Nature

northern lights

The Northern Lights

One of the natural wonders of the world is the Northern Lights — the radiant and multi-colored lights that lay over the north shore. The northern lights normally come between 60 to 75 degrees longitude which makes the North Shore one of the best places to spot them.

The northern lights are also known as the Aurora Borealis which means “dawn of the north”. This crazy light show is created by charged particles from the sun that collide with the gaseous particles in the earth’s atmosphere. They are typically green in color but can also be purple, red, and yellow. The color is determined how high the collisions between the particles are. The green lights occur during collisions 60 miles above the surface whereas rare red lights are during collisions 200 miles in the atmosphere.

If you want to see the Northern Lights, you’ll want to check the NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center website for the daily Aurora forecast to determine the likelihood of the Northern Lights being visible. Remember to also check the weather to make sure skies will be clear during the night. Also keep in mind that the lights tend to be the best between 11:00pm and 3:00am. If you check all these things you will drastically increase your likelihood of seeing the lights.

It is also better to watch the lights away from and cities because their light can pollute the area and dim the overall display. These are the best places on the North Shore to watch the display:

1. Hawk Ridge, Duluth
Normally known as a place to watch migrating birds Hawk ridge offers the perfect overlook to all of Duluth and the Northern Lights. Hawk Ridge is located on East Skyline Parkway on the northeastern side of Duluth with an overlook that is perfect for visitors to watch the lights straight from their cars.

2. White Sky Rock, Lutsen
White Sky rock offers one of the best overlooks on the entire North Shore. As it looks over Caribou Lake 1,400 feet above sea level it gives the illusion that you can touch the lights. To get to the overlook you have to park at the public boat landing right off of the Caribou Trail and walk across the highway and up the SHT spur trail.

3. Artist’s Point, Grand Marais
A popular spot for most visitors to Grand Marais this spot offers the perfect place to view the lake by day and northern lights by night. It may not have the brightest display due to some light pollution but is the most easily accessed especially for those staying in town. The east side is shielded from Grand Marais and makes the best place to watch the displays from. And if you want to just watch them from your car that also works if you park right next to the coast guard station.

Visit Cook County has also put together a wonderful list of driving routes for people in the Tofte, Lutsen, Grand Marais, Hovland and Grand Portage area who wish to view the lights. We highly recommend checking it out here.

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