12 Best Hiking Trails on Minnesota’s North Shore
By Guest Writer Madeline Marquardt
Best Hiking Trails on Minnesota’s North Shore:
Minnesota’s North Shore runs along Lake Superior, from Two Harbors all the way north to the Canadian Border. The North Shore is a hiker’s paradise, with both long trails for thru-hiking, options for 2-3 day overnight trips, and an incredible selection of day hikes.
1) Gooseberry Falls State Park
Gooseberry Falls State Park is the perfect quick stop for an incredible North Shore waterfall, including ADA accessible viewpoints. There are several waterfalls in Gooseberry Falls State park, and it’s the perfect place to spend a whole day, or just stop and view the largest falls before you continue up the North Shore.
2) Split Rock Lighthouse
Did you know that one of the most photogenic lighthouses in the US is right here in Minnesota? Built in 1910, Split Rock Lighthouse stands watch over the palisades at Split Rock. Split Rock Lighthouse makes for an excellent sunrise location, and there are plenty of easy hiking trails within the park, making Split Rock home to some of the best hiking trails on the North Shore for families!
3) High Falls in Tettegouche State Park
If you’re looking for one of the most impressive waterfalls in Minnesota, head out to High Falls in Tettegouche State Park. This waterfall cascades nearly 70 ft down on the Baptism River. This is an easy to moderate hike, depending on the season and group ability. I recommend hiking in the early morning to avoid the crowds, or heading out in the winter with ice spikes for a unique North Shore hike.
4) Fantasia Overlook on the SHT
Are you looking for a hard 5-7 mile hike with incredible views the whole way? How about the ultimate spot for fall color? Head out to the Fantasia Overlook on the Superior Hiking Trail. Park off the Superior Hiking Trail trailhead off Highway One and head Northeast along the trail.
You’ll climb high up into the hills and experience sweeping views of Lake Superior and Tettegouche State Park along the way. When you reach the Fantasia Overlook Spur Trail, take the half mile spur to the overlook. Here, you’ll hike along the ridge with incredible views the entire way until you reach the Fantasia Overlook. For an added challenge, continue Northeast along the Superior Hiking Trail before turning back for a beautiful overlook of Johnshon Lake and the Wolf Ridge Environmental Center.
Fantasia Overlook and the hiking trails around Tettegouche State Park are some of the best North Shore hiking trails for fall color!
5) Caribou Falls
Looking for a family friendly hike with a large waterfall and no crowds? Head to the Caribou Falls Wayside. This short hike will take you into the hills, then down a large set of stairs to the base of the incredible Caribou Falls. Caribou Falls is one of the best lesser known waterfalls on the North Shore, and one of the best easy hiking trails.
6) Temperance River State Park
Ever wanted to see a slot canyon in Minnesota? Temperance River State Park is home to Hidden Falls, a waterfall that plunges out of sight within the rock of the North Shore. This state park has great hiking trails for anyone looking for a hint of Out West in the Midwest.
Between the gushing waterfalls, unique views of Lake Superior, and options for a difficult hike up to Carlton Peak, Temperance River State Park offers some of the best day hiking and views on the North Shore of Minnesota.
7) Oberg Mountain
Oberg Mountain is an easy-moderate three mile loop that takes hikers on an incredible ridge above Lake Superior and the picture perfect Oberg Lake. This hike can be extremely crowded in the fall as colors peak, but is a beautiful hike if you can beat the crowds. I recommend visiting in the early morning or on weekdays to make sure you can find parking.
8) Lutsen Mountains
The Superior Hiking Trail along Lutsen Mountains offers a chance to hike grueling ups and downs with beautiful overlooks. This is a great spot for hikers looking for a challenge and looking to get away from the well travelled paths of the North Shore. While Lutsen Mountains don’t have as many of incredible sweeping views of the North Shore, the views are still beautiful, and you’re less likely to run into trouble finding parking.
Hiker Emily in the Abode Hoodie
9) White Sky Rock
Looking for a short, steep hike to get up above a beautiful lake? Head out to White Sky Rock Trailhead in Lutsen and hike up to a beautiful overlook of Caribou Lake. If you’re looking for more of a challenge, continue along the Superior Hiking Trail out to Lake Agnes and the trail beyond.
White Sky Rock is a classic sunrise spot, and a beautiful overlook in early autumn.
10) Cascade River State Park
Cascade River State Park is the best place to see seven waterfalls in less than one mile of hiking. This is a great trail for families, photographers, road trippers, or anyone looking to see beautiful sights on an easy hike. Walk the inner loop for views of the falls, or head up to Lookout Mountain for sweeping views of the valley below and Lake Superior.
For a challenge, continue from the Cascades north on the Superior Hiking Trail and keep your eyes peeled for the “hidden falls” on the Cascade River.
11) Pincushion Mountain
A classic for cross country skiers, Pincushion Mountain is also home to a beautiful hiking trail. Head out along the Superior Hiking Trail through beautiful boreal forest to the Pincushion Mountain Overlook. From here, head down into the valley to the Devil Track Canyon and have lunch on the A-frame bridge over the river.
Pincushion Mountain is just north of Grand Marais on the Gunflint Trail, and an excellent 4-6 mile out and back day trip.
12) High Falls on the Pigeon River
Hidden on the border of Grand Portage and Canada is the large and impressive High Falls waterfall, tumbling nearly 90 feet over large cliffs. Not only is High Falls the largest waterfall in Minnesota, it’s easily one of the most photogenic.
The path to High Falls is short and mostly paved, making it one of the best easy hiking trails on the North Shore, and the perfect destination for road-trippers or photographers.
High Falls is in Grand Portage State Park on Anishinaabee Nation Land. The Grand Portage Band manages this state park. When visiting Grand Portage, be sure to stop by Grand Portage National Monument to learn more about Anishinaabe culture and history.
Bonus: The Border Route Trail
One of the best hiking trails accessible from the North Shore is the Border Route Trail. The BRT is a 65 mile trail and potential thru hike through the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. This trail can be overgrown, rugged, and incredibly challenging. That being said, it offers some of the most impressive views in the state of Minnesota, if not the Midwest.
Most hikers tackle the BRT in 5-7 days, but there are definitely options for shorter routes and loops. I recommend McKenzie Maps for route planning as they tend to be most accurate.
The Border Route Trail contains some of the best overlooks in the BWCA, and probably some of the best overlooks in the BWCA, rivaled perhaps only by the Superior Hiking Trail near Tettegouche State Park and Temperance State Park.