Split Rock Lighthouse State Park

How to See Split Rock Lighthouse MN Without Breaking the Bank

Last updated on August 18th, 2019

The North Shore is one of the most beautiful things that you will ever see. In my opinion, it is what makes Minnesota so special. During most times of day, you will see fog coming off Superior and often rolling onto shore. It makes for some of the most breathtaking photos. It also makes for a very challenging place to navigate a ship. It was after a Storm in 1905 that sank and damaged 29 ships that they decided to put up Split Rock Lighthouse MN.

Split Rock Lighthouse, MN

Split Rock Lighthouse was put into service in July of 1910. When the lighthouse was first built, it was only accessible by boat. The lightkeepers and their families all lived on the grounds. Since there was no way to easily get to the house, all fuel was brought by a hoist system over the cliffs. In 1915 they constructed a tram from the shoreline to bring up the supplies. This made for a little easier access to the lighthouse. In 1934, the road was completed to the lighthouse and they were now able to get their supplies directly from Duluth.  These unique methods of transportation created for a variety of different overlooks to see the North Shore lighthouse. 

The accessibility to Split Rock Lighthouse has made it one of the most photographed ones in Minnesota. It is also why it’s the fifth most visited State Parks in Minnesota.  The lighthouse is currently managed by the Minnesota Historical Society. Split Rock Lighthouse has guided tours of the location that run every 20 mins and have a short film on the history of the lighthouse you can see. You are also welcome to explore on your own the grounds if you like.

Split Rock Lighthouse MN Two Harbors Close Up

Split Rock Lighthouse Keeper

Light inside Lighthouse

One of the things that we loved about the park was that you could go up to the lighthouse and check out exactly how it works. My kids loved getting to climb up the stairs and see the light at the top of the house. It was a steep climb, so make sure to hang on to your little ones.

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Photographing Split Rock Lighthouse

If you want to get the classic Split Rock Lighthouse photo from the coastline, be prepared to climb. Remember that tram they used to have to bring up supplies the lighthouse? They have built steps along that path to hike down to the shoreline. Once getting down there, you are exposed to an amazing view. My daughter took this opportunity to get all kinds of pictures of the water and rocks. Not one single one of the Lighthouse itself. Oh well. 

 Stairs to Split Rock Light House

I recommend taking your time down there because it’s 171 steps to get back to the top. It’s not until you have climbed 56 steps back up, staring at the 115 more steps in front of you before you start to wonder, why haven’t they put the tram back in operation? It would make things so much easier.

The good news is, they do have an overlook there that you can take a break at. I recommend if you think the steps will be too much, only go to this platform to get a picture.  You’ll only have to climb 115 steps back up and can still get a great picture. 

Split Rock Lighthouse MN Two Harbors 

The Hack to See Split Rock Lighthouse

If you are running short on cash or don’t have an interest in going into the lighthouse itself, go to Split Rock Lighthouse State Park. It’s just south of the Lighthouse exit. You need a parking permit that costs $7 a day, or an annual permit. Chances if you are in the North Shore area checking out Gooseberry Falls and a slew of other great parks they have, you already have it. Also if you are active duty military or a disabled veteran, you can get free parking permits too. Get all the details here. There are a few trails that lead you down to the shore to get a better view of the Lighthouse.

I was told by the Minnesota Historical Society that the epic stairway is now part of the Split Rock Lighthouse’s admission area. I personally don’t mind paying to get in, because it ensures that this Minnesota Landmark stays for years to come. 

For more information about Split Rock Lighthouse and its history, I recommend reading the following books: 



Split Rock Lighthouse 

3713 Split Rock Lighthouse Rd. Two Harbors, MN 55616

Hours May 15- October 31  10am-6pm


$10 Adults

$8 Students/Seniors/Active Duty Military

$6 Children 5-17

Free – Children 4 and under and MNHS Members

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The most epic lighthouse view of Minnesota doesn’t have to cost you any money to see. That’s right free. Here is how to do it!

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