The North Shore is arguably one of the best places to hike in Minnesota. With options for wildlife spottings, rushing cascades, and scientific anomalies, you can’t go wrong here! Stretching along the shore of Lake Superior from Duluth to Grand Portage, the North Shore is a great place for families to visit no matter the season. Summers are mild compared to the rest of the state, making outdoor adventures a tad easier and more comfortable with small kids. Then, fall and spring offer a kaleidoscope of colors (think fall foliage and wildflowers galore). Even winter brings fun adventures in the snow (remember to pack ice cleats and snowshoes!). Regardless of when you visit Minnesota’s North Shore with kids, here are some of the best hikes for your itinerary. To make it easy for parents to decide which options are best for their kids, the hikes are divided by skill level.
Short Hikes, Big Impact
Families looking for short hikes to impress their tiny trekkers will love these options! Offering a range of Lake Superior views and learning opportunities, these are some of the best short hikes on the North Shore of Minnesota with kids.
Centrally located near Grand Marais’ downtown, Artists’ Point is a great option for families looking to explore nature without traveling too far from town. Walk through the brush near the Coast Gaurd buildings (the trailhead is marked) and go left when you get to the stairs. Here, you will find a 0.8-mile out-and-back trail that takes you through a heavily wooded trail near the harbor entrance. The trail winds around large trees and rocks, allowing families to see several native plant species and watch for local birds. Even with its central location, you may have the trail to yourself since most people head to the lighthouse instead! If you are looking to catch a sunrise, this is also the best place in Grand Marais to do it. Finally, there is a large parking lot at the trailhead entrance, as well as portable toilets. There is no entrance fee.
Iona's Beach Scientific and Natural Area
Iona’s Beach Scientific and Natural Area is a great hike for families staying near Two Harbors or those needing a stretch break on the way to Grand Marais. Known for its iconic pink stone beach, kids will love searching for the perfect ones to throw into Lake Superior. The rocks are very smooth and get their rosy hue from the local cliff they fall from. Due to the protected bay and currents, they all collect along the same beach. Plus, if you listen carefully you can hear them “sing” as waves crash along the shore. As the rocks resettle, listen for the sound of tiny bells. To get to the beach, take the 0.6-mile out-and-back trail from the parking lot (go left as you enter the lot to find the trailhead). The trail is wide, and relatively smooth, making it manageable with a stroller. There is no entrance fee.
Moose Viewing Trail
Want to try to spot a moose? Heading up the Gunflint Trail (from Grand Marais) is your best bet! If you’re lucky, you may even see one during the drive to the Moose Viewing Trail. From the small parking lot, head to the right up the wide snowmobile trail. Just up the hill, you will find the entrance to the Moose Viewing Trail. Located in a prime moose habitat area, this 0.7-mile out-and-back trail will impress kids even if you don’t get to see a moose. Follow the trail through a heavily wooded area to a viewing platform. Challenge kids to find the old car in the woods along the way! Then, from the platform, enjoy the stunning view of the lake and try to spot wildlife and birds. During the winter, this trail is magical after new-fallen snow. There is no entrance fee or facilities here.
Sugarloaf Cove Nature Center
Families looking for an interactive nature center, as well as one of the best hikes on the North Shore with kids, will adore Sugarloaf Cove Nature Center. Inside the nature center, kids can learn about local flora and fauna, as well as touch bones and pelts. Near the nature center, kids will also delight in watching local birds dine at the many bird feeders. After exploring the nature center, take the 1.3-mile loop trail to soak in some great views of Lake Superior. The trail winds through woods and along a beach. It is the perfect option for spring wildflowers and fall foliage! Be sure to check the events calendar before your visit to see if there is anything fun on the schedule! There is a small entrance fee required per vehicle. The nature center also has restrooms (note: the nature center is not open during the winter).
Moderate Hikes, Great Views
If you’re ready for longer, more moderate hikes, these two will certainly fit your needs. Offering stunning views and interesting trails, you can’t go wrong with these two hikes. Certainly, they rank highly amongst the best hikes on Minnesota’s North Shore with kids.
Oberg Mountain Trail
One of the best hikes in Minnesota for families, Oberg Mountain Trail is definitely a crowd-pleaser! Fun in all seasons, Oberg Mountain is a 2.3-mile loop trail offering nine picturesque views, including some of Lake Superior and Moose Lake. From the parking lot, head back across the road to reach the trailhead. The first (and final) stretch of the trail is very steep, but the views are worth it. In fact, at the top, you will be about 1,000 feet above sea level, making this one of the highest points in Minnesota. Kids will love knowing they climbed a mountain when they complete this hike! Hike with caution with small kids, as there are very few guard rails on any of the vistas. If you’re doing this hike in the winter, be sure to have ice cleats for everyone. Entrance is free and there are rustic toilets available.
Cascade River State Park
Looking for a waterfall hike on the North Shore? Cascade River State Park offers one of the best! If you only want to see the waterfall, this can be a very easy hike with kids (and short too). There is a lovely viewing area near the parking lot, making it possible for a quick stop to see just the falls. If you’re looking for a moderate hike, try the Lookout Mountain Loop. This double loop hike is about 3.2-miles, taking you around the cascade and to a great view of the area from Lookout Mountain. Along the trail, you will find several areas to enjoy the falls. Can you find the sign that explains why the water looks like rootbeer? As part of the Minnesota State Park system, an entrance fee or state park pass is required (there is no pay booth at the entrance off Hwy 61).
Challenging Hikes for Adventurous Kids
Looking for more of a challenge? Here are three hikes that are perfect for adventurous families. With stunning views and trails to match, you’ll quickly see why they are some of the best hikes on the North Shore of Minnesota with kids.
Split Rock Lighthouse State Park
While Split Rock Lighthouse is certainly one of the best things to do on the North Shore for families, this area also offers several hiking opportunities. After enjoying the grounds of the lighthouse and interactive exhibits, take a hike to better learn about the surrounding area. Families looking for a quick hike can head down the huge staircase for a unique view of the lighthouse and a chance to dip toes into Lake Superior. Alternatively, Superior Hiking Trail: Split Rock Ridge is a great option for a more moderate hike. This 5.6-mile loop trail takes you through a beautiful part of the North Shore, including views of waterfalls, Lake Superior, and, of course, Split Rock Lighthouse. Plus, families can also snowshoe here during the winter. As part of the Minnesota State Park system, an entrance fee or state park pass is required (additional admission is required for the museum).
Judge C.R. Magney State Park (Devil’s Kettle)
One of the coolest hikes along the North Shore, kids will love learning the science behind Devil’s Kettle. Not only is this moderate 2.0-mile out-and-back trail stunning, but it holds a long-kept secret that has stumped scientists for years. From the parking, head down the trail over the bridge. From the bridge, enjoy a view of the Brule River as it exits into Lake Superior. Enjoy listening for birds and identifying trees as you trek along the trail. There is also a lower falls that you can check out on the way to Devil’s Kettle. Expect about 190 stairs along the trail too.
Then, continue up the trail to Devil’s Kettle, a twin set of side-by-side waterfalls. Here is where the mystery is held! One cascade goes over the falls, while the other disappears into the rocks. Challenge kids to figure out where it goes. Curious hikers and scientists alike have thrown everything into the hole from ping pong balls to GPS trackers to find out where the water comes out. Only recently have scientists settled on a conclusion. After disappearing into the rocks, the water flows down a deep hole and later reenters the river from underground. As part of the Minnesota State Park system, an entrance fee or state park pass is required.
Magnetic Rock Trail
Another scientific marvel, Magnetic Rock Trail will thrill kids and adults alike. Located near the end of the Gunflint Trail, it is about an hour from downtown Grand Marais. There is a small parking lot near the trailhead of this moderate 4.3-mile out-and-back trail (as well as a latrine at the beginning of the trail). The hike twists and turns around boulders, streams, ancient lava flows, woods, and stretches of wildflowers. Along the trail, you can also enjoy several gorgeous vistas. The piece de resistance, however, is the 60-foot monolith at the end of the trail. Remember to bring a magnet and a compass to test it against this magnetic stone. This hike will take half a day for the experience (minimum), so plan accordingly. Trail Center At Poplar Lake and Poplar Haus Restaurant & Bar are the best lunch options with kids. There is no entrance fee.
Other Notable Hikes for Your North Shore Itinerary
Need more fun hikes on Minnesota’s North Shore with kids to fill your itinerary? Consider these four additional notable hikes. First, north of Two Harbors, Fifth Falls and Superior Hiking Trail Loop is an easy 3.0-mile loop trail in Gooseberry State Park, offering a lovely chance to see waterfalls. Further up the North Shore, near Schoraoder, Temperance River Falls Loop is a moderate 3.3-mile loop trail in Temperance River State Park offering gorgeous views and a stunning waterfall.
Then, families looking for an easy boardwalk hike will adore High Falls Trail, a 1.1-mile out-and-back trail in Grand Portage State Park. It’s one of the best trails for strollers on the North Shore (although, there are stairs to the waterfall viewing platform). Finally, while technically not on the North Shore, Jay Cooke State Park offers a variety of family hikes and a scenic suspension bridge just south of Duluth. It’s a great Duluth itinerary hike, or pit stop to break up the long drive up the North Shore.
This week’s post about best hikes on Minnesota’s North Shore is written by Explorer Family Mom Antonia from @knead.to.roam. Thank-you for taking the time today to read this beautiful piece she has written for us!