Minnesota's Backyard: The best of the highlands and shore can be found at Tettegouche State Park
It's a far cry and a long plane ride from California, but at Tettegouche State Park, visitors to the North Shore can find both the water and as close as we get to the mountains in Minnesota.
SILVER BAY, Minn. — Some folks prefer the seaside. Others prefer the mountains. That is one reason, perhaps, why California is by far our most populous state, since visitors can find the best of both worlds.
That “appeal to everyone” vibe also might explain why Tettegouche State Park remains one of the most popular places to visit along the North Shore of Lake Superior. The beaches along the lakeshore are stunning, and the views of iconic Shovel Point are some of the most photographed in the state, and up the hill from the lake, the waterfalls of the Baptism River and the sharp terrain changes make for some of the most scenic and challenging hiking in the region.
Thanks to the power of nature, the challenge of getting to the High Falls — which is the tallest waterfall completely within the boundaries of the state — got a little tougher in the spring. Per park officials, there was still several feet of snow in the forests within the park when a spring storm dropped five inches of rain on the area. The ensuing torrent of runoff caused the baptism and other streams headed to the lake to overspill their banks and the resulting erosion took out the swinging bridge that normally gives hikers easy access to both sides of the falls.
According to Katie Foshay, a park manager on the North Shore, the bridge will not likely be replaced until 2023 or later. Both sides of the falls are still accessible to hikers, but reaching the east side now requires a longer hike of roughly three miles round trip.
On a warm July weekend day when we visited, the parking lot and visitor center looked like something akin to northern Minnesota’s version of Disneyland, with cars and visitors everywhere. Foshay advised that Tettegouche is one of the most visited attractions in the area, but even on a busy day, one can find solitude on the myriad miles of trails.
“If you get away from the shore, or the hotspots of where everyone goes, you’re not going to see anyone on the back trails,” she said. “Everyone focuses on the highlights like Gooseberry Falls, the lighthouse at Split Rock, Shovel Point, Pebble Beach, and the High Falls. If you move beyond there, there is nobody on the trails. You can still go out and recreate on a weekend, you just have to pick your trails a little more carefully.”
Her other bit of advice was to take some time, spend a night or two (there is a full service campground on site) and take it all in.
We have nearly 10,000 acres to explore,” Foshay said. “You can’t see and do it all in one day.”
And with some of the nation’s best natural scenery east of California, why would you want to?
Commercial fishing and the tasty aquatic wonders that come from Lake Superior have been a part of life on the North Shore since long before Highway 61 was constructed and places like Two Harbors and Grand Marais were accessible only by water. The classic snack around these parts is smoked fish, served with saltines, which is not only incredibly delicious but a healthy source of anti-inflammatories, as cold water fish like lake trout and salmon are known for their dietary benefits. One of the most popular stops to stock up on treasures from the lake’s cold waters is Russ Kendall’s Smokehouse , not far from the water in Knife River, where they have been expertly curing ciscoes, trout, whitefish, salmon and other delicacies for generations.
This article is part of the " Minnesota's Backyard " series which returns for the summer of 2022.