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22 Best Places to Stop along Minnesota’s North Shore

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This summer was the first time I ventured to the North Shore (just one previous trip to Lutsen for winter skiing!).  After a fabulous week exploring the scenery, I plan to make the North Shore an annual trip.  We are lucky to have these gem spots in Minnesota. Below I share the top spots to make en route to the Canadian border!

1. Banning State Park

Since Banning State Park is on the route up to the north shore, we decided to stop for a couple hours to break up the drive.  Set on an old sandstone quarry spot, there are fabulous hiking trails along the fast-flowing Kettle River and a waterfall. The rapids in some places are grade IV!  It’s better to stop here on the way up north because while it’s scenic, it won’t compare to what you’re about to experience!

2. Jay Cooke State Park

Jay Cooke State Park is incredibly scenic and a must stop. The highlight for me was walking across the swinging bridge and seeing the unique rock formations in the river.  Most people seemed to turn east after crossing the bridge (to the right) but my favorite park was walking west (to the left) along the river.

3. Gordy’s Hi-Hat

A classic diner drive-in from 1960, Gordy’s Hi-Hat offers car hop service (perfect right in COVID) and has delicious burgers, fries and shakes (the blackberry shake was featured on Diners, Drive-ins and Drives and rightfully so!).

4. Duluth

There’s a ton to do in Duluth from visiting Fitger’s to walking along the Canal Park area to the Lift bridge, to trying one of the great restaurants.  We go to Duluth most years and it’s been particularly fun seeing the West Superior Street area grow rapidly! There are tons of food, drink and shop stops there, which I highlight here.

5. Cedar Coffee Company

A great stop to pick up coffee/tea and sandwiches to have a picnic along the North Shore! Highly recommend their chai tea latte!

6. Betty’s Pies

Probably the most famous pie shop along the north shore, Betty’s Pies has definitely earned its accolades! I can personally vouch for the banana cream pie. There’s a fabulous spot right across Highway 61 to have a little picnic on the rocks (see picture below with #7).

7. Rustic Inn Café

The Rustic Inn Café has delicious food options – I loved their sandwich selection in particular and sweet potato fries! They also have an incredible selection of pie – highly recommending getting one to compare to the other famous pie stop 😉

8. Gooseberry Falls

While we didn’t go this year since we heard it was crowded, autumn would likely be a great time to visit again.  We went to Gooseberry Falls a few years ago and the falls are really beautiful!

9. Split Rock Lighthouse

An iconic stop along the North Shore, Split Rock Lighthouse has been around for over 100 years.  It’s located within the Split Rock Lighthouse State Park.  An beautiful place to take a photo of the lighthouse (or launch a kayak or paddleboard) is Pebble Beach!

10. Black Beach

The only black sand beach in Minnesota is at the recently opened to the public (2015) Black Beach.  It’s a beautiful and I highly recommend visiting but I learned it’s not a natural occurrence as the black color happened from taconite dumping by a local mining company.  It’s the perfect spot for a picnic, swim (if you’re brave enough for chilly waters!) or to launch a kayak or paddleboard on a calm day.  We paddleboarded from here to Palisade Head which was blast! Read more about that here.

11. Bean and Bear Hike along the Superior Hiking Trail

This is one of the best hikes I’ve done in Minnesota.  It took us about 3 hours roundtrip and leads you to two really scenic lakes.  Make sure to have a good pair of hiking boots and enough water!

12. Palisade Head (Tettegouche State Park)

This is one of the most iconic viewpoints along Lake Superior and for good reason! I loved the view from the water too (which we got to by paddleboarding) but it’s stunning to get a higher-level perspective from this viewpoint.  It’s a pretty steep drive up to the lookout but there’s no hiking involved so it’s a quicker stop.

13. High Falls (Tettegouche State Park)

The highest waterfall completely in Minnesota is the High Falls area.  You can park near the campsite which makes the short a relatively short ~30-45 minutes roundtrip.  There’s another fun swinging bridge located here

14. Shovel Point (Tettegouche State Park)

This is a relatively short hike (30-45 min roundtrip) from the Visitor Center and offers stunning views along Lake Superior.  There is a boardwalk the whole way and some stairs.  If it’s wet, the walk is a little slippery so wear your hiking boots.  At parts I felt like I was in the Pacific Northwest!

15. Schroeder Baking Company

Schroeder Baking Company offers delicious donuts, coffee/tea, sandwiches and calzones! Highly recommend for a food stop along your route.  They have spaced out picnic tables outdoors which are perfect for an outdoor break.

16. Temperance River State Park

Temperance State Park has some beautiful waterfalls and ultimately leads all the way to Lake Superior.  I loved hiking along the waterfalls.  There are two waterfall areas very close to the parking area off Highway 61.  You can also hike about a mile further up to another waterfall or else drive to the parking spot that’s close to it.

17. Cascade River State Park

Cascade River State Park offers some beautiful views of waterfalls that are a relatively short hike from the parking lot off Highway 61.  Definitely a worthwhile stop to make!

18. Grand Marais

I love seaside towns a lot and Grand Marais is the real deal!  With a lighthouse, great food and drink stops and beautiful pebble beach, make sure you stop for at least half a day in this town.  For the best food stops, read my post here!

19. Judge C.R. Magney State Park

Judge CR Magney State Park has two beautiful waterfall areas that take around an hour round trip, possibly longer if you enjoy sitting and enjoying the scenery.  Devil’s Kettle is famous and for a long time people didn’t know where the falls disappeared to.  It was concluded somewhat recently it goes underground and then rejoins the river further downstream. I loved Upper Falls the most because you can get a little closer and just sit and enjoy the thunderous sound of the falls. 

20. Mount Josephine

In my opinion, the Mt. Josephine hike offers the best view in all of Minnesota.  This relatively short but steep hike takes you to an amazing view overlooking the NE point of Minnesota, Canada and Michigan’s Isle Royale National Park.  On a clear day, the water looks like the Caribbean because the color is so blue!  The trailhead parking lot is small and somewhat undiscernible but it is marked on Google Maps!

21. Grand Portage – High Falls

Grand Portage State Park has the highest waterfall in Minnesota, although some of it is technically in Canada.  There’s an accessible friendly walk to the falls which are so stunning! It’s only 47 feet shorter than Niagara Falls.  Since it straddles the US and Canada, you can see Canadian friends across the Pigeon River observing the falls too!

22. Sapsucker Farms

This is closer back to the Twin Cities but is the perfect last stop to make before entering back to real life! Their farm is very relaxing and they serve delicious Yellow Belly Cider.  I loved our visit and walk around the farm.  For more cidery stops, check out my top 8 list here.

Did I miss any of your favorite stops? Comment below!

Looking for places to stay around Minnesota’s North Shore? Read Here!

Check out other ideas around Minnesota here! Interested in US Travel or World Travel? Check out more guides here!

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