Most people only know Gooseberry for the spectacular falls in the park. While the falls are incredibly beautiful the park contains many other wonders of the North Shore.
At the mouth of Gooseberry River, Agate Beach meets Lake Superior. As you may have guessed the beach is a great spot for searching for prized Lake Superior Agates.
One of the most interesting things about the mouth of the river is its ever-changing beach and sandbar. Each year it forms differently due to seasonal changes. Melting snow in the spring can result in a heavy flow of forceful water rushing down the river, wiping out the sandbar. Calmer summer weather builds up the sandbar and the fall’s powerful storms and winter’s beautiful ice formations shift the rocks even more. Because the beach is always changing you can visit many times without becoming tired of the same beach every time.
Make sure to also check out the Belle P. Cross anchor nearby and bring some snacks for the Picnic Flow, a bed of ancient rock formed by lava over a billion years ago. Log and stone picnic tables built by the Civilian Conservation Corps are available for visitor use.
Getting there: To get to the beach, drive to Gooseberry Falls State Park (about 13 miles north of Two Harbors on MN-61). Take a right (toward Lake Superior) into the park and follow the signs to the lakeshore parking area. After parking, follow the trails from the parking lot to the mouth of the Gooseberry River.
The peculiar Black Beach is found in a remote area of Silver Bay, MN. The weird black coloration is the result of taconite tailings that were dumped into the lake by miners years ago. Taconite is a low-grade iron-ore that is refined, then baked, creating taconite pellets that are easily transported. Decades ago, it was common practice to get rid of the taconite refining waste by dumping it in the lake.
However, this didn’t last long. Local fisherman quickly realized it was causing poor water quality and thus greatly reduced their fishing hauls. One fisherman even protested that the water visibility had deteriorated so much that it had gone from 55 feet to less than 1. The fight between the plant and the fisherman was a long and grueling one but ultimately to fisherman won out, forcing the plant to stop dumping around 1980. Since they ceased dumping the tailings started washing up on the beach creating strange black sand and the water has cleared up once again. Beautiful rust-colored cliffs line the landscape, and visitors can climb to the top and enjoy a view up and down the shore. Pictures taken here are breathtaking!
The city of Silver Bay, as well as the state of Minnesota, began leasing the land in 2015, opening it up for public use. Until the lease took effect, visitors were not allowed on the beach. So, being able to step foot on the beach is pretty special and a new opportunity to explore.
Getting there: Drive north on Highway 61, take the first right just past the traffic light in Silver Bay. Turn right road marked “Black Beach”. Follow the road until it comes to a “T” and turn right. Continue a quarter mile and park in one of the designated parking areas on the left side of the road. There are technically three beaches along the road. Park in the last parking lot for direct access to the beach.
As the name suggests the crystal creek that flows from the hills onto the beach is filled with incredible multicolored stones creating a uniquely beautiful beach. White Birch surround the area with sea caves hiding the area’s treasure.
The beach has been catching people’s eye for over a century with the founders of 3M even believing that they could mine the area for corundum – a stone they thought could be used to make their own sandpaper. However, this endeavor was short-lived when they shipped a ton of the ore to Duluth only to realize that the ore was actually useless. Therefore, they quickly shut down the mining operation and left but you can still find remnants of the foundation near the beach.
The hike to the beach is steep and narrow but reveals a beautiful, hidden cove. The beach is fairly secluded so you can often have the beach all to yourself. The sea caves that surround the cove hide a mixture of colored stones and offer an opportunity for exploration.
Getting there: From Caribou Highlands Drive South (West) on Highway 61. A quarter-mile before Highway 1 and five miles north of Silver Bay, cross the “overpass” for Crystal Creek (marked by a green sign) and park on the left side (Lake Superior side) of the road just past the bridge. A very steep, narrow and winding trail that begins next to the bridge/overpass leads down to the beach.
Located a few miles outside of Grand Marais in the Good Harbor Bay area, along MN-61, is the Cutface Creek wayside rest stop. However, it is not your usual rest stop! This spot is where the construction of the highway began cutting away into a sandstone bed that was overlaid with lava. You will see the unique rock formations on the southwest side of the highway.
The best place on the North Shore to find Thomsonite rock, Good Harbor Bay is also right next to the rest stop. This six-mile stretch of beach is the only area on the North Shore you will find these gorgeous black pebbles. It is said that Queen Victoria asked Natives of the North Shore to collect it when it became too hard to find in Scotland.
The rest stop itself has all the amenities needed, benches, picnic tables, paved walk-ways, and well-kept bathrooms. Take a break, stretch your legs, and explore all that Cutface Creek has to offer.
Getting There: The Cutface Creek Wayside Rest and Good Harbor beach are located on Highway 61, 14 miles northeast of Lutsen around mile marker 154.
Franklin Square Beach
There are very few sandy beaches along the North Shore. In fact, there are only a few. One of them is Franklin Square/12th Street Beach, a beautiful sandy beach within walking distance of Canal Park. Trees and shrubs provide significant protection from the street making it a relaxing place to visit and enjoy. IT is the perfect place to get a bit of rest bit on the long drive up to the shore.
Along the beach, there are trails, swimming access, and plenty of bird watching areas – truly a perfect place for all visitors. With waves during the windy fall and winter, the beach is the perfect place to take in the sights.
Getting there: Along highway 35 follow signs for Lake Avenue in Duluth. Follow Lake Avenue all the way across the Lift Bridge until you see signs for 12th Street Beach.
Across from famous Betty’s Pies, just north of Two Harbors, there is a beautiful dark cobblestone beach. The beach is made of interesting stilled lava formations covered in smaller cobblestones. Some rumor the beach has mysterious powers. The beach is known to bring peace and tranquility to all of its visitors with the quietly babbling river and beautiful shores.
Near the beach, the Stewart River flows under a concrete bridge. John Stewart, the namesake of the river, used to use it for log driving operations many decades ago. The river now makes the perfect place to relax, explore, and take a dip.
Getting There: To get to the beach, drive about three miles northeast of Two Harbors. After crossing the Stewart River Bridge near Betty’s Pies, turn right immediately. A short path from the parking lot will lead you to the beach.
Are you looking for an agate finding a beach near Grand Marais? Then Paradise Beach is the perfect place for you! Take a walk down the length of this cobblestone beach while looking you next big agate discovery.
Also located extremely close to one of the Superior Hiking Trail entry points it’s the perfect place to hike and enjoy views of the lake. There are also plenty of picnic tables along the shore for everyone to relax and enjoy a picnic while listening to the waves lap against the shore.
There is a lot of private development cutting away at the shores so we must appreciate it while we have it now. With miles for you to wander and enjoy the peacefulness, it is truly a unique place in this world.
Getting There: The pullout is just north of the Kadunce River on Highway 61, 8.5 miles northeast of Grand Marais.
Sugar Loaf Cove
Looking for a somewhat short and easy hike filled with stunning views and beautiful nature, or just a reserved spot on Lake Superior? Sugarloaf Cove is the perfect spot for you! It has a path that winds through all different sorts of terrain and a rocky shore that overlooks the marvelous Lake Superior.
The Cove sits on 34 acres with a path that stretches over a mile long. The path passes through pine forests, an alder grove, a scenic overlook, rocky cliffs, and all the way down to the rocky shore. Don’t be afraid to stop for a minute on one of the many benches along the way and take in the majesty.
What makes Sugarloaf Cove even more interesting is that it is actually designated as a State Scientific and Natural Area. But it also has some historical significance. Consolidated Papers, Inc maintained several buildings here where they held pulpwood-rafting operations. Near the shore, you can see signs with photos from the area from that time period.
In addition to the delightful scenery, Sugarloaf Cove has an interpretive center that has many displays on North Shore geology, wildlife, and history. Special programming and experiences are also offered and open to the public. For a full calendar of events, visit sugarloaf cove calendar
To get to Sugarloaf Cove: it is located on Highway 61, six miles south of Schroeder, Minnesota.
Getting there: Sugarloaf Cove is located six miles south of Schroeder, Minnesota on Highway 61 near mile marker 73.
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