We love visiting Lake Superior’s North Shore in MN anytime of year. Eight years ago,we took our first road trip along Highway 61 & we never looked back! Eight years later, we have made some of the most unforgettable memories here. My children have been raised along the North Shore- and I wouldn’t change a thing! Start planning a summer adventure in Minnesota’s North Shore with our Ultimate Itinerary for North Shore MN: Lodging, Hiking and Places to Eat!

If you love the North Shore of Lake Superior in MN, make sure to check out these articles: 20 Best Ways to Experience Grand Marais, Winter Vacation in Grand Marais, Road Trip Itinerary Along the North Shore of Lake Superior, Favorite Places to Eat on the North Shore and List of Scenic Stops Alsong Highway 61.

Where We Stayed

We decided to try something different & set up our base camp near Silver Bay, MN, 3 miles off HWY 61. We stayed in a newly remodeled vacation home with a mountain view known as the Balsam Haus. The Balsam Haus has 2 bedrooms, 1 bathroom, a fully equipped kitchen and lovely fire pit in the backyard.

We were located in the Finland forest, 5 miles from Tettegouche State Park & Baptism River. Illgen Falls is 2 miles down the road from here & attractions like Palisade Head and Black Beach are not far either.

What to Bring

This adventure takes place during the summer time. I love all seasons at the North Shore, but summer was my first season ever spent here years ago. However, some things never change over the years.

Mornings and evenings can be chilly, even in July- especially if you are right off Lake Superior. I always tell travelers on top of the clothes you are already bringing, pack layers. Extra socks, sweaters, a jacket and a hat. Summertime also means a lot of bugs- so bug spray is needed. I always make sure to bring a sun hat, sunglasses & sunscreen as well.

For other packing lists and tips, check out these following articles: 30 Plus Tips for Packing & Traveling with Kids, Road Trip Planner: Apps to Help Save Money & Time, Tips for Booking Unique Places to Stay and Travel Tips for Packing Light.

Day 1: Two Harbors & Silver Bay Area

1. Cruise Old Highway 61 from Duluth to Two Harbors

We kicked off our North Shore adventure by taking the scenic route. The Old Highway 61 runs along the Lake Superior shoreline. During the summer, there are darling gift shops that pop up, and also scenic overlook areas and historical markers. We visited the Moon Market, a newer shop along HWY 61. It’s a lovely home, clothing & gift store that is quite aesthetically pleasing.

If you are looking for a bite to eat, we suggest New Scenic Cafe. Their menu features unique French dishes like winter pear salad, potato sausage, escargot, monsieur brioche and Norwegian Salmon (just to name a few!). New Scenic Cafe also has a kids menu. They can be busy in the summer time, so calling for reservations is encouraged.

2. Explore Iona Beach in Two Harbors

Have you ever visited a beach with pink rocks? Well, here’s your chance! Located off Highway 61 north of Two Harbors is Iona Beach. From the parking lot, you will walk a trail under the pine trees that leads to 300 yards of salmon colored rocks enamored with cliffs and Lake Superior, of course! This is a staple stop for us- a good place to take a break from driving. It’s also more on the quiet side compared to other areas along the North Shore.

3. View Temperance River State Park’s Landing Area- Silver Bay

Temperance River State Park is located in Schroeder, MN along HWY 61. One of my favorite views of this state park is the gorge, and the where the mouth of Temperance River empties into Lake Superior. You can get a beautiful overlook right off the HWY. If you pull over into the lot after the Temperance River sign, there is a trail that goes down to the bridge which leads to a viewing platform. Of course, there are hiking trails along the gorge & riverside.

4. Hike to Illgen Falls & Along Baptism River- Finland

One of my favorite things about the Balsam Haus was it was located near one of my favorite waterfalls along the North Shore- Illgen Falls, right off Baptism River. Although Illgen Falls is technically part of Tettegouche State Park, you cannot reach it from the trail system.

Turn on County Road 1 from HWY 61 & drive for 1.6 miles. You will see a pull off alongside the road- park there. There will ne a sign saying “state park property”. Follow the dirt trail leading down into the trees. You will come to a cabin in the woods. Walk past it and keep going on the dirt trail. You will see the shallow, upper area of Baptism River. To the left, you will hear and see Illgen Falls. Such a beauty!

5. Dinner at the Cabin and Campfire- Finland

We ended the night by roasting hot dogs and S’Mores at the campfire in our back yard. The stars above all the pine trees were stunning. I want to remind you even though there are endless amounts of things to do along Lake Superior’s North Shore, it’s important to slow done. Actually process what you are seeing, enjoying who you are with.

Day 2: Gunflint Trail & Grand Marais

6. Breakfast at Java Moose & World’s Best Donuts by the Harbor- Grand Marais

Today is Grand Marais day! We got up early and hit the road heading an hour north of Finland. It’s become a tradition over the past 8 years that we visit Java Moose for a Maple Latter (the kids like their smoothies) and breakfast sandwiches. Then we each pick out a donut from World’s Best Donuts (the kids love the donut kabobs). We eat by the downtown Grand Marais harbor & enjoy the view.

7. Walk Artist’s Point- Grand Marais

While you are at the downtown harbor area, make sure to get a panoramic view of Grand Marais by walking Artist’s Point. Drive past World’s Best Donuts & the gift shop to the coast guard station. Behind the station, there will be a sandy path that leads to the Artist’s Point walk. You can walk all the way to the light house and get some gorgeous photos here!

8. Lunch at Angry Trout & Fisherman’s Daughter- Grand Marais

If you like fresh water first, lunch (or dinner) at Angry Trout or Fisherman’s Daughter is a must! Angry Trout has the most lovely view in the summer time- we usually eat out on the dock, or they have chairs on the beach next to their cafe. They have a variety of options on their menu & a kids menu as well. I recommend trying the whitefish chowder and whitefish sandwich. They also have a great fettuccine Alfredo and fish & chips.

Fisherman’s Daughter is more than a place to eat (they also have great tacos and fish & chips on their menu), but they are also a gift shop or you can buy fish to bring home.

9. Downtown Shopping- Grand Marais

Grand Marais is abundant in boutiques, art galleries, chocolate & shops and more. I actually start my Christmas shopping early & buy the most unique gifts from shops in Grand Marais. The Lake Superior Trading Post has absolutely everything you need- warm gear, house ware, items for kids, blankets, sweet treats, etc.

If you are looking for aesthetically pleasing gift shops (filled with “cabin core”), I always check out The Big Lake Life, Upstate MN, Drury Lane Book Store, Joy & Co. (art supply store with cute trinkets), Picnic & Pine (small family owned gift shop), and Sweetwater Clothing Co. The Beaver House is also neat to check out!

If you have a sweet tooth, Gunflint Mercantile should be on your itinerary. They have the best truffles I have ever tasted- I order them for Christmas as well! The Maple Truffles are lovely as are the birthday cake ones.

10. Lake Superior Overlook & Pincushion Trail- Along Gunflint Trail Scenic Drive

We wanted to explore trails and destinations off the Gunflint Trail during our summer adventure along the North Shore of Lake Superior. Our first stop was the Lake Superior Overlook. Take Gunflint Trail Scenic Byway for 3 miles from Grand Marais & to your right you will see signs for Pincushion Mountain. Make sure to take the turn after the sign & keep driving until you get to the parking lot. Here you will see an iconic view of Grand Marais’s harbor & Lake Superior.

The view doesn’t end there! From the parking lot you will see the Superior Hiking Trail head that lists the distance for Pincushion Mountain, which is about a 4.1 mile hike. A lot of the trail is an easy hike, but the last section is a bit of a rock scramble getting to the top. The hike was worth the view!

11. Wildflower Sanctuary- Along Gunflint Trail Scenic Drive

A hidden gem not far from the Lake Superior scenic overlook is the Devil Track Wildflower Sanctuary. If you are searching for pristine Lupine fields, this is the spot! The wildflower sanctuary also features a rain garden, flowers, woods, ferns and a trail along Devil’s Track River. It was my favorite stop along Gunflint Trail. Also- it’s free! Please remember the 7 Leave No Trace Principles during your visit!

12. Northern Lights Lake Trail- Along Gunflint Trail Scenic Drive

The Northern Lights Trail is a steep trail that is mostly uphill for about 1 mile. I would not suggest this as an easy hike- there were a lot of roots, rocks and plants to trip over and the top was a rock scramble. Good footwear is very important & going slow is as well. The view at the top is lovely!

13. Moose Viewing Trail Head- Along Gunflint Trail Scenic Drive

Moose Viewing Trail head was the easiest hike we did- about 1/4 of a mile to an overlook platform. There is parking a the trail head & the drive on Gunflint Trail from Grand Marais is about 24 miles. We did not have luck seeing a moose here, but we had fun seeing the lake view!

14. Loon’s Nest Coffee- Along Gunflint Trail Scenic Drive

Imagine you are in the middle of Lake Superior National Forest when all of a sudden you find…a coffee shop? That’s right, Loon’s Nest Coffee is open daily summer time to October, 7 am to 2 pm. Loon’s Nest Coffee has a cute outdoor dining area and a gift shop. Their menu includes a variety of coffee options, smoothies, ice cream, pastries and even a light lunch menu.

15. Sven & Ole’s Pizza- Grand Marais

Our kids were so excited to take back to our cabin a class Sven & Ole’s Pizza. We have also enjoyed their wings and salads. They are located downtown Grand Marais facing the harbor. I suggest ordering ahead of time as they can have quite the line during the summer months.

16. Lake Superior Creamery and Shook Smoothies- Grand Marais

Lake Superior Creamery is a delicious ice cream shop, but they also have quite the food menu (check out their Pan Noodles & Cilantro Lime Shrimp!). After a long day of traveling, we decided to sample some of their ice cream. Our favorites were their sorbet flavors (all ice cream made on site).

Shook Smoothies is a lovely addition to the North Shore. They have protein shakes, smoothies, oatmeal bowls, acai bowls and poke bowls! Their set up is super cute too- they have a lounge area with games.

Day 3: Boundary Waters, Grand Portage

17. Baragas Cross & Lakeside Area- Tofte

On the way to Grand Portage, we decided to make a few stops. One of them is the Father Baragas Cross beach area. There is a small beach access area & an easy climb on some of the rocks near Lake Superior. This area is one of our favorite spots because it is very serene & quiet- we usually do not see any other people here! Fun fact: There is a gorgeous cabin rental right by Father Baragas cross if you love this area- we rented it summer of 2021!

18. Coho Cafe- Tofte

My favorite lunch & breakfast spot along HWY 61 is the Coho Cafe. I was excited to be staying south of Grand Marais so we could have breakfast here on the way to Grand Portage. I love their pancakes, coffee and they have the best chocolate chip twists. Truly, anything you get here is going to be delicious! They have a lovely patio facing Lake Superior during the summer months.

19. Kadunce Creek Hike & Paradise Beach- Colvill

Colvill is located right off HWY 61, about 10 minutes north of Grand Marais. Paradise Beach is located right off HWY 61, after the Kadunce Creek sign. My kids love to skip rocks and walk the beach here.

Across the street from the parking area is the trail head for Kadunce River Wayside Trail. The hike is a 1.1, out & back mile trail lined with wildflowers. We walked the trail until we got to the bridge and the waterfall. When the water is low enough, I have seen quite a few people walk in the canyon. It’s one of my favorite hikes along the North Shore because of the flowers!

20. Horseshoe Bend- Hovland

Near the Arrowhead Trail Junction is what’s known as Horseshoe Bend, located off HWY 61 20 minutes north of Grand Marais. You can walk the dock & take in the scenic view here. There are some people that may pull up ready to get their boat in the water at this location.

21. Susie Islands Overlook- Grand Portage

Near Grand Portage is a pull out area off HWY 61 or Overlook area where you can witness amazing views of Wayswaugoing Bay on Lake Superior, Hat Point, and the Susie Islands (13 islands just south of the Canadian border). If you ask me what my top three views along Lake Superior are on the North Shore, this would be one of them. We stop everytime we come here.

22. Grand Portage State Park- Grand Portage

Grand Portage State Park is accessible, stunning, home to the tallest water fall in MN, High Falls, along Pigeon River. There are 3 viewing areas for High Falls, which can be accessed behind the visitor’s center. The hike to High Falls is fully accessible, about 1 mile from the visitor center with paved trails and a wooden ramp. Side note: We saw a gorgeous fox here during our last visit!

23. Boundary Waters

We drove Arrowhead Trail to access McFarland Lake, one of the eastern access points to the Boundary Waters. We did not canoe during this trip, but we had just as much fun taking in the views of the lush green trees and rolling bluffs lining the lake.

24. Supper at My Sister’s Place- Grand Marais

Are you super hungry? Hiking works up my appetite- I was excited to try some cheese curds and fish & chips at My Sister’s Place in Grand Marais! They also have a great kids menu & we had great service here. Of course, they are known for their variety of options for burgers.

25. Relax at the Cabin & Final Lake Views- Finland

We ended our time here relaxing at our cabin & preparing for our departure. On our way home the following day, we stopped at Palisade Head, right off HWY 61! I’d say it’s about 13 minutes south of where we were staying in Finlands. Palisade Head would be my other top view for the North Shore- take a slow drive to the top of the mountain for 360 degree views of the North Shore! (I saw people rock climbing here, but I am not that brave!).

Comments +

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Almost there!

Free guide

Feel empowered to take charge of your crossing off dream desintations from your bucket list!

Travel Love

Follow US

Hey there

Follow along on our social media platforms! We want to hear your travel and blog suggestions, questions and hear about inspiration of your own!
Instagram: @thetravelingwildflowerr