Fall Road Trip to Minnesota's North Shore
A three-generation camping trip takes our executive editor to the far reaches (oh, Canada!) of Minnesota’s rugged North Shore.
Name: Hannah Agran Title: Executive Editor
My retired parents, 11-year-old daughter and I all wanted a vacation—but not more alone-time with our households. So we agreed to fully quarantine for two weeks, then rented a minivan and schlepped tents to Lake Superior in Minnesota. P.S. We had never camped together before.
Map It 265 miles northeast of Minneapolis Our Playlist NPR, plus family stories, car games and modest bickering
But First, Food
Breakfast We cooked eggs and pancakes on the camp stove two mornings; the third, we caved on World's Best Donuts. Walk your Long John and coffee past adorable Drury Lane Books to eat on the rocks by Lake Superior.
Lunch At rest areas on the drive up and at state park trailheads, we tailgated sandwiches, bagels and hummus from our trusty cooler, which never needed an ice refill given the autumn temps.
Dinner Campfire chili for the win. But a trip to Grand Marais demands fish and chips from Angry Trout Cafe. We ate ours watching the sun go down at a picnic table by the harbor. (Food was great; the wind off Lake Superior was, ahem, brisk.)
Hiking on the North Shore is a joy—a string of easy-access state parks dot MN-61 from Duluth all the way to Canada, each with tumbling rivers, miles of trails and thin crowds once you get north of Split Rock Lighthouse.
This trip's punch list: a morning stroll in town along always-magical Artists' Point, a spit with rich plant diversity (and, this time, a fallen tree with a root ball you could climb inside like an elf house); a drive north past drifts of golden birch to Grand Portage State Park for a long loop hike along the rushing river that marks the U.S. border; a thrilling ramble up the Temperance River State Park ravine, plus a bonus beach walk where the Temperance pours into Superior; and the day we left, more waterfalls at Cascade River State Park.
At Lutsen Mountains ski resort, Swiss-style gondolas glide up Moose Mountain. And don't skip the alpine slide, a sled-on-wheels thrill that had us all in fits of shrieks and laughter.
Grand Marais Recreation Area, a large lakeside campground on the south edge of town, packs in the RVs, but we secluded ourselves in the leafy, hilltop tent-only area. You can hear Superior waves at night and walk around the harbor to shops, galleries and restaurants. Try and snag Honeymoon Hill, a super-private tent site across a footbridge. (Being newly wed is not required!)
I am a sucker for miniature golf—the kitschier the better—but we ran out of time for Putt n Pets,where a goat and other animals reside at the course.