Eight state parks are located along Minnesota’s North Shore of Lake Superior. Find a list of the parks below, beginning with the parks closest to Duluth and ending with Grand Portage, the park closest to the Canadian border.
Gooseberry Falls State Park is one of Minnesota’s most popular state parks. Often referred to as the “Gateway to the North Shore”, this park offers visitors a chance to see and do many things. Of all of the things to do at the park, you don’t want to miss the five activities that are listed below.
- View the Upper, Middle and Lower Falls of the Gooseberry River as it cascades through a steep, rocky gorge. A short hike from the visitor’s center will bring hikers to a bridge that stands over the waterfall. Continue past the bridge to see more falls.
- Take a self-guided tour of the historic Civilian Conservation Corps area. The original bridge and a few buildings that were built by the CCC are part of the tour. All are on the National Park Service’s National Register of Historic Places.
- Picnic on the Picnic Flow. When you are finished eating, explore the ancient lava flow that was formed over a billion years ago. The basalt flows that created the Picnic Flow are the same types of lava flows that created the famous Lake Superior Agates.
- Visit Agate Beach, the sandbar at the mouth of the Gooseberry River. The sandbar seems as though it’s a living-breathing being as it changes shape and evolves slowly throughout the year.
- Attend a naturalist program. Interesting programs are offered at the state park throughout the year. Topics range from park geology to geocaching, to snowshoeing, to birding. Call the park at 218-595-7100 for information on upcoming programs.
Go biking (summer). There are 2.5 miles of trail that connect bikers to the Gitchi Gami State Trail near the picnic flow parking lot. The Gitchi Gami brings bikers to beautiful overlooks of the rocky Lake Superior shore and takes bikers past the historic Civilian Conservation Corps structures.
Split Rock Lighthouse State Park occupies the land surrounding the Split Rock Lighthouse, one of the most visited lighthouses in the country. The park is located outside of Two Harbors (2755 Split Rock Lighthouse Road) on the shore of Lake Superior and offers visitors many beautiful views of the Great Lake, as well as countless opportunities for hiking, biking, picnicking, fishing and, in winter, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. Of all of these things, the following five should be at the top of everyone’s to-do list:
1. Tour the Lighthouse: The Lighthouse was built after many ships were lost in a fierce storm in November of 1905 and operated from 1910 until 1969. The lighthouse is open seasonally for tours and gives visitors the opportunity to view the lighthouse interior, lighthouse keeper’s home and other outbuildings on the site.
2. Visit the Pebble Beach: Pack a bag with a light lunch or just head down to the beach to skip some rocks. The beach provides excellent views of the lighthouse and is a great place to dip your toes in the water.
3. Bike the Gitchi-Gami State Trail: A four-mile section of the paved Gitchi-Gami State Trail lies within the park. From the trail, you’ll find a great view of the Middle Falls waterfall and will also catch a glimpse of the Upper and Lower Falls.
4. Hike the Split Rock River Loop Trail: With 12 miles of hiking trails within the park, there are many areas to explore. One noteworthy hike is the Split Rock River Loop Trail which has unique red rhyolite rock towers near the boundary of the park and a beautiful overlook of Lake Superior and the river valley on the east side of the trail.
5. Grab Some Binoculars and Go Birding: This is an excellent place for birding, especially in the spring and fall months when many birds migrate along the shore of Lake Superior on what is known as the North Shore Birding Trail. Split Rock State Park has been designated an Audubon Important Bird Area because of the presence of Peregrine Falcon aeries (nests). When you’re at the park, be sure to bring along a copy of the Split Rock State Park Bird Checklist in hopes that you can check off the Peregrine Falcon and many other birds.
Visit the Waterfalls and Lakes: Take a hike to the High Falls waterfall, the highest waterfall located entirely within Minnesota. The park also contains six inland lakes great for northern pike and walleye fishing.
Take a Hike: The park contains 22 miles of hiking trails that overlook Lake Superior, the Sawtooth Mountains and various inland lakes. Our favorite hike is the 2-mile round trip hike from the visitor center to Shovel’s Point.
Enjoy the Wildlife: Common wildlife observed at the park include the white-tail deer, hawks, red squirrel, snowshoe hare, and much more. Moose, black bear, and the occasional northern flying squirrel have also been seen roaming the park.
Enjoy rock climbing: Break out your rock climbing gear and enjoy some spectacular views of Lake Superior and surrounding cliffs.Tettegouche is one of the few parks located around Lake Superior that offers rock climbing
George Crosby Manitou State Park is designated as a state park with limited development and is located near Lake Superior’s North Shore north of Highway 61. Because of its location, this state park is one of the least visited on the North Shore. With less traffic, visitors are more likely to spot wildlife like deer, bear, moose, hare, red squirrels, beaver and wolves than they are at many other state parks. Highlights of the park include peaceful Benson Lake, the Manitou River Cascades, and excellent hiking trails.
Top Five Things to do at George Crosby Manitou State Park
Hiking: There are 23 miles of trails within the Crosby-Manitou State Park, including five miles of the Superior Hiking Trail. These trails are touted as the best back-country trails in the Minnesota state park system. The rugged trails wrap through old-growth forests, up and down rugged terrain and along the Manitou River. Though the hikes are challenging, the well-thought-out resting areas and overlooks make the effort worth it.
Picnic on Benson Lake: Pack a small cooler and hike about a quarter of a mile to the northeast side of Benson Lake where you’ll find a walk-in picnic area next to the lake.
View the Manitou River Cascades: Watch the Manitou River cascade down a gorge of volcanic rock. The river is framed by stands of fir, spruce, and cedar.
Fishing: Grab your pole and try your luck at a trout (brown, rainbow or brook) on Benson Lake. No motors are allowed on the lake so you’ll also be rewarded with a peaceful experience (or, a peaceful paddle if you choose to bring a boat).
Snowshoeing: Snowshoeing is allowed throughout the park. Check out the Benson Lake Trail or the Manitou River Cascades during the winter months for a different perspective of the park.
Note: Roads in the park are not plowed during the winter, so visitors may need to snowshoe in from County Road 7 if the snow is deep.
To get to Crosby Manitou State Park from Schroeder: Turn right (away from Lake Superior) onto Cramer Road. Follow Cramer Road for approximately 6 miles and continue on to County Road 8. When the road comes to a T, turn left onto Cramer Road. Drive approximately 4 miles and turn left onto Benson Lake Road.
Temperance River State Park is a unique park with a trail that winds along the edge of the Temperance River. The park has plenty of hiking trails and beautiful scenery. Located between the communities of Schroeder and Tofte, visiting this state park should be at the top of your North Shore to do list. Above all, you’ll want to experience the following things:
Hike to the Hidden Falls: With trails winding along both sides of the beautiful Temperance River, taking this hike is a no-brainer. Hike the trail to the Hidden Falls or the Superior National Forest and be ready for some beautiful scenery along the way.
Go Rock Climbing on Carlton Peak: Conquer your fear of heights by climbing Carlton Peak which offers over two dozen climbs in the 60-80 foot range. Pick up a required free climbing permit at the visitor center and enjoy the adventure.
View the Waterfall South of Highway 61: Visit the waterfall that cut a gorge just south of Highway 61. This beautiful waterfall is one of the park’s most significant attractions.
Grab Some Binoculars and Go Birding: Don’t forget the bird checklist as you to try spot different kinds of warblers and sparrows. Temperance River State Park has been known for its wide variety of birds that live in the area and that fly through during spring and fall migration.
Enjoy Cross-Country Skiing or Snowshoeing: During the winter, enjoy activities such as cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. The park offers a variety of groomed and un-groomed trails that are perfect for a day filled with winter fun.
The state park entrance is one mile northeast of Schroeder on MN Highway 61 (7620 West Hwy 61, Schroeder, MN 55613). For more information about Temperance River State Park, call the Tettegouche State Park office at (218) 353-8800 or email [email protected]
A Temperance River State Park map is available here.
Cascade River State Park is a beautiful park with a rushing river running throughout its entirety. Large waterfalls that lay within a volcanic rock gorge, lined with moss and ferns, are one of this parks magnificent features. Only ten miles southwest of Grand Marais, a trip to explore all this park has to offer would leave you with no regrets. When you’re there, you might want to try these five activities:
1. Fish: The Cascade River is known for its perfect fishing spots and beautiful scenery. If no luck is found in the river, Lake Superior is only a short distance away. Steelhead, brook trout and salmon are some of the common fish that could be reeled in at this park.
2. Take a Hike: Including trails up both sides of the river, this park offers 18 miles of trails that are perfect for a long or short hike. The trails lead to a variety of destinations, including Lake Superior, Lookout Mountain and the Cascade River Falls.
3. View the Rushing Waterfalls: The beautiful stair-step waterfalls that cascade down the river are what give this park its name. With a nice waterfall near the footbridge on Highway 61 and additional waterfalls two miles inland, the views make the hike very worthwhile.
4. Grab Your Skis and Hit the Trails: With 27 kilometers of trails, Cascade offers an easy loop for beginners and lots of fun for the more experienced skier. There are plenty of moderate and difficult trails that connect to trails outside the park.
5. Bird Watch: Different birds visit and live in the state park throughout the year. Print off a birding checklist for the state park, grab a pair of binoculars and make your way to Cascade River State Park.
Visit Devil’s Kettle: Devil’s Kettle is this park’s claim to fame. The waterfall splits in two with one side heading downstream and the other into a deep mysterious hole (Devil’s Kettle). Though many have tried to find out, no one knows where the water in this hole goes. The Brule River also creates the dramatic Upper and Lower Falls. Be sure to visit these falls on your hike, as well.
Fish the Brule River. The Brule river is stocked with rainbow and brook trout, with the occasional Chinook salmon to try to reel in. Anglers have even been said to have caught small mouth bass and northern pike that entered the river from lakes upstream.
Enjoy a Scenic Hike: With nine miles of riverside trail through the forest, access to the Superior Hiking Trail, and a 1-mile self-guided nature trail, no hiker will be bored!
Picnic Along the Brule River: As you make your journey to one of the several destinations located in the park, make a pit-stop and enjoy a wonderful picnic while listening to the rushing Brule River.
Snowshoe Through the Park: During the winter season, snowshoeing is allowed all throughout the park. Grab some snowshoes and trek through the snow as you enjoy the icy landscape.
To get to the park from Grand Marais, drive northeast on Highway 61 for 14 miles until you see signs for the park. The park address is 4051 MN-61, Grand Marais.
Home of the highest waterfall in Minnesota, the trail in this beautiful park was carved out by the American Indians and is known today as the Grand Portage. There are many things to do within the Grand Portage State Park border, and here are some of our favorites:
Hike the Pigeon River: Visitors can hike along the bank of the Pigeon River and enjoy scenic views, wildlife, and well-maintained trails.
Visit the Welcome Center: This distinct welcome center’s design was influenced by the Grand Portage Band of Ojibwe. Look for the bright turtle on the lobby floor that represents creation and migration.
Mountain Bike: There are 12 miles of hard-packed dirt trails where mountain bikers, both beginner and expert, can pedal through the rugged terrain and enjoy the incredible scenic beauty.
Go Birding: Print a bird checklist for Grand Portage State Park and try and to spot some of the elegant birds such as the Savannah Sparrow and the Dark-eyed Junco.
Hike to the High Falls Overlook: 4 miles of trails are spread out throughout the park for visitors to explore. These trails include the half-mile accessible boardwalk to the overlook of the High Falls. If you have some extra time, take the trail to Middle Falls.
Snowshoe: Grab some snowshoes, available at the visitor center, and take on the non-plowed, half-mile trail to the High Falls during the cold but beautiful winter season.
Located in Cascade River State Park is one of Minnesota’s many unique features. Halfway between Schroeder and Grand Marais, Cascade Park is usually just a pit stop since the cascades are an easy stroll from the parking lot. But as you continue, you will be amazed at what you find. The trail to Lookout Mountain winds around the mountain giving you picturesque views of Lake Superior and the surrounding forest.
The hike begins out of the parking lot along Highway 61 (if your back is to Lake Superior, the trail you’ll want to take is on the left side of the river) and heads upstream toward the cascades. This is where most people stop. However, if you continue onward, staying on the same side of the river you started, you’ll follow the trail for another half mile before breaking off the main trail and heading up the mountain. Because Lookout Mountain is located within the Cascade River State Park, a hike up this trail will take you by some of the most amazing waterfalls.
The hike is moderate in difficulty and you’ll end up seeing a view far beyond what you expected. When you reach the top, feel free to stop and take a breath and enjoy the view. To make it even better, there’s a shelter and campsite right at the top!
The roadside parking lot in Cascade River State Park (where the hike begins) is found on Highway 61 approximately 10.3 miles northeast of Lutsen and 9.5 miles southwest of Grand Marais.