Bike the Gitchi-Gami State Trail along Lake Superior
By Brian Fanelli
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One of the most popular and scenic destinations in Minnesota is the North Shore of Lake Superior. Experience its grandeur by bike on the Gitchi-Gami State Trail, a paved trail between Two Harbors and Grand Marais.
Though it will eventually run for 88 miles, this trail is being constructed in segments as funding becomes available. Currently, 29 miles of the Gitchi-Gami State Trail have been completed and paved. The longest trail segment, 14 miles between Gooseberry Falls State Park and Beaver Bay, travels through the beautiful birch and aspen forest of Split Rock Lighthouse State Park.
The Gooseberry Loop
For the best Gitchi-Gami Trail experience you can have right now, ride the 30-mile out-and-back loop between Gooseberry Falls State Park and Beaver Bay—a stunningly beautiful ride that only takes a few hours.
Start at Gooseberry Falls State Park, about 40 miles up the shore from Duluth. As you arrive, you’re greeted by breathtaking views of the park’s multiple waterfalls, and an expansive vista of the Lake Superior shoreline.
The cool breeze gusts off the lake and pushes you forward into the dense coniferous forest lining the shore. Rolling hills stretch for as long as the eye can see, punctuated at the top of each climb with a panoramic view of the lake to reward your tired legs.
Around 8 miles into your ride, a spur from the trail leads to the Split Rock Lighthouse historic site, where you can tour the lighthouse and the keeper’s home and take in the exhibits at the interpretive center.
At the 14-mile mark, you'll reach Beaver Bay, one of the many small towns that dot the North Shore like agates along the beach. Just off the trail, stop into Cove Point Crossing Bar & Grill to relax and refuel for the ride back with a slice of ultra-thin crust pizza. Once you're done digesting, turn around and head back to Gooseberry.
Other Sections of the Trail
Another 3.5 miles of trail is completed further up the shore, between Schroeder and Tofte. A highlight of this segment is the section through Temperance River State Park. The trail crosses a bridge over a tumbling, wilderness creek.
There are three other short (1-2 miles) segments that have been completed: at Silver Creek Cliff north of Two Harbors, another just north of Tofte and a section in Grand Marais.
All trail segments parallel bustling Highway 61 for at least part of the way, but the rewards are the terrific views of Lake Superior, the wooded hills of the Sawtooth Mountains, the colorful wildflowers along the trail and the more secluded loops through the forest.
Brian Fanelli is a writer and editor for Explore Minnesota. When he isn't writing about life in The North, you'll find him browsing the sci-fi shelves in a local bookstore, biking one of Minnesota's spectacular trails or walking his Chihuahua around Minneapolis.
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