60+ Best Hiking Trails on Minnesota’s North Shore

Best hiking trails on MN's North Shore - Family posing for a picture

Some of the best hiking trails are on Minnesota’s North Shore of Lake Superior. Whether you are looking for a quick walk near Duluth or a multi-day backpacking trip on the Superior Hiking Trail, you are sure to find it up north! 

The number of trails on the North Shore of MN is mind boggling. We’ve tried to highlight the most well-known hikes that are easily accessible and often home to breathtaking views, raging rivers, or stunning waterfalls. Many are family and kid friendly and we’ll be sure to note when that is the case!

This guide to the BEST hiking trails on Minnesota’s North Shore follows Highway 61 and are organized into location-based groups. You can save some time by using the table of contents to pintpoint hikes near where you are staying.

Hikes start in the south near Duluth and end in the north by Grand Portage. Many trailheads originate at one of the eight magnificent state parks on Minnesota’s North Shore.

A Background on the Superior Hiking Trail

Hiking Trails on Minnesota's North Shore - Kids hiking the Superior Hiking Trail

A guide to the best hiking trails on the North Shore of MN would not be complete without discussing The Superior Hiking Trail. Spanning over 310 miles from Jay Cooke State Park south of Duluth all the way north to 270 degree lookout near the US/Canada border, the trail covers a ton of diverse ground. 

It also winds through most of the State Parks that dot the North Shore. One thing you will notice is that many of the trails we discuss are actually sections of the Superior Hiking Trail. This adds some added adventure and our kids love taking pictures beneath the Superior Hiking Trail signage.

In addition to some amazing hiking, backpacking, and camping opportunities, the trail also offers unparalleled views of Lake Superior and the rest of Minnesota’s North Shore.

Maintaining Trails: The Role of Superior Hiking Trail Association

The Superior Hiking Trail Association, a non-profit organization, is responsible for maintaining this remarkable trail system and advocating on its behalf. Their efforts ensure that all trail users can safely enjoy their hikes regardless of experience level. You can thank them later!

Beyond maintenance work, they also organize educational programs and guided hikes throughout the year to enrich hikers’ knowledge about local ecosystems and geological features along these routes. Be sure to check them out and consider becoming a member!

Key Takeaway: 
The Superior Hiking Trail covers 310 miles from Duluth to the Canadian Border. The trail system winds through many State Parks which serve as parking areas and trailheads for the system. It is the source of some of the best hikes on the North Shore of MN.

Duluth and Two Harbors

Best hikes on the North Shore MN - Kids and their mom sitting on the pier in Two Harbors, MN

With Lake Superior as its backdrop, the city of Duluth is a haven for hikers and outdoors lovers. Offering trails that cater to all levels of experience and endurance, great restaurants, and plenty of hotels, it’s an ideal destination for families seeking outdoor adventure.

Two Harbors, which 30 miles up Highway 61 from Duluth, is a quaint little town with great restaurants, an awesome brewery, and my alltime favorite bookstore. It also is home to some nice trails and excellent lake views.

Chester Creek Trail

Duluth boasts urban hiking options such as Chester Creek Trail. It runs right through downtown but still delivers tranquil forest scenes alongside babbling brooks and cascading waterfalls . A two-mile round trip hike allows you plenty opportunities to spot local wildlife right in the heart of Duluth.

Length: 2.5 mile loop

Difficulty: Easy

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Park Point Nature Trail

If you prefer beachfront walks, then Park Point Nature Trail situated across Aerial Lift Bridge on Minnesota Avenue will not disappoint. With sandy dunes covered by tall grasses leading towards secluded beaches, this relaxed walk provides the perfect family getaway.

More adventurous hikers can take the 5.2 mile hike from the beach area past the ruins of Minnesota Point Lighthouse, the first lighthouse in MN. Be forewarned, it’s known for some serious poison ivy, so wear long pants and stay on the trail!

Length: 5.2 miles round trip (negligible if just going to the beach)

Difficulty: Easy

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Lester Park and Waterfalls

Lester Park is located in the heart of Duluth and offers hiking, biking, and cross-country ski trails. It also has a couple of playgrounds and plenty of open green space.

Walks and hikes range from 0.2 miles to north of 9 miles! The trail follows the Lester River which has a number of cool waterfalls. If you want to see them in all of their glory then make your trek in the Spring when the spring runoff is flowing strong!

You will be able to see Lester Falls right at the entrance to the park by the Superior Street Bridge. Many take the Amity River Trail to Amity Falls for another waterfall viewing opportunity. The Amity Falls are about 1.5 miles from the parking area.

Length: 0.5 to 9 miles

Difficulty: Easy

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Sonju Trail

Sonju Trail is an easy paved path that runs from the Lake Superior Beach at Burlington Bay through Lakeview Park. There is even a playground for the little ones.

The path takes you past the Two Harbors Lighhouse and Museum to Agate Bay beach, where you can watch ore ships dock or walk a bit further and grab a beer at Castle Danger Brewery.

Length: 1 mile each way

Difficulty: Easy

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Key Takeaway: 
Duluth and Two Harbors offer an array of amenities and hiking options. Parents with young children should stay in Duluth and tour the hikes above for an adventure filled weekend for all ages.

Gooseberry Falls State Park

Image: Explore Minnesota

Nestled along the picturesque North Shore of Minnesota, Gooseberry Falls State Park is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts and families seeking adventure. This park offers an array of activities, from hiking trails that lead you through lush landscapes and past cascading waterfalls, to breathtaking views overlooking Lake Superior.

There is a reason it is the number one most visited state park in Minnesota!

Wolf Rock Overlook

Like many trails, the Wolf Rock trail covers part of the Superior Hiking Trail. The trail is located on Castle Danger Road (cty 106) and it is a short walk up to Wolf Rock overlook. If you are really looking for a hike you can go the full 9.4 miles to Gooseberry State Park.

The highlight really is the overlook at Wolf Rock, which has amazing views Lake Superior.

Length: 0.5 miles to Wolf Rock; 9.4 miles one-way to Gooseberry Falls State Park

Difficulty: Moderate

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Gooseberry River Waterfalls

This is one of our favorite hikes and highly recommend it in the Winter! A paved trail leads out of the parking lot at Gooseberry Falls State Park to the most well-known of the falls, Middle Falls. This out and back loop is only a half mile total and is great with little kids.

If you are looking for more adventure, take the Riverview Trail south from Middle Falls past Lower Falls to the mouth of the Gooseberry River. This also is relatively kid-friendly. Our kids love exploring the beach and looking for cool rocks.

The above hikes are relatively short. You can also go up to to Fifth Falls. The Fifth Falls Trail runs north along the river and slowly climbs to the base of the falls.

Length: up to 2 miles

Difficulty: Easy

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Gooseberry Falls State Park Trails

In addition to the falls, the park has an abundance of inland trails if you are looking for something longer. We’d recommend hiking up to Fifth Falls, crossing the river, and then taking one of the various loops that meander through the heart of the forest.

The Gitchi Gummi Hiking Trail is a great 2.5 mile loop.

Length: 1-15 miles

Difficulty: Easy and moderate options

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Key Takeaway: 
Goosberry Falls State Park offers a ton of hiking options. If you are heading further up the Shore and just need to stretch your legs, then a quick hike to any of the falls is a great option. All are kid friendly.

Split Rock Lighthouse State Park

Best Hiking Trails in MN - View of Split Rock Lighthouse with sunset and a calm lake

Situated along the picturesque North Shore of Lake Superior, Split Rock Lighthouse State Park boasts a multitude of trails catering to hikers of all skill levels. The park’s crown jewel is undoubtedly its namesake Split Rock Lighthouse, standing as an enduring symbol of Minnesota’s rich maritime past.

Picnic Flow & Pebble Beach Trails

If you’re in search of less demanding but equally gratifying experiences, consider embarking on either (or perhaps both) of these shorter trails that meander around key landmarks within Split Rock Lighthouse State Park.

The Picnic Flow trail guides visitors over an age-old lava flow blanketed with mosses and lichens while offering panoramic views over Lake Superior. Pebble Beach trail brings hikers directly down to the shore where kids can skip rocks to their hearts desire.

Length: 0.5 miles

Difficulty: Easy

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Little Two Harbors Trail

If you are looking for the best view of the lighthouse, then this is your trail! It wanders down from the lighthouse, pastthe old Pump House and Tram system, and then through a beautiful birch grove and along cobblestone beach of Little Two Harbors Bay.

If we were to pick one hike, especially with our kids, this would be it.

Length: 1.2 to 1.6 Miles

Difficulty: Easy

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Split Rock River Trail

The path to the lighthouse is easy, short and paved. We’d recommend everyone stops by and sees this historic monument if visiting the park.

In addition to the Lighthouse, the park offers a wide variety of hiking options with cobblestone beaches and great views of the lake.

Both hiking trails offer incredible views of the river and Lake Superior. Many are short loops.

If you are looking for a longer hike, check out the Merrill Logging Trail which winds through the inner forested section of the park.

Length: Various, mostly short with some up to 12 miles

Difficulty: Easy to Moderate

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Bean and Bear Lakes

If you are an avid hiker looking to escape the hustle and bustle of the park, then we’d recommend heading over to Bean and Bear Lakes. There are options for a nice loop or a point-to-point trail. This is an excellent hike in the fall when the maple trees are showing off their colors. The view across the two lakes is unparalelled!

Length: 6.8 miles

Difficulty: Difficult (but so worth it!)

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Key Takeaway: 
Split Rock Lighthouse State Park offers a wide range of hiking options. While the hiking around the lighhouse is more akin to walking paths, the hike out to Bean and Bear Lakes is serious and well worth the effort!

Tettegouche State Park

Best hiking for families in Minnesota - Kids and mom sitting in front of frozen waterfall in Tettegouche State Park

If there was one area we’d go for the best hiking on the North Shore of MN, it would be Tettegouche State Park and the surrounding areas. There is just so much to see and so many waterfalls!

We highlight the main areas below and ecourage you to dig deeper. There is just too much for us to cover.

Silver Bay Scenic Overlook

This quick hike takes you to the bluffs overlooking the Cliffs Mining Plant. It is a great way to get a feel for the size and complexity of that operation! There are a couple of nice little loops that offer nice views of Silver Bay, Lake Superior, and Palisade Head.

Length: 1 mile

Difficulty: Easy

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Inner Trails at Tettegouche State Park

Tettegouche State Park offers a wide variety of trails. Easier trails are located closer to the Visitor Center. A well traveled route is to take the Superior Hiking Trail west from the campground, stopping at a series of overlooks. Then you can hike by Mic Mac and Nipisquit lakes and back to the parking lot.

These lakes can also be accessed from the parking lot near Lax Lake on the other side of the park.

Length: up to 23 miles

Difficulty: Easy, moderate, and difficult options

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Shovel Point

Shovel Point offers wonderful views of Lake Superior. The entire hike is only about a half of a mile. Just make sure to keep your kids in hand as you get close to the cliff because it is a long way down!

You can head north to Crystal Bay or south to Palisade Head. At the latter you might catch some rock climbers working their way up the face of the cliff!

There are a number of short trails in this small park that are fun, offer great views, and accessible for kiddos.

Length: 0.5 miles

Difficulty: Easy

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Baptism River – Cascade, Two Step, and High Falls

The Baptism River has three waterfalls, including Minnesota’s largest at 70 feet. You have three trail options for reaching the falls. The main trail is moderate and has an uphill climb with lots of stairs.

We LOVE this hike in the winter, so grab your snowshoes. The only downside is that the swinging bridge above High Falls is currently out of commission, so some of the loops near high-falls are off limits for the time being.

Length: 3 miles (2 to the lower Cascade falls)

Difficulty: Moderate

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Crystal Bay Sea Cave

Crystal Bay Sea Cave feels like a hidden private beach. Park off of the shoulder of Highway 61 near mile market 50 on the northeast side of Crystal Creek. Then take the path down.

Keep in mind this is not a maintained trail, so it can be a little tough to navigate, especially after a good rain. It is worth the effort.

Length: 0.2 miles

Difficulty: Moderate to Difficult

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Tettegouch Lake Loop

This is a great hike. This loop is accessed from the back side of Tettagouche State Park by Lax Lake (i.e. not the Visitor Center). There are four beautiful overlooks and plenty of additional trails if you’d like to extend your hike. You will also walk by the Tettegaouch Camp where you can rent cabins.

Length: 3.5 miles

Difficulty: Moderate

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Fantasia Overlook Hiking Trail

Fantasia Overlook is another great medium hike just outside of Tettagouche Park. You start at the Superior Hiking Trail parking lot on Hwy 1 and hike inland. Be forewarned, there is a lookout about a mile into the hike that is OK. Just keep going and you will truly be rewarded!

Length: 3.0 miles

Difficulty: Moderate

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Baptism River – Illgen Falls

This is an extremely short hike to a pretty cool waterfall. We’ve only ever done the hike in the winter, but have heard it is equally as beautiful in the summer. This is a family friendly hike.

Parking is limited as it is only a roadside pull-off. The path is well traveled and easy to follow.

Length: 0.2 miles

Difficulty: Easy

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Section 13

Section 13 of the Superior Hiking Trail is a fun 2.8 mile section near Finland, MN. The hike takes you through maple forests and on some insane rock cliffs with views of the Baptism River.

To get there turn from 61 onto Lake Ct. Road 6 for and continue for 2 miles. Park at the Superior Hiking Trial parking lot.

Length: 4.5 miles

Difficulty: Moderate

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Key Takeaway: 
Tettegouche State Park and the surrounding area offer a seemingly unlimited array of hiking options. We love this area in the winter and recommend any of the waterfall hikes. Splitrock Lighthouse State Park and Shovel Point are also excellent options.

George H. Crosby Manitou State Park

Kids looking at Lake Superior from one of the overlooks at George H. Crosby Manitou State Park in MN

George H. Crosby Manitou State Park is one of the least traveled state parks on Minnesota’s North Shore. And it’s too bad. It is a beautiful park that is easy to get to and offers a range of hiking options, including access to the Superior Hiking Trail.

The Manitou River has a set of falls that are just spectacular when water levels are high!

Benson Lake Loop

This trail takes you from the parking lot around Benson Lake, which is a designated Trout Lake. If you plan to fish, make sure you buy Minnesota fishing license with a trout stamp.

Benson Lake will make you feel like you are deep in the wilderness (you pretty much are!). Your kids will love bouncing along the boardwalks and playing in the super clean waters!

Length: 1 mile

Difficulty: Easy

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Middle Trail

Middle Trail leaves right from the parking lot and doubles as a section of the Superior Hiking Trail. The trail is rugged with changes in elevation and some wet spots.

The highlights are the three waterfalls that are at the end of the trail. These are easily among our top 5 favorite waterfalls on the North Shore, MN. They are well worth the effort! If you have younger kids, you could easily consider taking them on the hike in a baby carrier or backpack if you are up for the additional challenge. 

Length: 1.6 miles in and out

Difficulty: Moderate

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Middle Trail/Misquah Trail/Yellow Birch Trail Loop

The whole point of this trail is to catch the lookout that is about halfway up the Misquah Trail. It sits high on a hill next to campsite six and has amazing views of the Manitou River Valley and Lake Superior. 

While longer than the other two, it is 100% doable by kids and they will be rewarded for their resilience! Just follow the Middle Trail from the parking lot and take a right on the Misquah trail after about 0.8 miles. Follow the Misquah trail until you see a turnoff for campsite six and the lookout. Once you have had lunch and enjoyed the views, continue on the Misquah Trail and take a right once it hits Yellow Birch Trail. This trail will bring you back to the parking lot.

Length: 2.5-3.0 mile loop

Difficulty: Moderate

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Key Takeaway: 
George H. Crosby Manitou State Park is a hidden gem on Minnesota’s North Shore. It is well worth the drive inland, especially if the water levels are high and the river is raging!

Temperance River State Park

Best Hiking Trails on the North Shore of Minnesota - View in the fall from Carlton peak

Temperance River State Park offers a wide variety of hiking in and around the Temperance River Gorge. It also has a nice beach, picnic grounds, and the Temperance Rive Lagoon.

Like most state parks on the North Shore in MN, the park is home to a long stretch of the Superior Hiking Trail. The park offers plenty of easy to moderate hikes for families and a couple of more difficult ones for more serious hikers.

Caribou River Falls

Caribou River Falls is one of our favorite waterfalls on the North Shore. The hike is located 10 miles south of Temperance River State Park on Hwy 61. Park at the Caribou Falls State Wayside parking lot on the North side of the road.

The hike is short but tiring. You’ll climb about 100 ft in the first half mile and another 150 stairs before arriving at your destination.

But it is worth it! The fun part is you can start to see the falls on your approach and they continue to grow in size and splendor!

Length: 1.2 miles

Difficulty: Easy (apart from the stairs!)

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Sugarloaf Nature Trail

Sugarloaf Nature Trail is a fun and easy stop for families. It is located about 5 miles north of the Caribou Falls State Wayside and about 5 miles south of Temperance River State Park.

It is one mile hike with interpretive signs throughout. You and your kids can learn all about log rafting and tree planting. This is a favorite when our kids just need to get out and run around a bit before continuing north.

Length: 1.2 miles

Difficulty: Easy

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Cross River Falls and Father Baraga’s Cross

The Cross River Wayside is located just a mile or two south of Temperance River State Park in the town of Schroeder. There is a nice parking lot on the south side of the Cross River bridge with plenty of parking.

The river was used heavily for logging back in the old days. It’s incredible to think about when looking at that river!

Father Baraga’s Cross, erected in 1846, is located right on the other side of the river. You can either walk the entire way or drive across the bridge and park at the next parking lot. It is a very short hike to the cross which is right on Lake Superior.

Length: 3 miles for Cross River Falls, 0.2 miles for Father Baraga’s Cross

Difficulty: Moderate/Easy

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Temperance River Falls

Temperance River State Park is home to the mouth of the Temperance River and the Upper Falls, Hidden Falls, and Lower Cascades of the river.

The Lower Cascades are a short 0.25 mile hike from the parking lot. Then you can continue on to see the other two falls. The gorge is rather narrow and can be quite exciting during high water!

Length: about 2 miles total

Difficulty: Easy to Moderate

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Onion River Stair Step Falls

The Onion River hiking trail is accessed form the Ray Berglund State Wayside, which is 6 miles north of Temperance River State Park. This is a great, relatively short hike.

The hike is uphill and includes a series of wooden steps. The only downside is the falls are hidden by tree cover in the summer, so it is best to go before the trees leaf out in the spring when the river is rushing.

Length: 1.1 miles total

Difficulty: Easy to Moderate

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Carlton Peak & Britton Peak

If you’re into peak-bagging, then check out Carlton Peak and Britton Peak. Both offer great views of Lake Superior, however Carlton is by far the highlight. It is a slightly longer hike, but well worth it. Especially in the fall.

Length: 2.0 Miles

Difficulty: Moderate

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Key Takeaway: 
The stretch of Minnesota’s North Shore around Temperance River State Park offers some of the best hiking trails on Minnesota’s North Shore. Sugarloaf Cove is a great option for kids. The Temperance River Falls or Carlton Peak or fun options for adults or families with older kids.

Cascade River State Park

View of the Cascade River on one of the greatest hikes on Minnesota's North Shore of Lake Superior
Image: Wikipedia

Cascade River State Park and the surrounding area, Lutsen included, is home to the Sawtooth “Mountain” Range. I put that in quotes as it is more like a series of hills and big rocks than mountains!

There is a ton of great hiking that is suitable for all skill levels. If you are looking for easy, head to Lutsen Mountain Ski Resort and take the tram to the top for a hike to Moose Mountain. If you are looking for a grind, head to the same destination but skip the tram!

LeVeaux Mountain

Don’t be fooled. This trek starts off easy before ascending 200′ in elevation via a series of steep switchbacks. But in the end the expansive views are all worth it!

The hike starts at Sugarbush Onion River Trailhead on Onion River Road and follows a spur trail off of the Superior Hiking Trail.

Length: 3.3 mile loop

Difficulty: Moderate

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Oberg Mountain

Oberg Mountain starts at the same Sugarbush Onion River Trailhead as Leveaux Mountain. The trail just heads in the opposite direction. Both Oberg Mountain and LeVeaux Mountain are spur trails off of the Superior Hiking Trail

There are steep cliffs at the top of Oberg Mountain, so while the trail is kid friendly, you do need to keep an eye on them.

Length: 3.0 mile loop

Difficulty: Moderate

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Moose Mountain

The Moose Mountain hike is located in the Lutsen Ski Area. You’ll run into waterfalls, woodlands, and wide open views. Feeling tired? You can take an optional tram ride up or down to save those legs!

Best part? When it is open you can head into the Chalet for a drink! If you take the tram, the hill top trail is only about a mile total and provides stunning views all around. You can also take the Superior Hiking Trail from the top of the hill down the ridge to Mystery Mountain for another overlook and then down into the woods to the Poplar River waterfalls.

When you’re done, grab some lunch or dinner at Papa Charlie’s and call it a day! You can buy your Gondola Tickets here.

Length: 1.0 mile if you take the gondola, 12.2 miles for the entire loop

Difficulty: Easy to difficult

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White Sky Rock

White Sky Rock is an excellent fall colors hike. It is part of the Superior Hiking Trail and cuts through some of the North Shore’s best maple forests (i.e. the colors are spectacular).

It takes about 10-15 minutes to get to your first stop, Lake Agnes, which is a beautiful undeveloped lake. Then take the spur trail to White Sky Rock. The latter is a bit steep.

If you are not feeling the steep hike, or have young kids with, there is a secret shortcut from the Caribou Lake Access Parking Lot. It does not go to Lake Agnes, but does get you to the top of the rock!

Length: 0.6 miles via that shortcut, 3.7 miles for the full trek

Difficulty: Easy to Moderate

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Cascade River State Park Trails

Cascade River State Park has a ton of hiking trails, so the sky is the limit here. A fan favorite is the mini-hike to Cascade Falls and The Cascades.

The entire hike is about a half mile on relatively even terrain. You can enjoy this hike year-round, just make sure you bring boots the winter as it can get slippery.

Length: 0.5 miles

Difficulty: Easy

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Lookout Mountain

This is an other great Cascade River State Park hike. It follows a figure-eight path alongside the Cascade River before venturing out in to the woods. There is a small spur trail that connects to the second part of the loop that brings yo to the top of Lookout Mountain.

Make sure you screen shot the state park map so you can find your way around!

Length: 2.4 miles

Difficulty: Easy to moderate

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Key Takeaway: 
Some of the best hiking trails on Minnesota’s North Shore are located within the boundaries of state parks, and Cascade River State Park is no different. That being said, this area also has a bunch of great “mountain” hikes, like LeVeaux, Ober, and Moose, and Lookout Mountains.

Grand Marais

Kid with deer antlers hiking near Grand Marais, MN.

Grand Marais is an iconic outpost for adventure lovers of all kinds. It is one of our favorite places to visit, especially in the winter when it is quieter and the snowshoeing is phenomenal. So book a hotel room, grab your gear, and check out these awesome trails.

Grand Marais Harbor/Artist’s Point

Artist’s Point is right in the heart of Grand Marais. Just follow Broadway Avenue past the Worlds Best Donuts and you’ll arrive at the public parking area. Or just walk from downtown. It’s not far and even your kids will enjoy it!

The hiking trails are well defined and marked. Just walk towards Lake Superior and explore! You can go to the left into the woods or to the right by the historic foundation of Old Grand Marais Lighthouse. In the summer our kids love playing on the rocks and tidal pools at the water’s edge!

Length: Short

Difficulty: Easy

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Eagle Mountain

Looking to bag the tallest peak in Minnesota? Then Eagle Mountain is your target. While it isn’t really a mountain, it does offer splendid views of Lake Superior and the surrounding area.

The cool part is that portions of the trail zig zag through the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, so you can say you’ve been! The flipside is the trail is not well maintained and there is no cell service. You will need a BWCA permit which is available at the trailhead kiosk.

Length: 7.0 miles

Difficulty: Moderate to difficult

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Upper Cascade River

This is a great hike that you can customize to you own energy levels. If you are looking for a quick hike, head north 1 mile to the North Cascade River Camp. If you’re looking for more, you can do the big loop, crossing at the footbridge and heading back down the other side of the river.

Length: 1 to 9 miles

Difficulty: Moderate to difficult

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Fall River Falls

This hike is unique as it follows the new Gitchi Gami Bike Trail. You can walk the trail 2.6 miles west from downtown Grand Marais. The falls are neat and you get a nice view of the river mouth as it flows into Lake Superior. You can also rent a bike in Grand Marais and give your hiking feet a break!

Length: 5.2 miles there and back

Difficulty: Moderate

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Sweetheart’s Bluff

This may just be one of Grand Marais’ best kept secrets. The trail starts at the sledding hill in Sweetheart’s Bluff Nature Area on the west side of the city campground, so bring your sleds!

There are three trails to choose from, the Lake Loop (wheelchair friendly), Overlook Loop, and Tower Loop. All are great and all can be done in one visit.

Length: Short

Difficulty: Easy

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Woods Creek to Kimball Creek

This is one of the few hikes that is more popular as a two-vehicle hike, where you drop one at Kimball Creek and take the other to the trailhead. The hike winds through birch and spruce woods and has great views of Lake Superior, Pincushion Mountain, and the whole Sawtooth range.

Length: 6.5 miles each way

Difficulty: Moderate

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Key Takeaway: 
Grand Marais is one of our favorite towns to visit with our kids. We love the shops and restaurants. We also love the hiking, biking, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and general outdoorsy feel of the area. It’s a great spot for a family vacation, especially if you want some of the best hiking trails on Minnesota’s North Shore.

Gunflint Trail

Beautiful Sunset on a hike on Minnesota's North Shore

The Gunflint Trail holds a dear place in our hearts. My father used to venture to parts unknown long before it was paved or the BWCA was even a thing. It hass change a bit, but is still about as remote as one can get in Minnesota.

As a result, some of the best hiking trails on Minnesota’s North Shore can be found off of the Gunflint Trail.

Pincushion Mountain Trail System

We love to snowshoe on Pincushion in the winter months. It is close to Grand Marais, easy to find, and is open to hiking, biking snowshoeing, and skiing. There are literally a ton of trails, so print out a map and explore to your heart’s content.

Length: varies, 4.5 miles for the full Pincushion Mountain Loop

Difficulty: Easy to moderate

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George Washington Pines

Much of the old virgin white pine in Minnesota was logged long ago. Thankfully there are a couple stands left, one of which is George Washington Pines.

The trees actually come right up to the Gunflint Trail, so you never have to leave the car. We’d recommend taking the easy trail along the Elbow River and under these magnificent trees.

Length: 2.2 miles

Difficulty: Easy

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Northern Light Lake Overlook

This is a short, but sweet, hike that is best done in July and August during berry picking season. The hike leads you up to Blueberry Hill, which should tell you all you need to know!

The trail is semi-maintained, short, but quite steep. The views of Northern Light Lake are awesome.

Length: 1.1 miles

Difficulty: Moderate

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Lima Mountain

Lima Mountain takes you off of the Gunflint Trail into the real backcountry on Forest Road 325/South Brule Road. While it is out of the way, it is well worth it.

Many folks just drive Forest Road 325 and then take Lima Grade back to the Gunflint Trail for a nice fall color drive. There is also a nice hike midway through the drive on Lima Grade that leads up Lima Mountain, where a fire look out tower once stood.

Length: 1.1 miles

Difficulty: Moderate

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Honeymoon Bluff

Honeymoon Bluff is a short, steep hike with wonderful views of Hungry Jack and Bearskin Lakes, both of which are in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. We’ve heard the sunsets are amazing, but make sure you bring a headlamp for the return trip.

Length: 2 miles

Difficulty: Moderate

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Caribou Rock Trail

This can be a long trip, but one well worth the effort. There are three overlooks and a waterfall. The first two overlooks are on the first two miles of the trail, so you can cut your hike short if needed.

The hike continues to Rose Falls and Stairway Portage, two iconic Boundary Waters landmarks. Speaking of which, you will need a day permit on this route as part is in the BWCAW. Permits are available at the trailhead.

Length: 1.5 to 7.0 miles

Difficulty: Easy to moderate

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Magnetic Rock

I took my father and brother (separate trips) on their first BWCA canoe trips from Magnetic Lake, so it holds a special place in my heart. The lake is named after a large rock structure that is known for throwing off explorer’s compass readings. You can test it on your visit.

The area is also a great spot for blueberry picking!

Length: 3.1 miles

Difficulty: Easy

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Key Takeaway: 
The Gunflint Trail for many is the true Minnesota backwoods. It is a land of adventure and crystal clear water. Some of the best hiking trails on Minnesota’s North Shore are on the Gunflit Trail. Northern Light Lake is a great option if you want to see some canoe country lakes. Magnetic Rock is a classic, but is deep into canoe country and a long drive from Grand Marais.

Grand Portage

View of waterfalls at Grand Portage State park while hiking on Minnesota's North Shore

Grand Portage is home to one of the most significant forts form the Voyageur era. It is also home to a grueling portage, called the Grand Portage, that the Voyaguers used to take to get from Lake Superior inland to fur country.

The Grand Portage Trail is one of the best hiking trails on Minnesota’s North Shore.

Kadunce River State Wayside

The Kadunce River trail is a short trail from the Kadunce River State Wayside that connects up to the Superior Hiking Trail. While it does not offer the same vistas as many of the other hikes in the area, the river is tame and there are some nice spots to wade or play in the water.

Given the hike is short and there are opportunities to play in the water, this is a clear winner for families with young kids.

Length: 1.0+ miles

Difficulty: Easy

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Judge Magney State Park

Judge Magney State Park is a little known state park northeast of Grand Marais. It is most famous for Devil’s Kettle, which is also the best hike at the park!

This hike follows a high cliff alongside the Brule River. You can hit up the lower falls for a quick view. Othewise continue up to see both High Falls and Devil’s Kettle. There is some trail damage due to flooding in this area as recent as 2023, so check in with the park staff before heading out.

Did you know scientists haven’t the slightest clue where the water goes after it enters Devil’s Kettle? Don’t fall in!

Length: 2.2 miles

Difficulty: Moderate

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Hovland Lookout Tower

Are you starting to see a theme here? Many of the best hikes on Minnesota’s North Shore lead to a high point that was once occupied by a fire lookout tower. Hoveland Lookout is no different.

I’ve heard you can drive right up to it with a 4×4, but were here to talk about hiking. The hike is 3 miles in total from the parking area on Hwy 61 to the tower. You can also start the hike from the Superior Hiking Trail parking on Arrowhead Trail, however that adds another mile or so.

Length: 3.0 miles

Difficulty: Moderate

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The Grand Portage

The Grand Portage is an iconic right of passage. It is the original trail that the Voyageurs took transporting furs from the interior of Minnesota and Canada east to Montreal. It is long, ardous, but oh so rewarding.

We are a canoeing family. So if we were to do one hike, it would be this one largely for the historic significance.

Length: 1-17 miles

Difficulty: Moderate to difficult

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Mount Rose Loop

The Mount Rose Loop is a short yet steep trail in Grand Portage State Park. You have a couple of options for completing the hike and all are well marked. They all lead to a wonderful lookout spot with rock walls.

Length: 2 miles

Difficulty: Moderate to difficult

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Mount Josephine

If you ever wanted to see Isle Royale National Park without taking the boat to the island, then this is your chance. This hike offers amazing views of Grand Portage Bay, Wauswagoning Bay, Susie Islands, and Isle Royale National Park.

The hike is stepe with a couple of switchbacks, but nothing too taxing. The views are worth it!

Length: 3 miles

Difficulty: Difficult

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Pigeon River High Falls

This trail beings at the visitor center and follows the Pigeon River. A 700 ft boardwalk provides easy access to the last section leading to the falls. There area couple of viewing platforms, one of which is wheelchair accessible.

Length: 0.5 miles

Difficulty: Easy

Click for Trail Map

Key Takeaway: 
Some of the best hiking trails on Minnesota’s North Shore are at Grand Portage State Park. It is a one-of-a-kind destination with everything from short hikes to stunning waterfalls to 17 mile treks along historic trade routes. There is something for everyone.

FAQs in Relation to Hiking Trails on Minnesota’s North Shore

What state is number one for hiking?

California often tops the list with its diverse landscapes, national parks, and extensive trail systems.

What is the PNC hiking?

PNC refers to Pacific Northwest Trail (PNT), a 1200-mile scenic trail from Montana to the Pacific Ocean.

Does Minnesota have hiking trails?

Absolutely. Minnesota boasts an array of stunning trails including those along North Shore, in various state parks and highest points like Carlton Peak.

How long does it take to hike Bean and Bear Lake?

The round trip hike to Bean and Bear Lakes typically takes about 4-5 hours depending on pace.

Conclusion

Kids snowshoeing in the winter on one of the best hiking trails on Minnesota's North Shore

There you have it. Over 60 of the best hiking trails on Minnesota’s North Shore of Lake Superior. Hikes range from easy half-mile hikes that everyone in the family can participate in to full or multi-day hikes on the Superior Hiking Trail.

Regardless of your skill level, if you are looking for adventure, then head on up to the North Shore!

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The Quill Family

We are the Quills! An ordinary family sharing our extraordinary travel experiences. 

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