Minnesota Vacation: Sites along Highway 61

We started our first full day of vacation in Minnesota by traveling an hour south on Highway 61. With it's proximity to Lake Superior and an abundance of natural beauty, there are a host of state parks and points of interest along this highway, so our plan was to take in a handful of these as we made our way back to Grand Marais. Our first stop was Gooseberry Falls State Park.

This park is expansive, covering many acres with trails, river gorges, and five waterfalls that descend from the Gooseberry River in three sections: the Upper, Middle, and Lower Falls. 

You can easily meander around the rocky landscape near any of the three series of Falls, which we eagerly did. 

We hiked a bit of the trail but mainly stayed close to the Falls, going down from the Upper to the Lower, climbing on the rocks, and taking in the unique landscape.

This tree was so perfectly held up by its roots that it looked surreal.

After we got our fill of the Falls, we headed north a quick seven miles to Split Rock Lighthouse State Park. As the name suggests, the highlight of this park is a lighthouse that you can see peeking out from the trees along the highway.

The lighthouse was built in 1909 after the wreck of two ships saw the loss of many precious lives and cargo. It was built on these unique cliffs of stone called anorthosite that was created from molten lava millions of years ago.

While pandemic restrictions prevented us from going inside the lighthouse nor the few houses that sit nearby, we were able to walk through the fog signal house (seen directly on the right) and walk along the grounds. Additionally, helpful guides were places around in a few strategic locations to give us some interesting history behind the lighthouse and its use over the years.

The park continues downward from the lighthouse where you can picnic or camp. We came across this rocky shore (typical for this area) where my Dad and the kids skipped stones - something they did anywhere we were at the Superior shore.

After we left the park, we made a pitstop at Beaver Bay. Just north of the town, along Highway 61, lie Beaver Falls. These falls cascade down and meet up with Lake Superior and you can stand on the bridge over the highway to see it. I only snapped two photos here and neither one of them came out great, but they were beautiful!

Our next stop was in Silver Bay at a unique spot that allows you to walk on two different trails to three different overlooks. The three overlooks are the taconite plant on the Lake, the city, and Lake Superior.

We stopped to see the Cliffs Mining Plant. They mine taconite, a type of iron ore only found in Minnesota and Michigan. I didn't take any pictures of the other overlooks as I didn't find the city view all that exciting, and I took so many other pictures of Lake Superior from better locations that it wasn't that amazing from up here. It was still a nice little trek around the easy trails that linked the three overlooks together.

We spent a good amount of time visiting these sites and walked plenty of miles. We arrived back in Grand Marais early in the evening and made dinner. Of course, we went back down to the shore, but since we did that every night of our stay, I decided to dedicate a post strictly to our evenings down there, and I'll post that one last.

Have a great week!


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