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Two Weeks in Duluth

Duluth – Home of frigid winters, and… beaches?

It’s Saturday morning and you wake up to the sun kissing your pillow case.  The car is packed with beach towels, blankets, floaties, coolers, sunscreen, bug repellent, a light jacket and extra sunglasses and sandals.  This can only mean one thing…

WE MUST BE READY FOR THE BEACH!

Growing up in Duluth, MN, I anxiously awaited the two weeks of true summer rays that descended on the city each year.  In anticipation, I plotted out my work schedule to make as much time for fun as possible, made playlists for the car, and planned my budget.  This guide will share some of the best summer locations in and around Duluth, whether you are looking to swim or not!  We will start with Pattison State Park, Wisconsin and make our way north to Betty’s Pies in Two Harbors, Minnesota because it’s always a good idea to end a day with pie!


Pattison State Park is one of my favorite places.  Rushing root beer hued waterfalls, trails that wrap around river bends, and a soft sandy beach great for sand castles or relaxing with a book make for a picturesque start to our journey.  There is plenty to explore whether you’re here for a few hours to unwind or a few days for a weekend camping trip.

Be sure to get to Big Manitou Falls, which reaches 165-feet high, making it the fourth highest waterfall east of the Rocky Mountains.

Pattison State Park 

ADDRESS: 6294 WI-35, Superior, WI 54880

300-foot sand beach; 27-acre Interfalls Lake; Black River; waterfalls; 7 miles of hiking; areas for camping with bathrooms; a picnic area (including tables and grills); and fishing. There is an admission fee, so be sure to check the DNR Website for updated prices and availability.

If you’re not in the mood for potential crowds at Pattison, you can head northwest to the more reclusive Chub Lake, located just outside of Carlton, MN.  This is a true “locals” choice, off the radar of most tourists.  Although there is nothing fancy here, the easiness of it will bring you back to your childhood.  My fondest memory is rolling down the grassy hill all the way to the sand of the beach and then racing my brother back to the top, laughing until our stomachs hurt too much to move. Then, once the dizziness settled, we would play frisbee on the grass along the beach.

Chub Lake Park

ADDRESS: 1929 Lakeview Drive, Carlton, MN 55718

15-acre park, baseball field, boat landing access, beach, volleyball, picnic area and restrooms – Jay Cooke State Park is not to be missed!  Even if you only have one hour, you will not regret dropping in.  The beautiful scenery makes this a popular destination for first dates, graduation and engagement photos, and hiking.  The park is known most for the Swinging Bridge that crosses the St. Louis River. The bridge has gone through drastic repairs since a 2012 flood completely swept it away.  That was actually the second time a flood destroyed the bridge, the first being in 1950.  Since then the bridge suspension has been completely reconstructed, but it still has its iconic, massive stone-clad pylons.  Beyond the bridge are large slate rocks that are hard to miss.  Known as the Thomson formation, the slate emerges from the ground at a 45-degree angle.  This metamorphic rock formed from volcanic activity 1.8 billion years ago.  I loved finding my own secluded areas within the rocks and woods of the park.   

Jay Cooke State Park 

ADDRESS: 780 Highway 210, Carlton, MN 55718

200-foot long suspension bridge spanning 126 feet above the Saint Louis River; Thomson Dam; over 50 miles of trails within the park for hiking, horseback, or mountain biking; 5 camper cabins available for rent; camping sites; bathrooms; Interpretive Center; Oldenburg Memorial; Pioneer Cemetery.

From Jay Cooke, 15-20 miles of the Willard Munger Trail paves the way north-east to Duluth, MN.

Entering Duluth by car, especially from I-35 North, offers a breathtaking first glimpse of the city, Lake Superior and the many bridges that connect Minnesota to Wisconsin.  First time visitors get to experience just how huge the lake really is, stretching so far into the horizon that you can’t see the other side.  Other than the lake itself the most eye-catching landmark is the Aerial Lift Bridge located in Canal park in the heart of downtown.  Walking or driving across this bridge (after waiting a couple rounds of traffic lights and maybe a ship passing underneath) gives access to a narrow, 7-mile long sandbar that stretches along Duluth Harbor.  If you are in the mood for white sand, look no further than the 6 miles of public beach at Park Point.  If driving, make sure to queue a music playlist or podcast to keep you in good spirits while patiently driving up and down Lake Ave S/Minnesota Ave for a parking spot.  The first major public parking spot is called 12 Street Beach.  Keep an eye out for it when the road starts to curve.  Don’t be discouraged if the lot is full.  There are a dozen other parking areas along the beach.  At the very end of the stretch is the Park Point Beach House, which is definitely worth checking out.  When you leave the beach and cross back over the Aerial Lift Bridge I would highly advise you keep your plans flexible.  There were countless times where I would have to call into work and say that I’m stuck waiting at the lift bridge.  They usually forgave me because everyone knows when Summer hits Duluth the beach becomes the priority.

Park Point 

ADDRESS: 12th St S, Duluth, MN 55802
5000 Minnesota Ave, Duluth, MN 55802

The Park Point Beach House has concessions, restrooms, showers, beach volleyball, large recreation field, playground, covered picnic area access to both the bay side and the lake side.  Close by is the Sky Harbor Regional Airport available for private site seeing tours.  Keep an eye out for sea planes landing in the water!  

Wisconsin Point is on the other side of Lake Superior with a few less people and a mix of sand and grassy areas as well as lots of driftwood, making this a popular place for beach bonfires.  If you are visiting for the 4th of July, you can see both the Duluth and Superior fireworks displays, which is neat.

If you’re not about the frigid cold Lake Superior water numbing your toes, Pike Lake is a great option.  Since it is located ‘up over the hill,’ as the locals would say, the temperature is guaranteed to be 10+ degrees warmer.   You also have a better chance of getting a tan since the clouds often stay close to Lake Superior.  Pike Lake Beach is very popular on weekends and some week days, so it’s a good idea to get there early.  There are two sections to the beach, one with grills and picnic tables that can be used for private events and another section open for everyone.  There is a concession stand and restrooms available to beach goers and the golf club.  If you’re craving an orange push-up creamsicle or forgot to pack sunscreen, they will have you covered.

Pike Lake

ADDRESS: 4895 E W Pike Lake Rd, Duluth, MN 55811

Lake, golf course, boat landing access, dock, life guard, concessions, bathroom/changing, grass and sand areas, grill and picnic section, mature shady trees, swings, and a playground.  There is an entry fee since it’s privately owned, so be sure to check out their rates here. Great for gatherings with friends and families, often a Fourth of July frenzy.

Lester River Park

brings us right back to the reason most people visit Duluth: Lake Superior.  Lester River and Amity Creek join together before flowing into the lake, and the park is home to a popular swimming hole that brave visitors can jump into from cliffs or even a 55 foot high railroad bridge.  Even if you have no intentions of taking that kind of leap, I would recommend walking over to see it for yourself.  The 9-miles of trails allow for mountain biking, running and hiking.  Since this is Minnesota make sure to exchange a friendly hello to anyone you pass.  Crossing the distinctive stone arched bridge will take you to our next stop, Brighton Beach.  

Lashing waves have repeatedly struck this stone-strewn beach, leading to the roads and Lakewalk needing makeshift repairs.  The city of Duluth has pledged funding to fully reconstruct and reconfigure the Lakewalk, and fear not, Brighton Beach is still beautiful year-round.  It is one of the best spots to take photos of Lake Superior.  Speaking of the lake, it is commonly known in this area as “Kitchi Gammi,” named by the Cheppewa and Ojibwe, meaning large lake.  That name always brings back memories of Summer, and brings feelings of nostalgia that make me want to revisit these places all over again.

LESTER RIVER ADDRESS: Lester River Road and E Superior Street

BRIGHTON BEACH ADDRESS: S 62st Avenue E and E Superior Street

 

Throughout our journey were many delicious places to visit for a beer or refreshing ice cream.  I included a list of some of my favorites below.  Most of these places are in the heart of Duluth, but if you want the best slice of pie around, extend your trip a little further to Two Harbors for Betty’s Pies.  Just looking at the menu will make anyone drool.  Also nearby is Castle Danger Brewery, Gooseberry Falls, Ionas Beach, Split Rock Lighthouse, and Black Beach in Silver Bay, MN.  I could seriously go on forever, so maybe just get the pie and quit while you’re ahead.

GO GET YOURSELF SOME PIE, YOU DESSERT IT!