I love the north shore of Lake Superior, and given that it’s been a rough few weeks in the Twin Cities, I was looking forward to getting away for a weekend. For those that aren’t familiar with the area the North Shore is the coastline of Lake Superior that extends from Duluth, Minnesota to the Canadian border at Grand Portage. It’s a beautiful area that has a long history in the mining, timber, and shipping industries, as well as being a popular vacation destination.
The drive up Highway 61 from Duluth brings you along the lake shore through small towns and past a multitude of State Parks. In fact this is the highest concentration area of State Parks in Minnesota. There are 8 different parks along the 150 miles of shoreline, each with it’s own unique features, though most commonly striking rivers and waterfalls leading to the Great Lake.
This area is also the path of the Superior Hiking Trail as it traverses 310 miles from the Canadian border to the Wisconsin border south east of Carlton, MN. The trail meanders through inland forests along what is called the Sawtooth Mountains, and provides hikers stunning views of large National Forests and sweeping vistas of Lake Superior. There are also trail races along the SHT that I’ve participated in, and it is challenging terrain for sure.
We decided to get an AirBNB near the town of Schroeder, MN this weekend. The entire North Shore is sparsely populated, and even more so the farther north that you get. The one exception is the city of Grand Marais about 40 miles south of the border. It’s the only incorporated city in Cook County (which has a total population of just over 5000). Schroeder is a small township about 30 miles south of Grand Marais, but it’s right next to a State Park and has quick access to the Gitchi-Gami bike trail.
My wife had never been up to Grand Portage, so on Sunday we took the drive up the shore to it’s end and she got to see High Falls, a beautiful waterfall on the Pigeon river (the boarder between the US and Canada). We explored a couple of other trails, but in my previous visits the highlight is really the main waterfall. We then began a nice trip back down the shore to where we were staying, stopping at Judge C.R. Magney park to visit the Devil’s Kettle, and then a stop at one of my favorite breweries Voyageur Brewing.
When my wife was doing a Master Naturalist class up in Grand Marais we lived in the town for a week, and I was at Voyageur at least once a day, and sometimes more. Wonderful food and beer. We then spent a little time biking on the Gitchi-Gami trail, and I’m hungry to travel more of it. Although it’s not complete, there are huge sections that you can do between Two Harbors, MN and Grand Marais. Some day I’m hoping that there will be a contiguous path for 150 miles to the border, but obviously bike trails are a low priority for tax dollars, so the trail gets built in little segments when it can.
It was a great little getaway up north. We hadn’t spent time up here in a while, having been traveling to other parts of the state, and it was great to be back. We also opt’d to do a Saturday->Monday trip, which means that we missed most of the weekend crowds. By mid-day on Sunday everything was nice and quiet and we didn’t need to fight for space anywhere. It was a really nice way to do a trip to a popular tourist destination.