Hiking Club Loop

Temperance River State Park, Minnesota

Trip Date: Thursday, June 29th, 2017
Last Updated: Monday, September 18th, 2017
By Ricky Holzer

Hike Information

Rating ★★★★★(5/5)
Overall Difficulty Easy
Navigation Difficulty     Easy
Distance 1.6 miles roundtrip
Time 1 hour
Terrain Hilly
Best Seasons All
Family Friendly Yes
Dog Friendly Yes
Accessible No


Hike Summary

The North Shore of Lake Superior offers some of the best scenery in Minnesota, and Temperance River State Park doesn't disappoint. Unlike the name "temperance" suggests, this river rages through a narrow gorge with spectacular rapids and cascades. This is the perfect place to stop to stretch your legs on a long journey up the North Shore, or you can spend the night and explore the park with hikes like Carlton Peak. Either way, this park shouldn't be missed.

Dogs are allowed on leash. Like most Hiking Club trails, this is an excellent family friendly hike and an opportunity for you to collect another Hiking Club password to work toward winning that free night of camping. This route is available year round, though trails are not maintained or groomed in winter. The first quarter mile or so is usually quite busy (even on a Thursday!), but there will be fewer people after you pass the bridge over the gorge.

The trail starts on the north side of the highway and is paved for a short section leading to an accessible viewing platform. There is another short water access trail that starts near here, but signs should say this trail does not lead to the waterfalls; you'll know you're on the wrong trail if it dead ends at the river. After the viewing platform, the trail becomes unpaved and circles the pool at the base of the falls. All of that churning water makes huge swaths of foam covering the surface of this pool -- you can see me holding a ball of it in my hand in the picture below. Soon after rounding the pool you will begin a short but steep climb to the top of the rocky gorge.

Snowy globs of foam cover the surface of the river

Snowy globs of foam cover the surface of the river
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Once you are on top of the rocky gorge, you can witness the thundering power of the river like pictured below from several viewpoints on the trail. Each lookout has a stone wall to protect you from getting too close to the edge and falling (and to deter fearless photographers from climbing the surrounding rocks). The bare rock surface is slippery from the constant mist from the river, so be careful here, especially on the rocky steps to and from lookouts. Ahead, you will see the concrete bridge spanning the gorge shown in the picture at the top of the page.
The Temperance River cascading through the gorge

The Temperance River cascading through the gorge
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After the bridge, there will be significantly fewer people. The trail follows the contours of the river and you can watch the river gradually become more calm. There are a few stretches of uphill, and a little over a half mile from the bridge there will be a side trail on the left leading you to a small waterfall (pictured below).
Heavy rains made this waterfall look more like really big rapids

Heavy rains made this waterfall look more like really big rapids
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A little further from the waterfall, you will come to an intersection. Follow the trail to the right; blue Hiking Club signs should point you this direction. The trail from here on is nowhere near as scenic as what you have already seen. However, the forest here is quiet and pretty with the typical North Shore coniferous and hardwood trees and patches of wildflowers like pictured below. Take my opinion with a grain of salt -- there had been so much rain the week before I visited that much of this trail was flooded, so I spent more time staring at the ground trying to keep my shoes dry than at my surroundings.
Cute little wildflowers poking through the grass

Cute little wildflowers poking through the grass
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Stay to the right at the next three intersections, and turn left at the final intersection where you return to the familiar start of the trail. Retrace your steps back to the parking lot and enjoy seeing the amazing scenery once more. This is definitely a hike you shouldn't skip while visiting the North Shore, whether you're just stopping for an hour to break up a longer drive or spending a night at the park. Let me know what you think in the comments section below, and be sure to use #nocoastbestcoast on Twitter and Instagram!


From Duluth, take Minnesota Highway 61 north for about one and a half hours. Watch for signs for Temperance River State Park, and there will be parking spaces on both sides of the highway.

Google Maps Directions

Parking, Fees, and Facilities

Parking along the highway is free! Note that a state parks permit is required if you park anywhere within the park. There are no facilities directly adjacent to the parking area on the highway, but a trail leads to the park office where there are flush toilets.

Nearby Hikes

The endless blue of Lake Superior from the top of the Carlton Peak
Carlton Peak
Superior National Forest, Minnesota
This boulder provides a great spot to sit and enjoy the view of the Superior National Forest
LaVeaux Mountain
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I assure you, the view here is amazing on a clear day
Oberg Mountain
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The marvellous cliffs along Lake Superior
Shovel Point and Superior Shore
Tettegouche State Park, Minnesota

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