I am originally from Minnesota, so the state definitely has a special place in my heart. As do the Great Lakes of the United States, as I spent a lot of my childhood vacations exploring their shores and surrounding forests. The Great Lakes region doesn’t get the notoriety for beauty that the American West or the Atlantic and Pacific coastal regions do, but there are some incredibly beautiful areas in the Great Lakes region.
A few of my absolute favorite areas in the Great Lakes region are Split Rock Lighthouse and Gooseberry Falls State Parks in Minnesota. Both state parks are located near the coast of Lake Superior in Northern Minnesota, and both state parks are absolutely gorgeous. Even better, they are both in very close proximity to one another, so it is very easy to see them both in one trip.
How to Get There
The closest large city to the Gooseberry Falls and Split Rock Lighthouse State Parks is Duluth, Minnesota. The parks are approximately 41 miles, or a 45 minute drive, from the Duluth area. If you would like to stay in a large city with a large airport, the closest city would be the Minneapolis and St. Paul metropolitan area. The parks are approximately 200 miles, or a 3 hour and 15 minute drive, from the Minneapolis and St. Paul International Airport.
Top Things to Do in the Area
There are a lot of great things to do on the North Shore, as the shores of Lake Superior in Northern Minnesota are called locally. Duluth is a fantastic and beautiful city that is full of surprises, and the coast of Lake Superior and the state parks near its shores are a blast to explore. Here are some of our favorite things to do in the region.
Split Rock Lighthouse State Park
Along with the Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse near Acadia National Park in Maine and the Heceta Head Lighthouse on the coast of Oregon , I believe the Split Rock Lighthouse on the shores of Lake Superior in Minnesota is among the most beautiful lighthouses in the United States. It is absolutely stunning.
The park also includes plenty of trails that you can use for hiking, snowshoeing, and cross country skiing. With some fantastic views of Lake Superior, the trails are some of the most beautiful I have seen in the Great Lakes Region.
The fee to enter the park is only $7 per car for a daily pass, or $35 for an annual pass. There are plenty of spots to camp within the park, but there are additional fees for camping. If you are interested in visiting the Split Rock Lighthouse State Park, I have included some resources below to assist you in planning your trip.
- Split Rock Lighthouse State Park – Maps
- Split Rock Lighthouse State Park – Activities
- Split Rock Lighthouse State Park – TripAdvisor Reviews
Gooseberry Falls State Park
With equally spectacular Lake Superior coastline as the Split Rock Lighthouse State Park, the Gooseberry Falls State Park is another gem of the Minnesota state park system. Aside from its beautiful coastline, the Gooseberry Falls State Park is also known for its amazing waterfalls, beautiful river gorge, and fantastic forests.
The Gooseberry Falls are a collection of 3 sets of waterfalls, known as the Upper Falls, the Middle Falls, and the Lower Falls. And for those who aren’t afraid of a little adventure, a hike or snow shoe along a trail upstream will lead you to the beautiful falls known as the Fifth Falls.
For those who love to be active outdoors, there are a lot of fantastic trails in the park for hiking, snow shoeing, and cross country skiing. In fact, you can take the trails right to the bottom of the Middle and Lower Falls to get some fantastic pictures. Just make sure you watch your step as the rocks can get very slippery.
Like Split Rock Lighthouse State Park, the cost of entry for Gooseberry Falls State Park is $7 per car for the day or $35 for a season pass. Camping is available in the park, but there are extra fees required. If you are interested in visiting the Gooseberry Falls State Park, I have included some resources below to help you plan your trip.
- Gooseberry Falls State Park – Maps
- Gooseberry Falls State Park – Activities
- Gooseberry Falls State Park – TripAdvisor Reviews
Duluth is a fascinating city in that in some ways it feels like a big city (it has a population just shy of 90,000 people), but in many other ways feels very much like a small town. Duluth is also remarkable in that it is much like San Francisco as it was built upon coastal bluffs that make the city very hilly. Trust me, you don’t want to be driving a stick shift in Duluth during the slippery winter months.
If you decide to visit the North Shore to see the beautiful Lake Superior coastline and gorgeous state parks, we would highly recommend a stop in Duluth for some sight-seeing. Below is a list of some of our favorite things to do and see in Duluth, Minnesota.
- The Lift Bridge
- The Duluth Ship Canal
- Canal Park
- Lake Superior Shoreline
- Spirit Mountain Skiing
- Great Lakes Acquarium
- North Shore Scenic Railroad
If you are looking for a really great place to eat in Duluth, we would highly recommend checking out Grandma’s Saloon and Grill. Minnesota is known for its wild rice soup, and Grandma’s has some of the best around. It’s also located in a very fun area of Duluth and has a pretty fun atmosphere at the restaurant. Nothing like some great food and a hot drink after exploring the North Shore!
If you are interested in stopping in Duluth during your visit to explore, I have included some resources below to help you plan your visit.
- Duluth, Minnesota – Maps
- Duluth, Minnesota – Visitor Guide
- Duluth, Minnesota – Hotel Reviews
- Duluth, Minnesota – Restaurant Reviews
In case you are interested in seeing more of this fantastic area, below is a gallery of some of the other amazing pictures we were able to take while visiting. With the beauty in this area, the pictures practically take themselves.