Take a late season fall color drive in the back country. From the Gunflint Trail, drive west on Forest Road 325 / South Brule Road for 6 miles, drive north on on the Lima Grade for 9 miles back to the Gunflint Trail, either continue up the Trail [7 miles to mid Trail forr a few shops and restaurants] or return the approximate 28 miles to Grand Marais

*Bonus Hike:
At about 3.4 miles up the Lima Mountain Grade, you will see a grassy parking area. A rocky, poorly maintained trail leads about 1.2 miles to the top of Lima Mountain, where a fire lookout tower once stood [erected in 1935 and removed in 1978]. You will also get great views of the golden backcountry from an overlook about 2/3-mile in; return the same way.

 

Hike through boreal forests before climbing maple ridges that showcase magnificent fall colors and impressive rock cliffs with view to the Baptism River valley. The trail is 4.5-mile round trip.

From Highway 61, drive north on Lake County Road 6 for for 2 miles to the Superior Hiking Trail sign and parking.
*Bonus: on the drive back down Co. Rd 6, stop on the southbound gravel pull off just before the guard rail starts, for an excellent view of the big lake.

 

The Gunflint Trail climbs 600 feet in the first few miles to a maple ridge line. At the top is Pincushion Mountain Overlook, a parking area with 180° views of Lake Superior. For the full circle view, make the 4-mile roundtrip hike to the top of Pincushion, especially nice for late season color views. This recreation area is criss-crossed with single track bike trails, hiking trails, cross-country and snowshoe trails. Head into any of the cross-country ski trails for walks through birch, maple and pine forests.  It is conveniently located three mile from Grand Marais.

 

Massive blocks of gray anorthosite form Carlton Peak. This heady summit gives bird’s-eye views of the maple forest you crossed to reach the peak. A nearby overlook has panoramas of Lake Superior, Tofte, and the Temperance River Valley, which makes this a great late season hike, too.

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

 

Note – this hike replaces the Split Rock River Loop as the footbridge on that loop has been removed

The new loop includes a cobblestone beach on Lake Superior, some climbs and descents, hiking under the tree canopy, overlooks, and a portion of the trail that skirt Lake Superior. This 4.4 mile loop starts and ends at the Split Rock River Wayside.

Hike under Highway 61 towards Lake Superior, then follow the paved bike path for .2 mile before carefully crossing Highway 61. Take the Superior Hiking Trail spur to the main trail for views of the lighthouse and big lake. Where the path Ts, go north, then take the spur trail back down hill, across the Highway, along the bike path  then left on to the Corundum Mine Trail which features several overlooks.

 

Winding up the east bank of the Gooseberry River, this 1 1/2 mile loop passes the upper Falls as it leads to the Fifth Falls. Not as spectacular as further inland, but an enjoyable autumn stroll with great vistas.

 

This route explores the backcountry including northern hardwood forests of oak, maple and basswood and boreal forests of pine, spruce, cedar, aspen and birch. 30 miles + 24 mile return to Two Harbors

 
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.

 
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.

 

Short steep and so worth it! Trail departs from north end of parking lot [note – there are bike and cross-country ski trails leaving from this lot, too]. 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. The trail continues along the highlands over the Crow Creek Valley including an overlook and spur trail to the river. This trail is part of the Superior Hiking Trail, so you can continue on to Gooseberry Falls State Park, or return on the same trail.

Option: Hike in to Crow Creek and back; about 2-1/2 miles. Or leave one car at Gooseberry Falls, then do the stunning Castle Danger to Gooseberry Falls State Park hike. Highlights include overlooks at Wolf Rock, Crow Creek Valley and Mike’s Rock. The upper reach area of the Gooseberry River is particularly gorgeous.

From Hwy 61, drive west on West Castle Danger Road for 2.3 miles; trailhead is on east side of parking lot

 

This route explores the backcountry including northern hardwood forests of oak, maple, and basswood, and boreal forests of pine, spruce, cedar, aspen and birch. You will ascend to the top of the hills, then drop down for a woodland drive. Watch for deer – and maybe a rare moose – on this winding, low-traffic road. I suggest starting in Beaver Bay and working counterclockwise so you can enjoy the views descending MN Highway 1 towards Lake Superior and Highway 61.

This drive is lovely anytime during the season, showcasing ridge line maples early and poplar and birch later.

Option:  at MN Hwy 1, turn left and go to Finland for a visit and lunch; return on MN Hwy 1, or on Co Rd 6, where the final few miles of descent are also impressive. All roads are paved. Click on the map for a larger

 

Hike through the woods and along inland lakes with spectacular views the back side of the ridge that rises out of Lake Superior. Park on the Lax Lake Road [parallels Hwy 61 to the north] and follow the service road into the forest, taking the first hiking trail around Tettegouche Lake. Hike to the Old Tettegouche Camp, four cabins and lodge built in the early 1900s, sitting on the shores of Mic Mac Lake. Return south around Mic Mac, where an overlook gives way to the maple hillsides, and Nipisquit lakes, and return along the hiking/ski trails to the service road. This trail system has options for spurs or continuing on over the High Falls of the Baptism River to MN Hwy 1.

From Hwy 61, drive north on Outer Drive 1.1 miles -the road becomes Penn Blvd/Co Rd 11. Continue on -Co Rd 11 becomes Lax Lake Rd; 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.

 

Three overlooks, one good, one great and one outstanding. Hike inland a mile. About the time you want to take a breather from the climb, 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].

Looking west you see miles of 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 60.0, 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.

 

Make this fall color tour drive number one your list. It is breathtaking. The short drive leads you down one of the prettiest maple canopied drives along Minnesota’s North Shore. A roadside plaque explains how Heartbreak Ridge was named. The final descent into Tofte offers a glimpse of the Tofte cemetery and views of Lake Superior. The Sawbill and Hwy 61 are paved; the other roads are gravel. 18 miles total

 

If you’re willing to hike up a hill, you’ll 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 it whether the colors are at peak or not. 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.