Autumn in Minnesota

Recommended Hikes, Drives, and Camps
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Aerial view of fall's splendor in Minnesota
Eye-full of fall's splendor in Minnesota.

If you're looking to just hop out of the car for a picture or want to stretch out and journey into the backcountry, opportunities abound. Here are a few recommended hikes, drives and campsites along the North Shore.

Recommended Hikes

Carlton Peak : This is the highest point along the North Shore, rising 1,529 feet above sea level, and 927 feet above Lake Superior. It is composed mainly of anorthosite, a rock resistant to the forces of erosion and weathering. Carlton Peak was once used as a fire tower, and the metal foundations are still set in the rock. The loop ascending the summit is a 4-mile trip through a canopy of hardwoods. Leave your vehicle at the Britton Peak trailhead located on the Sawbill Trail (County Road 2), near the town of Tofte.

Oberg Loop : The Oberg loop is a 1.8 mile trail that winds around to the top of Oberg mountain. The forests are dense with maples and provide fantastic fall color. There are eight different overlooks at the top including one with a picnic table. The views here are among the finest on the Superior Hiking Trail. From Forest Service Road 336, near Tofte, the SHT leaves from the opposite side, up a group of wooden steps.

Leveaux Mountain : Across from the Oberg trailhead, it is a 1.2 mile hike to the Leveaux Mountain side trail. Take the side trail another 1.2 miles to the top of Leveaux Mountain for great lake views.

Mount Trudee : This is a 6-mile hike to the ridges overlooking Palisade Creek Valley. Begin the trip at the Tettegouche Park Trail Center. There is parking available.

Moose Mountain : Scaling Moose Mountain can be a leisurely undertaking via the Gondola Sky Ride at Lutsen Mountains Ski Area. On a clear day, the view extends for a hundred miles or more and is ideal for gazing out to the distant shores of Michigan's Isle Royale and Wisconsin's Apostle Islands. From the top, there is a 3.6 mile trail leading back to the parking lot. The trail is rated as moderately strenuous.

Britton Peak : This is a short 5 minute walk from the Sawbill Trail (County Road 2), 2 miles north of U.S. Highway 61.

Recommended Drives

During the fall, you can't really pick a bad spot along the North Shore. The area around the Sawtooths offers spectacular trails and backroads with quick access to parks, cottages, and towns along the lake. The Forest Service has recognized the following routes for their fall color, wildlife, and other natural features.

Maple Leaf Drive : This is a 10-mile route that is particularly colorful due to the abundance of sugar maples. Often, the trees form a natural canopy over the road and it feels like driving through a tunnel of trees. From Highway 61, take Forest Service Road 343 as it heads inland and connects with Forest Service Road 166. Go right (east) and follow it to the Sawbill Trail (County Road 2). Here you have the option of going further inland by making a left turn or returning to the highway by going right. Either way the Sawbill Trail offers fine views of the surrounding country, often paralleling the Temperance River.

Moose Drive : If you are lucky, a drive along this 12.5 mile section of forest roads might yield a glimpse of Minnesota's largest animal. Starting from Highway 61, take 343 inland to 166. Here, go to the left and follow it to Forest Service 342 which heads back toward the highway. There is no guarantee of moose but they are here. If you don't see one at first, come back and drive the trail again. One morning, I came upon a heavily-antlered bull walking slowly along the road here before finally disappearing into the surrounding woods.

Mountain View Drive : This road, Forest Service 336, leads to the Oberg Mountain trailhead and beyond. The road follows the Onion River and provides views of Moose Mountain to the east as well as Oberg and Leveaux.

Camping

The following state parks all offer easy access to hiking, forest roads, great views of the lake, and year-round camping.

Tettegouchet : This park has 28 drive-in sites as well as 13 new cart-in sites where campers pack in their gear on rolling carts to a group of sites along Lake Superior. The sites are between 1/4 and 1/2 mile from the parking area. There are over 9,000 acres to explore with six inland lakes, a segment of the Baptism River, and High Falls, the highest waterfall wholly contained within the borders of Minnesota. Another highlight is the steep bluff of Palisade Head in the southwest corner of Tettegouche.

Temperance River : Here are two campgrounds with 55 sites including 3 cart-ins. The name of the park comes from the fact that, unlike other rivers on the north shore, it has no"bar" at its mouth. Thus, it was dubbed the "Temperance". The park features the Temperance River Gorge, a host of waterfalls, and a series of glacial potholes along the river valley.

Cascade River : There are 40 drive-in sites, two group camps and 5 backpack sites. The Cascade drops 900 feet in the last 3 miles on its way to Lake Superior. The park is located along a half-mile wide band of Lake Superior. Ten streams run within the park's 2,813 acres. There are several waterfalls and eighteen miles of hiking trails, some linking to the SHT. Side trails lead to Lookout Mountain and return to the park along the river.


Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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