Swinging Bridge at Tettegouche State Park

Hiking Tettegouche State Park: Endless Possibilities

Tettegouche State Park is one of the most iconic state parks along MN’s North Shore next to Gooseberry Falls. The biggest difference between those visiting Gooseberry and Tettegouche is the absence of pavement. It takes a little more time to get there, but it’s worth it. 

The park is filled with Waterfalls, Swinging Bridges, Camping, and the North Shore coastline. It’s probably why I keep going back for more hiking in Tettegouche State Park.

With the weekend weather forecasted unbelievably hot, we decided to head straight north. Going along Lake Superior was going to put things back into the bearable 80-degree range. We were not the only ones that thought this.

Since the ‘Stay Safe’ orders, more people than ever have sought refuge along the north shoreline. It’s actually causing some problems with people not respecting the leave no trace philosophy.

Tettegouche State Park is one of my favorite parks along the North Shore of Lake Superior. Located near Silver Bay, it has some amazing waterfalls, overlooks, miles of trails and more. Plus the visitor center is an official roadside rest area, so there are no fees to park in the main lot.

Fill up your water bottles, use the flush toilets or check out their gift shop! There are even interpretive exhibits inside. In the summer months, this is a popular spot you don’t want to miss it.

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Hiking Tettegouche State Park Options

There are three main hikes people take at Tettegouche State Park. The first is to the mouth of the Baptism River. There is also the MN State Parks Hiking Club Trail.

But my personal favorite is two different Tettegouche State Park waterfalls (High Falls and Two Step Falls) and the Swinging Bridge. Tettegouche State Park is along the Sawtooth Mountains making it a stunning place for hiking

Have you downloaded your Tettegouche State Park Map yet? The internet is sketchy on the trails, so make sure to download the FREE GeoPDF Map from Avenza at home or at the trail center. They have some paper copies there. I personally love the Avenza Maps because they take out the guesswork!

Waterfalls and Swinging Bridge Hiking Trail

From the visitors center, take the winding road out of the first parking lot and take it all the way to the end. It’s hard to miss. Get there early. We were there by 9 am on a Friday we got the last official spot. The trail winds through the national forest.

Using one of the most traveled portions of the trail, taking visitors to High Falls. The park’s forest is thick with growth. The trail has some hills, but nothing too crazy, that was until you got to the waterfall.

Hiking Trial at Tettegouche State Park
Hiking at Tettegouche State Park
Thick forest

High Falls Waterfall

High Falls Waterfall is the first overlook you’ll come across. Just down the steps, you’ll find multiple overlooks on both sides. From the west side, you’ll only be able to view the waterfalls from above.

If you cross the bridge and go down another set of stairs on the east side of the river, you can view the base of the falls.

Some even used this as an opportunity to stick their feet in. If you continue on with the trail, it will take you back to the Visitors Center.

Based on what I knew was already in front of us, and our desire to see Two-Step Falls, we decided to skip the view from the base of the falls.

For more great things to do along MN North Shore, check out: 28+ Stops on the North Shore’s Highway 61 – Minnesota’s Road Trip

Overlooks at Tettegouche State Park
Tettegouche State Park's High Falls
High Falls at Tettegouche State Park
Top of High Falls

This is also a good opportunity to remind people of trail etiquette. When a group of people is already going upstairs, and it’s narrow, it’s polite to wait until they have gotten past you before starting your own journey down them.

For that matter, anyone going downhill should pause for those going up it. They are doing more work. This can be applied to anyone on a trail.

If you are walking and see people coming towards you, and there is a patch of dirt you can safely get off the trail for them, do so! Everyone is trying to stay safe and I really don’t want to start hiking with a face mask. A big pet peeve of mine. 

Swinging Bridge

The biggest draw to the area may not even be the waterfall. It’s the swinging bridge. I’ve been on a few swinging bridges before but nothing like what I experienced at Tettegouche State Park. The bridge was held up by a steel cable. You were inside a cage-like structure.

The floor was made of a see-through grate and bowed with every step. It didn’t take more than a few steps before I consciously made sure to only step where the rebar was reinforcing the bottom.

With every step, the bridge would move. It was like someone was jumping on it behind you but when you look back there is no one.

The swinging bridge has a few rules. First no jumping for obvious reasons. And no more than 6 people on it at a time. Everyone was very respectful to give each other plenty of space to cross. It was nerve-wracking, to say the least.

Due to some historic flooding in the spring of 2022, the bridge is currently closed. According to their website:

The High Falls bridge is CLOSED indefinitely due to flood damage. Superior Hiking Trail thru-hikers will have to detour down toward the park office to cross the river on the park road bridge.

The Cascade Falls Trail is also CLOSED indefinitely due to flood damage on a bridge. There is no detour.

Swinging Bridge at Tettegouche State Park
Swinging Bridge at Tettegouche State Park

Two Step Falls

Most people take the trail, over across the swinging bridge, and move along to the Visitors Center. The map makes it look like you can cross back over at Two Step Falls, but there is no bridge.

If you want to see Two Step Falls, you’ll have to take the swinging bridge back over the river and access it from the west side.

At this point, the crowds of people will go down at least 75%. I’m not sure why everyone is so fixated on the Swinging Bridge, because they are truly missing out on Two Step Falls.

For more great waterfalls in the area, pick up a copy of Waterfalls of Minnesota’s North Shore. It’s an excellent guide!

My Favorite Tree Root

Two Step Falls is one of the most spectacular sights I’ve come across. This may have to do with the complete exhaustion I felt after getting down the stairs.

Note to self; make sure the trail snacks actually make it in the bag the next time you hike. The stairs go on for what feels like forever.

After completing one incredibly set of stairs at High Falls, I was running on fumes. By the time I got to the bottom of Two Step Falls, my legs were shaking. I’ve never reached that level of depletion before.  

At the bottom, there was an amazing cove and a beautiful waterfall. And thankfully a nice tree root made for a perfect seat.

Two Step Falls at Tettegouche State Park
Tettegouche State Park Two Step Falls

Swimming Hole

A lot of people were taking the opportunity to use the cove as their own personal swimming hole. I suspect these were all people that were staying at the campground a few feet from the trail.

I have never been so nervous watching kids that weren’t mine playing in a waterfall.

A few feet from where I was recouping, was another set of falls. If the kids got too close, the current could have taken them right down the river.

The climbing on rocks trying to set up the optimal Social Media worthy shot didn’t help either. Please be safe everyone. A photo isn’t worth it.

The Baptism River was a great spot to chill and relax after a long day of exploring.

Two Step Falls

Finishing the Loop

The one part we were somewhat dreading was the return up the stairs back to the trail. I decided it would be fun to have the kids count the steps. I got to about 157 before I lost count.

There was also some debate as to what counted as a step. Does it have to be a traditional stair, or do the logs that crisscross the dirt count as an official step? That was when I realized at the top of the steps, they post the count: 200.

The easiest way back to the parking area is to cut through the Baptism Campground. It’s a short distance on the road back to the parking lot at the trailhead.

The only downside to this there is a limited amount of shade. This is a great hike for those who want to work the legs!

Shoreline and Cascade Falls Hiking Trail

My favorite quick stop at Tettegouche State Park is visiting the mouth of the Baptism River. From the visitors center, take the trail to the right. It’s a mix of pavement, boardwalk, and dirt and just a short hike.

It’s a great spot to watch the water lap up against the shoreline. The ionic cliffs, rocky shore, and river make it a must-see destination.

Cascade Falls is located about a mile up the trail from the mouth of the river. It will require that you cross over the river just upstream. This is another very popular route. I recommend getting there early to do it.

If you are not interested in seeing the mouth of the river, there is a secondary parking lot that gets you a little closer to Cascade Falls.

Tettegouche State Park Baptism River Overlook
Tettegouche State Park Baptism River

At one time, there was a sea stack visible at this beach but that fell into the water a few years back.

Tettegouche State Park Hiking Club Trail

Miles: 2 miles
Difficulty: Moderate
Total Miles Hiked: 80.4 miles

The MN State Parks Hiking Club Trail starts at the visitor’s center and is a solid mile back to Shovel Point. By 11am the trail was packed. The visitor’s center parking lot was filled to the brim.

The trailer parking had so many non-trailers parked it would have been impossible to get your trailer parked at all. In the brief time we were parked there, it was person, after person, after person on the trail.

There was no room to successfully social distance. We came back another day for this hike!

Tettegouche State Park hiking club trail

Shovel Point Trail aka the Tettegouche State Park Hiking Club Trail

The Hiking Club Trail is shorter and overall very easy to both find and get to. It follows along the Lake Superior Shoreline to Shovel Point.

The trail is beautiful as you get multiple vantage points to view the coastline. On the latest trip to get the Hiking Club Trail complete, I arrived much earlier, closer to 9:30, and found it much easier to hike.

Even still, there were plenty of others joining the trail.

Foggy North Shore View
Tree growing around rock

The trail mixes dirt, boardwalk, rock, and stairs. The mileage is shorter but has more elevation changes than I anticipated. What was intended to be a quick walk in Tevas, ended up being challenging. That said, the views were worth every ounce of sore legs.

The password was easy to find and the company on the trail was very respectful of personal space. It couldn’t have been more amazing at the spectacular views along the trail. This may have been my favorite hike.

The North Shore has some great hikes. It’s probably one of my favorite locations. Pick up a copy of Hiking the North Shore: 50 fabulous day hikes in Minnesota’s spectacular Lake Superior region. You’ll never run out of adventures!

After you are done with the hike make sure to stop at the picnic area and enjoy a quick lunch. You can also swing into the park office and take advantage of their great amenities or get your passport book stamped!

Tetteguche Hiking Club Trail
Shovel Point in Tetteguche State Park
Shovel Point Boardwalk
Foggy Hiking Club Trail

Palisade Head

Don’t forget to stop at Palisade Head. About a mile or two south of the main entrance to the state park off of Highway 61, this is a classic roadside stop with a great vantage point of Lake Superior!

If you are pulling a trailer, or really enjoy hiking up a cliff, park at the bottom lot. Otherwise, drive your car up the path to the top of Palisade Head. There is usually ample parking. You’ll be treated to this classic North Shore view. This is a popular spot to rock climbing too.

Officially part of the state park, but does not require a park permit.

Palisades Head

Everyone’s Favorite Park Questions?

Do you have to pay to get into Tettegouche State Park?

Yes and No. The Visitors Center at Tettegouche State Park is an official MN Highway Rest Stop. There is no charge to park in the lot. Once you get past the first lot, there is a MN State Park Permit Requirement. It’s $7 a day or an annual permit of $35.

Are there bears in Tettegouche State Park?

Yes, Tettegouche State Park is home to Black Bear, Moose, and River Otter. They also have White-tail Deer and Canadian Lynx. Keep your eyes in the sky for Peregrine Falcons, eagles and more!

How many steps does Tettegouche State Park have?

Tricky question. Tettegouche State Park is located along MN’s Rocky North Shore. It creates for some dramatic elevation changes and a lot of stairs at each one.

There are three main sets of steps. High Falls has 82 steps to the Swinging Bridge. Two-Step Falls has 200 steps down to the pool. Shovel points have close to 300 Steps. If you did all three hikes at once, that’s almost 600 not including the smaller sections of the park.

Can you day trip to the State Park from the Twin Cities?

Yes! I have done this adventure more than once. I highly recommend taking the trip, just make sure to get up early!

Tips for Hiking Tettegouche State Park

The biggest tip is to get there early. We were there on a Friday morning and experienced heavy traffic by 9 am. On a weekend, I’m not sure when you’d have to get there for a parking spot. If you can score a Tettegouche State Park Campsite, do so!

Be prepared for a lot of stairs. Even if you are only thinking of doing one waterfall, there are tons of stairs. It’s part of the fun though.

Swimming in a river with Waterfalls is incredibly dangerous. There is so much that can go wrong. Please be safe everyone.

Another great MN State Park that easily rivals Tettegouche but doesn’t have as many crowds is Temperance River State Park. You gotta check it out!

Hiking at Tettegouche State Park

Would I go back to Hike Tettegouche State Park?

I’ve already been hiking at Tettegouche State Park three times, and I never get enough of it. It’s truly a special place with mile of scenic hiking trails.

Plus, I really need to do the Superior Hiking Trail portion through the park. Don’t forget to check out some of the other great things do along Minnesota’s Science North Shore Drive.

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