Minnesota's North Shore Driving Tour | Midwest Living

Minnesota's North Shore Driving Tour

Fishermen and loggers arrived on the North Shore more than a century ago.


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Judge C.R. Magney State Park

At this park named after a Minnesota Supreme Court judge and mayor of Duluth, a two-mile trail climbs the steep banks of the Brule River to a roaring, 50-foot-high waterfall and a mysterious spot known as Devil's Kettle. Water from the falls flows into this pothole in the bedrock and disappears, stumping experts who've tried to discover where the stream leads. Visitors also can camp, white-water kayak and fish for trout in the river.

Drive 20 miles northeast on State-61.

Grand Portage State Park and National Monument

A half-mile trail takes you to a viewing platform, where you can watch the Pigeon River cascade 120 feet down a series of stone ledges at High Falls in one of Minnesota's newest state parks (just south of the Canadian border). After viewing the state's highest waterfall, hike a three-mile trail through the forest to the park's Middle Falls.

Seven miles northeast on State-61, you'll find Grand Portage National Monument. At this re-created 1700s fur-trading post overlooking Lake Superior, costumed park staffers play the roles of French-Canadian voyageurs and their Ojibwa partners. Four reconstructed buildings within the stockade include the Great Hall, where you'll see replicas of the early traders' clothes and weapons. Video presentations about the fort's past also play here throughout the day.

Beyond the stockade, a trail leads to Mount Rose, 300 feet above the bay. A passenger ferry travels daily from the compound's dock to Isle Royale National Park. You can make the round-trip in a day or schedule a longer stay (you can camp or stay at a lodge on the island). The 45-mile-long wilderness island 18 miles offshore is a haven for hikers and home to wolves, moose and other wild creatures.

Drive 26 miles northeast across the Canadian border on Ontario-61.

Old Fort William, Thunder Bay, Ontario

In 1803, when fur traders abandoned Grand Portage in what's now Minnesota, they retreated to this site to build Fort William. Some 42 reconstructed buildings on the 25-acre site, including an Ojibwa camp and a working farm, bring that adventurous era back to life at the world's largest fur-trading post.

Walking tours leave regularly from the visitors center. When you reach the fort, you'll meet the costumed Ojibwas, Scots and French Canadian voyageurs. Artisans demonstrate skills such as blacksmithing and barrel-making at Trades Square. You can even try your hand at paddling a voyageur canoe.

Travel Guide

For more information, contact:

Minnesota Office of Tourism (800/657-3638)

MN Office of Tourism

Duluth Convention & Visitors Bureau (800/438-5884)

Visit Duluth

Grand Marais Chamber of Commerce (888/922-5000)

Grand Marais MN

Lutsen-Tofte Tourism Association (888/616-6784)

Lutsen-Tofte Tourism

North of Superior Tourism, Canada (807/887-3333)

North of Superior Tourism

North Shore Scenic Drive 

Tourism Thunder Bay (800/667-8386)

Visit Thunder Bay

Two Harbors Area Chamber of Commerce (800/777-7384)

Two Harbors


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