Into the Woods

  • Start: Duluth, MN
  • End: Thunder Bay, ON
  • Last Modified: 2011-09-13 20:39:34
  • Total Mileage: 415 Miles
  • Number of stops: 19


Located on the westernmost edge of Lake Superior, Highway 61 rises between the storied waters of Gitchee Gumee and the highest peaks in Minnesota. Locals call this winding, two-lane road the "North Shore." The rest of the country adds "scenic drive" to that description and with good reason. Its route is dotted with natural wonders, charming shops, and terrific restaurants. This trip starts on Skyline Drive, 600 feet above the city of Duluth. The view of the metropolitan area as it stretches 25 miles along the water is spectacular. On the gray-blue horizon, Duluth's landmark Aerial Lift Bridge anchors the working harbor, which welcomes more than 1,000 ocean-going and Great Lakes freighters each year. But it isn't the view of the lake that draws visitors to the overlook; it is the one in the sky. This area is called Hawk Ridge. Since 1972, a full-time raptor count has been conducted at Hawk Ridge Nature Reserve where volunteers share stories, even binoculars, with visitors. In the fall, it is not uncommon for Doppler radar to mistakenly warn of storms approaching from Canada. In truth, the mass picked up by radar systems will not be weather-related at all; it will be the shadow of huge kettles of migrating raptors. On Sept. 14, 2003, due to a combination of weather fronts and the far-reaching effects of Hurricane Isabel, more than 100,000 raptors flew over Duluth, nearly all of which were broad-winged hawks. Back on the ground below, Duluth bustles with trendy shops, tempting restaurants, and cultural centers along the downtown lakefront. At Union Depot, restored cars from the North Shore Scenic Railroad (NSRR) sit trackside at the Lake Superior Railroad Museum. The NSSR offers theme rides, such as the Pizza Train, which serves fresh, hot pizza delivered on board. Pizza Train rides are family favorites at $18 per adult and $12 for children. After a few short whistles from the engineer, the train chugs along the lake and into the northwoods. The excursion lasts about 90 minutes and is hosted by an interpreter dressed as a conductor. Trains are still used commercially to haul iron from the Mesabi Range to the lake, where it is shipped to worldwide destinations. The center of Minnesota's iron range is Hibbing, home of the Hull Rust Mahoning Mine, the world's largest open pit iron mine. The pit stretches for more than three miles in length, and is two miles wide and 600 feet deep. Because of its size, it is often referred to as the "Grand Canyon of the North." Since the mid-1960s, Hibbing has gained international recognition as the hometown of singer and songwriter Bob Dylan, whose writings were nominated for a Nobel Prize in literature in 2004. One must-see stop is Zimmy's & the Atrium Restaurant. Housed in the town's first trolley station, the restaurant boasts the largest-known collection of Dylan memorabilia as well as an extensive menu named after his songs, like "Forever Young" veggie burgers at $6.99.Driving back toward the shore, the route passes Chisholm, where Ironworld commemorates the struggle of the immigrants who came to work the mines. And in Eveleth, visitors at the United States Hockey Hall of Fame, located on Hat Trick Drive, can relive the thrill of the 1980 match between the U.S. Olympic hockey team and the Soviet Union. This video presentation is one of the most popular exhibits at the hall. The Superior National Forest Scenic Byway starts at nearby Aurora and connects the Iron Range to the North Shore. The byway is wide and smooth with broad shoulders that allow unobstructed views of the boreal forest and occasional marshland. With an abundance of "Moose Crossing" signage, the exposure is most welcome, as moose sightings are quite common. This serene 61-mile stretch offers access to a variety of recreation areas including the Iron Range Off-Highway Vehicle Recreation Area, a 1,200-acre recreational area for all-terrain vehicles, off-road motorcycles, and 4x4s.The byway ends at Silver Bay, where Split Rock Light

Stop #1:

Hawk Ridge Nature Reserve
Duluth, MN

Stop #2:

North Shore Scenic Railroad
Duluth, MN

Stop #3:

Zimmy's and the Atrium Restaurant
Hibbing, MN

Stop #4:

Hull Rust Mahoning Iron Mine
Hibbing, MN

Stop #5:

U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Museum
Eveleth, MN

Stop #6:

Minnesota Discovery Center
Chisholm, MN

Stop #7:

Split Rock Lighthouse State Park
Two Harbors, MN

Stop #9:

Caribou Cream
Lutsen, MN

Stop #10:

Angry Trout Cafe
Grand Marais, MN

Stop #11:

Joynes Ben Franklin Store
Grand Marais, MN

Stop #12:

Grand Portage Lodge and Casino
Minnesota, United States of America

Stop #13:

Grand Portage National Monument
Minnesota, United States of America

Stop #14:

Thunder Oak Cheese Farm
Thunder Bay, ON

Stop #16:

Joyce Seppela Designs
Thunder Bay, ON

Stop #17:

Thunder Bay, ON

Stop #18:

Finn-Tastic Sauna Shop
Thunder Bay, ON

Stop #19:

Amethyst Mine Panorama
Thunder Bay, ON

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