This is an outline of a trip I took to Minnesota's North Shore region around the end of August 2020. For the complete trip, visit my blog post here: https://rccircuit93.wordpress.com/2020/09/01/minnesota-north-shores-waterways/. I will number the attractions in the lists below in order of most interesting (1.) to less interesting (>1)
Lodging: I recommend staying somewhere halfway between the north and south ends of the North Shore region. I stayed in Two Harbors, MN.
Arrival Day (could be before Day 1, depends on your travel time):
Jay Cooke State Park is a rock and river playground along the St. Louis River. Climbing on the rocks and getting right next to the rushing river is tons of fun in this place.
- Swinging Bridge
- Silver Creek Trail East Side (faster waters, rocks are like a dam)
- Silver Creek Trail West Side (calmer waters, easier rock hopping)
- Oldenburg Overlook
Gooseberry Falls State Park is a series of waterfalls that "ladder" off each other from the highway. It's a relatively small park that is famous among its locals.
- Middle & Lower Falls (allows for a lot of hopping around rocks)
- Upper Falls
Split Rock Lighthouse is a state park featuring a lighthouse and a cliff-to-lakeside trail. Good breath of fresh air along the open lakeshore.
- The lighthouse itself
- The trail (leads south down to various lakeside viewpoints)
Tettegouche State Park is a large park with great inland waterfalls and a lakeside viewpoint. Personally, I considered it the best park in the North Shore. The hiking here is more rigorous with more inclines, but the views are quite rewarding.
- High Falls (tallest 90ft waterfall in MN)
- Baptism River bay area (where the park's river leads into the Lake)
- Cascade Falls
- Two Steps Falls
Temperance River State Park features a uniquely carved gorge of its river leading into the lakeside. This is found just off the side of Highway 61 and can easily be missed.
- Temperance River Gorge (beware of the high currents in the gorge and river leading into the gorge. Never wade or swim in the gorge or pool area. There have been a few known deaths here)
Judge CR Magney State Park features a mysterious waterfall that feeds into a hole of unknown depth. It leads into a quiet, inclined section of the Superior National Forest, which is a fitting atmosphere for this mysterious waterfall.
- Devil's Kettle Falls (fairly long hike to this falls. You are offered a tall vantage point of a waterfall that pours into a pool whose depth has mystified scientists and tourists alike)
Grand Portage State Park is the last park in Minnesota before the Canadian border. It is a short visit but acts as the "Niagara" of Minnesota by hosting a large waterfall on the country borders.
- High Falls (a grand waterfall over what can be described as a stone gate. The river that drives it is the boundary line between US and Canada)
Other misc. attractions:
Highway 61 is the route/scenic drive that connects every park I listed above except for Jay Cooke. There are a few good overlooks and panoramic views of Lake Superior that can be found just south of Gooseberry Falls and just south of Grand Portage.
Enjoy cooling off at the waters of Minnesota's North Shore, and always think twice before wading in or swimming. Do not underestimate the currents at some of these parks.
Things I didn't have time for but might interest you?
There are two additional state parks along the North Shore I didn't have time for: George Crosby Manitou State Park and Cascade River State Park. In addition, the Superior Hiking Trail stretches all along the North Shore that some avid hikers/campers can consider. That trail also connects to every one of these parks at separate points.