North Shore Lake Superior Circle Tour Travel Planner
Grand Portage to Grand Marais, Minnesota
Minnesota North Shore Travel

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Grand Marais harbor on a fall evening
Grand Marais harbor on a fall evening

Thunder Bay to Grand Portage to Grand Marais

Upon leaving Thunder Bay, it is 42 miles to the Minnesota-Ontario border at Grand Portage.

After crossing the border, look for the sign to Grand Portage State Park. There you can see Minnesota’s highest waterfall (aptly named “High Falls”) via an easy 1/2 mile walk from the parking lot. You’ll have to pay 4 bucks to park in the lot. But unless it has been extremely dry, this falls is an impressive sight. It will be either your #1 or #2 most grand waterfall you will find around Lake Superior.

A few miles further down the road, look for the signage to Grand Portage National Monument, a reconstruction of the historic Grand Portage Trading Post and Stockade – complete with re-enactors to help educate you the fascinating enterprise that what was here over 200 years ago. Hikers will also enjoy the trek to the top of Mount Rose with a nice panoramic view of the Grand Portage Bay and the fort itself.

The Minnesota Visitor Center is at the Grand Portage Visitor Center about a mile from the border. It is an important stop for information, plus it offers some interactive exhibits and hosts the accessible hiking trail to High Falls, one of the highest waterfalls around Lake Superior.

Between here and Grand Marais, hikers have several fairly short 1 – 2 hours hikes to consider: Devils Kettle in Judge Magney State Park, The Kadunce River Trail, and Devil Track River Gorge.

Grand Marais, Minnesota (see pictures, more info here)

The natural beauty of Grand Marais’ harbor area, its more remote distance from urban areas, and being at the gateway to a major portion of the famous Boundary Waters Canoe Area have made it an attractive destination tourism area. It has developed the economic infrastructure to serve that role well. In simple terms, there is in the Grand Marais area a nice selection of quality motels, many quality places to dine and imbibe, nice places to shop, adequate community services, and a nice ambience to the life style in the town. While on some circle tour trips our focus has been on places either north or south of Grand Marais, we always try to find a good excuse to spend a few hours in town: stop to stretch our legs with a walk, get something to eat at a cafe or restaurant, or make our own meal while enjoying a harbor view, get gas, buy some new fishing lures, stock up on trail mix at the natural foods coop, etc. If we are lucky, we hit Grand Marais in the evening so it is our overnight stop – which gives us some time to enjoy it in the evening and then again in the morning before we hit the road again.

So we recommend that travelers whose itinerary does not allow spending at least a day in Grand Marais, find some excuse to spend at least two hours in town getting acquainted. If you are staying longer than an hour or two, check out the Grand Marais Visitor Center just down the street from the Beaver House.

Recommended places and things to do:

  • Browsing the Ben Franklin store: floor to ceiling shelves with more stuff per square foot than practically anyplace else you’ve ever been – and lots of it is pretty good quality too.
  • Grabbing a morning donut or danish and coffee at the Donut Shop
  • Dining lakeside at the Angry Trout Cafe and catching an early breakfast at the Blue Water Cafe.
  • Visiting the North House Folk School workshops and bookstore.
  • Hiking out to Artists Point (just keep walking past the Coast Guard Station) and the nearby Sweetheart Bluff Hiking trail (accessible from the Municipal Camp Ground).
  • Stocking up on trail mix and other munchies at Cook County Whole Foods Coop.
  • Hiking nearby hiking trails: Pincushion Mountain and Devil Track River gorge.
  • Boundary Waters (BWCA) Visitor Center.
  • Camping at the Municipal Campground on the lake.

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