From Gooseberry to Grand Portage, the eight State Parks are quintessential North Shore. The parks encompass some of the the most striking natural resources in the area. Stop at as many State Parks as you can. It is the most delightful, and easiest way to explore the shore. The parks are listed southwest [closest to Duluth] to northeast, ending at the border with Canada.
> Minnesota state parks are open for outdoor recreation, all campgrounds are open with limitations [some closed group camps, some closed shower buildings, etc].
> Beaches and playgrounds, visitor centers/nature stores are closed until further notice.
> See each park for details about amenities. Ice will not be sold in parks in 2020.
If you do go to state parks, practice social distancing at all times, including outdoors. Be extra careful in parking areas, around signs and toilets, and on narrow trails, fishing piers and bridges where people tend to cluster.
Many parks are extremely busy every day. If you see a lot of cars in the parking lot or at the trailhead, turn around and find someplace else for outdoor recreation. Be prepared. Bring your own water, soap, hand sanitizer, disinfectants, towels and toilet paper.
Avoid crowds at self-pay kiosks: buy your vehicle permit from home. Just be sure to record your receipt number and place it on your dashboard.
Waterfalls, river, forest and Lake Superior shoreline with access to all via hiking, walking [accessible], and cross-country ski trails plus it is an end point of the Gitchi Gami paved bike trail and has access to the state snowmobile trail. Other highlights include Civilian Conservation Corps buildings, a great visitor center, and it is a state wayside rest area so free parking at the Visitor Center.
Obviously it’s all about the lighthouse! The MN Historical Center runs a great visitor center with exhibits, tours and a short film. The state park is all the land surrounding the lighthouse and has great hiking trails, a covered picnic pavilion, and in the winter the trails are dedicated to Fat Bikes.
Excellent hiking and cross country ski trails plus trails that climb Lookout Mountain, a quick 1/4-mile loop up and over the river from the highway, and the cascades that are the namesake of the river.
Another quiet state park, but with easier access. Home to the Devil’s Kettle, the cauldron that gulps up half the river and takes it to an unknown destination. Hike alongside and high above the river along a great hiking trail [lots of steps though!].
Highest waterfall partially in MN, it plunges 120-feet down the international border river, Pigeon River. Fabulous visitor center introduces and share the local Aniishinaabe culture. Yes, you can see Canada from here.
Questions? Scroll down to learn about what permits are required, where, when and how you can include your pet, camping and firewood details, what you need to know about fishing, and about cross-country ski and snowmobile trails and licenses. Click on each park to get an overview of what it has to offer and specifics about visitor center hours and amenities, maps, historic sites, waterfalls, and recreational opportunities.
To enter any of the State Parks, a vehicle permit is required. Permits are currently $35 per year or $7 per day and are available for purchase at each park. Annual permits give everyone in the vehicle unlimited access to all Minnesota State Parks. Activities within the park are generally free of charge.
Same-day reservations now available
All campsites in Minnesota state parks and recreation areas now require a reservation before they may be occupied. We strongly recommend you make your reservations before leaving home, because cell phone coverage and wi-fi can be unpredictable at some parks.
A non-refundable reservation fee ($10.00 for call center/$7.00 for web) is charged for each advance reservation. There is no reservation fee for same-day campsite reservations. The reservation fee (if applicable) and camping fees for the entire length of stay must be paid when the reservation is made.
For those who prefer to be spontaneous, we offer same-day reservations with no reservation fee, whether you’re booking your site from home, from the road, or even from the park. Reserve a site online Friday morning and be camping in it that same night!
Campsites vary from secluded backpack, and kayak sites, to tent and RV sites. Cascade River and Gooseberry Falls State Parks have rustic group camps available which offer tables, fire rings, toilets and a water source. Tettegouche also has cabins rentals. View Campgrounds » Reservations »
Pets are welcome in Minnesota’s state parks, as long as they are kept on a leash six feet or shorter and are personally attended at all times. Only service animals are allowed in state park buildings, lodging, cabins, camper cabins, yurts, tipis, on tours, or in beach areas.
Burning non-local firewood can spread invasive species, and it’s against Minnesota state law. Gathering firewood is also not permitted, as it disrupts the forest and soil cycle. Always buy your firewood at the park, or from an approved local vendor.
When fishing in waters entirely within state parks, anglers must comply with Minnesota fishing laws and rules. Minnesota residents can fish without a fishing license in most Minnesota state parks, including ice fishing.
Geocaching is allowed in Minnesota state parks, state recreation areas and waysides managed by the DNR. All caches placed in these locations require a signed permit prior to placement. Download permit applications and geocaching guidelines, or pick them up at the park office.
When using groomed trails in parks, skiers 16 years of age and older, must have a valid Minnesota Ski Pass in their possession. Ski passes are $10 daily, $25 for one-year and $70 for three-years. You will need your date of birth, driver’s license, and credit card (Discover, MasterCard, Visa) to buy a ski pass online or over the phone. There is an additional convenience fee for online or telephone sales.
Locations you can buy a ski pass.It will be helpful to know that from Duluth to the Caribou Falls Wayside Rest just past mile marker 70 is St. Louis County and north of that is Cook County, while Duluth is in St. Louis County.
Snowmobiles in state parks can be operated only on designated trails or posted areas. A snowmobile state trail sticker is required for all snowmobiles operating on state or grant-in-aid trails. Details and fees info here.
Snowshoeing is allowed anywhere in state parks except on groomed trails or where posted.