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The North Shore of Lake Superior from Duluth to the Canadian border remains one of Minnesota’s genuinely great places to visit. I’ll take you through much more than 20 things to Love on the North Shore. Camping, hiking, fishing, boating, skiing, snowshoeing, etc., make up so much of it. The North Shore features historic places and small towns along the shore. Follow along for more details. However, I still think the North Shore is the best place to see if you only have time for one place, like if you are checking Minnesota off your list to hit all 50 states. See a post about that here. Or maybe you want to go back to the post about visiting Minnesota! But please read here first!
North Shore Table of Contents
- Starting point – Duluth
- Other places among the 20 things to Love on the North Shore
- History & Scenic views – more of the 20 things to Love on the North Shore
- North Shore State Parks – among the 20 things to Love on the North Shore
- Hiking and driving trails and winter sports
- Grand Marais – just another of the 20 things to Love on the North Shore
- Summary of all 20 things to Love on the North Shore!
Starting point – Duluth
Duluth lies at the southwestern corner of Lake Superior. Besides being the largest city on the north shore (and in northeastern Minnesota), it’s a tourist attraction and business center for that part of Minnesota. While visiting, if you have the time, it’s worth spending a couple of days. First, it’s a port city bringing ocean-worthy cargo ships to the continent’s center. Although it doesn’t handle the largest ocean-going ships, those coming here are quite large. You will see ships with foreign registries almost daily. Of course, you want to see Duluth! Here’s a link to a visitor’s website. Duluth itself contains many of the 20 things to Love on the North Shore.
But, after Duluth, you have 145 miles to the Canadian border. The road is named Highway 61 and also the North Shore Scenic Drive. You will find many other things to do and places to stop that aren’t in this post. But, I’ve given you much to consider. (Drop me a note on my contact page if you want more!)
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Role of the Great Lakes
The principal shipments from here are grain and other farm products from all over the midwest to iron ore from the mines inland near Hibbing and other northeastern MN towns. The maximum size to go all the way to the Atlantic is 740 feet long, 78 feet wide, and 26.5 feet deep.
However, ore boats are larger as they only go through the Great Lakes. The” lakers,” as they call them, come in at just over 1,000 feet long, 100 feet wide, and 50 feet depth. But they only go as far as Lake Erie to steel mills in Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.
The bottom picture shows sailboat owners out having fun on the lake. Everyone on shore enjoyed watching them.
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Float the boat to the ocean!
The heavy line through the Great Lakes indicates the international border with Canada. The locks between the lakes also follow near the border until reaching the Niagra Falls area near Buffalo, NY. From there, it’s all Canada.
Besides Duluth-Superior, Wisconsin, Two Harbors and Silver Bay on the north shore also ship ore on the lakes. Thunder Bay in Canada mostly ships coal from Western Canada and grain from the center of Canada. Enough about Canada; this is about Minnesota! One could say Duluth is the westernmost seaport on the Atlantic Ocean! Without a doubt, Duluth lies at the westernmost point on the
Other Duluth economy
Of course, the lake remains the focus with its world-class harbor and access to worldwide shipping. However, other industries prevail as well. For example, healthcare attains world-class status with two first-rate hospitals and affiliated clinics. Overall, about 12,000 healthcare professionals live and work in the area.
In another case, aviation ranks high among Duluth industries. Since Duluth remains the largest city in the area, connections to three major airports bring in tourists and business travelers. After that, technology takes a role in Duluth. In fact, the University of Minnesota Duluth and St. Scholastic provide graduates to work in healthcare and technology.
“Finally, manufacturing and transportation complete the most important industries. Of course, we’ve covered lake and air transportation. However, Duluth provides an environment for train transportation. (Gotta get all that”stuff” to Duluth to the ships!) And Interstate 35 connects Duluth to the Twin Cities and beyond. “Finally, manufacturing and transportation complete the most important industries. Of course, we’ve covered lake and air transportation. However, Duluth provides an environment for train transportation. (Gotta get all that “stuff” to Duluth to the ships!) And Interstate 35 connects Duluth to the Twin Cities and beyond.
Duluth Tourism & Visitor Information
Skyline Parkway and Duluth Traverse Trail
First, take a drive along the Skyline Parkway. The parkway provides excellent Lake Superior and the St. Louis River bay views. Currently, the parkway runs just over 25 miles, with the northeastern end starting near Lester/Amity Park along Highway 61. And the southwestern end runs to just beyond Magney-Snively Natural Area. Here’s a link to the map.
Interestingly, a main attraction is the Duluth Traverse Trail, a mountain bike trail that spans the entire length of the city. However, the northeastern end contains Hawk Ridge, an excellent vantage point for migratory birds. Of course, you may enjoy hiking, cross-country skiing, and picnic areas along the way. And it shares the same overlooks with the Skyline Parkway.
Additionally, the city contains many other hiking, biking, and cross-country skiing areas.
Driving around Duluth
If you want to drive around Duluth, remember all the roads leading down to Lake Superior are really “down” to the lake. The hills are very steep, like San Francisco steep! Of course, this warning is especially important in winter! Duluth is north, you know. But Duluth gets lots of snow in the winter. In fact, the city averages 80 inches of snow, which by Midwest standards is still above the overall average, but… That’s average, and winters vary.
Canal Park & Harbor viewing
Canal Park isn’t exactly a “park”; it’s an area of the city, including hotels, restaurants, shopping, bars, museums, etc. The visitor center contains a schedule of ships entering and leaving the harbor. A popular activity is watching the ships. Remember, the largest ore boats are over 1000 feet long!
However, don’t you like ship watching? Enjoy all that Canal Park offers. Including an ore boat turned museum, the William A. Irwin.
Bayfront Festival Park
By all means, when in Duluth, check out the Bayfront Festival Park right on the bay. It’s next door to a higher-end hotel named Pier B. Here’s the link to the event calendar. Although there are many events, the Bayfront Blues Festival is the largest and longest continuously occurring. While it’s typically the second weekend in August, it has occurred on other weekends, so check the calendar if you want to catch it.
Other places among the 20 things to Love on the North Shore
- Glensheen Mansion – The Congdon family home is now a museum. Be sure to find out about the family tragedy!
- Watch and drive over the Aerial Lift bridge that allows traffic to pass from Minnesota to Wisconsin and back. Years ago, there weren’t other bridges, and it became a long trip to Superior, WI, if you couldn’t take the bridge.
- Take a lake walk along the scenic walk
- Watch the ships enter and leave the harbor
- Leif Erickson Park
- Great Lakes Aquarium
- Attend U of Minnesota Duluth sports events. The Bulldogs hockey team plays in Division I.
- Again, Skyline Parkway
- Spirit Mountain for skiing and snowboarding
- And much more! Here’s another link.
Here’s a map of many places of interest in Duluth. Click or tap on the map to reach an interactive map. You can even add places to the map! And there you have more of the 20 things to Love on the North Shore.
History & Scenic views – more of the 20 things to Love on the North Shore
Although there are many more, here are a few views of historic places along the North Shore. As you can see, the top row is historic buildings from “back in the day” of Native Americans and French traders. Of course, the second row left honors Father Baraga who came in the early days to help treat illnesses in the Native Americans and stayed most of his life.
On the second row right, Fitgers Brewhouse stands tall. This started over 100 years ago as a brewery and continued until the early 1970s. Later, it reopened as a Brew Pub and remains very popular to this day.” Although there are many more, here are a few views of historic places along the North Shore. As you can see, the top row is historic buildings from “back in the day” of Native Americans and French traders. Of course, the second row left honors Father Baraga who came in the early days to help treat illnesses in the Native Americans and stayed most of his life. On the second row right, Fitgers Brewhouse stands tall. This started over 100 years ago as a brewery and continued until the early 1970s. Later, it reopened as a Brew Pub and remains very popular to this day.
Although the link points to many things to do, some are historic sites. Some of the attractions mentioned in other parts are historical as well. Of course, more of the 20 things to Love on the North Shore.
North Shore State Parks – among the 20 things to Love on the North Shore
Undeniably, some of the greatest attractions on the North Shore include the eight state parks. I could overwhelm you with pictures, but I’ve limited them to a few. In several cases, there’s only one for a park. Much of the parks are heavily wooded with aspen, birch, fir, spruce, and cedar trees. Many contain various shrubs as well that add color to the parks.
Anyway, you gotta visit several of them. Of course, camp if you have time and are so inclined. Another “by the way,” much of the river water looks brown due to the high incidence of iron ore along the North Shore.
The Gooseberry River runs out of the hills into Gooseberry State Park, creating several waterfalls along the way. Here are pictures of the middle falls (left) and the lower falls (right.) The park contains 80 campsites, a large visitor center and gift shop, and many hiking trails. The park remains a very popular park, mostly due to the falls, hiking trails, and 80 campsites! It’s the first part you will find when leaving Duluth.
It’s also near our favorite restaurant on the North Shore, the Rustic Inn. In the early 2000s, when the state widened the road, this place moved about half a mile back toward Two Harbors. Just the original restaurant appears in the picture. The size more than doubled along with the move.
Split Rock Lighthouse
You’ve seen the lighthouse above. The picture on the left shows an ancient rock piling. No, ancient means a few hours ago when the kids stacked them up! On the right, it’s “just” a picture of the lake on a cold, overcast, windy day. But this was in August! The lake is cold at any time of year. The weather along the shore often feels like fall, even in July and August. Lake Superior is a natural air conditioner!
You’ve seen the lighthouse above. The picture on the left shows an ancient rock piling. No, ancient means a few hours ago when the kids stacked them up! On the right, it’s “just” a picture of the lake on a cold, overcast day. But this was in August. The lake is cold at any time of year. The weather along the shore often feels like fall, even in July and August. Lake Superior is a natural air conditioner!
Split Rock contains many hiking trails, as do all the state parks. There are 20 cart-in campgrounds and four backpack/kayak campsites on a long trail beyond the cart-in sites. In recent years, this park added electric sites for RVs. This campground contains 46 RV-ready sites. These sites opened in 2022, so the trees and shrubs planted recently will take a few years to make it a more natural setting.
Split Rock maintains a visitor center and covered picnic area. The park holds interpretive events in that shelter periodically.
Tettegouche State Park contains a waterfall that’s about a 1.5-mile round-trip hike. Currently, I can’t find my picture and didn’t have time to hike back in there that day I was there.
In the distance is Shovel Point. (I guess it looks like a shovel!) It’s a beautiful hike to the end facing the lake and a great view of the lake.
The high cliffs you see in the picture attract rock climbers regularly.
George Crosby Manitou
“This park leads off the highway with a narrow strip containing the road and a few parts of the hiking trails. The DNR closed the road into the park for a few days, so I just got a couple of quick pictures. The waterfall is blurred on purpose due to using a slower shutter speed to give it the”ghost” effect.
The entrance picture is blurred due to construction blocking the path. I took a long shot and tried to expand, but it came out blurred. But, oh well, you can see it! “This park leads off the highway with a narrow strip containing the road and a few parts of the hiking trails. The DNR closed the road into the park for a few days, so I just got some quick pictures. The waterfall is blurred on purpose due to using a slower shutter speed to give it the “ghost” effect. The entrance picture is blurred due to construction blocking the path. I took a long shot and tried to expand, but it came out blurred. But, oh well, you can see it!
The top lift image shows how the Temperance River cuts into the rock over the years. It tells you that “water always wins!” This river also contains waterfalls on the other side of the bridge. The top right and the bottom give information about the campsites and the park in general. Like all state parks, hiking trails abound.
The campsite area contains 52 Drive-In sites and 2 Pull-Through sites. Eighteen of them are electric. Also, the RV length limit is 60 feet, but that varies for a few sites. Additionally, there are six cart-in sites. In addition to hiking, the park’s activities include rock climbing, fishing, and camping. Another piece of information, the landscape is very rocky. Although it’s extremely scenic, the lake shore and the river banks contain a lot of rock. So be careful when climbing or hiking.
Here’s the Cascade River park. Of course, the sign stands by the highway, so you can’t miss it! But the information sign stands by the visitor center. In addition to hiking, camping, waterfalls, and fishing, this camp contains some areas for skiing as well. The highest elevations in the park stand about 600 feet above lake level, so it’s not “Rocky Mountain skiing,” but it’s there!
The river drops 900 feet during the last three miles into the lake. At a point a couple of miles upriver, a bridge also serves as a visitor platform to view the rushing water and out to the lake. Visitors can feel the vibration caused by the rushing water.
Judge C. R. Magney
Devil’s Cauldron separates the Brule River into a stream that continues toward the lake like other waterfalls, and half the water goes into a rock cauldron and seems to disappear. Scientists couldn’t figure out where the water went after entering the cauldron. In recent years, more sophisticated measurements allowed for measuring the flow before the falls and downstream from the falls. Apparently, the water going into the cauldron joins the river downstream. Experiments to find the flow are continuing.
Finally, this park lies on the US/Canadian border. Significantly, Angel Falls, on the Pigeon River, marks the border. The waterfall is the highest in Minnesota. As you are looking at the picture on the right, Canada is on the right and the US is on the left. This park contains the same recreation area as the other parks. By the way, the park entrance is less than a mile from the border crossing. If you want to go to Canada, be sure to bring your passport!
Across the river is Canada, so don’t swim across without your passport!
Hiking and driving trails and winter sports
Oh, a few more items!
First, the Superior Hiking Trail runs near Highway 61, following the rocky ridges overlooking Lake Superior for most of its 300 miles. The trail starts at the MN/WI border just south of Duluth. The trail winds through Duluth and into Two Harbors. Here’s the link to tell you all you need to know. Remember, if you are hiking the full trail, you will need two to four weeks, depending on your physical condition, speeds to travel, side trails, etc.
Second, the Gunflint Trail leaves Grand Marais and runs for 57 miles ending beside the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. (If you want to know more about the BWCA, go ahead and read my post about Northern Minnesota. I’ll add a link here when that one is complete.
Third, a visit in the winter provides other activities besides driving. Remember to prepare for cold and snow! Minnesota’s best ski area is Lutsen Mountain, located about 245 miles north of the Twin Cities, about 90 miles northeast of Duluth, and about 20 miles southwest of Grand Marais.
Fourth, most trails allow snowshoeing and cross-country skiing either on or near the trail. Finally, there are many inland lakes along the North Shore that provide opportunities for ice fishing. If you haven’t ever been to the north country, you aren’t fishing for ice! You cut a hole in the ice and fish in a little house or out in the open. For some reason, many people love it!
Of course, the mantra – – 20 things to Love on the North Shore!
Grand Marais – just another of the 20 things to Love on the North Shore
Although many activities draw people to Grand Marais, above, I’ve focused on eating! As you can see, one place claims to have the world’s best donuts! (I don’t know, I’m not a cop!) Sydney’s Frozen Custard offers pizza and other food as well. The custard is good, but I suggest you save your sweet longing for Beth’s Fudge. My family thinks it’s the second-best fudge in the world (after my mother’s fudge!)
Of course, the third picture on the top row includes a play on the strong Scandinavian influence in much of Minnesota. (We tell Norwegian jokes for ethnic jokes. Of course, the people of Norwegian descent join right in!) However, the pizza is good in spite of the name!
Summary of all 20 things to Love on the North Shore!
It certainly looks like more than 20! I hope you get a chance (or another chance) to come here. There is so much to see and do. Besides, for tourism, it’s the best part of the state. Although, as I write other posts, you’ll find much more to do as well. Another point to consider is that North Shore Drive is Minnesota’s portion of Lake Superior Great Circle Drive. It runs nearly 1,000 miles through Canada’s province of Ontario, then into Michigan and Wisconsin before returning to Duluth.
If you are from another part of the country and don’t want to drive a long distance, you can fly into Duluth or the Twin Cities and rent a car. From the MSP airport (Twin Cities), the trip runs about 160 miles to Duluth. Although Duluth is a busy airport for the city’s size, it’s likely going to be much more expensive if you rent a car anyway.
By the way, I didn’t mention Two Harbors, and it’s the next town after Duluth, about 20+ miles away. Other towns are Beaver Bay, Silver Bay, Hovland, Schroeder, Tofte, and Lutsen to name most of them. I mentioned Rustic Inn, famous for pies and full meals. Betty’s Pies is another. A few resorts worth mentioning are Superior Shores, Lutsen Mountain Inn, Cove Point, Bluefin, and Fenstad’s Resort to name a few. But there are many others.
Certainly, I hope you enjoy the trip. Of course, drop me a line in the comments or on my contact page.
I’ll leave you with “20 things to Love on the North Shore!” As a mantra!
Classic Rock Recollection
“Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” by Gordon Lightfoot”
‘The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down
Of the big lake they call’‘Gitche Gumee’
The lake it is said, never gives up her dead
When the skies of November turn gloomy‘The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down
Of the big lake they call ‘Gitche Gumee’
The lake it is said, never gives up her dead
When the skies of November turn gloomy
‘With a load of iron ore, twenty six thousand tons more
Than the Edmund Fitzgerald weighed empty
That good ship and true was a bone to be chewed
When the gales of November came early
With, a load of iron ore, twenty six thousand tons more
Than the Edmund Fitzgerald weighed empty
That good ship and true was a ‘bone to be chewed’
When the gales of November came early
Written by: Gordon Lightfoot
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