Tettegouche State Park, Silver Bay, MN

Three Minnesota State Parks in One Day

I was on my own for the 4th this year so I decided to head up to Tettegouche State Park, where I had never been before, to do some hiking. It’s about an hour and a half drive north from Duluth and both Gooseberry Falls and Split Rock Light House State Parks are on the way. Up until then I had only been as far north as Split Rock Lighthouse so this would be an adventure!

Split Rock Lighthouse State Park
Ellingson Island at Split Rock Lighthouse State Park

[Jump to photos below]

And boy did it sure turn into one big adventure! The plan was to get to Tettegouche by 3:30 and head back before it got too dark to see, around 9:30pm. Six blissful hours of nature and the North Shore. What could be better? I arrived on time and drove my car to the trailhead, parked, and started my hike along the Superior Hiking Trail. I made it to High Falls without incident, taking my sweet time and lots of photos along the way. Then I continued on to Two Step Falls. My camera ran out of batteries so I stopped just short of my destination to change them and to drink some water when all of a sudden a very cold breeze passed by. Now, the whole day had been a bit chilly and had I not been hiking I would have regretted my choice of shorts over pants, but this particular breeze had a nice crisp chill in it—you know, the kind that tells you a front is coming through and you’re not going to like it. I looked up in the sky and what did I see? Gray, ominous storm clouds. A big wall of them!

I instantly became a cross country runner… for about 50 yards when I decided that I’d just rather be wet than run. I really hate running. My initial decision was to continue on the trail to the Park Office where there was shelter, and more importantly, bathrooms. On my way I saw the sign for Two Step Falls. I threw caution to the wind and dashed down the hill to see the falls. I passed a family with several small kids and said, “I hope the rain holds off for a while!” They agreed.

At the bottom of the hill I saw a disappointing little waterfall. I am guessing it’s called “Two Step” because it would take two steps to climb it. By this time it was really dark. Too dark for my camera to take decent photos, and it was only about 4:15pm. I quickly hiked back up the hill and saw another sign: Park Office 1 mile. Ack! 1 mile?! My car was slightly closer, 3/4 of a mile, so I decided to head back the way I came instead.

No sooner had I made my decision than the heavens opened up to a massive downpour. Wet, wet, wet. Thunder, lightning, the whole shebang. I went as quick as I could but I knew it wouldn’t make a difference. I would be drenched no matter what. I didn’t exactly exert myself getting back to the car. It was over. I felt bad for the family I had passed.

I had, as the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy has told me, brought a towel (Ironically I had brought it with my swimsuit because I thought at the end of my long, hot and sweaty hike I would take a dip in the Lake. Hah). I wrapped up, changed my shoes, and drove to the park office. The rain let up a little so I decided to meander over to the scenic overlook to see the panoramic views of Lake Superior. Bad choice. Instant downpour once again. I once again resigned myself to the fact that I was already sopping wet, and running back to my car would make no difference. Walking through the parking lot I spotted the family I had passed at Two Step Falls. They had also resigned themselves to the fact of being wet. They and their 5-year olds walked to their vehicles even slower than I did.

Luckily I had a dry change of clothes in my car so I changed and headed back south to go home and grill some food. Then I saw a sign for a park and marina in Silver Bay. I pulled off to see what  I could see. It was an interesting spot and I was able to get a few photos of the mining operation and of the marina. I continued on my way.

Then I found a little scenic bypass so I pulled over to have a look-see. There was a bike trail nearby that went down toward the shoreline so I followed it and ended up in a campground of sorts. I had no idea what campground it was and it seemed to me that the sites might be free, as there were no posts to display the tickets you get when you purchase a site. But I walked around and finally made it to the shoreline. I saw a sign: Pebble Beach. I saw another sign: Gitchi-Gami State Trail. I followed the hiking trail further down the shoreline, just because I could, and after a short time rounded a bend and BAM! Split Rock Lighthouse lay across a bay to my left, in all it’s glory. The sun had just come out and light it up beautifully. After taking lots of photos and walking around a bit more I headed back and found a sign that told me where I was: Split Rock Lighthouse State Park. Huh, figures.

I got back into my car, headed south again, and spontaneously decided to turn into Gooseberry Falls State Park. I was curious to see if the falls were even more fallier with all the rain we’ve been getting. They weren’t. But they were still beautiful.

Then I finally headed home. I relaxed for an hour, then went to see the fireworks with some friends. On our way back to the car, wouldn’t you know it? Downpour.

6 thoughts on “Three Minnesota State Parks in One Day

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