Having never ventured north of Duluth, MN in the 17 years of having lived in the north state, reckon it was time to take the plunge and become a true Minnesooootan. We booked a room at the cozy Lutsen Resort Lodge on Lake Superior and successfully coincided this mini-staycation with the leaves changing season. Needless to say, this ended up being one of our favorite trips and we didn't even have to leave the State. The North Shore took my breath away with its magical colors, windy roads through tunnels, dashing waterfalls and blue waters for days.
Gooseberry Falls State Park
Our first stop was the Gooseberry Falls State Park located near Two Harbors. It is probably one of the most photographed and highly visited parks along Highway 61. According to information obtained, the park appeared on explorer maps as early as 1670. The park was easily accessibly with paved trails and a bit overwhelming with the number of people that were there. This park is great for a leisurely stroll while admiring the 300-foot long "Castle in the Park" stone retaining wall.
Split Rock Lighthouse
Split Rock Lighthouse, located near Two Harbors was put into service in 1910. According to historical information, it was built by the Federal government as a navigational aid, in response to a disastrous 1905 storm that sank and damaged 29 ships on wester Lake Superior. There are several lookout points for photo taking and watching the waves of Lake Superior splash against the rocks.
Grand Portage State Park
We decided to make the trip all the way to Canada's border and brave the cold and windy weather…and it was completely worth it. Grand Portage State Park is located at the easternmost tip of Minnesota in Cook County on the Grand Portage Indian Reservation. A very cool and unique fact is that the land is owned by the Grand Portage Chippewa Indians, and not the State of Minnesota. Visiting this park and seeing some of the interpretive panels of Native American history made it obvious of the rich human history this area encompasses and the once flourishing culture.
There are several natural factors here including the lower twenty miles of the Pigeon River and a series of cascades and waterfalls. The Falls Trail is one-half mile long and provides three overlooks of the amazing waterfalls accessible via 700-foot boardwalk.
The Devil's Kettle at Judge C.R. Magney State Park
This is one of the more unusual waterfalls with one flow continuing downstream and the other falling into a pothole and disappearing underground - hence the name. It is believed the water rejoins the main channel of the Brule river or has a separate outlet into Lake Superior, but it has never been located despite the relentless research attempts. Accessing the waterfall requires a dissent down 200 stairs and a tiring climb of those same 200 steps on the way back. It may help if you count the stairs as you go..ツ
After visiting the most northern tip of the state and experiencing the 50-something windy weather, we decided to make a pit stop at the Naniboujou Lodge for some tea and crumpets after seeing the beautiful interior in a friend's photo from a trip to the north. This historically designated site was initially built as a private club for the rich with the intention of turning the grounds into a resort. The grand plan essentially failed due to the Great Depression but the clubhouse still remains and it is a must see if visiting the North Shore. The lodge's décor is overly decorative and colorful with both Native American and Art Deco influences and features the largest fireplace made out of native stones. Whether stopping in to dine in awe or sip on tea and much on delicious sweets in the solarium, the Naniboujou is one of the top destinations to uncover along the North Shore.
White Sky Rock
Several parks and numerous waterfalls later, we still had not found that PERFECT overlook that will cause you to break a sweat and embrace you with complete serenity of actually getting away from it all. At the last moment before sunset and running on empty, we decided to stop by one last hike which came highly recommended by a co-worker - Sky High Rock. Turned out to be best decision made! After a steep hike up a rugged path, we were rewarded with the most spectacular views of Lake Caribou and Lake Superior. And most importantly of all, there was no one else around, just the sound of a woodpecker and a dog barking off in the distance. Perfect way to end Day #2 on the North Shore.
Tettegouche State Park
Our trip north concluded with a hike at the Tettegouche State Park, another very popular destination near Silver Bay. The park contains a unique combination of natural features, rugged trails and terrain, Lake Superior shoreline, inland lakes, cascading rivers and waterfalls and plenty of undisturbed hardwood forest.