MINNESOTA’S NORTH SHORE: Stunning Stops For Special Memories

Waterfall along North Shore

Minnesota’s North Shore of Lake Superior is a vacation destination that many people return to time and time again. That’s because of the many stunning stops, and the special memories they create. Here’s a 5-day guide to help you plan your visit.

Waterfall along North Shore

MINNESOTA’S NORTH SHORE ITINERARY SUMMARY

Day 1Gooseberry Falls / Split Rock Lighthouse / Lodging Check-in
Day 2Temperance River State Park
Day 3Tettegouche State Park
Day 4Lutsen and Grand Marais
Day 5Duluth attractions

Gooseberry Falls & Split Rock Lighthouse (Day 1)

On your way to the North Shore, first stop just north of the city of Duluth at Gooseberry Falls State Park.

Gooseberry Falls

Spend an hour or two exploring the area; it’s fun to scramble around the falls, even getting right in them.

Close up of Gooseberry Falls

Then, continue on to Split Rock Lighthouse, a signature Minnesota landmark, and a stunning spot for a picture, no less. How far is Gooseberry Falls from Split Rock Lighthouse? It is just 6.1 miles or a short 8-minute drive between these two destinations.

Where To Stay on the North Shore

Depending on your preference, you can stay at one of the many campgrounds, or in a cabin at a resort, or a hotel in one of the local towns. Additionally, you’ll find lots of VRBOs or Airbnbs in the area. Places do fill up quickly in the prime, summer season so definitely book well in advance.

We camped at Temperance River State Park and found it to be a perfect location for a number of reasons. First, it was quiet and the sites were well spaced with lots of trees that gave us that great, “up-north in the woods” feel. Also, you could walk from your campsite right down to the shoreline of Lake Superior.

Shoreline along North Shore

At night, return to the shoreline to gaze up at the extraordinary sky filled with more stars than you’d ever imagine (thanks to the absence of any city lights).

Man standing on top of rock by Lake Superior

Lastly, from this campground you can hike down to a great swimming hole at the mouth of the Temperance River (assuming safe river conditions).

Kids swimming in river near North Shore

Temperance River State Park (Day 2)

On Day 2, spend your morning hiking at Temperance River State Park. Park next to the road by the trailhead. The scenery is beautiful.

Temperance river and walking path
People swimming in Temperance River
River through gorge

Tettegouche State Park (Day 3)

On this morning, head for more hiking in Tettegouche State Park (just over 20 minutes south of Temperance).

And, just five minutes from Tettegouche is Palisade Head. A steep and curvy road takes you to the top of this large rock formation where you’ll have panoramic views of Lake Superior.

2 More Things To Do in Tettegouche State Park

  1. Hike to Shovel Point, and then on your way back make a stop at the beautiful pebble beach that has a little cove and some cools rocks to scramble on.
  2. Hike up the Baptism River to Baptism Falls.

Lutsen and Grand Marais (Day 4)

First thing in the morning on Day 4, enjoy a great 2.6 mile hike on the Oberg Mountain Loop.

People walking on Oberg Mountain Loop Trail

It’s a favorite for many who frequent the area. There are some fun switchbacks and several spectacular overlooks that will surely have you saying, “Whoa, What a View!”

View of Lake Superior from top of Lutsen Mountain

For lunch, drive just 10 minutes north and dine at Lutsen Mountains. One of the options there is to ride the gondola up the mountain and eat at the restaurant at the top.

Gondola at Lutsen Mountains

There’s also a fun, short hiking trail next to the restaurant to explore before heading back down in the gondola.

And, be sure to take a chairlift up a different hill at Lutsen to take a couple of runs down the Alpine Slide while you’re there.

Lutsen Chairlifts to Alpine Slides
Kid cruising down Alpine Slide

Next up, travel further up the North Shore another 20 minutes to Grand Marais for the remainder of your afternoon and early evening. This quaint town is fun to walk around and explore. Besides the neat shops, you can walk out to a jetty for some peaceful views.

People walking out to jetty in Grand Marais
Guy standing at end of jetty
Sailboats near Grand Marais

Duluth Attractions (Day 5)

Check out of your lodging early on this final morning so you can make your way back to Duluth and spend the day in this cool city. First, tour the Glensheen Mansion; conveniently located right on the highway just north of Duluth.

Glensheen Mansion wide view

Completed in 1908, this 39-room mansion perched on the shoes of Lake Superior has a ton of history. In fact, it’s the most visited historic home in Minnesota, and the guided tour is worth your time (roughly 2 hours).

After the tour, grab some lunch downtown Duluth. And then for dessert, grab ice cream at the Portland Malt Shoppe and enjoy a leisurely 15-minute walk along the waterfront as you head towards Canal Park. There, you can watch the huge ships and barges as they cruise under the Duluth Aerial Lift Bridge.

Ship going under Duluth Aerial Life Bridge

Be sure to check the Ship Schedule so you can time your visit just right. If you’re lucky, you may just see one of the thousand-foot freighters come through the harbor!

Freighter coming into Duluth Harbor
Freighter in Duluth Harbor

3 More Things To Do in Duluth

  1. Explore the Lake Walk. It’s 7.5 miles and runs from Canal Park Museum to Brighton Beach.
  2. Hang out at the sandy beaches of Park Point (just beyond the lift bridge), and do a little swimming if you happen to be there on a warm day.
  3. Rent some bikes and cruise Skyline Parkway, which takes you for miles along the lake’s shoreline. Specifically, the Duluth Traverse Trail is popular for mountain biking and spans the entire length of Duluth.    

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