Fall is such a magical time on the north shore. With maple-laden drives, epic hiking, and breathtaking views, Cook County really comes alive in the fall! I had the opportunity to the last two years for a couple of quick trips to the North Shore and was able to find some breathtaking drives along the way! If you’re looking to find some stunning drives and epic views, read on below for what I did and what resources I used to find them!
Best Resources to Find Drives:
Visit Cook County– A fantastic resource to all of Cook County, I used their Scenic Drives article to find some ones that would work with the schedule since I have limited time! They all include a Google Map image along with the time and distance so you can really plan ahead and utilize your time!
North Shore Visitor- Another amazing resource, The North Shore Visitor’s website updates the fall color report frequently and adjusts their recommended sights and drives past on the peak times along the shore! I also pulled a few from here based on my timing around Grand Marais and Lutsen and it worked out well!
Best Drives for Fall Colors + Scenic Overlooks!
Heartbreak Ridge – Schroeder & Tofte
One of the first scenic drives I picked as it was right after Schroeder and before Tofte, was Heartbreak Ridge. Located right past Temperance State Park, head north on Temperance Road and once you get to the end, take a right for 6 Hundred Road. This is where I found the peak colors! Keep along and the road ends at the Sawbill Trail which will bring you right into Tofte. Find more info and directions for Heartbreak Ridge here. It was a quick 20ish minute drive but you can also do a longer loop that goes farther inland, for just under and hour. That is called the Richey Lake Loop and you can find more info from the number 4 drive on Cook County’s Website!
For a quick and easy hike that gives you sweeping views of trees and Lake Superior, find Britton’s Peak right off Sawbill Trail on your way into Tofte! It’s all an incline so wear good shoes, but it took me less than 5 mins to climb up!
Caribou Trail + Honeymoon Trail + Maple Syrup – Lutsen
This was one of my favorite drives as there is a handful of stops that are just stunning! Start on the Caribou Trail right in Lutsen. Drive up the paved road and you’ll first come across Caribou Cream Maple Syrup – Swing in to grab soem goodies (all on the honor system!) Just write down what you take and pay with cash or Venmo before you leave! The property is lined with the most beautful maple trees as you can imagine.
Shortly after Caribou Cream you’ll see a parking lot to your left next to Caribou Lake with a sign for White Sky. Park in the lot and safely walk across the road to the entrance to the Superior Hiking Trail. This also is a steep incline so again be careful and wear good shoes! It took me less than 10 mins again, so it’s a quick and easy trek that’s about 0.3 miles. I went when it was raining and with all the leaves that have already fallen it was a bit slippery, but dang the views were worth it! I can’t image the views on a sunny day!
Keep heading north and you’ll see a sign for Wild County Maple Syrup at the turn for Honeymoon Trail. Take that turn! Keep following the signs for Wild Country to bring you to one of the most maple laden drives I’ve ever seen! Take in all the views down the small dirt road that winds through the most intense maples and you’ll end at their property! Pop into their maple shack to purchase my favorite syrup! Again, it’s on the honor system so leave cash or they also have the option for Venmo or Cash App too! If you’re lucky you might even catch a tour from the honor! I was able to hear that this year they tapped 28,000 maple trees which is incredible!
After stocking up on syrup you can continue on the Honeymoon trail loop that’ll bring you back to Sawbill Train into Tofte ( Drive number 3 on Cook County’s site)- or for a shorter option just head back the way you came and go back into Lutsen!
County Road 60 – Grand Marais
Another easy and stunning drive, head north of Grand Marais to County road 58 and turn there. From there head north and turn right on County Road 60 – Another quiet dirt road, I never encountered any traffic and you can see colors peeking along the road and even behind it! It’s drive number 5 on Cook County’s website! Once you get to the end take county road 14 back to highway 61 OR head farther north to Trout Lake Road for a longer loop that will take up up to the Gunflint Trail!
These drives were all unique and beautiful in their own way and they were the perfect drives for my limited time there! I highly suggest doing longer routes if you have the time as the colors are more intense as you head farther away from the shore! Now, if you have time, I highly suggest getting to the shore now or make plans for next year! You need to experiences these fall colors at least once!