Forest

Split Rock Lighthouse State Park

Highlights

-Historic Lighthouse

-Ellison Island

-Corundum Point

-Lakeside Campsites

Ellison Island 

The Park

On November 28, 1905, a violent storm hit Split Rock Point on the North Shore of Lake Superior. While large storms aren't unusual at Split Rock, this particular storm resulted in the destruction of twenty-nine ships on the lake in a single day, prompting the construction of Split Rock Lighthouse. Dubbed at one point "the most dangerous piece of water in the world," the waves crashing against the cliffs can sometimes soak the lighthouse windows nearly two-hundred feet above the surface of Superior.

I suggest visiting during a calmer, summer day when the lake is still and the distant Wisconsin shore is just visible. Make sure you check out the lighthouse area itself, which is directly adjacent to the parking lot, or even opt to take a tour of the interior. A side hike down to the rocky shore next to the lighthouse will reveal the remains of a 19th century Norwegian fishing village, where you can follow in these early settlers' footsteps by angling for the park's lake trout or Pacific salmon, yourself.

View of Split Rock Lighthouse

The park has some of the best drive-in campgrounds on Lake Superior, but if you're feeling particularly adventurous, rent a kayak from Sawtooth Outfitters in Tofte and head to one of the park's remote kayak sites only accessible by water.

Finish your trip at the nearby Northern Lights Cafe for a drink and some local fare.

View from Corundum Point 

The Hike

The best way to see the park is to take the 5.8 mile roundtrip Hiking Club Trail to Corundum Point. Begin at the lighthouse parking lot and head west following the "Trail to the Lake." You'll pass a series of lakefront picnic grounds before entering the denser forest around the point. The trail will split, but stay to the left along the shore for the most interesting views. Take a short spur trail up to Day Hill, where you'll see the ruins of a failed settlement, and then continue on to Corundum Point for amazing views of the lake and surrounding shoreline. The Hiking Club Trail signs will want you to return via a paved bike path, but ignore them and return along the lake because it’s a much more beautiful hike. 

Gooseberry Falls State Park

Highlights:

-Close to Duluth

-Waterfall

-Basalt Flow Picnic Ground

-Lake Superior Cliffs

Micro-Bouquet at Lake Superior 

The Drive

There are two routes from Duluth to Gooseberry Falls. The Hwy 61 Expressway to Two Harbors for those in a hurry and the North Shore Scenic Byway. I shouldn’t even have to say this, but take the scenic byway. If you do, make sure to stop at Stoney Point. Lake Superior’s premier winter surfing spot, Stoney Point is a great first look at Lake Superior. Clamber on the rocks and see if you can find the abandoned fishing houses along the shore. If you’re hungry, Betty’s Pies is another pit stop worth making on the way.

The Falls Themselves 

The Park

With its iconic waterfall, Gooseberry Falls is one of the state’s most popular parks. While the waterfall area is definitely worth exploring, the 1,600-acre park has much more to offer. Several trails leading from the waterfall – two down to the lake and another up to another set of falls higher on the rivers – will open up areas of the park that are free of crowds, but just as spectacular. And don’t miss out on the picnic grounds. The grounds are located on an ancient basalt lava flow that ends in a series of cliffs along the lake and is my favorite part of the park.

Foggy Day at the Picnic Grounds 

The Trail

The hiking club trail begins on the east side of the falls and follows the windy river to the shore. Unlike the trail’s twin on the other side of the river that leads to a rocky beach, the hiking club trail terminates on a high cliff overlooking the Gooseberry River’s mouth. You’ll begin by climbing through an open birch forest with great views of the valley.  After hitting Lake Superior, the trail follows the shoreline for a while before looping back through the mixed cedar/aspen forest. This is a great hike for the fall when the aspen turn gold and the lake is stormier.

Arbitrary Rating: 5/5