Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Traveling the North Shore: Tips & Tricks

Spring is in the air and it is almost that time of year where people start to venture north to visit the many attractions throughout the north shore of Lake Superior. This has been a favorite spot for my family to spend summer days together so I decided I'd write a blog to inform readers of a few tips and tricks I have found out throughout our journeys up the north shore.

1. Waterfalls... if you love them, drive passed Gooseberry Falls! 

For the longest time, the only waterfall I knew of along the North Shore was Gooseberry Falls. Thankfully I discovered several years ago that Gooseberry Falls is only 1 out of about 130 waterfalls that reside among the 31 plus rivers that pour into Lake Superior. If you want something more quiet and not completely overrun by tourists, with more parking, and better photo opportunities you should continue to head north, right passed Gooseberry Falls, to discover other waterfalls that are just as beautiful and less overpopulated with people photo-bombing your shots. Here is a great book we have used as a guide to discover the many waterfalls along the North Shore! Enjoy!

2.  Understand & Utilize STATE PARKS! 

There are 8 State Parks along the North Shore, UTILIZE THEM! When we initially made our trips along the shore... which mainly consisted of taking a drive to Gooseberry Falls.... we didn't realize the value in the MN State Parks System. The parks provide you with maps to hike a number of interconnecting trails, campsites (back-pack, cart-in, drive-in, camper, RV, cabins), bathrooms, showers, beaches, and other geographical markers/attractions that enable you to discover so much more than 1 waterfall. Each park has a park office that provides souvenirs, maps, check-in/out for campsites, and staff that can help point you in the right direction or answer any of your questions. Campsites can be reserved online by clicking here.


The parks are free to use, but they do require you to purchase a "parking permit" which can range in price from $5 a day to $25 a year, per vehicle. My husband is a disabled Veteran and qualifies to receive a free daily parking permit. There is a simple form he has to fill out along with showing proof of his disability status, each day to receive the new permit. Your parking pass is good for the time period you purchase it as well as for ALL state parks! When you are on the North Shore there is a pretty good chance you will visit more than one State Park in the same day. One last note about parking... if you are also paying for camping I believe that includes parking so you may want to coordinate your check-in/outs with your needs for parking. 

Overall the fee for the amount of entertainment you get is minimal! Where else in the state can you spend $5 for endless amounts of entertainment for your entire family? Pay the fee! Don't pull in and be naive about using the park! This is a privilege, not a right, be respectful! The State Park system in MN is amazing and relies heavily on government funding to pay for the maintenance and further development of the operations. In order to receive any type of funding the state parks need to track attendance of users and the easiest way to do that is by tracking the number of people who pay for parking! Consider it a donation to show your support for MN State Parks! 

4. Weather! 

If you're not from MN let me give you a quick low-down on how the weather works up here.... it can snow, slush, rain, and be warm and sunny all in the same day! Basically you need to be prepared for anything! When my husband and I took our first trip up the North Shore in July 2013 we planned on it being hot and humid just like it was on the Iron Range (where we are from). The North Shore was completely different. It was foggy and damp outside, but it wasn't too terribly hot or humid. When traveling up highway 61 the inland side of the highway was much much warmer than the lake side of the highway. My best advice would be to bring multiple layers of clothing with you so that you can be prepared for any type of weather MN has to offer.

On a side note... there have never been any bad cases of mosquitoes when we have been up there! :) :) :)
July 2013, no bugs, but I went from an insulated rain jacket to a tank top all in the same day! 
I'm sure there are plenty more things to add to this list but this is all I have right now. Time to get back to watching the snow melt to bring forth spring and more North Shore Adventures! 

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