A Local’s Guide to Palisade Head near Silver Bay, MN

palisade head

If you’re looking for what’s maybe THE North Shore Minnesota view, you’ve come to the right place.

Palisade Head is one of our favorite things to do on the North Shore, and we definitely consider it a must-stop.

We’ve been coming here for years, which is why Lily and I decided to finally put together this guide, complete with everything you need to know to make your first Palisade Head visit!

What is Palisade Head?

Palisade Head is large rock formation located just north of Silver Bay, MN.

More notable for visitors, Palisade Head is an absolutely beautiful scenic overlook. Visitors who make the short, steep drive off Highway 61 rave about its stunning cliff-side views of the Lake Superior shoreline.

At its peak, the formation is nearly 350 feet tall. On good days, visitors can see everything from the Sawtooth Mountains to the Northeast, Split Rock Lighthouse to the Southwest, and even the Apostle Islands of Wisconsin, over 30 miles south.

Easy overlook. Rocky terrain with no paths, so the best views are not wheelchair accessible.

Look for “Palisade Head Overlook” signs off Highway 61, then drive approximately 1/2 miles up the narrow, steep road. (More detailed instructions below.)

5 minutes to a few hours, if you sit and soak in the view.

Maybe 100 feet to the best overlook. No formal hiking trails.

Flat, with some big rocks to navigate.

Year Round. However, the road is closed in the winter, so you will have to hike up. (Not easy!) 

Map of Palisade Head

Palisade Head is located right off Minnesota’s Scenic Highway 61, approximately three miles north of Silver Bay, MN.

Technically, Palisade Head is part of Tettegouche State Park. However, it’s actually located completely outside of the rest of Tettegouche, so it’s essentially a stand-alone attraction.

Note that the DNR maintains Palisade Head in its natural state, so you won’t find any hiking trail maps or anything of that sort.

Instead, visitors are encouraged to explore the rugged, rocky terrain on their own. Just make sure to exercise caution! The area is certainly dangerous, and kids should be watched carefully at all times. (There’s been a couple Palisade Head deaths in recent years.)

How far is Palisade Head from Duluth, MN?

Palisade Head is located approximately 58 miles from Duluth, or just over 1 hour by car.

How Far is Palisade Head from Minneapolis & St. Paul?

Palisade Head is just over 200 miles from The Twin Cites, or about 3 hours and 20 minutes by car.

Yes, this means it can be day tripped! And it’s certainly one of the cooler choices in the state!

How to Get to Palisade Head

To actually find it, look for the “Palisade Head Overlook” signs off Highway 61. (Note Palisade Head is not nearly as well-marked as say, Split Rock Lighthouse or many of the nearby state parks, so definitely pay attention as you get closer. We drove right past the signs on our first trip!)

Eventually, you’ll see a simple roadside marker directing you to a small parking lot. 

Here, you’ll notice a few overflow parking spots, as well as the official Palisade Head Historical Marker. You’ll also notice a small road steeply winding upwards, and a sign warning that the road narrows.

how to get to palisade head from duluth or minneapolis

Follow this slow, windy road up for a couple minutes, and you’ll soon find yourself at a small parking lot right on the peak! Welcome to Palisade Head! Step out of your car and enjoy!

Note that the small parking lot at the peak does fill up during busy times. If it’s full, you may have to drive back down to the base and hike up. (This hike is the only option during Winter, since the DNR closes the road during Winter.)

Palisade Head Photo Guide

Here are some of our favorite photos we’ve taken at Palisade Head, so you can get an idea of what you’re in for!

photo guide to palisade head 1

The view from the main Palisade Head overlook area.

photo guide to palisade head 3

Looking south on Palisade Head.

photo guide to palisade head 2

How relaxing is this???

rock climbing palisade head

Rock climbers are a frequent sight at Palisade Head!

Palisade Head History

While Palisade Head was well known by early travelers and settlers, the area did not become a major tourist attraction until Minnesota’s North Shore highway (Highway 61) was completed in 1924.

How was Palisade Head formed?

Over a billion years ago, molten lava erupted from the earth’s core to form the rhyolite rock structure of Palisade Head. Over the next billion years, erosion from waves and glacier scouring wore down the surrounding area, while the extremely hard lava rock of Palisade Head resisted this erosion.

The final result is what we see today – a spectacular rock structure nearly 350 feet tall, overlooking Lake Superior. (Lake Superior filled the basin originally created by the lava eruption.) 

How did Palisade Head get its name?

A “palisade” is an English word for a fence or defensive wall, made from iron or wooden stakes.

A “head” in geology describes deposits of materials often resulting in flat hilltops.

Put the two together, and you can see that the name Palisade Head is a literal description of  what the cliff formation looks like.

Palisade Head Rock Climbing

Both Lily and I are far from Rock Climbers, but on any given day, you can catch daring rock climbers climbing the cliffs.

If you do happen to be a climber, here are some great resources about climbing Palisade Head:

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