Crystal Bay Sea Cave

Crystal Bay is a little crescent of loveliness on calm days. The short, steep path contains loose rock and can be a slippery when dewy or after rains. You will see some old concrete blocks that were part of the original structures built in 1902 when [now global] 3M began their operations. The beach is small cobbled stone with one of Lake Superior’s largest sea caves to the north and cliffs to the south. You need a boat to get to the cave but can easily see it from the beach. On wild and windy days – especially during the gales of November – the nor’easters drive waves into the southern wall, making for mammoth crashing waves. This is safest viewed along Highway 61.

Park off the shoulder of the highway near mile marker 60 on the northeast side of Crystal Creek. Take the path on the right/south.

Additional Info

Silver Bay Scenic Overlook

Take in 270° views from three overlooks just off Highway 61. Follow the blue signs north into Silver Bay, then left up the hill. The first parking area has a short path to an aerial view of of the Cliffs Mining Plant, which gives the scope of the operation. A loop from the main parking area brings you to an overlook with panoramic shore and lake views well past Palisade Head to the northeast. A few steps later you are treated to a bird’s-eye perspective of Silver Bay from the big Lake to the ridge lines. The dirt path brings you back to the main parking area.

Sonju Trail

This easy paved path showcases the historic Edna G tug, the potential of an iron ore ship being loaded [pictured at right], the Two Harbors Lighthouse and both Agate Bay and Burlington Bay. Agate Bay is where the ships and tug are and Burlington Bay is on the east side of town, and includes Lakeview Park for skipping rocks, wading, and admiring Lake Superior views. With shops, restaurants, and a brewery adjacent to the trail,  stroll the mile-long walkway then return and enjoy the amenities.

Hop on the trail in downtown Two Harbors [mile marker 26.1] by turning south on 6th Street for .75 miles Click below for details and a map.

Additional Info

Gooseberry River & Falls Trails

The beauty of of the park is steps from the Visitor Center, and sometimes on the way to the center, like these deer just off the path from the parking lot.  A brief, paved, accessible path leads to the oft-photographed Middle Falls. Head south to view the Lower Falls or take a short accessible hike to the north, under Highway 61 that leads to the Upper Falls. This makes Gooseberry an ideal stop for everyone! Take advantage of the displays, restrooms and gift shop inside, then head to the river.

The park has an abundance of inland trails, too. See the link below for more info and maps.

Gooseberry Falls State Park is at mile marker 39.5, northeast of Two Harbors.

Additional Info

Wolf Rock

Short steep and so worth it, this trail ascends out of the parking lot. After a series of switchbacks, the trail parallels the ridge and rewards you with a Lake Superior view. Continue on to Wolf Rock for amazing wide-open vistas of the lake. This trail is part of the Superior Hiking Trail, so you can continue on another 8.6 miles to Gooseberry Falls State Park, or turn around, enjoy the descent and head to your next short hike!

Trailhead: From Hwy 61 just past mm 36, go west on West Castle Danger Rd 2.3 miles, trailhead is on right side of parking lot

Additional Info

Split Rock River Cascades

Split Rock rolls and bounces, cascading and tumbling to its mouth on Lake Superior. This hike, part of the Superior Hiking Trail, can be moderate to difficult due to elevation, length, and trail quality. While a lovely hike all summer long, a spring hike affords falls views that are obscured once trees have leafed out.

Note: Split Rock River Hiking Bridge has been permanently removed, making this a possible loop when water levels are low [you will need to cross the river]. As two hikes, one up each side of the river,  the west side trail runs high above the river past rock cliffs, while the east side trail gives you river valley views and Lake Superior overlooks.

At mile marker 43.5, part of Split Rock Lighthouse State Park.


Additional Info

Little Two Harbors Trail
Split Rock Lighthouse State Park

Ever wonder where the vantage point is for this photo? It’s on a cobblestone beach off the Little Two Harbors Trail at Split Rock Lighthouse State Park. Great for ambling about, this trail departs from the main parking area near the Lighthouse, includes a spur down to the old Pump House and Tram system, wanders through a birch woods, includes the nice stone beach of Little Two Harbors [the bay] and connects to the Day Hill Traill which climbs Day Hill. You can return back on the same trail anytime, or pick up the north loop, or park within the state park at the trail head and explore away!

Additional Info

Bean & Bear Lakes Trail

Big hills, big views and many options to hike including as a loop, a there-and-back or a point-to-point trail. No matter what, you will climb up to the ridge line and then follow it on the southwest sides of the lakes. Get this outstanding view down Bear Lake to bean, just before the trail splits for a small or large loop. If you do choose to continue on the Superior Hiking Trail [SHT], you will have wonderful views of Round Mountain, Mount Trudee and Raven Rock plus cross the footbridge over the High Falls of the Baptism River, making this one of the most picturesque sections of the SHT.

To get to the Penn Blvd. trailhead, at mile marker 54.0, turn north on Outer Drive, go 1.1 miles where the road becomes Penn Blvd. Continue .9 mile to parking lot on right.

Additional Info

Mic Mac, Nipisquit and the Old Tettegouche Camp

Hike through the woods, along inland lakes and over the highest falls entirely within Minnesota. Park on the Lax Lake Road [parallels Hwy 61 to the north] and follow the service road through the forest to the Old Tettegouche Camp, four cabins and lodge built in the early 1900s, sitting on the shores of Mic Mac Lake. View Tettegouche lake from a quick spur trail, and then along the edge of Nipisquit Lake before returning through the woods to the parking area, circling the lakes for great valley views, or continuing east crossing over the High Falls of the Baptism River just before the end of the hike. In the autumn, consider the ‘circling the lakes’ option as the valley is filled with colorful maples!

At mile marker 54.0, turn north on Outer Drive, go 1.1 miles where the road becomes Penn Blvd/Co Rd 11. Continue on and Cor Rd 11 also becomes Lax Lake Rd. However after 4.4 miles [5.5 miles from Hwy 61] make a right on the Lax lake Rd and drive 3.4 miles to the parking area.

Additional Info

Crosby Manitou State Park trails

Want to hike by yourself? This is the quiet North Shore State Park, 14 miles from Highway 61 and the bustle of the lake shore. You will find excellent, but moderate to more difficult hiking trails, an outhouse and picnic area, and campsites. For amenities, return to Tettegouche State Park. The feature of this park is the deep woods feel and the Manitou River with its’ craggy valley. Take a look at the map and choose some loops. I like taking the Yellow Birch Trail to Misquah, popping up the spur trail to the overlook, then following the river south to the first intersection and returning to Benson Lake along the Cedar Ridge Trail. After a picnic, Take the Humpback Trail to the River and return on the Middle Trail, taking advantage of the short spur to another overlook. Bring water and bug spray. Enjoy the solitude.

At mile marker 59.5, drive north on MN Hwy 1 for 7 miles, then east on Co Rd 7 to park entrance. Alternately, at mile marker 65.2, frive north on Co Rd 6 for 7miles, then east on Co Rd 7 for 7 miles.

Additional Info

Shovel Point

Looking for unobstructed Lake Superior views, up close and personal? Hike out to Shovel Point. It’s quick, about a half-mile total, with multiple overlooks and some steps [may need to keep kids in hand here]. Gaze straight out and take in the enormity of the world’s largest freshwater lake. Turn north to see Crystal Bay and south to take in the 200-foot high cliffs of Palisade Head. Return downhill, and invigorated, enough so you may want to pass the visitor center and scamper down to the river mouth, more quick trails.

Shovel Point is part of Tettegouche State Park at mile marker 58.5

Additional Info

Fantasia Overlook

This hike is fantastic during fall colors, great in the spring before the leaves pop and just lovely all summer long. You hike inland a mile, climbing in elevation. About the time you want to take a breather, there’s an overlook of Lake Superior – nice, but nothing compared to the view from the spur trail you take to the north. This narrow, windy trail can be slippery when wet, especially on the bare rock portions of the trail. The first overlook is outstanding, with 270-degree views all along the shore and inland [pictured at the top of the page].

In the autumn you looking west over maple hillsides with the blue, blue, blue of Lake Superior in the distance. Continue on around the exposed knoll to the north. After a short jaunt through pretty woods, you come to a northern overlook which scans the maples hillsides in the distance while at your feet, the cliff drops away to a slough; breathtaking. Return the way you came.

At mile marker 59.5, drive north on MN Hwy 1 for 1 mile to Superior Hiking Trail parking on the west/left. The trail departs on the east/right side of the Highway.

Additional Info

Gitchi Gami State Trail

While it doesn’t meet the definition of a hike, the GGST is ideal for walking with strollers, walkers, wheelchairs, or those looking for a paved surface. The bonus in the summer is the cool breezes right off the lake; the downside is it can be downright cold if the wind is off the lake. When completed, the Gitchi-Gami State Trail (GGST) will be an 89-mile non-motorized, paved recreational trail between Two Harbors and Grand Marais, Minnesota, along Lake Superior’s beautiful and historic North Shore. Several segments of the trail, totaling over 29 miles, are complete. The longest completed section is the 14.1-mile segment between Gooseberry Falls State Park northeast to the town of Beaver Bay.

A few especially pretty parts of the trail are the 1/2-mile at Silver Creek Tunnel offering wide open lake views; the bridge over the Split Rock River mouth and the section of trail which leads northeast into the park.

Additional Info

Sugarloaf Nature Trail

An excellent 1-mile interpretive hiking trail with a self-guided brochure. Mosey through pine plantations, and alder thicket, and along the cobblestone beach. Learn about log rafting and tree planting, appreciate a small overlook and take steps down to the beach.  The last stop is the Visitor Center, an energy efficient lovely log building.

Additional Info

Britton Peak

If you’re willing to hike up a hill, you”l be rewarded with views of the maple and pine covered hills rolling down to Lake Superior, which stretches for miles to the south. The trail is about 1/4-mile to the top and you hike under maple and birch canopy before stepping out on a large basalt overlook. This hike is so short, it is worth the climb. It is the hub for a variety of options, too – hike east to LeVeaux Mountain, return and cross the Sawbill Trail and hike to the top of Carlton Peak, or explore the adjacent mountain cross-country ski trails.

From mile marker 83.4 in Tofte, drive north 2.3 miles to the parking area on the east/right.

Additional Info

Moose Mountain

Waterfalls, woods wide-open vistas and a tram ride make this hike rather spectacular. For the downhill version, ride the tram over the Poplar River and up the east face of Moose Mountain. At the top, head to the chalet for 180-degree views of Lake Superior, the shoreline, and maybe on a clear, low-humidity day, the south shore of the lake. Hill top trails [about a mile total] allow more perspectives on the lake views, and a stunning overlook gives 180-degrees northern views of maple hillsides, especially stunning in the autumn. From the top of the hill, take the Superior Hiking Trail down the ridge to the top of Mystery Mountain for another overlook, then into the woods to the falls of the Poplar River. After crossing the river, when you hit the gravel road, take it to the south to the main parking area at Papa Charlie’s at Lutsen Mountains. You can, of course, start here, hike up and ride back.

From mile marker 90.1 on Hwy 61, turn north and drive 1.8 miles to the parking area. You must purchase your tram ticket at the office / tickets are not sold at the Moose Mountain summit.

Additional Info

Oberg Mountain Loop

While this is the trail to hike during autumn’s early season of maple colors, it is fantastic spring and summer, too.This trail begins with a spur, which connects to a loop that circumnavigates Oberg Mountain. Overlooks include views of adjacent LeVeaux Mountain, Lake Superior, the maple hillsides, and Oberg Lake. Enter the maple woods and hike under the canopy of birch and maple before you begin the 2-mile loop. Hike is 2.25 miles with some steep climbs. Plan on a busy trail filled with happy hikers – the views will do that.

From mile marker 86.1 on Hwy 61, drive north on the Onion River Rd (FR 336) 2 miles to parking.

Additional Info

Cascade River Falls

This is a quintessential mini-hike — it’s about a half mile, it’s a loop, there’s a footbridge over the river, highlights include cascades and waterfalls, cedar trees and tiny wildflowers. All this from a pullover off the highway means it makes for a worthy hike year-round. Wear boots in the winter and bring a trekking pole to help on the icy areas.

Spend your extra time at the river mount, throwing rocks, watching the river current move into the lake and taking in the immensity of Lake Superior.

Park on either side of Highway 61 at mile marker 99.8.

Additional Info

Grand Marais Harbor & Gitchi Gami State Trail

Harbor Park is the green space and performance area on the harbor in downtown Grand Marais. It is a great spot to sit and skip stones and enjoy the lake and town. From the park, follow the sidewalk west through town, and at North House follow the paved path down along the harbor for the paved Lake Loop, or continue along the sidewalk/paved GGST for another 1.25 miles to the edge of town.

From mile marker 109.5 on Hwy 61, turn south; start your walk at Harbor Park.

Additional Info

Artist’s Point

Parking is on a tombolo, a spit of land that connects the mainland to an island, in this case Artist’s Point. Enjoy the cobblestone beach on the East Bay, then walk out to island, where you can follow the trail to the easternmost point for perspectives of the town and hillside from the water. Then head west to the lighthouse – this is definitely a hand-holding portion of the walk, or may not be a wise choice for all children. Remember the average temperature of Lake Superior is 42 degrees.

Looking for an in-town hike? From the parking area, follow the west side of the harbor, through town, picking up the sidewalk at the west edge of Harbor Park.  Continue just past North House where you veer south on the paved trail along the Laek Loop and walk to the far west end of the campground. Continue into the Sweetheart’s Bluff Nature Area for a moderate, but steep hike up Honeymoon Hill to Sweetheart’s Bluff.

From mile marker 109.6 on Hwy 61, turn south and drive the .25 miles to public parking.

Additional Info

Pincushion Mountain

Close to town, lots of spur options and expansive views make this an ideal hiking location. My #1 recommendation is the hike to the summit of Pincushion Mountain, pictured here. Get the map below, there are loads of intersections and it is easy to get confused without a map. You will follow the Superior Hiking Trail on the Pincushion Loop, then take the spur trail to the the peak. You will come to an overlook, appreciate, but keep going, the views open up to 270-degrees just a bit further along. Return on the Pincushion Loop making this a 4.5 mile hike.

The hike follows cross-country ski trails so is a nice wide trail through birch with some low areas, moderate ascents and nice pines.

From mile marker 109.2 on Hwy 61, turn north on 5th Ave W. for 0.7 miles; turn left on the Gunflint Trail for 1.5 miles; turn right on Pincushion Drive for .25 miles to parking.

Additional Info

George Washington Pines

This is a nice level walk through some beautiful cedar stands, near the shores of the elbow River and under gorgeous pines. I recommend this trail for anyone who wants to get out into the woods in a safe comfortable way – the trail is easy to get to, well-marked, and pretty. It is an un/sometimes groomed cross-country ski, ski-joring and snowshoe trail in the winter, too. The trail is a short spur into a loop, you choose which direction. The hike is 2.25 miles total.

From mile marker 109.2 on Hwy 61, turn north on 5th Ave W. for 0.7 miles; turn left on the Gunflint Trail for 5.8 miles to parking area on the west / left.

Additional Info

Blueberry Hill

Enjoy tasty berries [in season July and August] and admire Northern Light Lake from atop Blueberry Hill. If you’re heading up the Gunflint Trail for the day, this makes a great leg-stretcher stop [trail is 1 mile total]. This is a short steep hike that includes bedrock, which can be slippery when wet. Add a quick walk down to where the Brule River flows into Northern Light Lake.

From mile marker 109.2 on Hwy 61, turn north on 5th Ave W. for 0.7 miles; turn left on the Gunflint Trail for 12.2 miles to parking area on the east / right.

Additional Info

Honeymoon Bluff

Beautiful sunsets, big views, wooden stairs and a rocky overlook make this a great hike. At 1.5 miles round trip, it is the longest of the short hikes and very worth it. Take the spur trail in and then start to climb those stairs. Your reward, amazing views of Hungry Jack and Bearskin Lakes, and out into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. If you go for the sunsets, bring a headlamp, flashlight, phone light for the return trip.

From mile marker 109.2 on Hwy 61, turn north on 5th Ave W. for 0.7 miles; turn left on the Gunflint Trail for 26.3 miles; east / right on the Clearwater Rd for 2.2 to parking area. The Trailhead is about .25 miles past Flour Lake Campground Rd

Additional Info

Mount Rose Loop Trail

Note – in 2014 the new Mount Rose Loop was built. This trail is 2-miles long round trip and is a more gentle ascent to the highest peak of Mount Rose [906 ft]. The trail includes some stairs and joins with the original there-and-back Mount Rose Trail, which is a series of steep switchbacks and stone steps about .6-mile round trip. For the loop, you return on the original trail and end up about .2 miles from the trailhead at the Stockade.

From mile marker 143.7 on Hwy 61, turn south on to Mile Creek Rd; drive for .75 miles to the Grand Portage Heritage Visitor Center parking lot. Trailhead is on west side.

Additional Info

Mount Josephine

Top-of-the-world views can be found at the summit of Mt. Josephine [3 miles difficult!], you will be rewarded with turnaround views of Grand Portage Bay, and Wauswaugoning Bay, the Susie Islands, and Isle Royale National Park. You hike in about 1/2-mile, and you will see a ‘Summit 1 mile’ sign, this is when it starts to get steep; there are a few switchbacks.

And the super easy way to see Mt. Jo is from the pull-offs on Hwy 61 a few miles south of the monument.

From mile marker 144.0 on Hwy 61, turn south on to Townsite Rd for  0.6 miles; turn left on Upper Rd for about .7 miles, past the holding ponds, to a small pull off on the left; the trail starts by heading northeast along an old road

Additional Info

High Falls of the Pigeon River

The Pigeon River drops 950 feet ending with the 120-foot drop High Falls. This lower reach is particularly rugged until a short distance after the falls, where the river widens. An easy half-mile hiking trail in Grand Portage State Park leads to the High Falls. The trail end has two great viewing decks where you can feel the spray of the falls and take photos!

Leave time for a visit to the center and store within this state park, too.

Grand Portage State Park is at mile marker 144.0 near the boundary between the United States and Canada.

Additional Info

Superior Hiking Trail [SHT]

The SHT follows the ridge that rises above Lake Superior from the south of Duluth to the Canadian border. Trailhead parking lots are situated every 5-10 miles apart making this trail ideal for day hikes. Head to their site or buy the book for complete details.

A few I suggest are ::

  • Split Rock River Loop
  • Bean and Bear Lake near Silver Bay
  • Britton Peak to Oberg [Tofte to Lutsen]
  • Pincushion Mountain to Cook County Road 58, near Grand Marais

Additional Info