• DesignationAll-American Road (2002)
  • Intrinsic QualitiesRecreation
  • LocationMN
  • Length154 miles
Byway Visitor Information
North Shore Visitor
Statewide Byway Partners
Minnesota Department of Transportation
Explore Minnesota Tourism
Split Rock Lighthouse winter sunset on Lake Superior's North Shore
Bob Israel / Explore MN Photo


The spectacular scenery of the North Shore of Superior, including eight state parks, has earned this scenic route a national designation as an "All-American Road." Small shoreline towns offer restaurants serving local fish and produce as well as unique shops and art galleries.

Experience the history of the shore at the 1910 Split Rock Lighthouse, a commercial fishing museum in Tofte, and Grand Portage National Monument fur-trading post. With a playhouse, galleries and a folk school, the harbor town of Grand Marais is an arts center.

Local Byway Partners

Story of the Byway

For as long as people have been able to travel along the North Shore, the road, Lake Superior, the forest, and rugged landscapes have been linked. If one wants to best experience the scenic beauty of the North Shore, the first and best place to do it from is the North Shore Scenic Drive.

The road is perfectly positioned between Lake Superior and the ridgeline, offering views of waves crashing on the rocky beaches and forested hills rising along the ridges. In addition, there are multiple rivers that cascade down from the Lake Superior highlands to meet Lake Superior.

The North Shore Scenic Drive is a four-season route. The change of seasons brings a new and refreshing appearance to the Byway throughout the year. Each fall, there is an explosion of color along the route. Visitors come from all around to see the display of red, yellow, and gold. In the winter, the proximity of the road to the lake allows for even more views to be exposed once the leaves have fallen from the trees. In spring, the break-up of ice shows another side of Lake Superior as mountains of ice are driven up the shore. Finally, the summer brings residents and visitors alike to the lake to enjoy a respite from the heat.

The North Shore Scenic Drive remains unmatched as the only route in the nation that offers an opportunity to experience Lake Superior's rugged shoreline and forests in such an intimate manner. There are many roads that take people around lakes in the United States. However, only the North Shore Scenic Drive offers people such a personal experience with the scenic beauty of Lake Superior, the world's largest freshwater lake.

Lake Superior and the North Shore Highlands provide a unique array of all-season recreational experiences that is unmatched. Fortunately for travelers, the North Shore Scenic Drive offers excellent access to many of these opportunities for the traveler who wants to augment their journey by pursuing recreational opportunities. People have been escaping to the natural beauty of the North Shore since the route was completed early in the century. The many points of interest along the route give visitors a reason to come back again.

Areas near the North Shore Scenic Drive from Duluth to the Canadian Border have well-developed facilities for camping, hiking, biking, alpine and Nordic skiing, snowmobiling, golfing, snowshoeing, canoeing, kayaking, and boating. In addition, activities such as bird-watching and fishing are popular.

The first people to settle the North Shore region arrived about 10,000 years ago. These Native Americans entered the region during the final retreat of the Wisconsin glaciation. Many waves of Native American people inhabited the North Shore prior to European contact. The first Europeans, French explorers, and fur traders reached Lake Superior country around 1620. By 1780, the Europeans had established fur trading posts at the mouth of the St. Louis River near Duluth and at Grand Portage Bay at Grand Portage. The recent history of the North Shore encompassing fur trading, logging, fishing, and mining, among many other activities, begins here. Many of these historical industries are linked by the shipping and rail industry, which has dominated the economy for over a century.

Driving Directions

Follows Forest Hwy 11. From Silver Bay: West on Lake Cty Hwys 5 and 15 to St Louis Cty 16 and northwest on 110. From Aurora & Hoyt Lakes: Southeast on St Louis Cty Hwy 110, then east on St Louis Cty Hwy 16. Continue east on Lake Cty Hwys 15 and 5.

Points of Interest

  • Gooseberry Falls State Park
  • Split Rock Lighthouse State Park
  • Boundary Waters Canoe Wilderness Area
  • Grand Portage National Monument
  • Grand Portage Reservation

    Community is considered part of the Lake Superior Band of Chippewa.

  • Grand Portage State Park

    Trails, observation deck, and visitor center.


  • Lakeside on the North Shore

    Start at the Duluth Lift Bridge at the Canal Park. There are plenty of fun things to do to start off your journey. Visit the Marine Museum, view sculptures and public art, explore shopping and restaurants. You can enter the Lakewalk from several points in Canal Park to walk along the shore. Watch the massive ships go through the canal. If you want to make a quick detour for a day trip, ride a train to Two Harbors.

    As you return to drive along the byway, stop by to see the water at Cobblestone Beach and the McQuade Harbor Rest Area for skipping stones, agate-hunting, ship watching, and picnicking. Drive along the byway to Knife River where you can set sail on Lake Superior when you visit the DNR marina. When you reach Larsmont, try to spot the Little Red Schoolhouse, a hub for local residents.

    Soon you will reach the town of Two Harbors. Visit the 3M Birthplace Museum, first home of Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing and the Edna G. Tugboat, a historic tugboat museum. There are also many hiking trails and state parks in this area.

    From Two Harbors to Grand Portage. Along the way, you will find a number of wilderness areas and state parks that are great for exploring Lake Superior and Lake Superior National Forest. When you reach Grand Portage, learn more about the Chippewa Native Americans at the Grand Portage Reservation and keep an eye out for sights of Canada.

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