A Visit to the North Shore-Tettegouche State Park

Tettegouche State Park is a gem of a park (most of the state parks in this region are) located along Highway 61-The North Shore Scenic Route.  This highway parallels the shoreline of Lake Superior in the northeast corner of Minnesota. In Minnesota, when you hear someone say they are going to the North Shore, this is where they are going.  To the northern shores of Lake Superior.

My first visit to this particular state park was back in 2006.  It was one of mine and John’s first camping trips together.  It was fun to re-visit some of the sights in the area.  It was interesting what things John remember vs the memories I had of our visit. We also enjoyed being able to share similar experiences with the kids and show them some of our favorite places of the past.

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The Baptism River

The North Shore is unique in that there is the rugged and rocky shorelines of Lake Superior, the towering pine trees, and the raging rivers that flow into the lake.  There are numerous waterfalls scattered along Highway 61 and we made it a point to see quite a few.  We are participating in the 2018 52-Hike Challenge but this year we are doing the “Adventure Series” which includes numerous waterfall hikes. We were able to check quite a few off the list

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Tettegouche State Park (along with all the other state parks located right off of Highway 61) is quick to fill up.  I made our reservations as we headed out on our Memorial Day Vacation in 2017-a whole year in advance.  It is a small campground and only half have electricity.  Someday, electricity won’t be important to me but with littles, I still enjoy having it available.  Out of curiosity, I looked to see when our campsite we stayed in was available and it was already booked for the entire summer so in this case, the early bird definitely gets the worm.

Tettegouche State Park was the perfect location to put us in the middle between Gooseberry Falls State Park to the south and Temperance River State Park to the north.  I planned out an itinerary to hit up the three hiking club trails during this trip.  It worked out perfect because they were all around 2 miles each.

This state park has so much to keep you busy for a weekend or even a full week! A few of the highlights:

Hike to High Falls

There are a few different waterfall hikes in Tettegouche State Park, but one of the most popular is the hike to High Falls.  There is a trailhead parking area with a picnic area.  While we were there the parking area was packed and there were cars lining the side of the road.  If you are staying in the campground, there is a trail that will take you right from the campground to the falls.  This worked out great for us.  It was a shorter hike and we didn’t have to worry about parking since we could go right from our campsite.

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High Falls

The trail is steep in some places and there are quite a few stairs if you choose to go all the way down to the bottom of the stairs.  It was the perfect little hike to kick off our weekend.  Tally, our golden retriever was in heaven.  I think she could have stayed by lounging in the river all night long! A little bit of trivia-the 70ft High Falls on the Baptism River is the tallest waterfall that is completely within the boundaries of Minnesota.  High Falls of the Pigeon River is the tallest waterfall but shares a boundary with Canada.  The girls had fun throwing rocks in the river and trying to rock hop without getting their shoes wet-which they were unsuccessful.

This hike kicked off a total of just over 10 miles of hiking over the course of 48 hours.  It also was the start of a weekend where I watched my daughter’s develop a special relationship.  There was so many hugs between the two of them and lots of holding hands as they hiked down the trail.  It warmed my heart and I so much enjoyed having this special family time together.

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Mouth of the Baptism River

Another popular place in the park is where the Baptism River flows into Lake Superior.  This spot is just a short walk down from the visitor’s center. After all the water falls farther upstream, you would think that there would be a turbulent entry into the grand lake but in fact, it is rather tranquil.  It was a favorite spot for us to spend our evenings when most of the crowd had left for the day.  Evie loved throwing rocks and wading in with Tally and Elsie spent the majority of the time rock hunting and building rock cairns.

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Elsie’s works of art
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Elsie’s rock finds

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The first night we walked down there we were surprised to find the whole Lake Superior side of this little rocky area was covered in crayfish!  We came across one and thought it was pretty cool, then we kept looking and discovered hundreds!

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Shovel Point

One of our goals for this mini-vacation was to complete a few of the Minnesota State Hiking Club Trails.  At Tettegouche State Park, the hiking club trail takes you to Shovel Point. It is a two-mile out and back hike, departing from the visitor’s center along the rocky cliff-like shoreline of Lake Superior.  Like the start of many trails in this region, they warn you that there are sharp drop offs and to watch your step (and your children).

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I wasn’t sure how this hike would go since it was our second hike of the day. We had completed the hiking club trail at Temperance River State Park earlier in the day.  I think, because of the varied terrain and exciting views, the girls did the hike without one single complaint-in fact, there was very little complaining our whole weekend! I had also suffered from a migraine earlier in the afternoon, so I was battling a headache but didn’t seem to notice while on the trail.

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It seemed, that in the late afternoons and evenings a fog would roll out from the woods and make its way out across the lake.  The photo above shows the difference of the view between the start of our hike (top) and the end of our hike (bottom).  Although it was foggy, we still had spectacular views of the rocky outcroppings.

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At one point, that outermost rock was connected to the main shore by an arch.  It collapsed in 2010.

The trail was rocky with many ups and downs as well as stairs.  This is a popular place to do rock climbing and we came across numerous groups along the trail.  There are designated climbing points along this portion of the shoreline.  Some of these climbs are closed off during the early summer due to peregrine falcon nesting. While we were there sections were roped off and signs clearly visible to stay away as to not disturb the birds.

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We finally made our way to Shovel Point and boy was it windy out there!  Elsie was almost in tears because she was so cold.  It was a chilly 53 degrees-a stark difference in temperature from what the rest of Minnesota was experiencing which was in the 90’s even as close as a few miles inland.  Lake Superior does a great job of keeping it cool-even in the summer.  We didn’t linger too long since we weren’t dressed for the cold weather (even back at our campsite it was in the low 70’s).

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Of course, John’s eyes are closed.

After, the brief stop and a quick photo of the hiking club password we made our way back to the visitor’s center.

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View of Shovel Point as we made our way to the gravel beach of the Baptism River

Cascade Falls

Another popular hike from the visitor’s center is a hike to Cascade Falls.  We did not get around to this hike but hope to at some point on a return visit.  There is a small parking area right at the trailhead and was packed the entire weekend.  There is free parking at the visitor’s center because it doubles as a 24 hour rest area but if you travel beyond this parking lot, you need to get a daily pass.  There were quite a few vehicles parked along the road and at the Cascade Falls trailhead that had tickets on them because they hadn’t purchased a daily park pass.

There is so much that this park offers that we just didn’t get to-check out my campground review of this park (yet to come) for more details about this amazing state park! Even if you can’t get a campsite here, this is definitely worth a stop with numerous things to do in just a few hours time and short distance from the visitor’s center.  If you are making your way along North Shore Scenic Byway, carve out some time at this state park!

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