Lake Superior Memorial Day 2024

We’ve done a Memorial Day camping trip every year since 2021 (except last year). We camped at the Porcupine Mountains, Madeline Island, and Cornucopia, WI in 2021; Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and returned to Corny in 2022; and this year we returned to the UP but ventured to Minnesota’s North Shore instead of the Apostle Islands. This meant we got to stop in Duluth, and due to a planning mishap, spent a night in Castle Danger at the same place where, 10 years ago this August, we get married.

The place hasn’t changed that much, but László had a lot of fun showing us around. He was really into the idea that something really important to his parents happened there, even if he didn’t totally understand what was so important about it. We had a delicious Great Lakes Crunch Pie from Betty’s which has changed pretty significantly in the last 10 years. They majorly expanded their parking lot behind the building and now have a special (at least partly permanent) tent for to go orders. Word has gotten out, apparently.

A sign for Betty’s Pies. It is a blue field with white text that reads: World famous, Two Harbors, MN, since 1956.

It was honestly a bit of a relief to see the north shore thriving in the post-covid era, especially with the warm winter just past us, northern climate tourism has had a tough few years.

Anyway, you didn’t come here for blathering on and waxing about the state of the north woods economy. You came here for Camping Content and I shall deliver.

Da Yoop

The camper, mid setup, at our lake shore campsite at Little GIrl’s Point County Park in Gogebic County, MI.

We first encountered the strangely named Little Girl’s Point County Park this past winter when we took a day trip up to Lake Superior sometime after Christmas. The campsites here are right on the cliff overlooking the lake, and we decided to come back and give them a shot.

It was hard to figure out how the campground intended us to pull into these sites. Pulled in next to the power pole, the camper barely fit but the entrance faced a different site. Pulled in parallel to the shore, the power cord becomes a trip hazard and barely reaches.

Campsites here also don’t have any water and there is no fill or dump station here. If you’re coming by travel trailer, fill stations were hard to come by because Curry Park Campground in Ironwood was not open yet. Fortunately, we filled before we left and were good on water. There are more options for dumping, including at Saxon Harbor, WI. You’ll probably have better luck later in the season. If you’re tent camping, you have a little more flexibility because you can fill all your bottles at a Kwik Trip or bubblers at the marinas. Still, make a plan because there is very little potable water on site.

Minor gripes aside, it’s hard to argue with a view like this.

The campsite is perched right on top of a cliff eroded by thousands of years of lake activity battering the shoreline. We got to witness a small amount of this powerful activity as heavy winds from Canada blew across the lake and kicked up waves that were 8 – 10 feet at the highest.

Someone from Ashland told us the beach used to be entirely rock, but a storm a few years ago collapsed some of the cliff and dredged up a bunch of sand from the lake. This is still a fantastic beach for picking agates, driftwood, and other lake artifacts, but I found myself wondering what it was and marveling at the power of wind and water amplified over time.

OK, let’s be honest, I do that a lot.

North Shore, MN

We stayed in the UP until my birthday and then drove across the lake’s Wisconsin portion and into one of my favorite cities of all time: Duluth, MN. The drive into this city couldn’t be more incredible. After passing through the Ashland area, the highway winds inland for a while, giving glimpses of a horizon you’re not sure if is water or sky. Then, you’re suddenly in Superior, WI and crossing a giant bridge spanning the twin ports (busier than the Port of Milwaukee, FWIW) with a massive panoramic view of large ships on the inner harbor, the hills and towers that make up Duluth’s skyline, and all of Lake Superior stretching northward.

We spent the afternoon in Duluth where László discovered his “new hobby” of climbing on breakwater walls.

We also timed our visit just right to see the annual Smelt Parade. It was exactly as amazingly strange as I expected it to be, with a good dose of environmentalist anti-capitalism tossed in for good measure. At least, I think that’s what was going on; we had to leave early because we couldn’t hear very well and László was scared of the greedy baron.

No idea who the dude in the white hat was but thanks for photo bombing, bro!

After a brief hang and a requisite stop at Duluth Pack, we made for Castle Danger for the night. At Grand Superior, László was pretty endearingly enamored with the whole scene and imagining whatever happened at this thing called a wedding. He also got to practice his new hobby. I have to say, he refined his craft quickly. We made it all the way across the shoreline to the other end of Grand Superior’s property without falling in the water. He even enrolled Zoli in the fun.

The next morning we went up the coast further to Split Rock Lighthouse and Black Beach. The latter is a newish beach created from decades of taconite mine tailings that had been dumped into the lake, then washed ashore by nature. This means the entire beach is a by product of pollution and it is highly magnetic. When I set my phone down in the sand, the taconite stuck to the MagSafe attachments on the back. It’d be cool to see someone make some taconite sand castles held together by a magnetic base. This beach has existed for quite a while, but it was only in 2015 that it opened to the public. The park around it is very much still being built, but there’s a campground on site that would be fun to stay at someday.

Jay Cooke State Park

Our final stop on the trip was a camping adventure at Minnesota’s Jay Cooke State Park, about 15 minutes south of Duluth. What a fantastic park and campground. There were modern bathrooms and showers with private doors. An outdoor dishwashing station was much easier to use than either washing them in the camper sink, not to mention a bin at a campsite.

The swing bridge was a short walk from the camper and László and I had a blast walking back and forth across it and the climbing on the big rocks on the other side. It was a struggle to get him to turn around and go back for dinner. I wish I’d been able to stay a little longer and explore this park more, but I had to fly out to a conference the next morning.

All in all, it was a fun trip and we’re already looking forward to next year’s Memorial Day camp out!