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North Shore of Lake Superior

WHAT TO EXPECT FROM THE NORTH SHORE

The North Shore of Lake Superior is an absolutely stunning area of Minnesota. Home to eight beautiful state parks, stunning lake views, a myriad of activities, and wonderful local restaurants. If you’re heading to Minnesota, you have to plan a trip up to the North Shore.

Need to Know:

Currency: US Dollar

Language: English

Airports:

MSP – Minneapolis/St. Paul

DLH – Duluth

STC – St. Cloud

Electrical Outlets: 120V supply voltage and 60Hz

Planning Your Trip

Accommodation – Camping is a very popular option on the North Shore, but it is very difficult to reserve a campsite because it is such a popular destination. Reservations can be made up to 120 days before your planned date, and you will want to jump on that reservation ASAP. Reservations can be found here. As an alternate camping option, you can camp in the national forests. These campgrounds are first come, first serve, so I recommend trying to get there early on a weekday.

As for non-camping options, there are a ton of great Airbnbs as well as hotels, lodges, and cabins. I’ve stayed at the Lutsen Sea Villas and Grand Marais Trailside Cabins,

Getting Around – You will definitely need a car to navigate the North Shore. Most people are driving up from the Twin Cities.  If you are hiking the SHT, there are shuttles that you can arrange to bus you from your car to your starting point, or from your ending point back to your car.

north shore state park map
north shore minnesota superior

North Shore State Parks

1
Gooseberry Falls A great stop for your road trip up the North Shore, Gooseberry Falls has both an upper and lower falls where you get views of the different parts in the series of waterfalls that makes up the park. Take your time to walk around the different trails, and in the summer, you can even wade in the base pool of the falls. I've never camped here because it always books up extremely early in the season.
2
Split Rock Lighthouse This picturesque light house is a classic icon of the Minnesota North Shore. Surprisingly, the best views of the light house are not actually in the state park, but on waysides that you can see designated on Hwy 61. You can also hike a ways out from the state park entrance for a good view. In the park, you can pay for access to the lighthouse and see the visitor's center which is full of historical information about the park.
3
Tettegouche Home to one of my favorite views on the entire North Shore (Shovel Point - pictured above), Tettegouche is a beautiful park with one of the newest visitor's centers. Facing the visitor's center, you can hike off to the left up the short trail to Shovel Point for some spectacular views of Lake Superior, or you can head off to the right, down the road within the park to start the Cascades and Falls Trail (3 miles) to see the beautiful waterfalls and walk over the hanging bridge.
4
Temperance River I think of this park being split into two sections: the Lake Superior side of Hwy 61 and the inland side of Hwy 61. The campgrounds are mainly on the Superior side of the highway and there is nice access to trails along the lake. On the inland side of the highway, you will find the iconic gorges of Temperance River. This is a beautiful area to explore and climb up the rocks on the edge of the river. If you're looking for a longer hike with a view, try Carlton Peak. Follow the Cauldron Trail to the Superior Hiking Trail, which takes you up to Carlton Peak.
5
Cascade River My favorite hike in Cascade River State Park is the 10 mile loop that takes you up one side of the river and back the other side. There isn't a ton of elevation gain, but it is definitely a long ways, so make sure you're up for a big hiking day. This beautiful park showcases the ``root beer river`` - locally named for its root beer colored water due to the fact that it carries tannins from swamps and decaying vegetation.
6
Judge C.R. Magney Home of the famous Devil's Kettle, a waterfall gorge rumored to have no bottom, take some time to explore the river trail in Judge C.R. Magney State Park. This park has a similar, less-developed vibe to George Crosby Manitou State Park, but the main difference is the camping accessibility. Crosby Manitou is hike-in/backpacking camping only, where Judge C.R. Magney is more accessible to car tent and trailer campers.
split rock lighthouse
tettegouche state park
temperance river state park

Grand Marais Highlights

Grand Marais is pretty much my happy place. This cute little town on the North Shore is full of Minnesota charm and surrounded by incredible beauty.

Angry Trout Cafe: One of my favorite restaurants of all time, the Angry Trout Cafe is only open in the warm season and sells lake fresh fish caught daily. You definitely have to make a stop here if you are visiting Grand Marais. 

Harbor Walk: Enjoy the downtown walking path along the shore with a beautiful view of the lake and breakwaters. Grab a coffee at Java Moose and enjoy the view. Wander in to Lake Superior Trading Post and browse all the gear and local gifts. 

Voyageur Brewing Company: Hang out at this local brewery and play a game of cribbage while enjoying a fresh beer. This brewery always has little concerts and events, so check out what is going on during your visit. 

World’s Best Donuts: A Grand Marais classic, these donuts are a favorite all over the midwest. Make sure you get there early because they do sell out on a regular basis. You’ll have to gauge how busy it seems when you’re there, but I’ve seen them sell out before 8 AM. 

Angry Trout Cafe Grand Marais
Grand Marais Breakwater
Grand Marais Java Moose

Lutsen Highlights

An extremely popular ski resort in the winter time, and full of beautiful hiking trails in the summer time, Lutsen is a well-known destination on the North Shore.

Lutsen Ski Resort: Lutsen is probably the best ski resort in Minnesota, and definitely worth the trek up for a winter weekend! 

Sea Kayaking: In the summer, you can rent kayaks or take a sea kayak tour from the Lutsen resort. It is such a fun and exhilarating activity to try out! 

Alpine Slide: Take the chairlift up and then zoom your way down on the famous Alpine Slide! Buy a single ride for $16.50 or buy a package of rides to enjoy all the fun!

Ski resort
Lake Superior
Alpine Slide Lutsen
superior hiking trail

Superior Hiking Trail

For anyone who loves to backpack, the SHT is a 310+ mile trail that stretches from the Canadian border, down through Duluth following the ridge line that overlooks Lake Superior. This trail, full of roots and rocks, takes you up to every peak and down to every valley possible. The trail connects through most of the state parks, so if you are planning to camp a night in one of these locations, check the website to see if you need to book a campsite ahead of time. I would recommend this if you are doing a longer trek because you wouldn’t believe how good a porcelain toilet and hot shower feels after a few days in the backcountry.

Otherwise, all the backcountry campsites on the trail are first come, first serve. You can check out the SHT store in Two Harbors to pick up physical trail maps. Most people don’t attempt to hike the whole trail at once, but instead sections at a time. I have hiked about 100 miles of the trail spanning from Two Harbors to Cascade River State Park. I love this trail and will continue to explore it for the rest of my life!

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