Grand Marais and Minnesota’s North Shore

To celebrate our two year dating anniversary, my boyfriend Glenn planned a surprise weekend away to Minnesota’s north shore. I’m usually the planner in the relationship but this time I let him take the reins. Most of the activities were a surprise but he’s one of those people who gets too excited about fun things to keep them a secret so he let me know that we were going to the North Shore, specifically Grand Marais.

For anyone not familiar with Minnesota, the North Shore is the stretch of land that runs along the northern shore of Lake Superior. The North Shore is THE place that everyone talks about visiting in the summer. 

Black Beach

We left on a Friday night and on our way north we stopped at Black Beach in Silver Bay. It’s known for being the only black sand beach in Minnesota. It was privately owned and closed to the public until 2015 and now it’s a public park, beach and campground.

Palisade Head

Our next step was Palisade Head, a large rock formation on the shore of Lake Superior. It’s a narrow and winding road to the top and some people come here to rock climb. We visited right around twilight and the photos just don’t do it justice!

Grand Marais

Acommodations

We’re those people who take their dog literally everywhere, so we stayed at the Best Western in Grand Marais and don’t get it twisted, the Best Western was extremely nice. We had an awesome room with a balcony right on Lake Superior.

Food

Grand Marais is a very cute town and seasonal tourism is definitely their main industry so it was nice to see that every restaurant was packed and I hope they can make it through the pandemic

One morning we had amazing breakfast sandwiches from South of the Border Cafe (it’s cash only so you know it’s good) and the next Glenn woke up extremely early to get me donuts from the highly-instagrammable World’s Best Donuts. #spoiledgirlfriend

For lunch we had fresh caught fish fry from Blue Water Cafe and enjoyed it by the harbor while live music played. And at night we had a romantic dinner from Angry Trout Cafe on our Best Western balcony.

Activities

The weather was pretty foggy both mornings but by early afternoon it was blue skies. We took a walk out to Artist’s Point and the Lighthouse to get a different perspective on the town.

Eagle Mountain

We woke up early Saturday morning and drove into Superior Nation Forest to the trailhead for Eagle Mountain. You hike 3.5 miles into the Boundary Waters Cane Area Wilderness which is pretty cool. It was very humid and overcast that day so when we got to the top, unfortunately there wasn’t much of a view. But we did get rewarded with a plaque indicating that we had reached an elevation of 2,301 ft, the highest point in Minnesota. We felt very accomplished and see the below cheesy photo to prove it.

View from the top.

Grand Portage State Park

That afternoon, we drove up to Canada’s border and Grand Portage State Park, home of Minnesota’s tallest waterfall. This is the only state park without a campground and the entrance is literally feet away from the US/Canada border patrol. There is a paved and very accessible trial to get to the falls.

As we reached the lookout, a family informed us that they had seen a bear on the Canada side of the falls just moments before we arrived. We were very bummed to have missed it!

On the left side of this photo you have the U.S. and on the right is Canada.

Since this was just a weekend trip, on Sunday morning we hit the road back to the cities. BUT we were able to pack the day with activities because there are a total of ten Minnesota State Parks along the north shore and we stopped at as many as we could fit into the day.

Split Rock Lighthouse State Park

Split Rock Lighthouse is one of the most iconic and photographed lighthouses in America. My grandma even has a beautiful Thomas Kinkade painting of it! We didn’t want to pay to go up to the Lighthouse so we drove to the state park and hiked down onto the rocks to get a look. 

Tettegouche State Park

Oh hey – there’s Paliaide Head in the distance. And Black Beach is just beyond thatl.

Tettegouche State Park (pronounced tet-a-gooch according to the sign I read in the park restroom) was one of the most popular parks we stopped at along the way. If you’re short on time like we were, you can hike along the lakeside cliffs to Shovel Point to get stunning views of the shoreline. There is so much more to do and see in this park and I think we’ll have to go back and check out all of the trails and lakes and waterfalls.

Temperance River State Park

This bridge that crosses the Temperance River Gorge is actually the Superior Hiking Trail, a 310-mile long hiking trail that spans most of the North Shore.

At Temperance River State Park, we took a short hike to see the gorge and Hidden Falls. The falls were difficult to photograph because they are well…hidden but I swear they were there.

Cascade River State Park

Cascade River State Park is home to even more waterfalls. There is a series of FIVE small falls thus how it gets its name.

Gooseberry Falls State Park

And lastly we have Gooseberry Falls, as you can see above, it was beautiful. The parking lot was full so we went into the actual State Park nearer to Lake Superior and hiked about a mile back towards the falls. There were a TON of people swimming in the falls, mostly with children, so that wasn’t really our thing but that’s what we get for visiting in mid-July. We only stopped for a minute to rest, cool down and take photos.

That concludes our weekend on the North Shore! It was so great to finally make it up there and check a ton of State Parks off of our list. I think, like Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, the North Shore would be an amazing place to visit in the fall as well and hopefully I can head back, hit some trails and show you all the beautiful fall colors.

Thanks for stopping by! xoxo

Casey

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