snowshoe on the north shore

snowshoe trails, maps & rentals on the north shore

Snowshoeing is winter hiking. Lash on a pair of these woven frames and you’ve commandeered the great outdoors. Venture out for an afternoon wildlife expedition. Track hares, shrews, wolves, deer, and ermine. Step soundlessly through the north woods, stopping to guess the width of a virgin pine, to listen to the chickadees, or just to savor the moment.

Lots of folks like to snowshoe the Superior Hiking Trail, but you can snowshoe anywhere. If the trail is also a groomed ski trail, walk on the sides, not on the tracked trail. Many resorts, shops, and ski areas rent snowshoes. Listed below are some suggested routes.

snowshoe trails along the north shore of lake superior and gunflint trail

mile 5.0

Start your waterfall tour with a look-see over the Superior Street bridge at the Lester River Falls or park in the lot on the east side of the river, half a block north, and walk the creek-side trail. The northeast trail is a woodland walk with a series of small falls. See the Amity Falls for another option in this park. Best seen during spring run-off. Walks range from 0.2 to 3+ miles.

Amenities: restrooms, water, picnic tables, grills and playground at trailhead
Length: from 0.2- to 3+ miles
Difficulty: easy

mile 36.8

Short, steep and so worth it, this trail ascends out of the parking lot. After a series of switchbacks, the trail parallels the ridge and rewards you with a Lake Superior view. Continue on to Wolf Rock for amazing wide-open vistas of the lake. Continue on to Gooseberry Falls State Park, or turn around, enjoy the descent and head to your next short hike!

Highlights: Wolf Rock, .5 mi from trailhead; great overlook of Lake Superior after a mildly steep climb; Crow Creek Valley, 1.3 mi from trailhead; Gooseberry River and Lake Superior, especially pretty during fall colors
Length: 9.4 miles one-way to Gooseberry Falls State Park
Difficulty: moderate [climb 472′ (217′ to Wolf Rock), descend 689′]

mile 39.5

The beauty of of the park is steps from the Visitor Center, and sometimes on the way to the center, like these deer just off the path from the parking lot. A brief, paved, accessible path leads to the oft-photographed Middle Falls. Head south to view the Lower Falls or take a short accessible hike to the north, under Highway 61 that leads to the Upper Falls. This makes Gooseberry an ideal stop for everyone! Take advantage of the displays, restrooms and gift shop inside, then head to the river. The park has an abundance of inland trails, too.

Amenities: Visitor center has restrooms, and during open hours a gift shop and exhibits
Length: 18 miles of total trails
Difficulty: easy & accessible to most difficult due to length

mile 46.0

Take the easy accessible trail to the Visitor Center stairs to the Lighthouse. Then descend cliffside steps to Lake Superior and the Pump House. Trails traverse cobblestones beaches and adjacent forests; giving way to vantage points for viewing lighthouse. The Merrill Logging Trails crosses Highway 61 and meanders through the northern park forests. In winter 8.7 miles of multi-use trail with tracks for classic cross-country skiing on one side and the remainder of the trail for fat bikes, snowshoes, hiking, and skate-skiing are available. This provides a unique opportunity for people with different interests to all share the same trail.

Amenities: outhouses, some paved trails, picnic areas, visitor center
Length: 12 miles total with 3 along the lakeshore
Difficulty: easy to moderate

mile 51.3

The river drops 300 feet in a series of cascades and falls above the Highway 61 bridge, then enters the sedate Beaver Bay. A wayside rest is located on the northwest corner of the bridge. It is a few steps to front-and-center views from the pedestrian walkway on the north side of Highway 61. Don’t want to stop? At least look out the window. This is one of to drive-by waterfalls on the North Shore.

mile 58.5

Great variety of trails; meander easier trails near the visitor center, or drive in to the park and spend a day [or more] exploring; follow the Superior Hiking Trail west from the campground for overlooks, then head north and traverse around Mic Mac and Nipisquit lakes before returning. See below for details on hiking to the waterfalls and from the Lax Lake Road trailhead.

**note the trail from the visitor center area to the falls has a lot of steps, so not the best for those with knee issues; instead, consider parking at the Superior Hiking Trail trailhead on Hwy 1 and hiking in [still some steps]

Amenities: picnic areas, visitor center
Length: 23 miles
Difficulty: some easy, more moderate to most difficult due to steps and rise in elevation
Trailheads: at Visitor Center, at Campground & on Lax Lake Road

mile 68.2

Want to hike by yourself? This is the quiet North Shore State Park, 14 miles from Highway 61 and the bustle of the lake shore. You will find excellent, but moderate to more difficult hiking trails in the the deep woods with the Manitou River’s craggy valley.

I like taking the Yellow Birch Trail to Misquah, popping up the spur trail to the overlook, then following the river south to the first intersection and returning to Benson Lake along the Cedar Ridge Trail. After a picnic, take the Humpback Trail to the river and return on the Middle Trail, taking advantage of the short spur to another overlook. Bring water and bug spray. Enjoy the solitude.

Amenities: an outhouse and picnic area, and campsites
Length
: 24 miles
Difficulty: easy to more difficult

mile 70.7

Caribou Falls is one of the most picturesque waterfalls on the shore, in part because of the approach. From the wayside rest follow the spur trail [at the first bench, continue to follow the spur]. The trail climbs about 100-feet in a half mile before making a 90-degree turn to multiple flights of stairs [~150 in all]. A right hand turn after the first few flights opens to a cedar- and pine-framed view of the falls. It becomes more and more impressive as you get closer, and the gray basalt outcroppings are a striking frame to this 35-foot falls

Length: 1.2 miles
Difficulty: easy; moderate due to stairs

mile 73.3

An excellent 1-mile interpretive hiking trail with a self-guided brochure. Mosey through pine plantations, and alder thicket, and along the cobblestone beach. Learn about log rafting and tree planting, appreciate a small overlook and take steps down to the beach. The last stop is the Visitor Center, an energy efficient lovely log building.

Amenities: visitor center
Length
: 1 mile
Difficulty: easy

mile 80.4

Amazing river gorges that start a few feet inland from the highway, waterfalls, two foot-bridges, hiking, a cobblestone river mouth, camping and hiking. Hike a short way upriver to the amazing gorges, then return south of the highway and walk across the foot-bridge. During spring runoff or after rainy days, the river spray will mist you. Back in the day, this was the only river without a [sand] bar at the mouth, hence the name, Temperance.

mile 83.4

If you’re willing to hike up a hill, you”l be rewarded with views of the maple and pine covered hills rolling down to Lake Superior, which stretches for miles to the south. Hike under maple and birch canopy before stepping out on a large basalt overlook.

The trailhead is the hub for many hiking options: east to LeVeaux Mountain, west across the Sawbill Trail to the top of Carlton Peak, adjacent mountain cross-country ski trails, and/or bring your bike for the single track trails.

Length: 0.5 miles
Difficulty: moderate due to steepness

mile 83.4

Massive blocks of gray anorthosite form Carlton Peak. This heady summit gives bird’s-eye views of the maple forest you crossed to reach the peak. A nearby overlook has panoramas of Lake Superior, Tofte, and the Temperance River Valley, which makes this a great late season hike, too.

From mile marker 83.4 in Tofte, drive north 2.3 miles to the parking area on the east/right.

mile 86.1

While this is the trail to hike during autumn’s early season of maple colors, it is fantastic spring and summer, too. This trail begins with a spur, which connects to a loop around Oberg Mountain’s upper edge. Overlooks include views of adjacent LeVeaux Mountain, Lake Superior, the maple hillsides, and Oberg Lake. Enter the maple woods and hike under the canopy of birch and maple before you begin the 2-mile loop. Plan on a busy trail filled with happy hikers – the views will do that.

Length: 2.25 miles
Difficulty: moderate with steep climbs and open rock cliffs

mile 86.6

Climb the wooden steps and hike above the river to view the cascades near the river mouth then continue another 1/2 mile to see the Stair Step Falls. Can only be seen before the trees leaf out and is best in spring when the river rushes. Easy to follow trail from parking at the Ray Berglund Wayside and Recreation Site.

Length: 1.15 miles
Difficulty: easy

mile 99.8

This is a quintessential mini-hike — it’s under a half mile, it’s a loop, there’s a footbridge over the river, include cascades and waterfalls, cedar trees and tiny wildflowers. All this from a pullover off the highway means it makes for a worthy hike year-round. Wear boots in the winter and bring a trekking pole to help on the icy areas. Spend your extra time at the river mouth, throwing rocks, watching the river current move into the lake and taking in the immensity of Lake Superior.

Length: 0.4 miles of trails
Difficulty: easy

gunflint mile 6.7

This is a nice level walk through some beautiful cedar stands, near the shores of the Elbow River, and under gorgeous pines. I recommend this trail for anyone who wants to get out into the woods in a safe comfortable way – the trail is easy to get to, well-marked, and pretty. It is an un/sometimes groomed cross-country ski, ski-joring and snowshoe trail in the winter, too. The trail is a short spur into a loop, you choose which direction.

Length: 2.25 miles
Difficulty: easy

mile 123.8

The popular hike runs cliffside high above the Brule River. After a spur to the Lower Falls, make the final climb  to where the river splits. The eastern flow tumbles over the High Falls while the western arm drops into the Devil’s Kettle, final destination unknown. While the roar of the river is spectacular in the spring, it can be hard to see the Devil’s Kettle. If that is your goal, head out midsummer or later when the spring flow has subsided.

Length: 2.25 miles
Difficulty: moderate plus about 200 stairs

mile 150.8

It’s all about hiking to the 120-foot High Falls, but leave time for the exhibits, gift shop and interpretive signs in and around the Visitor Center, where you can learn about the culture and traditions of the Grand Portage Ojibwe people. Bring your camera.

mile 150.8

at Grand Portage State Park

The Pigeon River drops 950 feet ending with the 120-foot drop High Falls. This lower reach is particularly rugged until a short distance after the falls, where the river widens. An easy half-mile hiking trail in Grand Portage State Park leads to the High Falls. The trail end has two great viewing decks where you can feel the spray of the falls and take photos! Leave time for a visit to the center and store within this state park, too.

Length: 1 mile [4.5 mile more difficult Middle Falls Loop]
Difficulty: easy

child snowshoeing at edge of lake superior

snowshoe rental

Several resorts offer snowshoes free for use by guests
Check out the Events page for Snowshoe workshops and guided walks

check out these north shore favorites

upcoming events
GRAND MARAIS WEATHER
sparkling wintry lake superior and ice sheets stacked on north shore

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