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To all my midwest readers, whoever said you had to travel internationally or fly out of state to enjoy one of the most scenic routes in America? Pack warm clothes, some snacks, a bottle of water and jump in your car to experience the never-ending views of Lake Superior’s North Shore in Minnesota.

Highway 61

The North Shore stretches along Highway 61 from Duluth, Minnesota, all the way to Grand Portage, which borders Canada. My family and I LOVE the North Shore. We usually stay here twice a year, renting a new cabin in a different area of the North Shore every time. I could write 12 different blog entries about the North Shore alone.

Lake Superior shore side in Hovland, MN.

For as often as we go there, we still have so much more to explore- it’s never ending and we are always discovering new treasures! There are hundreds of beautiful rivers, lakes, waterfalls, trails and shoreline sites to explore.

Photo Credit USDA Forest Service

For this blog entry, I will be sharing some of our favorite stops along Highway 61. The locations will be in order starting south Highway 61 in Two Harbors, making it’s way up to Grand Portage by the Canadian border. My hope is that you are able to pick out some of your favorites and add them to your own itinerary to explore! Make sure to tag me in your amazing pictures on Instagram: @thetravelingwildflowerr.

1. Two Harbors Lighthouse Bed and Breakfast Inn, Two Harbors Break wall and Sonju Trail

Taking a right turn off Highway 61 onto Waterfront Drive brings you to some of Two Harbors’ coolest highlights by Agate Bay. First, Two Harbors gives you the unique opportunity to sleep in a working light house with their Two Harbors Lighthouse Bed and Breakfast Inn. You will have one of the most unique views from the North Shore with the opportunity to gaze out at the lake from the lighthouse. You can also take a walk by the Two Harbors break wall and enter Lighthouse Point Trail. Another trail for beautiful views worthy of exploration is the Sonju Trail. Once you pull into the break wall parking lot, you will see an arch towards your left. This is the entry point for Sonju Trail. It should be advised the trail eventually turns into dirt and becomes rocky.

Click here for more information on Lighthouse Bed and Breakfast 

2. Two Harbor’s Kelsey’s Beach (Across from Betty’s Pies)

Three miles north of Two Harbors are two important stops. First, there’s Betty’s Pies (add this to your itinerary!). A less known stop along Highway 61 is Kelsey Beach across from Betty’s Pies. Immediately after crossing Stewart River Bridge, you will take a right onto a dirt parking lot to find a beautiful cobblestone beach with stilled lava formations. This is a prime spot to watch the sunrise or sunset if.

Click here for more information on Betty's Pies 

3. Gooseberry Falls State Park

One of the better known stops is Gooseberry Falls State Park, an estimated 13 miles north of Two Harbors off Highway 61. If you are looking for waterfalls, over 20 miles of hiking trails, campground access, overlooks to Lake Superior and shore side access, Gooseberry Falls offers it all. Their visitor’s center is very helpful and can help you navigate trails depending on where you want to go. I will also say, this is a beautiful area to visit fall time!

*Money Saving Tip: When exploring Highway 61, you will find 8 beautiful, rugged State Parks, majority adorned with waterfalls. To save money and time, I HIGHLY recommend you purchase the $35 annual parking pass. You renew it once a year and it allows you unlimited access into any MN state park in Minnesota. You can find more information about purchased this by clicking here. 

4. Gitchi-Gami State Trail by Beaver Bay

If you are looking for a safe, paved trail (and very kid-friendly!), Gitchi Gami trail offers the rugged, beautiful nature experience off of a paved 29 mile trail. The overall goal of the trail is that it stretches 89 miles, connects 5 state parks and connects all the lake towns, from Two Harbors to Grand Marais. A good point of entry for this trail is at the Twin Points Public Access 16 miles north of Two Harbors (mile marker 42). This area is quiet, uncrowded, making it a safe, intimate experience. You also have the option to hike a short trail to Iona Beach from here, known for it’s Salmon-colored beach.

Click here for more information on Gitchi Gami Trail Association 

5. Split Rock Lighthouse and Madeira Pull-out

Nineteen miles north of Two Harbors is an old, horseshoe-shaped remnant of Highway 61 (turn to the right) that has a pull-out area perfect to photograph the infamous Split Rock Lighthouse. A mile north of this area is the entry to Split Rock Lighthouse State Park. You can experience the “Keeper’s Tour” of the lighthouse grounds for $20, with children 4 and under free to enter (this fee is separate from the entry fee to get into the park). Visit their website to read about Day Hill, Gold Rock Point, Split Rock River, Crazy Bay, Kayak/Backpacking Campground, picnic areas, and more!

Plan your visit to Split Rock Lighthouse. 

6. Silver Bay Marina

You can get easy access to the Silver Bay Marina 1.7 miles north of Beaver Bay. This area offers a breath taking overlook into Lake Superior and is also a prime fishing area. It a great stop along Highway 61 and a place we like to take break, use the bathroom and even picnic. So if you are traveling with kids- I would mark this on your itinerary! (I am sure they will love to see the boats too!).

Check out the Silver Bay Marina Here!

7. Bean and Bear Lakes by Silver Bay

If you are up for a good hike filled with rugged trails by the time you get to Silver Bay, take a turn into Silver Bay’s County Road 5 from the stoplight and drive 2.3 miles until it turns into County Road 11, then take a right turn into a paved parking lot with the sign Superior Hiking Trail Parking. To get to the infamous view of Bean Lake, hike 2.7 miles. Make sure you have any equipment you need and are prepared for a rough terrain. Overall, it’s definitely worth it!

Click for more Bean and Bear Lakes trail information.

8. Silver Bay’s Black Beach

One of the most promising places for a dip in Lake Superior (preferably within the days of July) can be found at Black Beach, famous for it’s black, colored rocks credited for giving this exotic beach it’s name. You can follow the signs off of Highway 61. Eventually you will turn onto a gravel road called West Lakeview Drive. Parking can be difficult to find on the weekends, especially during the summer, so you may see some people parking along the gravel road. We like to go here for lunch on a week day, which usually gives us plenty of space to lay out our picnic blanket and enjoy the view.

Click here to plan your beach day at Silver Bay’s Black Beach!

9. Tettegouche State Park

One of my favorite State Parks is Tettegouche because it offers a variety of beautiful, unique areas in one spot. First, there is an overlook at Shovel Point which is a 20 minute walk from the visitor center. If you want to see the tallest waterfalls within Minnesota, you can navigate a hike to Baptism River. If you have kids with, they might enjoy skipping rocks or playing riverside at the Baptism River Mouth, just a short stroll from the visitor’s center. Just down stream from High Falls, you can find even MORE waterfalls (named Two Step Falls) which flows into a pool.

For stunning views, there is the infamous Palisades Head Overlook (neat fact- this was formed by a volcanic eruption!). Use caution with kids in this area, as it is very high up with cliff sides not guarded by anything. Tettegouche campsites can also be worth checking out if you are looking for a neat place to camp.

Click here for more information on Tettegouche State Park  

10. Schroeder’s Sugarloaf Cove

Located 5 miles south of the town Schroeder, look for the brown sign for Sugarloaf Cove to visit North Shore’s old logging area that is now a beautiful cobblestone beach with (dirt) trails and scenic areas perfect for photos!

Click here for more information on Sugar Loaf Cove 

11. Taconite Harbor

Have you every wanted to visit remnants of a ghost town? In 1957, Taconite Harbor was a thriving little village along the shores of Lake Superior. In 1986, the town officially dwindled out, residents driven away by the noise of the plants, taconite dust and dying workforce. While all the buildings have been cleared away, there are still foundation and bits of the streets left- and of course the harbor! Taconite Harbor is located 22 miles north of Silver Bay and is another great stop to get ou of the car, stretch and take in the views (especially if you have kids with!).

Read more about Taconite Ghost town here.

12. Temperance River State Park

Temperance River State Park is located 1 mile north of Schroeder. While the first part of the trails are paved, I caution parents bringing their little ones with as the trails become rugged, rocky with no guard rails along the river. Some neat spots to check out are the East and West upper bridge, the gorge views and lower falls cascade located under the bridge.

Click here for more information on Temperance River State Park 

13. Cascade River State Park

If you are limited on time and have to pick and choose parks and waterfalls to visit, I urge you to choose Cascade River State Park. One of the most natural and rugged areas, it offers some of the most beautiful scenic overlook and gorge views I have seen on the North Shore. Once again, I do caution the trails are rugged, steep and go along the Cascade River.

While Cascade River is known for it’s root beer float-like water falls (and walking bridge to get the best view of the falls!), my family’s favorite thing to do is to hike to the Cascade River Mouth. It’s very shallow in this area before it gets deep under the bridge. You can actually see exactly where the Cascade River meets Lake Superior as there is a difference in color. My kids love to skip rocks and watch the fish swim around in this area. Across from the entrance of Cascade River State Park is a wooded area that is actually part of the park. We were able to stop in for a picnic, but leave with a new , less populated spot to explore.

Plan your visit to Cascade River State Park 

14. Grand Marais Break wall & Lighthouse

Downtown in Grand Marais is where you will find the cutest lighthouse facing the downtown area. Access to the break wall can be found in the Coast Guard parking lot. My family has the tradition of either grabbing coffee from Java Moose, a donut from World’s Best Donuts (only a minute up the road from the parking lot) or getting ice cream/slice of pizza at Sydney’s (right before you enter the Coast Guard Parking lot), then walk the break wall to see the sunset or sunrise. It get very windy in this area, so dress warm! One of the best parts? Your view from the break wall is 360- to the front you have an endless lake view and to the back you can see the entire view of Grand Marais!

Explore downtown Grand Marias.

15. Gunflint Trail to Pincushion Mountain

While it’s not directly off Highway 61, Grand Marais’ Gunflint Trail offers such a stunning overlook of the town, I can’t stand not to mention it on here for you. Gunflint Trail offers you the opportunity to walk or driver to experience it. I have done both and recommend doing both because they are two completely different views and experiences. The Gunflint Trail Hiking Areas allows you got get to Pincushion Mountain and walk through a field of wildflowers. The trails are easy, flat surfaces to hike (I hiked all the way to the overlook with a baby on my back!), but the closer you get to the top of the Mountain, the more steep it gets (I actually had to climb a bit). Of course, if you have littles ones with you, I would use extreme caution once you are on Pincushion Mountain.

Visit Gunflint Trail information to plan your hike.

16. Chippewa City

A second ghost town makes the list for one of the most scenic views named Chippewa City, located half of a mile north of Grand Marais. The only remnant of this town is the preserved St. Francis Xavier Church. If you are into history, you might find the book Walking the Old Road interesting. I actually just ordered it last month!

Purchase Walking the Old Road here. 

17. Colvill’s Paradise Beach

I will let you in on a little secret- if you are wanting a private beach area along Lake Superior (that you don’t need to rent a lakefront cabin to access), Colvill is your spot! By mile marker 123, 8.5 miles of Grand Marais, you will see various areas you can pull out, park and enjoy the lake in solitude. It is also a safe terrain for kiddos as everything is flat (but rocky!). I have spent a lot of time here drinking my coffee, doing yoga, meditating, writing in my journal and taking pictures. There are also some neat abandoned buildings right on the beach! There is also a number of vacation homes and cabins offering lakefront views in Colvill off Colvill Road.

Learn more about Colvill's Paradise Beach 

18. Kadunce Creek and Trail

Right off Colvill’s Paradise Beach you will find where Kadunce River meets Lake Superior. There is actually a parking lot off of Highway 61 you can access. The 1 mile, short trail runs along the stream, so if you are looking for a quick stroll, this is a good choice!

Kadunce River trail information.

18. Judge C.R. Magney State Park (the Devil’s Kettle)

One of the most intense (yet rewarding) hikes you will take on the North Shore is the Hike to Devil’s Kettle Falls at Judge C.R. Magney Park located 14 miles north of Grand Marias. Be prepared to hike hundreds of stairs (yes- they number the stairs for you) and face some rough terrain- but don’t worry- it’s all worth it! Make sure to take a picture or two on the bridge over Brule River.

Plan your visit to Judge C.R. Magney State Park 

19. Hovland’s Horse Shoe Bay

untitled image

Located in Hovland, Horse Shoe Bay is across from access to Arrowhead Trail. Every time we have stopped by, there has been one or zero other persons there. You are able to walk on the dock out onto the lake. This is one of our favorite places to take pictures!

Horse Shoe Bay area information. 

20. Susie Island’s Overlook (Grand Portage)

The drive from Hovland to Grand Portage is my favorite stretch along Highway 61. The scenic overlook and natural forest area is healing, pure and feels untouched. As you approach the Grand Portage Monument, you will find pull-out areas. We stop at Susie Islands Overlook every time. It has given us the best vantage point of Grand Portage and the islands.

Learn more about Susie Islands here!

21. Grand Portage State Park’s High Falls

The grand finale of a scenic Highway 61 road trip is Grand Portage State Park’s High Falls. This an easy-access, kid-friendly park with wooden paths, stairs and multiple options of overlooks to view different areas of the High Falls. And yes- you can also wave hello to Canada!

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Add Grand Portage State Park to your Itinerary!

If you enjoyed this post & plan to travel the North Shore, comment below which of these scenic stops you will be doing! Also, make sure to tag us on Instagram @thetravelingwildflowerr with any pictures you take- we would love to hear from you!

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Wanting to travel to the North Shore but need help planning? We got you covered! Check out the following posts to plan your next North Shore MN adventure!

If you love the North Shore, be sure to check these two amazing waterfront destinations!

Check out some of the North Shore’s coffee options to add to your itinerary here!

One of my favorite things to do is yoga by the lake. Check my post about my go-to yoga poses to decrease stress and anxiety on your vacation!

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