The Five Best Family Hikes Along Minnesota’s North Shore

With the arrival of spring in Minnesota, there is no better time than now to start planning your next visit to the gorgeous North Shore of Lake Superior.  Less than four hours away from the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, lay hundreds of opportunities to explore pure and relatively untouched nature. Extending for 150 miles along the rocky shoreline of Lake Superior from Duluth to Canada, the North Shore is a place of unspoiled beauty and pristine nature. Home to a multitude of scenic waterfalls, rivers, state parks and the 310-mile long Superior Hiking Trail, it is a hikers paradise and offers a treasure trove of opportunities to explore wild, relatively untouched nature.

The North Shore has been a special place all my life. Every fall since I was a baby, my parents would pack up our old station wagon and do the drive north to spend a weekend enjoying the splendid fall colors and hiking the wonderful trails. This tradition started before I could walk and ended when I left for college at the age of 18. Fast forward several years, the North Shore has once again become a place I visit often with my own family and our family hikes have continued.

For the past four years, we have been visiting with my children and have discovered the very best hikes that the entire family will enjoy.   This list of my top five favorites is a great start to creating family memories of your own. Feel free to add your favorites in the comments section.

 

Map of North Shore

Photo credit: NorthShoreVisitor.com.  

 

1. Gooseberry Falls

Description: Gooseberry Falls is a beautiful hike along the Gooseberry River which affords stunning views of waterfalls and lovely forest. There is a nice easy hike along the falls for all abilities and more moderate hiking if you prefer to go further. It can be slippery when wet.

Location: 12 miles northeast of Two Harbors along highway 61

Length of Hike: About five miles roundtrip (however entire park has around 18 miles of trails if you want to go further).

Highlights: The best part of this hike is exploring the cascading waterfalls and stopping to enjoy the fascinating roots of the tree trunks and forest flowers along the trail. It is a nice place to also bring along a picnic.

Tip: The trail alongside Gooseberry Falls is relatively easy and somewhat kid-friendly given the steps (but remember no guard rails or safety fences!). If you want to really explore this fabulous park, there are footpaths for miles on end on the other side following the river upstream.

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My Favorite Corner of Minnesota: The Gorgeous North Shore

“In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks”.- John Muir

Extending for 150 miles along the rocky shoreline of Lake Superior from Duluth to Canada, lies the North Shore, a place of unspoiled beauty and pristine nature. Home to a multitude of scenic waterfalls, rivers, state parks and the 310-mile long Superior Hiking Trail, the North Shore is a hikers paradise and offers a treasure trove of opportunities to explore wild, relatively untouched nature.

It is here that the water looks like a vast ocean, and at many points you can not see to the other side to the shores of Wisconsin. The waves can be just as large and loud as the sea, crashing fiercely against the shore at night lulling you to sleep. The fresh scent of pine and morning dew is always present as is the crisp unpolluted air kissing my lungs with unequivocal joy.

The rugged shoreline is the perfect place to build a bonfire at night and listen to the roar of the waves smashing against the shore or to search for agates along its pools of rocks. Sea gulls and occasionally even a pair of loons can be seen swimming along its shore or a distant iron-ore freighter off in the horizon heading out to sea. It is a place of awe and wonder that such raw beauty exists only four hours away from the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul. It is my special corner of Minnesota where I go to unplug, unwind and embrace the simplest pleasures of all: Solitude and Nature.

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Lighthouse at Duluth Harbor MN

Reflections on the meaning of Memorial Day

For me, the long weekend for Memorial Day will always symbolize the onset of summer. It is a time when everyone packs up their cars and heads to the cabin “up north” or visits one of Minnesota’s numerous state parks or lakes. It represents freedom in more ways than one. The freedom of summer and of course the freedom that we are so lucky to have living in this country. A freedom that so many brave souls have fought for and died for.

My grandfather, father and two uncles were both in the US Navy. For my dad, it was a life-changing experience. At the tender age of 19, he set sail and saw the world. He told me that he will never forget the time the ship pulled into a harbor in Italy. It was the early ’60s and his young eyes had never left the United States before. He noticed that there was a large mob of Italians waiting for the ship to pull into port. Was it a welcome? he thought surprised.

Slowly the ship moored and once it was fully secure, the desperately awaiting crowd did something that stunned my dad. They ate. What on earth are they doing? my father asked an older, more experienced shipmate. Eating dinner he replied with a deep, shameful look in his eyes. The locals were so hungry that they feasted off the ships garbage for their meal. It was that moment in which my dad realized how truly fortunate he was, and moment that would be passed on to his children over the years.

His three year service in the Navy began a life long passion of travel and seeing the world. A passion that passed on to me and has never left my soul.

Lighthouse at Duluth Harbor MN

A holiday weekend away from home, along the North Shore of Lake Superior got me thinking. What does Memorial Day truly mean? And what does it mean to me?

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Hike along the Split Rock Lighthouse Coastal trail

The dramatic view of Lake Superior at the end of the Split Rock Lighthouse Costal Hike

Back in early June, my family and I had the pleasure of spending a long weekend along Minnesota’s sensational, untouched North Shore of Lake Superior. I’d written quite a few posts about the gorgeous hikes we did in this area (to read them click here) but never had a chance to write about our final hike along the Split Rock Lighthouse Coastal Trail.

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Hiking around Cascade River Falls

Author’s note: I’m back to my series on our long weekend at the North Shore of Lake Superior in Minnesota. To read recent posts in this series, click here.

One of the most popular State Parks along Lake Superior’s North Shore is Cascade River State Park. Located about 10 miles southwest of Grand Marais, Minnesota this park offers spectacular waterfall views and rushing rapids of root beer-colored Cascade River.  There are over 18 miles of trails within the park and it also meets up with the 286-mile long Superior Hiking Trail.  There is a wide variety of flora and fauna to be discovered but what I enjoyed most was the sounds and sights of the roaring river and multiple waterfalls.

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A touch of nature along Lake Superior’s North Shore

Our first morning along Lake Superior’s North Shore wasn’t looking too promising.  Dark clouds had rolled in over the lake and we could hear the low rumble of distant thunder all the way across to Wisconsin. I sat out on the oversized verandah, sipping my morning juce (mi gasolina, as it was nicknamed during my recent trip to Guatemala) and listening to the dramatic, haunting call of the loons.

If you have never heard a loon before, then you probably don’t know what their song is like.  One you hear it, you will never forget.  It is perhaps one of the most beautiful, melodic sounds I’ve ever heard. To prove it, see for yourself.   Click below, close your eyes and listen.  It is a cry you will never forget. A beautiful mourning wail…

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A Night on the North Shore

We arrived on the North Shore of Lake Superior mid-afternoon on a Thursday. The weather was perfect and amazingly cool compared to Minneapolis, just a few hours south. We made a few stops along the way to Gooseberry Falls and also pulled over to take a shot of the most photographed site in Minnesota, the Split Rock Lighthouse.

The air was fresh and pure. The brilliant blue waters of Lake Superior glistened in the sun. I could hardly wait to get to our destination, a log cabin along the shores of the lake, and spend a weekend relaxing, hiking and doing what I love best: Enjoying nature and being together with family. There couldn’t be a more ideal place for it than here.

The Split Rock Lighthouse.

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Destination North Shore: Our first stop along the way of Lake Superior

The state of Minnesota may have some severely cold winters, yet one thing that makes up for it is the fact that we do have lakes.  Lots of them.  Recent estimates have put Minnesota’s lakes in the 11,000-13,000 range, depending on what you count as a body of water.  Lakes not only provide us with water but with everlasting, pure beauty and recreation.  You can hardly drive anywhere without seeing a lake.

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