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A Local’s Guide to Grand Portage State Park

high falls - grand portage state park, mn

The first time I ever visited Grand Portage State Park, I felt like I was driving to the end of the world!

As you continue further and further north along Minnesota’s Scenic Highway 61, the road gets quieter and quieter. Eventually, you find yourself at the US/Canadian border, at the majestic and serene Grand Portage State Park. 

While most visitor’s stop their Minnesota North Shore excursions at either Duluth or Grand Marais, we HIGHLY recommend continuing to Minnesota’s final stop. Here, you can find Minnesota’s tallest waterfall, which is a definite must-see!

This guide shares everything you need to know about visiting Grand Portage State Park, including detailed hiking trail descriptions and our best local’s tips.

grand portage state park guide

Map of Grand Portage State Park

You can find the official Grand Portgage State Park Map on the Minnesota DNR’s website.

On my first visit to Grand Portage, I also found this simplified map from the Visitor’s Center really helpful and easy to understand. The DNR doesn’t seem to publish it on their website, but thankfully, I always snap a pic of park maps before starting my hikes! (Much more convenient and eco-friendly than using a paper map!)

History of the Park

Grand Portage is unique in being the only Minnesota state park which is not owned by the State of Minnesota. Instead, the park was established in 1989 through a cooperative effort, when the Grand Portage Band of Chippewa Indians agreed to lease their land to the State of Minnesota.

About the Pigeon River

The beauty of Grand Portage State Park is made possible by the powerful Pigeon River.

The Pigeon River is one of the North Shore’s largest rivers. It starts within Minnesota’s Boundary Waters at Mountain Lake, then flows east for over 30 miles. Along this entire path, the river forms the Canadian/United States border. As the river nears Grand Portage, it begins a series of cascades and waterfalls. (The town of Grand Portage is actually the end of the 9 mile trek used by canoe travelers for hundreds of years to bypass these falls while traveling to Lake Superior.)

The two most dramatic falls are Middle Falls and the High Falls, both located in Grand Portage State Park! (And both very hikeable!)

High Falls Hiking Guide

The hike to High Falls is definitely the main attraction at Grand Portage State Park, and not something you want to miss!

This hike is an easy, leisurely, and fully paved path from the Grand Portage Visitor Center to a series of platform overlooks with perfect views of the dramatic high falls. And what a view! At over 120 feet tall, Grand Portage’s High Falls is the tallest waterfall in Minnesota!

Easy family stroll. Wheelchair accessible.

The path begins at the Grand Portage Visitor Center and is pretty clearly marked.

1-2 hours

1 mile roundtrip.

60 feet.

Year Round.

  • Summer is beautiful.
  • Fall brings the colors.
  • During Winter, you can rent snowshoes from the visitor center and take on the unplowed path!

Detailed High Falls Trail Description (with photos!)

This short and easy hike begins at the Grand Portage parking lot, just outside the Visitor Center. 

You’ll first notice a large observation deck, which has some serene views of the quiet end to the Pigeon River. Take a moment to enjoy the stillness. Remember this, because it’s quite the contrast from the upcoming high falls!

grand portage visitor center overlook

From here, all you have to do is follow the paved path into the woods.

grand portage - high falls hiking trail

Along the way, you’ll see a few paths heading through the brush on the right. These lead down to the Pigeon River, and are definitely worth the 1-2 minute detour!

pigeon river

After half a mile on the paved path, you’ll notice a fork in the road. The dirt path on the left is clearly marked as heading towards Middle Falls, while the wooden boardwalk on the right heads to the High Falls.

high falls boardwalk

If you follow this boardwalk (and the noise of the falls!) you’ll soon find yourself eye level with the dramatic High Falls!

high falls on the pigeon river

There’s actually three different observation decks here, so make sure to take in the falls from all the different views.

high falls mn
The City Pup loving the High Falls!

That’s it! From here, just head back the same way you came. If you want, you can take the unpaved path to Middle Falls once you hit the fork again.

Middle Falls Hiking Guide

The second of Grand Portage’s two hiking trails is the unpaved path to Middle Falls.

The Middle Falls hike is longer, more difficult, and much more “rugged.” Most of this hike is uphill/downhill on rocky, muddy, and at times, overgrown terrain.

The trail also gains quite a bit of elevation and rewards those who finish it with beautiful overlooks of both Lake Superior and the surrounding forest. (And of course, the waterfalls too!) 

(In the summer, bug spray is definitely recommended! In the Winter and Spring, the path can be icy, so good traction is a must.)

Moderate.

After hiking the paved path for High Falls for half a mile, you’ll come to fork in the road. The boardwalk on the right leads to the High Falls, while the dirt path on the left leads to Middle Falls. (The trail is marked.)

3-5 hours

4.5 miles roundtrip.

700 feet

Year Round.

  • Summer is beautiful.
  • Fall brings the colors.
  • During Winter, you can rent snowshoes from the visitor center and take on the unplowed path!

Detailed Description of the Middle Falls Hike

Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to tackle the middle falls trail on our recent trip to Grand Portage. Instead, we opted to spend the time at Judge Magney State Park taking in the mysterious Devil’s Kettle.

The path’s beginning definitely looked like an interesting journey through the forest though, so this is definitely something I’d like to come back for!

Additional Information on Grand Portage State Park

Open daily from  8 AM to 10 PM

218-475-2360

9393 East Highway 61
Grand Portage, MN 55605

Visitor's Center Information

Fun fact: This state park is technically both a State Park and a rest center!

As such, Grand Portage’s Visitor’s Center is well maintained, with large, clean restrooms. The Visitor Center is also open year round. Inside, you’ll find exhibits about the area, park guides, and a gift shop.

Picnic Areas

The park includes several picnic tables next to the parking lot and visitor’s center. It’s definitely a peaceful place to pack a lunch!

Can you camp in Grand Portage State Park?

No. Grand Portage State Park is a day-use only park, with no overnight camping or lodging allowed.

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