This is not the first time I’ve written about my obsession with the Great Lakes. My family traditionally travels to Lake Michigan over Columbus Day weekend most years, but this year was an exception. I wanted to travel to a spot that wasn’t crawling with tourists escaping Chicago or other metro areas, so I looked for somewhere that would hopefully be less crowded. Because I’d heard great things about Minnesota’s North Shore of Lake Superior, we chose that area for our trip. Though we’ve visited multiple areas along Lake Superior, we’d never travelled to that particular area.
Noting several state parks dotting the shoreline, I tried to prioritize which to visit during our short stay. While it was nice to take a fall vacation, we still had to work around our daughters’ school schedules, so we didn’t have enough time to visit all the places that looked interesting. I booked a room in Duluth, thinking that would be a good starting point for areas to the north or even if we wanted to visit the shoreline in Wisconsin. Duluth itself is an interesting and beautiful city, especially with the fall foliage dotting the hilly city, and nestled along Lake Superior, right into the Minnesota border. We visited the Great Lakes Zoo, my daughter’s choice, and also spent some time at Leif Erickson Park. We drove across the Aerial Lift Bridge. But, what I was itching to do was hit the shoreline for some spectacular scenery.
We were not disappointed. Between the beautiful fall foliage, shimmering blue water, and granite shorelines, the scenery was indescribable. The weather was perfect, and the light hitting the water, granite hills, and tree leaves made things even more gorgeous. We traveled on scenic Highway 61 northward to visit many parks—even as far as Grand Portage at the Canada border. Knowing they wouldn’t let us in, we didn’t bring our passports, but one of these days I hope to cross the border and travel all around the lake.
We started off at Gooseberry Falls State Park. As the name implies, there are waterfalls but also streams, wooded trails, and amazing views of Lake Superior along sheer granite cliffs. The view right outside the visitor’s center is a perfect photo opportunity, with birch and aspen trees framing the blue lake water in the distance—simply breathtaking!
From here, we continued north to the Split Rock Lighthouse State Park. We hiked along the shoreline but decided to visit the lighthouse until the next day. My daughter drove us back to Duluth, so I could sit back and enjoy the views along the way.
The next day was more of the same. We visited the Split Rock Historic Site for views of the pristine and interesting lighthouse and grounds, not to mention the lake, then hiked down to the shoreline for views from below. The scenery from the wooded trail on the way back up were just as amazing. Continuing our journey northward, we headed to the border and visited Grand Portage State Park, where we saw more beautiful waterfalls. But the views that were even more amazing were from two scenic pull offs along Highway 61. I could have spent all day gazing at all the shades of golden tree foliage, contrasting with the rocky hills on one side and the beautiful lake on the other side. We could see for miles, as far as Canada and Isle Royale National Park. We broke up the drive southward to Duluth by making a quick stop at Tettegouche State Park. We hiked down to the tiny bay and knew we would like to spend more time at this park but were pretty worn out by this time.
In addition to taking more time to explore Duluth, there are dozens of other parks and natural areas I want to visit or revisit the next time we make this trip. And trust me—there will be a next time!