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September 28, 2022 7 min read

 

Fall is a wonderful time of year! The crisp temperatures, crackling fires and pumpkin spice everything. One of the most beautiful aspects of fall time of year here in Minnesota, are the vibrant colors as all living things transition toward slumber for the long winter ahead. 

Everyone knows that some of the BEST fall colors around can be found right here on the Shores of Lake Superior in Northern Minnesota! Whether you are local from the Cities or flying in from out of state, this is the perfect long weekend itinerary for you! 

Best time to go: September 21 - October 10 (Peak leaf color season)

Expected Temperatures: Highs → 50s - 60s 

    Lows → 30s - 40s 


Day 1:

Friday morning, plan to leave Minneapolis for Duluth at 9am. The drive is about 3 hours, so you’ll be arriving in Duluth at the perfect time to grab lunch!! Before that, stop at Tobies Restaurant & Bakery in Hinckley and get the caramel rolls. You won't be disappointed. 

All throughout your drive and as you begin your descent into the Duluth area, you will start to see some of the vibrant fall colors. Buckle up, this is just the beginning! 

Think of Duluth as a part of your journey rather than your destination. I usually make a stop there on my way up the North Shore, as well as on my way home! 

I would recommend having lunch in Canal park. The food is definitely average, but it has the best vibes.  You can visit places like Duluth Pack, and Grandma’s. There are many local artist shops, boutique stores and antique shops. If you’re lucky, you’ll have the opportunity to see a massive ship arrive or depart from Duluth’s Lake Superior Harbor liftbridge. Boats and Ships arrive from all around the world. You can find the schedule for when that happens here:https://canalpark.com/duluth-ship-schedule/ 

Here are a few of my favorite options for lunch that are outside of Canal Park just in case that’s not your vibe: 

Duluth/Canal Park A List:

Food:

Grandma’s Saloon & Grill

Canal Park Brewing Company

OMC Smokehouse

PickWick Restaurant & Pub

Duluth Grill


Coffee:

Duluth Coffee Company

Dream Cloud Coffee Roasters

Dovetail Cafe & Marketplace


Vibes/Adventures:

Canal Park/Lift Bridge

Enger Park Tower

The Back Alley


After lunch and exploring, you’ll begin your drive up the North Shore. Not long after you get outside of Duluth, there will be a place where you can jump off of Highway 61 and onto Old 61. This is definitely the right move, as you will be driving on a smaller road, with much less traffic, and right next to the Lake. Best case scenario for views and top notch scenery. There are a few scenic stops along the way here where you can just pull over, park and check out the water and search for agates. Every single one of these little stops is just as beautiful as the last! 

You can stay on old 61 all the way to Two Harbors. If you’re ready, this is your next place to stop. For coffee, I would recommend Cedar Coffee Company. If you’re in the mood for an afternoon beer, Castle Danger Brewery is in Two Harbors and they’re amazing! Castle Danger is an incredible brewery that started on the North Shore in 2011 and whose beer is available throughout Minnesota. This is a really vibey spot to grab a brew. Highly recommend it, it’s always nice to support local businesses! 

About 30 minutes up the road from Two Harbors is an awesome little stop called Black Beach. This is a black sand beach (like fine gravel) that you can walk on and enjoy. There is a rock structure out on the end of the beach that you can climb and play around on. As a kid, going up the North Shore with my parents and 5 siblings in our 15 passenger van, rock hopping was my FAVORITE activities and the North Shore is iconic for this! 

By now, it’s probably time for you to settle down and get checked into accommodations or set up camp for the night. Here are a few of my best recommendations in the area:  

Accommodations: There isn’t anything insanely special to note here, no best place they are all very similar bed and breakfast type places. If I'm going up the North Shore, I'm either camping or just checking out what’s available on Airbnb! I would recommend an Airbnb YURT if there’s one available near here. 

If you’re camping, I would recommend Eckbeck Campground. It’s only about 15 minutes from Silver Bay, and conveniently does not require you to book way in advance! You can get same day reservations.  


Day 2:

I know day one was pretty full of insane scenery and killer vibes, but hold on tight, we’re not slowing down anytime soon! Today, we will backtrack just a little bit from yesterday and you’ll find your first stop as Palisade head. This is an iconic North Shore location and a MUST see. If you can, make the sacrifice to get up before the sun rises and get there for the sunrise, the view is spectacular. At this time of year, the sun is usually rising around 7am (give or take, check your Weather App for the exact rise time, then plan on being there about 30 minutes prior to the rise time so you can see the full sun rise). Depending on where you landed for the night (somewhere between Two Harbors, Silver Bay, and Eckbeck Campground) you are looking at a 10 - 30 minute drive to this location.  

Later in the day, there will be a bunch of rock climbers here. This location is the most serious and richest crag in Minnesota so it’s a hot spot for climbers. They are super fun to watch! From the vantage point of Palisade Head, you will be able to see colorful trees that stretch “as far as the eye can see”! This is a really beautiful spot, and one I know you will enjoy! I would plan to spend some time here soaking it all in. 

When you are ready for your second stop of the day, it’s only another 5 minutes down the road. Tettegouche State Park! This park is wonderful, it has a lot of great hiking trails, as well as: waterfalls, rock skipping beaches and great spaces for picnics. I would plan to spend the entire morning here, there is so much to see and do! 

Once you’re done at Tettegouche, I would jump in the car and head straight for Grand Marais. 

Spend the afternoon here eating great food, grabbing some coffee or beer and checking out Grand Marais Harbor. This area is rich in history involving the Ojibwe people, French fur traders, and Scandinavian settlers.It is a quaint and beautiful little City and the Northern Minnesota culture here is unbeatable! Here are some of my best recommendations:


Grand Marais A List:

Food:

My Sisters Place

Angry Trout Cafe

Hungry Hippie Tacos


Drinks:

Blue Water Cafe

Voyageur Brewing company


Sweets:

World’s Best Donuts

Superior Creamery


Vibes/Adventures:

Artist Point

Grand Marais Lighthouse

North 61 Shop


I would plan to have dinner in Grand Marais then head back 23 minutes the way you came to stay at Lutsen Resort. They have a resort right on the lake, as well as cabins and villas you can rent for the night. I would book ahead of time here as spots fill up quickly! If you still have some energy left in you for adventure and exploring, you can stop at Fall River Waterfall or Cascade River State Park along your way back. You can always catch them in the morning too as they aren’t far from Lutsen (another Sunrise location option)! Spend the night in Lutsen and get some rest. Enjoy the resort, they often have a fire pit down by the Lake that is going in the evening.


Day 3:

This morning, wake up and take the morning slowly. Sit in the lodge, sip coffee or tea, and walk along the Lake’s shore. Take some time for stillness and reflection. The crisp morning air of the North Shore is truly life giving and invigorating, it’s sure to wake you right up! Lutsen Resort has a large amount of great activity options available to do in the Fall. If you don’t want to, you don’t even need to leave the lodge all morning. It’s such a great spot, I would stay as long as possible. The activities range from bike rentals, guided hikes, guided waterfall tours, fly fishing, tandem sea kayaking, golfing, spa experiences and more! I recommend saving some time in the afternoon for one more amazing activity before heading home! 

Of course, I saved the best for last! Our good friends own an electric bike tour company called Electric Trails that is right out of Schroeder, MN. That is just a short 15 minute drive from Lutsen! They have a number of adventure tours for a range of ages and skill levels. These electric bikes can take you places that cars can’t go, and that are just too far to walk. This gives you an amazing opportunity to take in more scenery than you would be able to otherwise and to see more views of the autumn leaves changing! In my mind, this is the perfect activity to wrap up your Fall tour up the North Shore!  

You can check them out and book a tour athttps://electric-trails.com

 

For those of you who are not in Minnesota, and are not planning on traveling here to take in our amazing Fall colors, I didn’t forget about you and I don’t want to leave you hanging!I went to Instagram and asked for a few of the most amazing places Nationally to see Fall colors. Here is the list I got: 


Letchwork State Park - Upstate New York

North Fork Mountain Trail - West Virginia

Traverse City/Tunnel of Trees - Michigan

Acadia National Park - Maine

Ozark National Forest - Arkansas

Stowe, Vermont

Columbia River Gorge - Oregon

Elk Neck State Park - Maryland

Amicalola Falls State Park, Georgia

Aspen, Colorado 

 

 

I hope you enjoy your fall leaves hunt. Enjoy the itinerary!

-Steve

Steve Weigel
Steve Weigel


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