The Superior of Lake Superior
November 16, 2018 10:27 AM   Subscribe

I'm working out a tentative road trip to travel around the perimeter of Lake Superior for hiking and car camping this June. What are your favorite places specifically between Sault Ste Marie and Duluth via 17 and 61? I am also very open to places I can get to by ferry.
posted by fluttering hellfire to Travel & Transportation (16 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Specifically, I love Grand Marais and the Superior Hiking Trail.

Betty's Pies!

Castle Danger Brewery!
posted by jillithd at 11:11 AM on November 16, 2018 [3 favorites]

I liked Madeline Island, except next time I'd stay at Big Bay Town Park since they have kayak rentals and a beach. Don't forget to stop at Tom's Burned Down Cafe. SO MANY sand flies, though, and they'll be the worst in June.

I also liked Woodland Park in Grand Marais since you're so close to downtown and the beach. We tried to get into 12 Mile Beach but it is really popular (every campground seems to be!) It seems like having your own kayak is the way to go.

Do take the Pictured Rocks boat tour in Munsing.

I liked the Marquette Tourist Park, too. Easy bike ride into town.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 11:20 AM on November 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Between Sault St. Marie and Thunder Bay:

Pukaskwa (prounounced puck-a-saw) National Park has car camping sites and a whole variety of hiking trails of various lengths that are quite spectacular. Would recommend making this a destination. The suspension bridge hike is 18 km and pretty amazing.

17 takes you right through Lake Superior Provincial Park as well - again, lots of hiking there too.

Pebbles Beach is quite beautiful, and located in Marathon, which is a five minute turn off of 17 between White River and Terrace Bay. It makes a fine rest stop. The town doesn't stink anymore - the pulp mill shut down several years ago.

A little further along 17 is Mink Creek Falls, which you can hike in and out of in a pretty short period of time. There are lots of videos of it kicking around if you want to check those out.

Over towards Thunder Bay is Sleeping Giant Provincial Park, which is also spectacular, with lots of hiking options.

I can't recommend the The Hoito in Thunder Bay for the Finnish pancakes highly enough! More on the history of the Hoito here:

The story of Thunder Bay’s socialist Finnish restaurant
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 11:37 AM on November 16, 2018 [7 favorites]

Kakabeka Falls is worth a visit, and you can camp there as well. There should still be a fair amount of flow that early in the season.
posted by Johnny Assay at 11:37 AM on November 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Since people are responding already with locations that are on the south side of the lake, I think it worth pointing out here that the OP has asked for locations that are along 17 & 61 -- meaning they will be traveling the Ontario side of the lake until they cross back into Minnesota for the bit of Minnesota's north shore between the border and Duluth.

I last traveled that way many years ago but have fond memories of the trip. My recollection is that the road through Ontario doesn't follow the lake all that closely for much of the way so you will probably want to concentrate on places where it does. On the other hand, once you get to the Minnesota part of your route the highway is close to the lake and passes, in short order, by a number of memorable Minnesota state parks. Be sure to stop at least at the iconic Split Rock State Park to see its iconic lighthouse and stop at Judge C.R. Magney State Park to see the Devil's Kettle. Gooseberry Falls and Temperance River are also nice but you can afford to skip one or both if you have already had enough day hikes and waterfalls.

If you are into kitschy landmarks stop in Wawa and take a selfie with their big goose statue.

Stop somewhere between Thunder Bay and Nipigon and buy some amethyst as a souvenir -- there's a huge vein of it that runs through that part of Canada. I couldn't tell you where to find her, even assuming it's still there, but I saw so many signs for amethyst that I decided to stop at the next one I saw and ask why. It turned out the next sign I saw was a hand-lettered sign in front of someone's driveway and I wound up visiting an elderly Norwegian-Canadian woman who sold smoked fish and amethyst out of a small shop in her basement. When I said I would like to buy some amethyst she handed me a paper grocery bag and suggested I pick my own out of a 5-foot-high pile of crushed amethyst underneath the basketball hoop at the back end of her driveway, so I drove home with a brown paper bag full of 10 pounds of amethyst crystals acquired for a dollar a pound (did I mention this was quite a long time ago?)

And as you cross the bridge over the Nipigon River, marvel at the fact that you are in a spot where, just a few years ago, Canada was essentially divided in two when the only significant road route connecting eastern and western Canada failed at that point.
posted by Nerd of the North at 11:48 AM on November 16, 2018 [4 favorites]

Oh -- one other thing I should add.. When I made this trip, long ago, I was living in Michigan and traveled to Minneapolis to attend the wedding of a friend who was getting married there. Having never seen the north side of Lake Superior I decided I would travel that way on my way back home after the wedding but I didn't do a lot of advance planning -- I figured I would just wing it.

Being somewhat unfamiliar with that end of the Great Lakes I didn't realize that what Minnesotans call "the North Shore" is a huge summer tourist area for them and that campsites and hotel rooms were fully booked everywhere I went during their high season. Make your lodging plans early or be prepared to be very flexible about where you stop for the night.
posted by Nerd of the North at 11:54 AM on November 16, 2018 [3 favorites]

Nerd of the North is spot on regarding reservations - and for stays at provincial and national parks you'd definitely want to make reservations as far in advance as you can as spots for car camping fill up early in the season.

As an additional travel planning tip, I'd recommend planning wrapping up your day's driving well before dusk - moose are serious business on 17. Friends of ours were lucky to walk away from a totalled car after hitting a moose (that was fortunately a calf, with less tonnage) at dusk just outside of Marathon, and I've seen more than my fair share of them near the highway in our many travels in the region. Our family up there has moose accident stories a-plenty, some with pretty hideous outcomes. Driving in full daylight makes them easier to spot ahead of time.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 12:05 PM on November 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

Not recommending anything in particular, but Outside magazine did a great piece on Superior last year that might give you some ideas
posted by fso at 12:26 PM on November 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

I loved camping at Pancake Bay Provincial Park right on the water. It was beautiful. Near Thunder Bay proper you can camp at Fort William Historical Park. Its somewhat cheesy but we had a good time, plus (if you have or rent a canoe/kayak) you can put in on the Kaministiquia River from there and paddle right to the lake.
posted by Poldo at 1:05 PM on November 16, 2018

Best answer: Other people have suggested Sleeping Giant Provincial Park, but let me add to the chorus: it's my absolute favorite thing on Lake Superior, and I've been haunting the lakeshore for decades now. As much as I love the hiking and camping in the Minnesota sections, Sleeping Giant blows them all away.
posted by the phlegmatic king at 1:07 PM on November 16, 2018 [3 favorites]

I like the Pigeon River High Falls on the Ontario-Minnesota border. You can approach the falls from either side of the border, but I prefer the Ontario side where there are fewer people and it's easy to climb out on the rocks right at the crest of the falls.

There are lots of great waterfalls along 61 - my favorites are Devil's Kettle in Judge C. R. Magney State Park mentioned by Nerd of the North, the High Falls of the Baptism River, and several closely spaced falls in a narrow gorge along the Cascade River. If there's been recent rain, Gooseberry Falls can be really impressive.

Stop by the North House Folk School in Grand Marais, MN and if you have some time stay for one of their classes.

The section of the Superior Hiking Trail between Silver Bay and Tettegouche State Park is rugged and spectacular. It can be done in a day, but if you have camping gear I definitely recommend spending a night along the trail. The Superior Shuttle can bring you back to whatever trailhead you parked at.

Crystal Beach near Silver Bay, MN is very quiet and secluded, with some sea caves in the cliffs nearby and good agate hunting.
posted by theory at 4:58 PM on November 16, 2018

Another vote for Split Rock, especially the Split Rock Ridge trail. Depending on where you're from, Gooseberry Falls may be a bit of a disappointment. It's a big falls for the Midwest, but smaller relative to what you might see elsewhere.
posted by MrBobinski at 6:04 PM on November 16, 2018

Response by poster: I live in the midwest, so big for the midwest is probably going to hella fascinate me.
posted by fluttering hellfire at 6:07 PM on November 16, 2018

Our family started the circle tour in an RV, CCW through the Sault and up to Wawa, then west. We got to Neyes Provincial Park, close to Marathon, and loved it so much that we stayed there for four days and then (using Bob Dylan's phrase) went back to from where we came.
posted by megatherium at 6:47 PM on November 17, 2018

Another thing to consider.. Though the portion you will be driving between the US/Canada border and Duluth is now designated Minnesota Highway 61, until 1991 it was part of US-61. As such, even though you will be driving only a small portion of its historic route you might enjoy some of the music or film that the road has inspired to get you in the mood for your trip (though truth be told the southern reaches of the historic route's terminus are far more famous for the music they have inspired.. in any case be cautious and polite towards anyone you should happen to meet at the crossroads on Highway 61.)
posted by Nerd of the North at 3:14 PM on November 18, 2018

We love Grand Marais, especially for lounging on the harbor, visiting the many independent shops downtown, and eating at the Angry Trout. On the way between Duluth and Two Harbors, I'd recommend stopping at the New Scenic Cafe for lunch!
posted by pingzing at 2:58 PM on November 21, 2018

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