#44hike of my 52 Hike Challenge
Trail/Park: High Falls Trail, Grand Portage State Park, MN
Every year while I’m on the North Shore of Minnesota I try to convince my S.O. to join me on a hike. He loves the outdoors, but hiking miles on anything other than paved trails is a stretch. For me, finding a place I’ve never been is important. I’ve told him about Grand Portage and that I thought he might like the Grand Portage National Monument. I also realized that I had one more park on the shore yet to complete – Grand Portage State Park. This year I got a two-fer.
It’s about an hour drive from our beloved resort to the park. Neither of us ever really tire of the drive along this shore. It’s like an inland ocean with spectacular view after spectacular view. We stopped at the monument because I had this crazy notion that the it and the state park were next to each other. They aren’t. That said the stop gave us a chance to take in some of the information at the Visitor Center before hopping back in the car for the seven additional miles we needed to cover to the state park.
Grand Portage State Park sits right at the U.S./Canadian boarder, lies within the Grand Portage Indian Reservation, is the only park not owned by the State of Minnesota, is a cooperative effort between the State of Minnesota and the Grand Portage Band of Chippewa Indians and serves as a Welcome Center for those crossing the border from Canada. The park is also home to the tallest waterfall in Minnesota, cascading 120 from the Pigeon River toward Lake Superior, just a mile downstream. That’s a lot for one park!
What drew me to ask the S.O. (aka John) was the notation on the park map that there was a paved trail to the High Falls. While I was a bit skeptical, I hoped it was true. The trailhead is clearly marked and paved. There are plenty of spots to catch a view of the river and Canada just a few hundred yards on the other side. It’s kind of crazy to think you could literally cross the border (though not recommended!) at several points by simply rock hopping across the river.
One you reach the point that the trail starts to gain elevation, it’s an easy and wheelchair accessible boardwalk path to an observation point of the falls. Two of the three overlooks require a climb of stairs, the third offers an easy roll up. Each viewpoint offers a different perspective on the falls and river that is equally special. It was so fun to share this with someone I love and to hear his wonder that Canada could be so close. That a border could exist without a line, a fence, a wall. We had great conversation about the fact that nature doesn’t really recognize borders at all.
I’ll fully admit that the sign pointing to the middle falls was tempting to me. But I knew that the “rugged” trail was not to be on this trip. I’ll have to wait for another time to make the 4.5 mile round trip the signs promised would have some significant elevation gains in short distances before it softens to a rolling trail near the Middle Falls.
If you’re on the North Shore, I’d highly recommend making the trip to this park to take in the falls (one or both). It’s a lovely place and a great stepping off point if you want to cross the border to explore the Pigeon River Provincial Park on the other side. I know it peaked my interest!
Next Post Preview: It’s really rewarding to be a Trail Angel. Sometimes the benefit isn’t just to the hiker you’re helping out. And sometimes it doesn’t go exactly as planned.
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