Sure, maybe you don’t think of waterfalls when you think of Minnesota, but, did you know there are over ten waterfalls on the north shore of Lake Superior alone? They are the result of lava flow from a billion years ago followed by glacial advances that changed the landscape dramatically. About 10,000 years ago the last glacier melted and carved through the molten bedrock to fill Lake Superior.

And for my fiancé’s 30th birthday, we went on a three-day car-backpacking trip to see all the waterfalls.

Now this trip is an incredible three-days of hiking within the comforts of camping from your car. Novice activity we’re talking here. We charted our course and pre-booked campsites over two days at the state parks. We also packed a cooler of pre-made sandwiches and snacks so we could refuel during the drives between the parks.

On us, we carried a day pack with rain gear, bug spray, sunscreen, and plenty of drinking water. You can hike as little or as much as you’d like, most hikes to see the waterfalls fall between 1-3 miles, but there are plenty of trails if you want to go farther!

The Plan

Day 1:

  • Gooseberry Falls
  • Drive an hour north
  • Temperance River State Park
  • Drive to Grand Marais – Eat dinner at one of the great restaurants or breweries.
  • Drive to Judge CR Magney State Park- set up camp and camp overnight.

Day 2:

  • Hike the Devil’s Kettle at Judge CR Magney State Park
  • Drive 40 minutes north
  • Hike Grand Portage State Park
  • Drive an hour to Grand Marais and eat dinner/celebrate hiking with a beer.
  • Head 20 min to Cascade River State Park- set up camp and camp overnight.

Day 3:

  • Hike Cascade River State Park
  • Drive an hour south
  • Hike Tettegouche State Park
  • Head home!

We chose to skip George Crosby Manitou State Park because it is a hike-in only state park. The best part about this beginner level trip is that you don’t need a lot of camping gear, especially if you choose to eat in Grand Marais. And you have the comfort of your car to dry your gear if you get caught in the rain like we did.

I would recommend this tour to anyone interested in breaking into the backpacking world of northern Minnesota but isn’t ready to cut the umbilical cord of having their car nearby. It’s also a great pre-trip to scout a longer backpacking trip up the Superior Hiking Trail, which cuts through all of the state parks.