Minnesota’s North Shore stretches 145 miles along Lake Superior from Duluth to Grand Portage, and offers truly memorable experiences for you and your pets!
Minnesota, “Land of 10,000 Lakes”, is a paradise of outdoor adventures for dogs and their humans. But, if you like waterfalls, rocks from ancient lava flows, glacier-carved lakes, epic cliff shorelines, meandering streams, and rushing rivers—make sure your visit includes Minnesota’s North Shore.
While the entirety of the North Shore is worth exploring, 145 miles of shoreline is a lot to cover! We spent five days camping and hiking with Cool Whip and Hercules and only had time to scratch the surface. Choosing a focus helps, so we’re sharing the top pet friendly spots for a weekend of waterfall hunting along the North Shore with your furry travel buddy!
Not sure what to pack for your pet? Check out this beginner’s guide to camping with your dog!
Pet Rules and Cautions At The North Shore
Pets are welcome at all Minnesota state parks. However, some areas have restrictions. Be sure to check for specific rules at each park you visit.
At all Minnesota state parks, pets must always be on leash. Pets are not allowed inside state park buildings, nor can they be left unattended outside.
Use caution around the waterways of the North Shore. The rivers can change quickly and currents can be much faster and more turbulent than they appear on the surface.
Due to some steep terrain, many trails along the North Shore have stairs/steps. They are constructed of wood, rock, and metal grates, all of which can be slippery when wet. Sturdy footwear is recommended.
READ MORE ⇒ Which Boots Are Best For Your Dog?
Lava and Glaciers: How the North Shore Was Formed
More than one billion years ago, a rupture in the earth’s crust began in the Lake Superior region and continued down toward Kansas. Magma seeped to the surface through the crack. As the many layers of lava cooled, it created a basin that eventually became Lake Superior and the North Shore.
Fast forward to about two million years ago when glaciers covered much of that same region. As these glaciers moved over the land, they carved out the sand and other materials that had settle in the basin. When the glaciers melted, the runoff filled the basin.
The series of lakes that formed are what we now call the Great Lakes (Lake Superior, Lake Michigan, Lake Huron, Lake Erie, and Lake Ontario). Lake Superior is not only the largest of the Great Lakes, but also the largest freshwater lake in the world.
The Ojibwe were the first people to settle along the North Shore. The French had also established settlements by the time American fur traders began arriving in the 1830s. In 1854, the U.S. government set up a treaty with the Ojibwe to create the Grand Portage and Fond du Lac reservations. Soon more American settlers and businesses began moving in along the North Shore.
State Parks And Waysides Along The North Shore
We did most of our exploring in the Tettegouche (tet-a-gooch) and Temperance River State Parks, but the North Shore is actually home to the eight Minnesota state parks and four state waysides listed below. (A state wayside is an area too small to be classified as a state park, but still offers some natural or cultural resources.)
- Flood Bay State Wayside
- Gooseberry Falls State Park
- Split Rock Lighthouse State Park
- Tettegouche State Park
- George Crosby Manitou State Park
- Caribou Falls State Wayside
- Temperance River State Park
- Ray Berglund State Wayside
- Cascade River State Park
- Kodonce River State Wayside
- Judge C.R. Magney State Park
- Grand Portage State Park
Exploring Tettegouche State Park
To kick off your North Shore adventure, begin at Tettegouche State Park. In 1910, a group of Duluth businessmen purchased this land from the Alger-Smith Lumber Company. They named their new hunting and fishing camp the Tettegouche Club.
Over the years, the land passed through a few more hands. But everyone knew it was a special place and they worked hard to preserve it. In 1979, it was finally transferred from the Nature Conservatory to the state of Minnesota and Tettegouche became an official state park.
Camping With Dogs At Tettegouch State Park
At the Tettegouche State Park visitor center, you can purchase your vehicle permit and firewood if you’re staying at any of the campgrounds. Additionally, the visitor center houses a gift shop, a display of the local history and natural resources, bathrooms, and indoor seating. While pets cannot go inside, there is a large pet friendly outdoor patio with plenty of seating and a large fireplace.
Tettegouche hosts a variety of pet friendly camping options. We stayed at the Baptism River Campground, which has 34 campsites (non-electric, electric, and walk-in). There are pit toilets throughout the campground in addition to the main restroom with hot water and showers.
The Lake Superior Cart-In Campground has 14 sites. Here you park at the trailhead, load your gear into the cart, and walk it to your campsite.
Another option is to hike 1.5 miles to Tettegouche Camp where you can reserve one of the four original rustic cabins of Tettegouche Camp. Unfortunately, pets are not allowed inside the cabins.
Check-in and check-out times for Minnesota state park campsites are both at 4:00 p.m. But do not fret if you arrive early! Multiple trails begin at or near the Tettegouche visitor center. Or you can take your pup to check out the dog friendly beach along Lake Superior.
There is a huge parking lot for RVs and trailers as well as one for cars. So, park your rig and lace up your hiking boots, or grab some doggie snacks and hit the beach!
Hiking With Dogs At Tettegouch State Park
Hike to Shovel Point – 1.5 miles, round trip
When you’re ready to hit the trails, Shovel Point is a good place to start. This dog friendly trail is great for its Lake Superior views.
From the back of the visitor center, head left to the trailhead. The trail takes you through tall pines and along the jagged cliffs of Lake Superior’s rugged shoreline. There are many wooden stairs, but also many places for you to pause and take in the view. At the far end of the trail, you can walk out onto a wooden balcony overlooking the lake.
Hike to Two Step Falls and High Falls – 1.5 miles, round trip
If you camped with your dog at the Baptism River Campground in Tettegouche State Park, hiking to Two Step Falls and High Falls is the perfect way to start your morning. The trail starts from the back of the campground between sites 17 and 20e.
The spur trail to Two Falls is short but mighty. There are two hundred stairs to descend to reach the falls. And there is no bridge at the bottom, so you climb back up the steps on your return. Two Step Falls makes up for it though—it’s a lovely set of waterfalls! Plus, if you arrive early enough, you can watch the sunrise light up the falls.
READ MORE ⇒ Tips for Hiking With Dogs
Once you’re back on the main trail, it is just a short hike to reach the top of High Falls, a mighty 60-foot waterfall. You’ll have to cross the river via Swinging Bridge to reach the bottom of the falls.
Neither Cool Whip nor Herc was okay with walking across the bridge. I wasn’t able to carry both of them, so we didn’t make it down to the bottom. However, the top of the falls still affords an impressive view and the pines along the river are gorgeous!
An alternate way to visit High Falls is to start from the visitor center. The out-and-back trail is 1.5 miles total and travels up the east side of the river. From this trail, you’ll be able to access the bottom of High Falls without having to cross Swinging Bridge.
READ MORE ⇒ Tips for Traveling with Pit Bulls
Hike to Cascades Waterfall – 1.5 miles, round trip
For your afternoon hike, you’ll head back toward the visitor center. The Cascades Waterfall Trail begins by crossing the bridge just down the road from the visitor center. And you’ll want to take your time on this bridge—there is a magnificent view to enjoy!
This is where the Baptism River empties into Lake Superior. If you hiked down to the beach earlier, you may have also found your way onto this sand bar at the mouth of the river.
At the end of the bridge, head to your left to go down the stairs and then underneath the bridge. After that, you’ll be hiking through the forest along the west side of the Baptism River.
There are several side trails you can take to reach the river and make a perfect pit stop for your dog to dip their paws in the water. Or, if your dog is like Cool Whip, they’ll avoid the water and opt for a snack/lunch break among the pines instead.
Continuing on, you’ll cross wooden boardwalks and several sets of stairs. Then the trees open up just in time for a beautiful view of Cascades Waterfall.
Hike to Tettegouche Camp and Mount Baldy – 3.5 miles, round trip
If you have more time to explore Tettegouche State Park, check out Tettegouche Camp and Mount Baldy Trail. It wouldn’t be a hike at Tettegouche without some uphill trekking, and though this trail starts out steep, you’re well rewarded with big views from Mount Baldy. You’ll also get to see the original site of Tettegouche Camp!
Exploring Temperance River State Park
For your next stop on the North Shore, head to Temperance River State Park! Temperance River became a state park in 1957. However, its name harkens back to some of those early European visitors. Land surveyors noticed that this was the only North Shore river without a sand bar. Because it had no “bar” the river was named “Temperance.”
Camping With Dogs At Temperance River State Park
One of the most appealing aspects of Temperance River State Park is that it’s situated right on the shoreline of Lake Superior. I could see the lake from our campsite (site 13, if you’re looking for a good one)!
Temperance River State Park has two campgrounds with a total of 60 campsites. All campsites come equipped with a picnic table and fire pit. Upper Campground has non-electric, electric, and cart-in campsites. There are pit toilets as well as the main restroom with showers. Lower Campground has non-electric and cart-in sites and pit toilets.
Once you’re settled at camp, it’s time to start exploring. This park has many trails your pet will love!
Hiking With Dogs At Temperance River State Park
Follow the trails between Upper and Lower campgrounds to access the footbridge over Temperance River. You’ll get a stunning view of the river flowing through the ancient lava rock—even the road bridge looks magical in the sparkling sun!
And behind you is Temperance River Lagoon where the river empties into Lake Superior.
On the Lower Campground side, you can access Temperance River Beach and the picnic grounds. On the Upper Campground side, you can skirt along the edge of the lake to enjoy the rugged shoreline. This shoreline is also accessible via a trail between campsites 14 and 22e, and was my dogs’ favorite place to explore!
Hike to Temperance River Gorge (Hidden Falls) – 0.5 miles round trip
This next waterfall might be a little tricky to spot!
Similar to getting up early for Two Step and High Falls at Tettegouche, you’ll have Hidden Falls all to yourself if you head out in the morning. The roadside parking gets full and the trails get busier as the day goes on.
From the campgrounds, follow the trails to the highway—cross carefully! On the opposite side of Highway 61, you’ll find the trailhead for Temperance River Gorge (Hidden Falls).
Follow the Temperance River Gorge Trail for a front view of the aptly named Hidden Falls tucked inside the gorge. Take the dirt trail up the rock stairs for a view from the top. You can see down into the gorge where the river cuts right through this crack in the earth!
This trailhead is also the start for Upper Falls (2 miles, round trip), and Carlton Peak (6 miles, round trip) trails. Additionally, you’ll have access to a section of the paved Gitchi-Gami State Trail and the Superior Hiking Trail.
The trail for Upper Falls heads up the west side of the river. Carlton Peak starts on the northeast side and crosses through the forest until you reach the rock dome peak. Alternatively, you can drive to parking locations closer to Upper Falls and Carlton Peak, respectively.
Pet Friendly Hiking at Caribou Falls State Wayside
We saved the best for last—this was my favorite hike!
Once you and your dog have seen all you can at Temperance River, head for Caribou Falls State Wayside. Established in 1947, this is a great stop on your way back home. The trailhead is simple with just a pit toilet and a sign noting the distance to the falls and other connecting trails. However, the paved parking lot is large enough to accommodate multiple large RVs and trailers.
Caribou Falls Trail is almost 1.5 miles round trip, and the trail loosely hugs the Caribou River while you wind your way up to the waterfall. Along the way, there are several access points to the river. In the right spots, the river is wide, shallow, and meandering–great for dogs that enjoy the water!
Continuing on, you’ll cross boardwalks and stairs. Then the final staircase heads down to the base of the falls and ends directly on the rocks. Be careful as the footing can be tricky! My mom and Cool Whip stayed on the upper landing while Hercules and I hopped across a few rocks at the foot of the falls. Either way, you get a great view of this 35-foot waterfall!
Don’t forget there’s more to the North Shore than just camping. There’s also a winery, a ski hill, shopping, great food—the list goes on! And at the top of that list is the city of Duluth.
READ MORE ⇒ Best Cities For Urban Hiking
Duluth is essentially the entry/exit point for the North Shore, a great place to start or end your visit. It sits on the western tip of Lake Superior and is nicknamed “The Air-Conditioned City” for the cooling effect that the lake has on it during the summer months. (Daytime temps average in the 70s.)
Duluth and next-door neighbor Superior, Wisconsin (the Twin Ports) are the world’s largest inland port and one of the most important ports on the Great Lakes.
Duluth’s Lakewalk trail is pet friendly and a wonderful place to enjoy that lake breeze. The Lake Superior shore is 50 yards from the Lakewalk, and there are several pet friendly restaurants in Canal Park if you want to catch a bite before or after your walk.
Planning A Longer Visit To The North Shore
Minnesota’s North Shore offers a lot to explore, and if you’re willing to make a few extra stops, you can see even more without driving too far out of your way. Here are some other notable campgrounds, waterfalls, and hikes to consider adding to your itinerary:
Split Rock Lighthouse State Park
Pets are not allowed at the lighthouse, but all the trails are pet friendly! Check out the full blog to learn more about hiking and camping with your dog at pet friendly Split Rock Lighthouse State Park!
Grand Portage State Park
While there is no camping at this park, it does share a border with Canada and has Minnesota’s tallest waterfall! High Falls (not to be confused with High Falls at Tettegouche) cascades 120 feet down to the Pigeon River. There are three viewing decks for the falls and the half-mile boardwalk trail to the falls scenic overlook is accessible to pets and people of all abilities.
Judge C.R. Magney State Park
This state park is home to perhaps the most mysterious waterfall system in Minnesota! The hike to Devil’s Kettle is 2 miles round trip.
Devil’s Kettle is the point where the Brule River splits into two waterfalls. One of the waterfall segments continues on as the river. The other waterfall disappears into a giant pothole and you can’t see where (or if) it rejoins the river. So where does the water go? No one truly knows!
Cascade River State Park
Looking for a quiet escape? This peaceful campground is tucked among large pines trees and the hike to the falls is short and sweet (0.5 miles round trip).
There is also a picnic area along the Lake Superior shoreline. Longer trails include the Lookout Mountain Loop (3.5 miles round trip) and the Cascade River Superior Hiking Trail Loop (7.8 miles round trip).
We hope our trip to Minnesota’s pet friendly North Shore inspires you to head out on your own adventure! If you have a favorite spot to explore with your pet, be sure to share it in the comments.
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