Minnesota/Lake Superior day hikes
August 8, 2008 1:10 AM   Subscribe

Best Minnesota state parks on the Lake Superior shore for day hiking?

There are eight Minnesota state parks on/near the Lake Superior shoreline. (Gooseberry Falls, Split Rock Lighthouse, Tettegouche, George Crosby Manitou, Temperance River, Cascade River, Judge C. R. Magney, and Grand Portage.) Judging from the information about them on the Minnesota DNR website, all of them look good. If you could visit only a couple of them, which ones would you recommend? I'm primarily interested in day hiking, both through the woods and along the shore.

(And by "day hiking," I don't necessarily mean "all-day hiking." A half-hour walk is fine if there's things to see along the way. I just mean "not overnight.")
posted by DevilsAdvocate to Travel & Transportation around Minnesota (10 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Gooseberry Falls and Tettegouche have always been my favorites. Get yourself up to Shovel Point at Tettegouche, specifically. Even if you don't stick around at Tettegouche, getting to Shovel Point is only about a fifteen-minute hike off the highway. And bring swimsuits for Gooseberry Falls so you can really do some exploring, both in and around the falls, and at Agate Beach!

Split Rock Lighthouse is a very pretty photo-op, but not worth a whole pile-out-of-the-car-for-hours stop of its own. I vaguely remember that you can see it from the trail at Gooseberry Falls, anyway.

I grew up in Duluth, so maybe my opinions are biased in favor of those parks closest to Duluth, and therefore the ones I've explored the most. But I've been to every one of the parks you list, and I still like those two the best. On the other hand, I just camped at Judge Magney and didn't know I should be looking for the Devil's Kettle, which sounds pretty awesome, I gotta say.
posted by adiabat at 2:20 AM on August 8, 2008

Gooseberry is tres awesome.
posted by unixrat at 6:47 AM on August 8, 2008

I recommend the Split Rock Trail, which is actually about a mile before you get to the Split Rock Lighthouse. There's a small parking lot on the left as you head up the highway towards the lighthouse. I'd recommend going up to the ranger's station at Split Rock Lighthouse to get a map.

It's about a 3-4 hour hike with moderate changes in elevation. There are about a dozen big waterfalls and a few river crossings. It's a lot of fun, and of moderate challenge. Not too hard, but not too easy either, for an inexperienced hiker.
posted by xotis at 7:10 AM on August 8, 2008

PS: The Split Rock Trail is not along the shore, it's along the split rock river. At the end of the trail, you end up on a massive bluff overlooking the lake though. It's a pretty stunning view!
posted by xotis at 7:11 AM on August 8, 2008

I'd say the Holy Trinity of north shore parks are Gooseberry (awesome stuff visible with about 5-minute walk from the parking lot), Tettegouche (awesome stuff all over, could easily support as much hiking as you want to throw at it) and Temperance River (mind-blowingly awesome stuff about 5 minutes from the parking lot, with options for longer hikes if you want 'em). Split Rock's kind of cool, but not as good as those three. The rest of the parks have their good points, but, well, you should see the others first.

It might also be worth your time to pick up a guidebook for the Superior Hiking Trail. There are metric shitloads of good little dayhikes on the SHT right off of Highway 61.
posted by COBRA! at 7:12 AM on August 8, 2008

I spent a lot of time camping up in this area when I was a kid. We went to Split Rock every year over MEA (long weekend for middle/high schoolers in October) and I completely fell in love with the place. Gooseberry is also really nice. I guess I don't quite agree that Split Rock isn't as nice as the others, it has a really charming vibe that was always really comforting for me, but of course everybody has their opinion.

Doing the day hiking thing is a good call- it'll help you get a feel for an absolutely gorgeous and unique part of the country. If you like it, I highly recommend coming back for camping, as that area has some of the best campsites in MN. If you're going to do that, though, make sure to book your campsite WELL in advance- some people will book popular weekends at the parks you listed a year in advance. If you really like it up there and are into canoeing or kayaking, I'd strongly consider planning a Boundary Waters trip for next year- again, book early. There's a sweet spot in the first or second week of August where you get a lull in the bug season- most of the early summer bug mess clears out, but you've still got some time before the black flies come out in late August and make everything miserable. Throw in the annual Leonids meteor shower and you've got a great camping trip. The fishing isn't as good during this time of year but aside from the sometimes intense heat I think it's the best time of year to be up there.
posted by baphomet at 7:56 AM on August 8, 2008

Gooseberry and Temperance River are both well worth the trip. If I could only pick a couple these two are the ones I hit. I hit Gooseberry every year. Fall and winter.
posted by Amby72 at 7:57 AM on August 8, 2008

We went to Gooseberry this spring and really enjoyed it, but I can't speak for the other parks as I haven't visited them (yet). At Gooseberry, there are several waterfalls and a lovely pebbled shore where the river meets Lake Superior. There are a few different options for hiking trails and at one point, the trail merges with the Superior Hiking Trail, which is kind of neat.

If you find yourself in Two Harbors, you can always stop in to the Superior Hiking Trail office and talk to the lady there. She seemed eager to impart her hiking knowledge and keeps up on the conditions on several trails.

And be sure to stop somewhere along there and get yerself some pie, too.
posted by bristolcat at 8:22 AM on August 8, 2008

Agh, the pie is not the same as it was years ago. Which is a shame.
posted by Amby72 at 8:27 AM on August 8, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks for the recommendations, everyone. Looks like Gooseberry Falls is the clear favorite, so I'll definitely check that out. Probably visit one or two of the others out of Split Rock, Tettegouche, and Temperance River.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 7:25 AM on August 11, 2008

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