On my recent trip to Minnesota, I visited several popular destinations, including the Mall of America, Lake Superior, and downtown Minneapolis. However, two state parks, while less popular than the more famous attractions, turned out to be highlights of my trip.
Jay Cooke State Park
Jay Cooke State Park was actually a last-minute addition to my itinerary. Located just southwest of Duluth, this is an ideal stop for travelers going from the Twin Cities to the North Shore of Minnesota. It extends around the St. Louis River and offers fantastic views of the river rushing over rocks.
A pedestrian bridge welcomes hikers and leads them across the river to several trails. Just past the end of it, I was able to get a close view of the orange-tinted falls.
Hiking through the woods eventually led me to an opening where I could view the part of the river that flows above the falls.
While it looks a bit calmer, the water still moves quickly. Finally, I made my way back across the bridge and hiked upstream a bit on the other side of the river. The views here, like everything else I found in this park, did not disappoint.
I arrived at Jay Cooke State Park in the late afternoon, after exploring other areas between Minneapolis and Duluth. Knowing what I know now, I would highly recommend setting more time aside to hike in this area, as the things I saw here certainly surpassed my other stops along the way.
Temperance River State Park
Like Jay Cooke State Park, Temperance River State also almost didn’t make it into my trip. The park sits about an hour and a half from Duluth, where I was staying. On the day that I explored several stops along Minnesota’s North Shore, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to spend three hours of my day driving there and back, when I could be spending more time outdoors in closer areas. Fortunately, I decided to go for it and discovered my favorite spot in this part of the state.
The side of the park east of the road is by far smaller than the western side, but offers plenty of reward for little effort. A short walk brought me to an overlook with a perfect view of a waterfall underneath a bridge. After walking just a little more, I was on the rocky shores of Lake Superior.
I spent some time along these rocks before crossing the road to see the western side of the park.
While my first view here was of a relatively flat spot in the river, it wasn’t long before I found rushing waterfalls. The amount of water was much greater than I anticipated, and the noise it created while crashing against the rocky gorge was substantial. The rocky cliffs often block the rushing river, so as I hiked, I kept an eye out for openings for views. Though wide open vistas of the landscape weren’t always available, parts of the river stayed in view and provided plenty of scenery to enjoy.
Be sure to check out one or both of these underrated attractions if you find yourself in northeastern Minnesota!