The North Shore of Lake Superior is a stunning coastline in northern Minnesota that runs from Duluth to the Canadian border.
This area of Minnesota is known for it’s rocky cliffs, rough beaches, forested hills, and captivating wilderness filled with flowing rivers and cascading waterfalls making their way towards the largest freshwater lake in the world: Lake Superior.
Over the past couple years, I’ve had the opportunity to spend my summers working for a fantastic strategic marketing firm called Giant Voices in Duluth; as I’ve spent my time here, I’ve gotten to know the city as well as the surrounding area, like the North Shore.
And every time I visit this remarkable drive, I’m once again blown away by the natural beauty.
So, are you ready to visit the North Shore? Here are popular destinations along the scenic drive.
North Shore Scenic Drive (Old Highway 61)
The North Shore Scenic Drive, or the old Minnesota State Highway 61, is not really a ‘destination’ but it shouldn’t be missed. This drive is absolutely worth it. The highway stays snug to the rocky shoreline of Lake Superior, offering stunning views of the lake as well as the hills of the Sawtooth Range.
The highway also passes through the Superior National Forest.
Tip: Make sure to get onto Congdon Blvd/North Shore Drive rather than the new Express Highway 61. If not, no worries, but you’re missing out on some awesome views.
Best known for it’s jagged coastline and, in the summer, maybe some surfers. The waves here can get huge and it’s pretty marvelous.
Where it is: Keep an eye out for a turnoff while driving down North Shore Scenic drive. The road should be unpaved and is called Stoney Point Dr. It’s just a short one-mile cruise that takes you past Stony Point and circles back to the main road.
Lil’ tip: There’s an adorable little cabin on the side of the road that’s pretty photogenic.
Gooseberry Falls State Park
Gooseberry Falls State Park is usually the first place (or the only place) people go when it comes to destinations along the North Shore. Named the “gateway to the North Shore,” Gooseberry Falls consists of three spectacular waterfalls cascading into a gentle river that flows into Lake Superior.
There’s also a visitors center where visitors can read about the history of the state park, the roaming wildlife, and the geology of the surrounding area.
The rest of the park, other than the area with the three waterfalls, is beautiful as well. If you visit, definitely take the time to walk some of the trails and maybe even head down to the lakeshore.
If you visit the lakeshore, you’ll find it to be strewn with large rocks and not a sandy beach. None the less, it’s still beautiful and the rock formations are fascinating to view (the last picture above).
Tip: This place is super busy during the summer months; if the opportunity arises to go any other time during the year, like fall or spring, go then. It’s still just as beautiful and way less crowded.
Where it is: The State Park is located approximately 13 miles past Two Harbors, which is a small town located along Highway 61.
Split Rock Lighthouse
Completed in 1910, Split Rock Lighthouse has become quite a beacon in northern Minnesota and is a National Historic Landmark. It’s also considered one of the most picturesque lighthouses in the United States.
Multiple shipwrecks that occurred on the rocky coastline of Lake Superior is what prompted the idea of Split Rock Lighthouse. In the visitors center, you can learn all about the history of the lighthouse. It’s pretty cool to read about.
After exploring the visitors center and the lighthouse itself, take a hike down to the shoreline and wander along the trails throughout the state park.
Information: Admission to the lighthouse is $10 for adults; $8 for seniors and college students; $6 for children ages 5-17; children under 4 are free.
Where it is: Located in Lake County between Two Harbors and Silver Bay. There will be signs directing you towards the parking lot and the visitors center.
With it’s jagged rocks, heart-stopping cliffs, and spectacular views of Lake Superior, this remarkable place shouldn’t be passed up if one is traveling along the North Shore.
It’s exciting to take pictures here because Lake Superior looks just like the ocean, but make sure to pay careful attention to your stepping so you don’t go falling off the edge of the cliff!
Where it is: Palisade Head is located in Tettegouche State Park and is approximately 3 miles past Silver Bay.
Cascade River State Park
Cascade River State Park is packed full of hiking and walking trails that lead to waterfalls like the one above. The trails are easy but lots of ups and downs.
If you’re going to hike to the waterfall above, which is two miles inland, definitely be agile and in somewhat alright shape (unlike me!). I was most definitely winded when we finally reached the falls.
Additionally, the park also has a nice picnic area on the shores of Lake Superior. In the visitors center, you can find park maps of the trails and the helpful park rangers will give great advice on where to hike.
Well, that’s all I got so far; there’s definitely more places to stop along the North Shore but I haven’t explored all of them!
Some other destinations would be:
- Grand Marais (named America’s Coolest Small Town 2015 by Budget Travel)
- Beaver Bay
- Shovel Point in Tettegouche State Park
- Cross River
- Lutsen Mountains
- Sugarloaf Cove
The North Shore is definitely a great place to explore in Minnesota. Make sure not to miss it if you get the chance to visit the midwest!