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National & State Parks in Northeastern Minnesota

National & State Parks in Northeastern Minnesota

“Hidden gems” is an apt way to describe the four state parks in Cook County, Minnesota.

Each of these wild and beautiful places has its own allure.

Here, you can marvel at Minnesota’s tallest waterfall, climb an anorthosite dome, and peer into the mysterious Devil’s Kettle—all without the big crowds of some other North Shore parks.

Cook County’s four state parks and one national monument are:

  • Cascade River State Park
  • Temperance River State Park
  • Judge C.R. Magney State Park
  • Grand Portage State Park
  • Grand Portage National Monument

From Cook County, you can also visit Michigan’s Isle Royale National Park—an island so ecologically distinct it is designated an International Biosphere Reserve.

And let’s not forget the North Country National Scenic Trail, one of the newest additions to the region. Still in development, once it is complete it will wind through the state and encompass the Kekekabic Trail, Border Route Trail, and the Superior Hiking Trail as an integral part of the route.

We here in Lutsen-Tofte-Schroeder, Grand Marais, the Gunflint Trail, and Grand Portage are all about sharing. So here’s how to find our hidden gems and what to do once you arrive.

Temperance River State Park
Where it is: One mile north of Schroeder on Highway 61

What to do:

• Stand on a bridge high above the Temperance River Gorge—and look down.
• Trek to the summit of Carlton Peak, an anorthosite dome that is geologically distinct from other parts of the North Shore. Or discover your own strength with a rock climbing excursion.
• Hike to Hidden Falls and Upper Falls.

Find more information at the official Temperance River State Park website.

Cascade River State Park
Where it is: 10 miles southwest of Grand Marais on Highway 61

What to do:

• View beautiful Cascade Falls just off the highway.
• Trek to the dramatic, multi-tiered gorge section of the river known as The Cascades.
• Complete a 6.8-mile loop segment of the Superior Hiking Trail.

Find more information at the official Cascade River State Park website.

Judge C.R. Magney State Park

Where it is: 14 miles northeast of Grand Marais on Highway 61

What to do:

• Hike 2.5 miles (round-trip) beside the Brule River to see the Devil’s Kettle—an enormous hole in the rock that some say is bottomless. Many waterfalls and rapids make the journey a scenic one.
• Bring a guidebook and identify wildflowers.
• In the fall, look for migrating hawks.

Find more information at the official Judge C.R. Magney State Park website.

Grand Portage State Park
Where it is: 36 miles north of Grand Marais on Highway 61, just before the Canadian border

What to do:

• Pretend you’re Peter Pan while walking on the barrier-free/handicapped-accessible viewing boardwalk that winds through the mixed hardwood forest.
• Marvel at High Falls—at 120 feet, the highest waterfall in Minnesota. You can reach the falls with an easy half-mile stroll on the boardwalk.
• Visit the exhibit hall, which showcases the culture and traditions of the Grand Portage Ojibwe people.

Find more information at the official Grand Portage State Park website.

Grand Portage National Monument

Where it is: 34 miles northeast of Grand Marais just off of Highway 61 in town of Grand Portage.

What to do:

  • Travel into the past by exploring the Heritage Center and the Historic Depot (Great Hall, kitchen, canoe warehouse, Voyageurs Encampment, Ojibwe Village, and historic gardens.) 
  • Hike the steep but short Mount Rose Trail for an incredible view of the Grand Portage bay, the fur trader’s fort, and on a clear day – distant views of Isle Royale National Park.
  • Attend the Grand Portage Rendezvous Days and Powwow held annually the second weekend in August where history comes to life.

Find more information at the official Grand Portage National Monument website.

Isle Royale National Park
Where it is: Michigan, technically. Isle Royale National Park is an archipelago in Lake Superior that comprises one main island and hundreds of smaller islands. The park is about 22 miles from Grand Portage.

What to do:

• Take a day trip or overnight journey and go fishing, kayaking, hiking, boating, birding and more.
• Explore historic sites, including lighthouses, copper mining sites, and shipwrecks.
• Backpack the 42-mile Greenstone Ridge Trail. At night, listen for howling wolves.

How to get to Isle Royale National Park: Boat service runs from Grand Portage from spring through early fall. For boat schedule and rates, and to book tickets online, see the Grand Portage-Isle Royale Transportation Line.

Find more information at the official Isle Royale National Park website.

North Country National Scenic Trail

Where it is: many opportunities to access sections of the trail, view map for more information.

What to do:

Find more information from the official North Country National Hiking Trail website.