waterfalls, and wildflowers. The park’s namesake waterfall tumbles through a long canyon in a series of cascades and falls. It’s a beautiful place at any time of year.
We also like the privately owned Cascade Lodge, which sits right at the edge of the park. It’s an old-fashioned place, with a traditional lodge (with updated motel rooms and a wonderful open living room on the main floor), simple cabins, and a good restaurant. It’s not at all fancy, but it is comfortable and affordable – even during the busy summer season.
Cut Face Creek Wayside
If you need a break along the way, the Cut Face Creek Wayside comes with great views and access to a broad cobblestone beach.
Grand Marais is the artsy heart of the North Shore. It is a town filled with shops, services, lodging, and restaurants. There are special events and activities here throughout the year, but especially during the summer. This is a vacation destination in and of itself.
The food is always good in Grand Marais, with a range of really fine local restaurants. My favorite spots include the World’s Best Donuts (the name says it all, so be prepared for a line in any season), My Sister’s Place (the burgers are fabulous, particularly the bison), the Gun Flint Tavern (great northwoods food and more), the Crooked Spoon Cafe (upscale modern cuisine at its finest), the Angry Trout Cafe (fine northwoods dining with plenty of local fish), and the Dockside Fish Market (the source of local fish, with a fish-focused deli and a side of gourmet cooking ingredients).
There is also plenty of shopping available in Grand Marais. It’s a good place to stock up on groceries and other supplies if you are camping, but you can find all sorts of clothing, art, and gifts here as well. We are big fans of Sivertson Gallery, a beautiful space filled with art and fine craft by exceptional local and national artists. Visitors should also check out the Ben Franklin – it isn’t like any other Ben Franklin (remember those?) you’ve been in and it carries everything a northwoods visitor might need.
Want to use your time here to expand your skills? Grand Marais is home to both North House Folk School and the Grand Marais Art Colony. Both offer a full schedule of classes throughout the year. One of my favorite winter memories is of sitting by the wood stove in North House’s big classroom, drinking tea, and working on a beading project under the direction of Jo Wood. Huge snowflakes gently falling outside the window was a bonus – until I had to go out and shovel out my car! (Actually, everyone helped each other shovel out, making it an odd sort of party that continued on through dinner.) Classes range from plein air painting to building your own coffin, so there is sure to be something of interest. There is also a summer arts festival if you just want to see art created by others!
If there is one “must do” activity in Grand Marais, it is walking out to Artists Point. Every city has a promenade – that place where locals and visitors alike go to see and be seen. Main Street fills that function in many Minnesota small towns; in Grand Marais it is Artists Point, the breakwater that leads out to the light at the harbor entrance.
You will discover East Bay if, instead of walking out to Artists Point, you turn the other direction. Once mostly hidden in plain sight, East Bay is beginning to fill with upscale hotels, condos, and lodges. However, even if it isn’t a secret anymore, it’s still the best place in the city to watch the sun rise.
- Sunrise at East Bay (summer 2015)
The Gunflint Trail begins in Grand Marais, running from the shore of Lake Superior to the edge of the Boundary Waters Canoe Wilderness Area. Along the way you will pass rocky outcrops, marshes where moose linger, lush forests and burned-over forests, wildflowers, the occasional bear, and lakes – lots and lots of lakes. The resorts along the trail are perfect places for exploring this watery mix of earth and water. The lovely little Chik-Wauk Museum and Nature Center sits at the very end of the trail and leaves visitors wishing it was their own home.
- The back route to the Gunflint Trail and At the end of the Gunflint Trail (2011)
- Blueberry Hill, Gunflint Lodge, Happy Anniversary, Morning on Gunflint Lake, and Honeymoon Bluff (fall 2007)
Grand Marais to Grand Portage
Most visitors don’t go any farther north than Grand Marais, but plenty of treats await those who continue on.
Five Mile Rock
Ok, there isn’t really much to see here, but Five Mile Rock (designating the rock’s distance from the harbor in Grand Marais) is an area landmark. And there is a place to pull off the road here and take a break.
Kadunce River Wayside
I’d never really noticed the Kadunce River Wayside until I visited it as part of a photography class earlier this year. On the lake side of the highway the Kadunce empties into Lake Superior along a broad beach. Across the road, a trail leads through the woods and sort of along the river. It’s pretty, but not spectacular. However, various websites recommend hiking right in the river itself (when the water level is low) to explore the cascades and waterfalls along the way. I didn’t do that, but might try next time.
Judge C. R. Magney State Park
Originally named for the Brule River running through the park, Judge C. R. Magney State Park was renamed in 1963 to honor an environmental advocate who served as the mayor of Duluth and as a judge for many years. The park is only open for summer use, and its most notable feature is an unusual split waterfall on the Brule River. One half of this waterfall tumbles into a large pool; the other half – the Devil’s Kettle – vanishes into a pothole from which it never reappears. The trail to the falls wanders through the woods, but it is definitely worth taking for the scenery and the Kettle at the end.
- Along the Brule (2007)
A historic landmark right along the shore, Naniboujou is a great lunch or breakfast stop. There is also lodging available here, so dinner followed by a night at the lodge is an option.
Once serving a private club for elite members (Babe Ruth was one) the over-the-top dining room has to be seen to be believed. It is said to be decorated with Cree motifs, but it looks more Aztec to me.
Naniboujou doesn’t have a bar, but the food is good. Heck, even if the food weren’t good, it would be worth a lunch stop just to check out the dining room.
- Naniboujou (fall 2007)
Grand Portage Reservation
The farthest northeastern corner of the state is home to the Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa. This is a beautiful part of the state and visitors are welcome, but it’s important to remember that visitors are guests of the tribe – be respectful and remain in areas open to the general public. Tourist amenities on the reservation include a casino and hotel complex, basic traveler services, a small art gallery, and a few other shopping options.
A traditional powwow is held each summer in conjunction with the summer Rendezvous at Grand Portage National Monument.
The ferry to Isle Royal also leaves from here.
There are a number of public campgrounds in the area, but only a very limited number of hotel rooms. During summer it is best to book well ahead.
Grand Portage National Monument
Native communities were using the route known as the Grand Portage long before the fur seeking Voyageurs established a post here in the 1700s. The Grand Portage National Monument recreates a portion of the historic fur post that once stood here. In addition, the park’s Heritage Center presents cultural, archeological, and historic exhibits.
The annual Rendezvous recreates the summer gatherings of the fur post’s past.
The monument is on tribal land and is operated jointly with the tribe.
- Grand Portage National Monument (summer 2015)
- Grand Portage Rendezvous (summer 2015)
Grand Portage State Park
Grand Portage State Park sits right along the Canadian border. Indeed, the park’s dramatic waterfalls can only be viewed from one side unless one leaves the park, goes out to the highway, drives up to the border, presents a passport, and crosses into Canada. Once in Canada, a nearby road leads to an overlook where the falls can be viewed from that side of the Pigeon River. Grand Portage State Park itself is a joint effort between the tribe and the state of Minnesota, with the park located on land leased from the tribe and the joint visitor center managed by the tribe.
This is the last public wayside rest before reaching the Canadian border.
- Grand Portage State Park (fall 2010)
Plan your trip to Lake Superior’s North Shore
This is road trip country – load up your car and head north! Part of the pleasure of a North Shore vacation is simply driving through this beautiful area, stopping to hike or just enjoy the view as you see fit.
You’ll also see plenty of motorcycles on the road for the same reason.
Getting to and around the North Shore
Most visitors from the greater MSP area head straight up Interstate 35 to Duluth. That trip takes about 2 ½ hours.
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