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10 Best Day Trips from Duluth, Minnesota

Duluth, Minnesota, tucked away along the shores of Lake Superior, is a fantastic starting point for numerous day trips in the region. With its captivating mix of natural beauty, outdoor activities, and charming small towns, there is no shortage of exciting destinations for travelers. The following article highlights ten of the best day trips from Duluth that showcase the vast array of attractions and experiences awaiting those who venture beyond the city limits.

These day trips range from strolls along the picturesque Duluth Lakewalk to visiting Minnesota’s famed North Shore, exploring state parks such as Banning State Park and Gooseberry Falls, and even taking a scenic train ride on the North Shore Scenic Railroad.

Whether it’s discovering quaint towns like Grand Marais, trekking to the historic Split Rock Lighthouse, or spending a day immersed in wildlife at Lake Superior Zoo, there are options to suit various interests in these fulfilling excursions.

Embarking on any of these day trips from Duluth allows visitors to take in more of Minnesota’s diverse landscapes and helps create unforgettable memories while discovering the region’s best. So pack your bags, jump in the car, and get ready for a day of adventure!

Best Day Trips from Duluth, Minnesota

The beautiful city of Duluth offers several exciting day trips for tourists and locals alike. Here are ten of the best destinations to explore within a reasonable distance from Duluth, Minnesota:

1. Gooseberry Falls State Park

Gooseberry Falls State Park
Jacob Boomsma /Shutterstock

Approximately an hour’s drive from Duluth, Gooseberry Falls State Park is an ideal destination for nature enthusiasts. The park features a series of cascading waterfalls alongside scenic hiking trails, perfect for a day of outdoor exploration.

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2. Split Rock Lighthouse

Splitrock Lighthouse State Park
Jacob / Adobe Stock

Located about an hour northeast of Duluth, Split Rock Lighthouse is a historic structure that offers stunning views of Lake Superior. Visitors can tour the lighthouse and surrounding grounds to learn more about its fascinating history.

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3. Tettegouche State Park

Rocky cliff along Lake Superior at Tettegouche State Park
Susan Rydberg / Adobe Stock

Tettegouche State Park, situated an hour and a half north of Duluth, offers a range of recreational activities, including hiking, rock climbing, and birdwatching. The park also features the beautiful High Falls—a highly recommended destination for any visitor.

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4. Grand Marais

Artists Point in Grand Marais
Susan Rydberg / Adobe Stock

Drive a little over two hours northeast of Duluth to reach the charming town of Grand Marais. Tucked away on the shores of Lake Superior, this quaint village offers picturesque views, local arts and crafts, and delicious dining options.

5. Apostle Islands

Beautiful Sea Caves on Devil's Island in the Apostle Islands
Gottography / Adobe Stock

The Apostle Islands on Lake Superior can be reached approximately three hours from Duluth. The area boasts remarkable natural beauty, including sea caves, sandy beaches, and historic lighthouses—perfect for a memorable day trip.

6. Ely

Beautiful lake with blue skies above
Joe / Adobe Stock

Located just over two hours from downtown Duluth, Ely is a small town that serves as a gateway to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. With abundant outdoor activities like canoeing, fishing,, and hiking, Ely is a great destination for adventure-seekers.

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7. Brainerd Lakes Area

Long Lake in the Brainerd Lake Recreation Area
jzehnder / Adobe Stock

The Brainerd Lakes Area, a two-hour drive from Duluth, offers a range of recreational opportunities—such as golfing, mountain biking, fishing, and boating—spread across its numerous lakes. This region is perfect for those seeking both relaxation and adventure.

8. Superior National Forest

Lake view from an open tent
stevengaertner / Adobe Stock

Superior National Forest is a vast wilderness expanse of northern waters that provides abundant hiking, fishing, and camping opportunities. Just a two-hour drive from Duluth, this destination allows visitors to immerse themselves in the serene beauty of nature.

9. Soudan Underground Mine State Park

Soudan-Vermillion State Park in Northern Minnesota
Jacob / Adobe Stock

About two hours northwest of Duluth, Soudan Underground Mine State Park offers a unique experience for visitors interested in industrial and natural history. Tour the underground mine and learn about the mining process firsthand.

10. Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness

Canoe on the shore of the Boundary Waters
Mitch / Adobe Stock

Accessible through Ely, the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness is a network of waterways and forests that attracts nature lovers and adventure enthusiasts alike. Enjoy canoeing, fishing, or simply the tranquility of this pristine area.

Planning Your Day Trip in Northern Minnesota

Embarking on a day trip from Duluth, Minnesota, is an excellent way to explore the region’s natural beauty and unique attractions. To make the most out of your adventure, consider the following tips on when to go and what to bring.

When to Go

The best time to plan your day trip largely depends on your preferred activities and the seasonal attractions available. Here are some suggestions for different times of the year:

  • Spring: As the temperatures warm up and the snow melts, spring is ideal for visiting waterfalls and parks and enjoying outdoor activities such as hiking and birdwatching.
  • Summer: Enjoy the fantastic weather by exploring Lake Superior or biking along the numerous nearby trails. Summer days also offer extended daylight hours, giving you more time to enjoy your day trip.
  • Fall: With the leaves changing colors and crisp air, fall is perfect for scenic drives along the North Shore or visiting local apple orchards.
  • Winter: Embrace the colder weather by participating in winter sports such as skiing, snowboarding, or snowshoeing. The region’s natural beauty is just as stunning in the snowy months as during the warmer seasons.

What to Bring

Preparing for your day trip involves packing the essentials to ensure a comfortable and enjoyable experience. Consider the following items when planning your trip:

Item Reason Weather-appropriate clothing Be prepared for changing weather conditions by dressing in layers and packing rain gear, if necessary. Snacks and water Stay energized and hydrated during your day trip by bringing along snacks and water.

Camera or smartphone Capture memories of your day trip by taking photos and videos of your adventures. Map or GPS Ensure you stay on track and don’t miss any vital visit stops along your route. Sun protection Protect yourself from the sun with sunglasses, a hat, and sunscreen. Insect repellent Keep bugs at bay, especially during warmer months or when hiking in wooded areas.

With proper planning, you can ensure a memorable and enjoyable day trip from Duluth, Minnesota. Consider the timing and essential items above to maximize your adventure.

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Safety Tips and Considerations

Before embarking on a day trip from Duluth, Minnesota, it’s crucial to consider some safety tips and precautions to ensure a memorable and enjoyable experience for all.

First and foremost, always check the weather forecast for your chosen destination before leaving home. This will allow you to dress appropriately and be prepared for any unexpected weather changes during your trip.

When visiting natural attractions such as parks, waterfalls, and hiking trails, follow posted safety guidelines and remain on designated paths. This protects the environment and minimizes the risk of accidents and injuries. If hiking, familiarize yourself with the trail map and carry a physical copy or a digital download on your phone.

Driving safety is crucial, especially when navigating unfamiliar roads. Ensure your vehicle is in good working order, and observe the speed limits and road signs. Keep your phone charged, and consider investing in a GPS device or travel app to help with navigation. If possible, carpool with friends or family to minimize the number of vehicles on the road and reduce emissions.

When planning your day trip, be mindful of the hours of operation for attractions and amenities, such as state parks or visitor centers. This way, you can avoid the disappointment of arriving at a closed facility and better manage your time during the trip.

Lastly, remain vigilant when it comes to personal safety. Secure your valuables and keep them out of sight when leaving your car unattended. Be aware of your surroundings, and don’t hesitate to report any suspicious activity to local law enforcement or park rangers.

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