Mina Lake State Recreation Area ~ Mina, South Dakota

It feels very odd to be writing this as over a foot of snow gets pushed down the road from our latest blizzard, but today I’m writing about some time we spent on Mina Lake back in August when my parents visited us!

Mina Lake State Recreation Area is located just west of Aberdeen, so about 45 minutes from where we live. My parents love to kayak and paddleboard, so they brought their two kayaks and two paddleboards with them when they visited. This recreation area was not manned by a ranger when we visited, so you just had to stop and self-pay the fee and take the appropriate sticker to place in your vehicle.

The Mina Lake Recreation Area is split into two sections, one fork in the road will lead to the campground area, which also has a playground and designated swim area.

The second fork leads to the boat ramp which has it’s own parking lot. About halfway down the road there also is a very small parking area with a nature trail alongside it.

Our first stop was the boat ramp so that we could get our equipment out of the trailer and into the water. I’m a kayak person myself, while rev sitesandbites is more of a stand up paddleboard kind of guy.

We first went south of the boat ramp to see what the swim area looked like from out on the water. The swimming beach had a few families there as we paddled around the outside of the swim area. We also saw TONS of pretty blue dragonflies around that bend!

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After that we turned back north and paddled around the shoreline to see some of the mini mansions that have replaced small lake cottages around the lake. We made it a little ways towards the bridge we came over the lake on and then turned back to the boat ramp to load things back up.

Before leaving, we also decided to hike along the nature trail. The trail has numbers along it to point out different plants, but there was no paper guide at the front to tell us what we were actually looking at. It’s a nice little hike, but nothing to get too excited about.

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Copper Falls State Park ~ Mellen, Wisconsin

Following a night in Ashland, we began to make our way down to Wisconsin Rapids to be reunited with our pups who had been enjoying a stay at the kennel near my parents house. However, we had a few pit stops we wanted to make along the way. The first was to Copper Falls State Park. Our phone GPS was a bit spotty on the way there, but as we got closer there were plenty of signs pointing us in the right direction. You do need to pay the state park fee to enter the area.

There is a large parking lot near the waterfall trail (Doughboys Trail). There also is a shelter that contains rest rooms as well as an area that sells concessions and small gifts, at least in the summer! We made our way across a small bridge to begin our time on the Doughboys Trail which is 1.7 miles in length and gives overlooks to 3 waterfalls located within the park. The trail is a loop, but if you take the trail to the right first, instead of left like we did, parts of it are handicap accessible.

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Very early on in the trail, we had the option to take a side hike to the Observation Tower. We opted to not as our legs were sore from hiking the day before and felt like it would be a lot of extra steps climbing to the top and back. It also seemed like we would just see a lot of trees rather than a nice overview of the area.

It wasn’t long before we reached the overlook to Copper Falls.

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We continued on our journey along the trail and next reached the overlook for Brownstone Falls.

Next you reach another bridge that takes you over the area fondly known as Devils Gate.

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On the other side of the Devils Gate bridge, the trail has a lot of built in rock steps as well as some boardwalk area that gives you another overlook to Brownstone Falls. From there the trail gets less strenuous as you approach The Cascades.

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There is another small bridge to cross at the edge of the Cascades. Then you stroll through a bit of wooded area before reaching the parking lot again. Along this portion of trail, there is yet another overlook towards Brownstone Falls from a different angle. We also met some friendly wildlife on the way back to the lot!

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The Doughboys Trail was a nice rewarding hike that gave plenty of opportunities to view the various waterfalls located along the trail. It wasn’t quite as impressive of falls as those we witnessed in Amnicon Falls State Park, but this could be due to all the rain Amnicon had experienced prior to our visit.

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Amnicon Falls State Park ~South Range, Wisconsin

After spending a few nights on the North Shore in Minnesota, we spent one more day in Northern Wisconsin. As we made our way to our hotel in Ashland, we made a stop to Amnicon Falls State Park.

The area had recently undergone a lot of flooding, so only the main road into the park was open. We had to drive all the way to the campground area to buy our park permit. Wisconsin State Parks cost more per day if you have out of state plates, which we did. However, a small sign on their desk mentioned an hour long pass you can purchase for half the cost. I inquired about that and found it to be the best option for us.

Due to all the flooding the main road to the falls was closed, so we had to park at the end of the road and walk along it to the bridge to the falls. As we reached the end of the road, we got our first glimpse at High Falls. The covered bridge crosses over High Falls and takes you to the trail to get to Snake Pit Falls.

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Before we crossed the bridge, we walked a little past the bridge to get a picture of Lower Falls.

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Crossing onto the bridge, we got a nice view of Upper Falls.

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A little ways around the trail on the island, you come to Snake Pit Falls.

Due to the flooding the area had recently experienced, several other areas along the island also seemed to have falls, but didn’t have any names. It made for some really neat photos though.

After crossing back over the covered bridge, we made our way across the road to view Now and Then Falls.

We loved how beautiful Amnicon Falls State Park was during our visit. I wonder how it looks when they haven’t had as much rainfall. The recent rainfall made our visit much more impressive.

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Temperance River State Park ~ Schroeder, Minnesota

During our many times back and forth to our lodge, we passed a pull off for Temperance River State Park. After checking out of the lodge, on our way back to Tettegouche State Park to hike to High Falls, we decided to stop at the highway pull off for Temperance River State Park.

You can access a small trail to view some falls along the the river from the highway parking area. If you want to explore more of the park, you will need to get a state park permit.

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For us this trail alone was beautiful to hike, even if it was short. The canyon like area that the river runs through made for some beautiful pictures.

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I highly recommend stopping off at the overlook for Temperance River along Hwy 61. It was incredibly beautiful and a short walk to view the falls.

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Tettegouche State Park ~ Silver Bay, Minnesota

After visiting Split Rock State Park, we decided to stop into Tettegouche State Park on our way back to our lodge. We knew there were several waterfalls in the park and were hoping to see a view that day.

Tettegouche State Park has one main visitor center that has a gift shop, rest rooms, and even a small cafe. To just hike a small loop around the visitor center, you can park for free in the lot, but if you want to go further into the park via the road, you will need to pay for a park permit.

We spoke to one of the rangers on duty in the visitor center who laid out the main trails to Cascade Falls, Two Step Falls, and High Falls. As it was nearing dinner time, we opted to hike out to Cascade Falls that day, and return to hike to High Falls the next day. To access the trail to Cascade Falls, we decided to hike down to the bridge and take the trail underneath.

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From the top of the bridge you have a nice view from the lake, you can take another trail down to the lake, but we saved that for the next day.

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The trail to Cascade Falls is not well traveled and quite narrow, making it a more strenuous hike than one would think. Eventually we reached a point where the trail seemed to end, and while beautiful, I have to admit I was a bit depressed that this was all we would be met with at the end of the hike.

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Andrew was feeling adventurous and scrambled over some rocks to discover that the trail actually continued on, and in just a few more minutes we reached some more spectacular falls.

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This was much more like what we were expecting at the end of the hike!

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As I mentioned, we returned to Tettegouche the next morning and drove further in to park near the trail head for High Falls. High Falls can also be accessed via the first parking lot in by the bridge, but the hike is much longer. It was a much warmer day than we had had the rest of the week, so I’m gad we opted for the shorter hike.

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The trail to High Falls was initially very wide and lined with gravel, but then turns off to a more dirt path, followed by some steps as you get closer to High Falls. I had been excited to see High Falls since it’s the highest waterfall entirely inside Minnesota. (High Falls at Grand Portage State Park is taller but shares a border with Canada.) However, despite the cool swinging bridge that goes over the river just upstream from the falls, you can’t really get a good view of High Falls itself.

Following our hike to High Falls, we drove back to the parking lot located by the bridge to hike down on the lake trail.

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This area was actually our favorite from the park. This is where the Baptism River meets Lake Superior.

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We greatly enjoyed testing our bodies against the current of the river as it meets the lake.

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While the waterfalls within Tettegouche were not nearly as impressive as some others along the North Shore, we still had some great hikes. We also really enjoyed our time down by the lake.

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Split Rock Lighthouse State Park ~ Two Harbors, Minnesota

As stated in a post a few days ago, Split Rock Lighthouse is located within a state park that shares it’s name. While we spent our morning touring the lighthouse and grounds, we spent a good portion of our afternoon exploring the rocky beaches along the rest of the park.

We parked in the Pebble Beach parking and picnic area. There were some picnic shelter areas right by the parking lot, but you can take a path further in and reach the beach.

From the beach you can get some beautiful views of the lighthouse up on the cliff.

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There also is a little island just off of the beach. If the water were a little lower, you would be able to cross over to it pretty easily.

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The beach itself is filled with rocks and you can find quite a few beauties.

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I highly recommend taking some time down by the beach after visiting the lighthouse. You really can get some great photos of the lighthouse without having as many people around.

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Hiking at Cascade Lodge ~ Lutsen, Minnesota

As I mentioned in the post about Cascade Lodge, they offer a few hiking options just off of lodge property. Part of this is due to it’s proximity to Cascade State Park.

Our first evening there, we had just limited daylight left after a late dinner, so we decided to try out the shortest hike nearby, the Cascade Creek Trail. This trail was accessed nearby one of the cabins.

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A quick trip over the wooden bridge got you to the other side of the fairly dry creek bed. Just on the other side they had a small devotional area set up, which upon further research has been used for on-site weddings they’ve held at the lodge. It looked like it had been a while since that had happened since there was quite a bit of growth built up around the benches.

This trail just takes you along the small creek that runs through the property. We turned back after a bit, but you have the option to continue on and it will make a loop back to lodge property up near the larger cabins.

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The next afternoon we opted to try out the Cascade River Hiking Trail. This trail can be acessed just behind the Cascade Restaurant and leads you into Cascade State Park. The trail itself is a small dirt path and we did have to climb under one tree that had fallen across the path while we ventured down this path.

Along the way, you can get some nice views of Lake Superior.

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You will know when you are close to the park and Cascade River because you can hear the falls before you see them. You also will meet up with another path. You will want to take that path to the left to ensure you see many of the Cascades along the river.

Most of the main trail once you’ve made it into Cascade State Park is boardwalk. We kept walking along to view even more falls along the river.

Eventually you reach a bridge. We opted to walk over that and turn to the left to take in a few more cascades before heading back for dinner.

It’s amazing how many beautiful waterfalls were just a short hike from our lodge!

Cascade Lodge also offers a hiking option to Lookout Point. Be warned this trail is not well traveled and would be easy to get lost on if you don’t bring the provided map along. We didn’t make it all the way to Lookout Point seeing as how the thunder started to rumble after we’d gone nearly a mile uphill. We made a very quick turn around back to the lodge, but then didn’t even see any rain for the rest of that night! I joke that it was God’s way of telling us we weren’t supposed to go to Lookout Point!

As you can see, you would never even have to leave the lodge area to see some beautiful waterfalls and do some nice hiking, but there area also so many state parks further north and south to explore that this makes for a nice central location while staying on the North Shore.

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Judge C.R. Magney State Park ~ Grand Marais, Minnesota

Our final stop of the morning before a late lunch in Grand Marais, we a state park to the north of Grand Marais called Judge C.R. Magney State Park. They have a unique waterfall there called Devil’s Kettle, where the water splits into two parts: one goes further downstream and the other disappears into a pothole that no one knows where they end flows into.

This park is a bit more primitive than some of the others in the area. There is a small ranger station when you pull in, but it was unmanned. We simply had to fill out envelope and enclose the proper cash (or you can fill in your card info) and rip off part to place on your windshield to prove you paid the entrance fee. There are rangers who patrol the parking lots now and then so don’t neglect this stop!

We drove a bit further in before reaching a loop parking lot that held several spaces to park near a few trail heads. There was a map located in the middle of the lot and signs indicating which way to go to see the famous falls.

To begin on the Devil’s Kettle Trail, you must cross over the Brule River via a small bridge that runs over what I assume are the Lower Falls, the map didn’t give a name.

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On the other side of the bridge there are a few picnic tables where you could enjoy a nice meal either before or after your hike.

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The first portion of this trail is mainly all a dirt path. It was certainly the most primitive path we had walked on so far at any state park, clearly showing this park doesn’t get quite the same amount of visitors as some of the others where the falls would be much more accessible. Along the way we also met up with a tiny bit of wildlife: this friendly bunny.

Once you get closer to the falls, there are a series of steps built in that you will have to walk down to reach Upper Falls. It’s not so bad walking out to it when you are going down, but the looming thought of going back up them on the way back is quite daunting.

The first falls you come upon are the Upper Falls. After all the hiking it was nice to walk down closer to the falls and feel the misty spray hit your face.

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A little further up the trail is the Devil’s Kettle. This can only be viewed from an observation point at a distance.

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As you can see the upper portion of Devil’s Kettle is the part that drops into the “kettle” that no one knows the end to. Here’s a close up shot of that section.

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We enjoyed hiking to both of these waterfalls, but wish we had brought some food to eat beforehand. The hike took a lot longer than we thought since the trail was less traveled and contained a lot of stairs.

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Grand Portage State Park ~ Grand Portage, Minnesota

Our first full day on the North Shore we decided to head the hour north to Grand Portage State Park. This park is located right on the American/Canadian border. Parking is found at the last (or first if coming from Canada), rest area found in Minnesota. There is no fee to get into the park since you access it from the rest area. They do have a visitor center and small gift shop located inside the building.

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Our main goal when visiting was to check out High Falls. The path is a little bit of boardwalk and a little bit asphalt all the way to High Falls.

About partway to High Falls, the path breaks off to keep going to High Falls or takes you further into the woods to head to Middle Falls, we had a lot we wanted to see that day so we only went to High Falls.

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Towards the end of the High Falls path, there are several stairs to climb to reach the overlook.

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At the top you reach your first overlook and first nice few of High Falls.

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If you look close you can see the fence and viewing area on the other side of the river.

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We took some nice photos in front of the falls and also enjoyed reading a little bit about them on the sign.

There’s another overlook a little further back but higher up that gives you an even better view.

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As we walked back to the parking lot, we went down a small offshoot down towards the river so we could say we stuck our feet in international waters.

From there we also saw the road into Canada.

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Grand Falls State Park was absolutely beautiful and a great way to start our morning. I highly recommend making the trek all the way up to it if you find yourself on Minnesota’s North Shore.

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Gooseberry Falls State Park ~ Two Harbors, Minnesota

About 13 miles north of Two Harbors, we reached our final pit stop of the day before making the final trek to our lodge where we would spend the next three nights. Gooseberry Falls State Park is the second most visited state park in the state of Minnesota, and rightfully so. It was absolutely beautiful to visit!

We found it odd that we could drive right in and park without being stopped to pay a fee at the rangers station. Maybe you were supposed to pay a fee at the visitor center, but they had no signs pointing you in that direction or anything stopping you from venturing further down the path to the falls without paying a fee. Either way, we more than made up for our state park fee later in the week with the many others we visited!

The main trail from the parking lot takes you past the visitor center/bathrooms/gift shop to the main falls area. There are many signs pointing you in the direction of the falls. The falls are made up of three parts: Upper, Middle, and Lower. We actually started at the Middle Falls.

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The great thing about Gooseberry Falls is that the rocks make it very easy to climb all over the falls area. We spent a good chunk of time just exploring the area by the Middle Falls before heading further down the path.

I could have spent hours just exploring that one section, but we went further downstream to check out the Lower Falls next.

Again, we could have spent hours clambering over the rocks, but it was nearly 5 and we still had an hour to go before reaching our lodge for the night. So before we left the park we went back upstream to check out Upper Falls. We simply viewed these from the overlook along the trail.

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The cool thing about Gooseberry Falls is Highway 61 runs right through the park. You actually drive over the falls as you go! Here’s the bridge that carries you over the falls.

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Gooseberry Falls was just the first of many state parks we visited on this trip, but was by far my personal favorite. They also had the best gift shop of any of the parks we visited. If you are ever in the area, do not skip out on visiting this park! We enjoyed the hour we spent there, but easily could have spent far more time as well. You really could make a whole day of it.

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