Work your way toward Canada along Minnesota’s spectacular North Shore of Lake Superior, past numerous rivers and waterfalls, beaches, state parks, historical waysides, restaurants and resorts. Take in spectacular vistas of the lake to the southeast and the foothills of the Sawtooth Range to the northwest. Omitted from this list are descriptions of Gooseberry, Split Rock Lighthouse, Tettegouche, Temperance River, Cascade River and Grand Portage State Parks.
A designated National Scenic Byway, MN-61 is among Minnesota’s two-lane treasures and well kept by county and state crews.
Closest motorcycle dealerships and repair shops include Harley-Davidson Sport Center and RJ Sport & Cycle in Hermantown; Duluth Lawn & Sport; and Beaver Bay Sports Shop, Thundersports and Color & Chrome Cycle & Motor Spa in Superior, Wis. Gear can of course be found at Aerostich in Duluth.
Start your tour at Duluth’s Canal Park, home of the Aerial Lift Bridge and Lighthouse Pier and a final destination for some vessels that have traveled 2,300 miles from the Atlantic Ocean.
McQuade Small Craft Harbor
A good place to get up close to the lake, McQuade is a three-acre harbor with four boat ramps, tie-up docks, a park-like setting with walkways on top of the breakwater, public restrooms, parking and public green space.
In the early years Two Harbors consisted of two separate communities called Agate Bay and Burlington. The arrival of the Minnesota Iron Company and a 600-man workforce to build the Duluth & Iron Range Railroad changed that.
A staple in Two Harbors since 1958, Betty’s Pies serves breakfast, lunch and dinner Friday through Sunday, and still produces approx. 300 fresh pies every day during the summer for walk-in customers as well as online orders.
Castle Danger was settled in 1890 by three Norwegian fishermen who occupied land already being worked by lumber companies. Today the community is home to Castle Danger Brewery, a three-barrel production brewery launched by Clint & Jamie MacFarlane in 2010. The brewery – possibly the only resort-brewery combination in Minnesota – is situated at Castle Haven Cabins, a resort operated by the couple since 2005. The land was originally homesteaded in 1902 by Jamie’s great-grandfather.
Iona’s Beach SNA
Another great place to get up close to the lake, Iona’s Beach SNA offers a short trail from the parking area to a 300-yard-long natural gravel beach perfect for cooling down or skipping stones. This is a real hidden gem.
Beaver Bay / Silver Bay
Established in 1856, Beaver Bay claims to be the oldest settlement on the North Shore. Silver Bay was founded in 1954 after previously being run as a company town built to process taconite mined and shipped by train from Babbitt. The community hosts the Silver Beaver Bay Days July 11-13 and the Lake Superior Salmon Classic July 19-20.
Sugarloaf Cove Nature Center
Sugarloaf Cove Nature Center (73 miles north of Duluth) is a natural preserve known for its 1.1 billion year old lava flows. Cool your toes on its cobblestone beach.
An unincorporated community, Schroeder boasts the Schroeder Lumber Company Bunkhouse, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is the last remaining structure of a logging camp that existed from 1895 through 1905. The Cross River flows through town. At the mouth of the Cross River is where Frederic Baraga washed ashore on a boat during a storm in 1846. In thanks he left a cross, now replaced by a granite one. Need a place to stay? Check out Lamb’s Resort.
Lutsen is known as being home to one of the northernmost ski resorts in the 48 contiguous states, the Lutsen Mountains Ski Resort. Not only a winter haven, however, Lutsen also serves as a great destination for a romantic getaway or a place to take part in hiking, fly or charter fishing, kayaking, biking, wellness programs and a host of specialty offerings. Stop at the Lockport Marketplace for food and fuel.
Grand Marais is French for “Great Marsh,” referring to a 20-acre marsh, which in early fur-trading times was situated at the head of the natural bay that became the town harbor. Once a bustling fishing community, this quaint village now is home to musicians, artists, photographers and artisans who together attracted Coastal Living magazine to call it one of the top 10 artist colonies in America.
The Grand Marais Campground & Marina has 300 campsites, but there are many options for overnighting in area resorts, motels and hotels. Grab some freshwater treats at the Dockside Fish Market, or learn more about the significance of the area at the Cook County Historical Museum.
Now a ghost town, Chippewa City thrived until Hwy 61 took the community’s growth potential. Situated on 20 acres, this historic village offers visitors the chance to inspect 24 buildings, including shops, a bank, a church, a school and authentic log cabins surrounding a village square with bandstand. Opens May 25.
Kadunce River State Wayside
This wayside features the ruins of Joseph R. Brown’s three-story mansion, destroyed during the Dakota War of 1862. Off from the rest area, enjoy a walk down to Lake Superior beachfront along the mouth of the Kadunce River. There are picnic tables but no sanitation facilities.
Located just six miles southwest of the U.S./Canada border, Grand Portage is the point where a major canoe fur trade route of the voyageurs left the Great Lakes. It was so named because the route began with a nine-mile portage. The French established this area as a major center of the fur trade in the 17th century; the British took it over in the 18th century after the Seven Years War. Once opened as a regional headquarters for the North West Company, Grand Portage became one of Britain’s four main fur trading posts.
Ultimately, the Treaty of Paris in 1783 ceded the territory to the United States. After British fur traders abandoned the area, it rapidly declined economically until fisheries and logging became popular in the 19th century.
April and November traditionally are the riding months offering the least chance for precipitation in the upper Arrowhead region. To learn more about the area, visit NorthShoreVisitor.com