North Shore, MN Road Trip on Highway 61: Weekend Away - Visit Minnesota (2023)

A weekend road trip to Minnesota North Shore’s fabled Highway 61 offers boundless opportunities year round. Plan a trip every season to enjoy the endless vistas, miles of hiking trails, waterfalls and forests, and numerous dining and lodging options. The fall offers some of the best views of fall leaves in the state, and winter months offer skiing, snowshoeing and a glass of wine to warm up by the fire.

A culinary tour offers some of the best dining options in the state. Acclaimed restaurants, tasty smoked fish and homemade candy line the section of Hwy 61 known as the North Shore Scenic Drive.

From north to south, galleries dot the highway. You’ll find painting and iron work, galleries and gift shops, jewelry, photography and furniture. Visit during the fall for the North Shore’s annual Crossing Boarders tour. Catch beautiful views of the fall leaves while touring galleries from Scenic Hwy 61 to Grand Portage, MN.

Along the way, visit some of the North Shore’s hidden treasures. Quiet beaches, unique vistas and beautiful waterfalls line the North Shore. The region also offers some of the state’s most beautiful parks, with rushing rapids, towering waterfalls and great hikes for a day or a backpacking adventure.

Highway 61 Culinary Road Trip

Start your drive north of Duluth on Old Highway 61, overlooking Lake Superior. Between Duluth, MN and Two Harbors, Old Highway 61 runs parallel to Minnesota Highway 61 and closer to the lake. Praise from food critics ranging from the St. Paul Pioneer Press to the Wall Street Journal have earned this stretch of Highway 61, known as Scenic Highway, a new nickname – the Culinary Highway.

(Video) 10 Best Road Trips in Minnesota: Day & Weekend Trips [4K HD]

At New Scenic Café and Nokomis Restaurant, menus rival any fine dining spot in the Twin Cities, and when you consider the lakeside views, some may argue the dining experience is one of the best in the Midwest. New Scenic Café’s menu features fine contemporary American cuisine, served in a cabin-like atmosphere perfect for the North Shore. Featuring locally grown foods, the menu changes each season. Just up the road, Nokomis Restaurant’s décor is more typical of a fine-dining experience, serving a menu with several North Shore seafood favorites like lake trout, as well as flank steak with fingerling potatoes, pan seared scallops, and prosciutto wrapped walleye.

While the fine dining my lure travelers from around the state and around the region, Minnesota’s Culinary Highway has a range of food and dining options that have given this highway its Culinary nickname.

Just before the Knife River, you’ll be drawn to the smells of smoked fish as you approach Russ Kendall’s Smoke House. The small roadside smokehouse serves newspaper-wrapped fish smoked daily. Try the brown-sugar cured salmon, and be sure to buy the side of crackers along with knives and napkins for a lakeside picnic stop.

Across the river, The Lighthouse at Emily’s (formerly the site of Emily’s eatery, recently purchased by The Lighthouse on Homestead owners) offers sandwiches, wraps, walleye dinners, soups and quesadillas, with a small bar. Breakfast is served on the weekends and the restaurant will continue its nautical theme. Unlike Emily’s , The Lighthouse at Emily’s will be open year round.

Just across the street the Great Lakes Candy Kitchen is a must stop along the highway for any sweet tooth. Open through December 31 each season, the shop offers fudge, turtles, bear tracks, English toffee, Swiss mints and other favorites. Order online for a special holiday treat… or pick up extra when you stop!

Highway 61 Arts Crawl

While Duluth and Grand Marias, MN have long been known for galleries featuring North Shore artists, Highway 61 offers a number of galleries and arts crawls to draw arts lovers.

(Video) North Shore Scenic Drive Timelapse: Highway 61 [4K HD]

On Scenic Highway 61, Burton Forge & Gallery (443 Scenic Drive) is open seasonally. Iron creations hand forged by Dale Burton include candlesticks, chandeliers to hold candles in both antique and modern designs, gates, tables and unique fishing pole holders.

Further along in Two Harbors, Waterfront Gallery (632 First Avenue) showcases the permanent collections of landscape photographers and gallery owners Val Doherty and John Gregor. Exhibits throughout the year include painting, ceramics, jewelry and glasswork from local artists like Mike and Jody Tonder, Sheila Staubus and others. The gallery also hosts book signings, live music and photo courses.

Also in Two Harbors, Silver Creek Art Gallery (1825 Minnesota 61) features framed paintings by Jim Hansel, Rick Kelley and Jon Wright depicting North Shore scenes. Watercolors by Nikki and Susan Pavlatos highlight well-known local scenes, including lighthouses and boats on the lake.

And further north, Lutsen is also home to two galleries, Last Chance Studio & Gallery (17 Railroad Drive, just past mile marker 91) and the Kan-Nee-Tah (4210 West Highway 61, just past mile marker 97). Open daily, Kan-Nee-Tah features original artwork from more than 100 local artists, including jewelry, furniture and lamps, paintings, photography, pottery, sculpture and stained glass. Last Chance, the working studio and foundry of artist Tom Christiansen, represents more than 50 local contemporary artists.

Hidden Highway 61

Some of the best kept secrets on Highway 61 offer quiet and seclusion from the more popular tourist destinations, and truly unique views of the North Shore.

Just north of Two Harbors and across from Betty’s Pies, Kelsey Beach is a small dark cobblestone beach, with rivulets of water falling across the stones and ancient dark lava formations. Follow a short, uneven path just past the Stewart River Bridge to get to the beach.

(Video) Road trip down Minnesota’s North Shore | Bean and Bear Lakes, Tettegouche State Park, Pie, & MORE!

Another mile north, Silver Creek Falls is hidden just after Highway 61 crosses Silver Creek. Turn right on Silver Cliff Road to access the creek, and you’ll find the falls just upstream. The falls were named by the Ojibwe, who once thought the area held vast amounts of silver. The creek was later used by Europeans who immigrated to the area for logging.

Just north of the falls and immediately after the Silver Creek tunnel, Silver Creek Cliff Trail offers one of the most dramatic views of the lake on the North Shore. The cliff is the highest bluff rising directly from the lake. Today, visitors travel through a 1,344 foot tunnel completed in 1994, and the once-perilous drive along the cliff has been converted to bike and walking trails that take visitors directly to the cliff’s edge. Parking is available at the wayside rest, which is now maintained as part of the 21-mile long Gitchi-Gami State Trail between Gooseberry Falls State Park and the Beaver River at Beaver Bay.

As you drive further north, watch for mile marker 42 to find the entrance to Iona’s Beach, one of the most unique beaches on the North Shore. Enter at a paved parking lot and follow the trails to the beach. The 300-foot beach has a distinctive pink hue of rhyolite and felsite bedrock stone, stretching between dark gray cliffs. As you walk the beach, listen for the distinct “tinkling” sound of the stones as you walk and as the stones are moved by the waves.

From pink to black. For one of the most unique beaches on the North Shore, travel 18 miles north of Beaver Bay to Black Beach, a secluded beach of dark stones. The beach’s distinct color comes not from the stones, but from the water – years ago taconite tailings were dumped into the water just off shore for about 25 years. The dumping ended 30 years ago and the water has now cleared. But as a result, the beach has a distinctive black color of the ore. Brilliant rust color cliffs line the landscape, and visitors can clip to the top of the cliffs for a view up and down the shore. To get there: take the first right just past the traffic light in Silver Bay and veer left on the gravel road. Follow the road to a “T” and turn right. Continue a quarter mile and turn left again. The path is not well marked, but will be on the left toward the shore, just through the trees.

A more well-known, but only slightly more well-marked view of the lake can be found at Palisade Head, just three miles north of Silver Bay. Watch carefully for signs as you approach, and follow the winding road up and toward the lake. There are no railings, but the site offers some of the most amazing views of the lake and cliffs. The location is among the best rock climbing spots in the state. On a clear day, you may be able to see all the way to the Apostle Islands.

As you drive north, you’ll enter the unincorporated Illgen City, part of Beaver Bay Township. If you traveled through this area nearly a century ago, you’d pass the famous Aztec Hotel, a 12-room hotel built in the style of the Mayan Indians, with a dining room, bar and large lobby. A popular stop for travelers between Duluth and Grand Marais, the hotel – which no longer exists today – was rumored to be a popular destination for Chicago criminals including Al Capone. Today, visitors can see one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the area, Illgen Falls. To get there, turn left on Highway 1 about 6.5 miles north of Silver Bay, and about 1.5 miles ahead look for the signs for Devil’s Rock. The unpaved trail to the falls is on the left.

Further along as you enter the town of Schroeder, look for Father Baraga’s Cross, just past the Cross River Bridge. Look for a small sign on the right side of the road, where you’ll turn off to a gravel parking area. Follow the path to the shore, where you’ll see a granite cross monument, built to replace the wooden cross that stood in the place to mark the travels of Father Baragra. Baragra, a French missionary, came to the area in 1846 by a small wooden boat from Madeline Island. A strong storm came up during the trip, and Father Baragra prayed for a safe passage. He arrived safely, and placed the cross on the place where is boat landed. During the summer months, church services are held at the spot.

(Video) North Shore, Minnesota | Top Things to Do [4K HD]

Great State Parks: Highway 61

Between Duluth and Grand Marais, the North Shore offers some of the state’s most beautiful parks. Known for their waterfalls and scenic views, each is worth a stop as you travel up Highway 61.

Near Two Harbors, two of the most highly visited parks in the state, Gooseberry Falls and Split Rock Lighthouse State Park. While Split Rock is known for its lighthouse historic site, it also offers campsites along the lake. In the winter, snowshoes are available for rent in the park office for a winter hike. At Gooseberry Falls, while most visitors stop at the main falls, hike or ski to the fifth falls. And don’t forget to see the Lake Superior shoreline from the park.

Further north, Tettegouche State Park offers excellent hiking trails, including views of the 60 foot High Falls of the Baptism River. Just south of the park’s entrance is the North Shore’s iconic Palisade Head. Watch carefully for signs to drive to the top of the overlook. In the park, head to Shovel Point for views of the lake. One of the park’s most iconic images, the Arch at Shovel point, a sea arch along the trail, fell victim in 2010 to the same forces that created it – weathering – and is now a sea stack. Plan your visit in advance to stay in one of the park’s cabins at Tettegouche Camp or the Illgen Falls Cabin year round.

For more challenging hiking trails, head further north to George Crosby Manitou state park. The park offers trout fishing in Benson Lake, and pack-in/pack-out campsites. North at the Caribou Falls wayside is another trout fishing destination at Caribou River. The site also offers views of the 35-foot falls and access to the Superior Hiking Trail.

At Temperance River State Park, in Schroeder, is one of the most spectacular views of the North Shore at Carlton Peak, 1,526 feet high. Hike to the top of the peak from the park, or the shorter hike from the access point at Britton Peak. The hike is steep from either direction but well worth the hike. Near the park’s entrance, visit the Temperance River gorge. Stand on the bridge overlooking the falls. Be sure to cross Highway 61 to see the mouth of the Temperance River and walk along the lake.

South of Grand Marais, Cascade River State Park is named for the series of beautiful waterfalls along the Cascade River. Hiking trails on both sides of the river offer views of the falls. Also hike to Lookout Mountain, 600 feet above the lake, or on rugged trails along the lake.


Find something new℠.


North Shore, MN Road Trip on Highway 61: Weekend Away - Visit Minnesota? ›

Running for a total of 154 miles between Duluth and the Canadian border, Highway 61 is a spectacular stretch of road skirting Lake Superior. Immortalized in song by Bob Dylan, Highway 61 earns its national designation as an All American Road.

How long is Minnesota North Shore Scenic Drive? ›

Running for a total of 154 miles between Duluth and the Canadian border, Highway 61 is a spectacular stretch of road skirting Lake Superior. Immortalized in song by Bob Dylan, Highway 61 earns its national designation as an All American Road.

Where do I start the North Shore Scenic Drive? ›

start your north shore scenic drive in duluth, mn

This road trip brings you from touristy Canal Park in Duluth all the way up to the remote Canadian border. You'll experience ships, shoreline, and all the natural beauty the area has to offer.

Where do you stop on the north shore of Lake Superior? ›

Palisade Head

Palisade Head is a gigantic rock cliff that sits on the edge of Lake Superior. It is my favorite spot on the Minnesota North Shore! You start by driving up a long, narrow, and hilly roadway, to get to the lookout area. Once there, you're treated to some of the most breathtaking (and terrifying!)

Can you see Gooseberry Falls without hiking? ›

From the visitor center you can either walk (allow 20-30 minutes via the River View trail) or drive (allow 5 minutes). A Minnesota State Park vehicle permit is not needed to park in the rest area parking lot. However, if you choose to drive to the lakeshore/Picnic Flow areas, a vehicle permit is needed.

Is Duluth considered North Shore? ›

north shore cities and communities

Burgs, villages, small towns – here are the communities that call Minnesota's North Shore of Lake Superior home. And communities they are. The main urban area is Duluth, on the southwest end of the shore.

Can you go inside Split Rock Lighthouse? ›

General admission

Self-guided tour includes access to all buildings and historic grounds including the lighthouse.

Where do I start the Kettle Moraine Scenic Drive? ›

Enjoy the beauty, variety and geology of southeast Wisconsin by driving the Kettle Moraine Scenic Drive. The 115-mile drive traverses six Wisconsin counties. The northern end begins near Elkhart Lake in northern Sheboygan County and the southern end begins at Whitewater Lake in southeastern Walworth County.

How long does it take to drive the Outer Banks Scenic Byway? ›

The whole trip, including the two ferry rides, can take at least 5-6 hours but you should plan to spend a full day exploring, even more if you have the time. The OBX is located 30 miles off of the North Carolina coast and stretches over 175 miles long to the border or Virginia.

How long does it take to drive the Bold Coast Scenic Byway? ›

It's a 125 mile stretch of road that winds through Acadia and the Downeast region, basically, from Lubec to Milbridge. But there are many awesome stops along the way. The trip by itself, non-stop is about 3 hours.

What is there to do between Duluth and Thunder Bay? ›

The top stops along the way from Thunder Bay to Duluth (with short detours) are Gooseberry Falls State Park, Kakabeka Falls, and Fort William Historical Park. Other popular stops include Split Rock Lighthouse, Judge C.R. Magney State Park, and Grand Portage National Monument.

How long is the Outer Banks Scenic Byway? ›

About the Outer Banks Scenic Byway

The byway extends for 138 driving miles and 25 ferry-traveling miles, and effectively crosses across several islands which includes Cedar Island, Ocracoke Island and Hatteras Island.

What is the longest drive in Minnesota? ›

At 346 miles (557 km) in length, MN 1 is the longest state route in Minnesota.

How long is Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive? ›

Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive is 12 miles of paved, but steep and winding road.

How long is the Chinook Scenic Byway? ›

96 miles


1. North Shore All-American Scenic Drive| Highway 61- Lake Superior, Minnesota USA| SinghNest
2. The North Shore Highway of MN : 2W1C S04E07
(2 Wheels 1 Compass)
3. Scenic North Shore, MN Hwy 61 in Under a Minute
(High Desert Cactus)
4. NORTH SHORE MN WORTH THE TRIP? Top 10 Best Things to do
(Loving Life Hitched Up)
5. Minnesota North Shore: TOP 10 Things to Do
(Our Million Adventures)
6. Bluefin Bay North Shore MN Getaway | North Shore Minnesota | Minnesota Vacation | Lake Superior
(Taylor Jo Hildreth)


Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Zonia Mosciski DO

Last Updated: 09/11/2023

Views: 5578

Rating: 4 / 5 (71 voted)

Reviews: 86% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Zonia Mosciski DO

Birthday: 1996-05-16

Address: Suite 228 919 Deana Ford, Lake Meridithberg, NE 60017-4257

Phone: +2613987384138

Job: Chief Retail Officer

Hobby: Tai chi, Dowsing, Poi, Letterboxing, Watching movies, Video gaming, Singing

Introduction: My name is Zonia Mosciski DO, I am a enchanting, joyous, lovely, successful, hilarious, tender, outstanding person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.