Lake Superior, the Sawtooth Mountains, eight state parks, the Superior Hiking Trail, the Lake Superior Water Trail and the North Shore Scenic Byway all combine with the paved Gitchi-Gami State Trail to make this region one of the most popular trail destinations in the nation.
Silver Cliff Creek
The Gitchi-Gami State Trail begins with a short yet impressive one-mile section of the original North Shore Drive, running 4,000 feet around the Silver Cliff Creek Tunnel northwest of Two Harbors. This section of the trail offers a spectacular vista of Lake Superior and has a reproduction of the original 1924 North Shore Gateway arch and brass plaque welcoming visitors.
While this section isn’t ready for thru traffic, you may want to park just east of the tunnel and walk across the trail bridge that is on the end of the cliff to enjoy the view of the lake and the cliff. This is also an area to see rock climbers ascending the cliff and a great place for travel photos.
Gooseberry to Beaver Bay to Beaver Bay
Seven miles east of Silver Creek Cliff is the popular Gooseberry Falls State Park where the next segment of the Gitchi-Gami Trail starts just ¼ mile east of the TH 61 Bridge. This trail segment will lead 13 miles through Split Rock Lighthouse State Park and the town of Beaver Bay. Currently.
Parking, toilets and a picnic area are available at the trail center in Split Rock Lighthouse State Park. Between Twin Points and the Split Rock River is a new bridge over a ryholite rock cliff that touches Lake Superior; the view of Lake Superior from this bridge is awesome. There are a few steep hills just west of the trail center.
A spur trail connects the trail with the historic Split Rock Lighthouse Interpretive Center.
Heading east from Split Rock, you will come out of the woods at Chaplin’s Curve near the site of the historic sinking of the Madeira, which prompted the building of the lighthouse.
Occasionally, the trail runs on the original North Shore Drive giving you a feeling of what it was like to travel here decades ago.
There is a parking lot on the east end of Beaver Bay where this 13-mile portion of the trail ends.
The Gitchi-Gami State Trail picks up again at the east parking lot in Schroeder and travels through Temperance River State Park, about four miles to the west side of Tofte. This segment crosses the Temperance River Gorge and an ancient streambed that is thought to be an early route for the Temperance River to Lake Superior. The Temperance River Gorge offers spectacular views of the river and rocks below. You can also view the 1,526-foot Carlton Peak. The trail travels in font of the Birch Grove Elementary School, which is also a youth hostel in the summer months.
You’ll have to cross Highway 61 at the east end of Tofte and use the Town Road to access the community of Tofte. Trail users can use the Bluefin Bay lake walk trail for about a half-mile to rejoin the trail on the east edge of town. This trail segment currently offers parking in Schroeder at the Tofte Public Water Access. Bikers are advised to speak with business owners before parking and leaving vehicles on private property. Food, beverages and restroom facilities are available in Tofte.
Tofte to Onion River
This 2.5 mile trail segment connects the town of Tofte to 1/2 mile west of Onion River, where it dead ends. This trail segment currently offers greater parking challenges than other trail segments. At this time there is no designated public parking available. Bikers are advised to speak with business owners before parking and leaving vehicles on private property. Food, beverages and restroom facilities are available in Tofte.
The 1.5 mile segment of completed Gitchi-Gami State Trail in Grand Marais lies within the Grand Marais city limits. This trail segment connects to the Grand Marais Corridor Trail, a one mile paved bike trail that travels through the heart of downtown Grand Marais. There is no designated parking area for this segment of the trail but the Coast Guard Point parking area is one possibility. All amenities are available in scenic Grand Marais.
Consider a side trip out of Silver Bay on Forest Highway 11 toward Hoyt Lakes. Designated as a bike trail, it provides beautiful views of the Superior National Forest.