A Local’s Guide to Temperance River State Park

river gorge hike

From Lake Superior beaches to the 1,000 foot tall Carlton Peak, Temperance River State Park has it all!

Temperance River State Park is definitely one of our favorite stops along the North Shore.

Whether you plan on camping out for a week or only have a couple hours, we hope this guide helps you understand everything there is to know about this fantastic park! Read on for all the details, including a photo guide of our favorite hike!

Map of Temperance River State Park

You can find the official Temperance River State Park Map on the Minnesota DNR’s website.

They also share a Campground Map and a Rock Climbing Map.

On my recent visit to Temperance River, I also found this simplified map at the River Gorge Trailhead to be really helpful and easy to understand. The DNR doesn’t seem to publish it on their website, but thankfully, I snapped a somewhat crooked and chopped off picture before starting my hike! 🙂

(You can click it for a bigger version!)

Temperance River State Park Info

Open daily from  8 AM to 10 PM


5702 Highway 61
Silver Bay, MN 55614

Why Visit Temperance River State Park?

  • Temperance River Gorge: In our opinion, this unique hike is one of the coolest along the North Shore. It’s super-easy accessibility is just a bonus! (See below for our step by step hiking guide.)
  • Carlton Peak: Accessible by a more difficult hike, this 1,000 ft. tall peak gives beautiful panoramic views of the surrounding area.
  • Temperance River Beach: One of Lake Superior’s many scenic beaches.
  • Pink Salmon (in the Fall): One of the few places in Minnesota to see the spawning of Salmon!
  • Great Camping: Temperance River’s campgrounds feature hot showers and some Lake Superior views.
  • Rock Climbing: Rock Climbers love Carlton Peak.
  • Fishing: Both the Temperance River and Cross River are designated trout streams.

History of the Park

The 5,000 acres near Temperance River became a state park in 1957.

Prior to this, the land belonged to the Ojibwe and French until 1763. American Fur Companies settled the area in the 1830s. In the 1930s, the Civilian Conservation Corps began building overlooks along the riverside.

About the Temperance River

temperance river state park

Like most of Minnesota’s North Shore, the rock found along the River Gorge was formed from lava flow from an eruption on the earth’s surface, around 1.1 billion years ago.

Over time, the river eroded this lava rock, forming what is now the dramatic gorge. The gorge has many unique features, the most famous being its “Potholes.” These potholes were created as water flowed through the river and picked up rocks and sediment, creating what can only be described as nature’s very own drill bit.

The river got its name from some cheeky 1800s land surveyors. Noticing that this was the only river along the North Shore with no sand bar, they decided a river with no “bar” should be called “temperance.”



Temperance River State Park has two campgrounds, for 52 total sites. (Plus two pull through sites for RVs up to 60 feet.)

The Upper Campground is more developed than the lower campground. This area has 18 electric sites, along with hot shower facilities and flush toilets. 

That said, some of the campsites on the Lower Campground have fantastic views of Lake Superior.

You can reserve campsites online.


Guide to Our Favorite North Shore Hike: Temperance River Gorge + Extended Upper Falls Hike

On a recent North Shore road trip, Lily and I agreed this hike might have been the coolest one along the entire North Shore!

While not an official hike, this route is basically the first two miles of the park’s much longer and more difficult Carlton Peak hike. If you only have an hour or two and would prefer a more leisurely stroll rather than climbing the full 1,000 vertical feet, this hike is perfect!

This path follows along the stunning Temperance River Gorge, a narrow canyon like feature carved by the Temperance River. The trail features unique rock structures and several natural staircases, and you’ll even pass two different waterfalls!

The River Gorge section is the number #1 attraction at Temperance River State Park, so that part is definitely busier. That said, we think it’s totally worth it for the awesome views of the crazy Temperance River.


Mostly easy hike, with some moderate hills. Not wheelchair accessible – you’ll climb natural rock staircases and at times be walking over rugged bare rock.

Begin at the Temperance River Gorge Trail. Stay on this path (east side of the river) all the way to Upper Falls. If you want a calmer atmosphere and some peaceful river views, continue along the Superior Hiking Trail towards Carlton peak for as far as you like.

1.5-3 hours

Just over 2 miles round trip.

60 feet.

Year Round. You may want Snowshoes in the Winter though! 

Photo Guide - Temperance River Gorge + Extended Upper Falls Hike

This hike begins on the Temperance River Gorge Trail, a 0.25 mile path along the river. Start at the Highway 61 roadside parking lot. (You can also find a few spots next to the park office, but you’ll have to walk across Highway 61 to get to the trailhead)

temperance river state park parking lot

This hike starts out with a bang. You’ll immediately find yourself with a beautiful view of the upcoming River Gorge:

river gorge hike view

Soon after, the trail begins turning into a cool collection of natural rock staircases:

staircase on temperance river state park hike

To grab some (slightly obstructed views) of the well-named Hidden Falls, continue up along the path. You’ll catch some cool peeks of the waterfall hidden inside the gorge.

hidden falls

These rocky stairs eventually lead to a picturesque pedestrian footbridge, which has become the most recognizable landmark of Temperance River State Park.

river gorge hike

Now, according to the DNR map, the official trail to the Upper Falls involves crossing this bridge and walking along the trail on the West Side of the river. We’re not really sure why this is, since if you don’t cross the bridge and instead just stay on the same path, the route actually seems more popular, with better views.

In any case, we recommend not crossing the footbridge and instead continuing on the path. This will give you some more cool views of the gorge:

river gorge view

You’ll eventually reach the Upper Falls, which always look to me like more of a river rapid than a full waterfall. In any case, we recommend continuing past the Upper Falls towards the Superior Hiking trail.

This upland section of the hike turns much more forest-like, quiet, and peaceful. I love contrasting this calmer section of the river with the rapids-like section we started at.

temperance river state park to superior hiking trail

At this point, you’ve probably hiked a little over a mile. If you want to keep going, you can continue into the woods along the Superior Hiking Trial. This will eventually bring you to Carlton Peak, outlined below.

Otherwise, just head back to the Highway 61 Parking Lot using the same path you came in on! Enjoy!

Carlton Peak Hiking Guide

This hike starts with the same 1.5ish miles we just outlined. However, you’ll continue along the Superior Trail for another 2-3 miles to Carlton Peak, resulting in an ~8 mile round trip hike.

This path is noticeably more difficult, requiring two steep rocky scrambles to reach the peak.

Once at the peak, you’ll be rewarded with spectacular views of Lake Superior, the Sawtooth Mountains, and the beautiful Minnesota Northwoods.  

(Note that you can also reach Carlton Peak from a shorter, 3 mile hike that starts at the Britton Peak parking lot.)

Begin at Temperance River State Park’s Highway 61 parking lot, and continue past upper falls and onto the Superior Hiking Trail.

4-5 hours

8 miles roundtrip.

1,000 feet

Year Round. You may want Snowshoes in the Winter though! 

Check out our other North Shore guides!

Share on

Don't miss out

on awesome updates around the Twin Cities.
About the Author
More like this