Lake Superior, northernmost of the Great Lakes, is the largest body of freshwater in the world. While its Minnesota North Shore beckons adventure-seekers and their dogs year-round, fall is a particularly spectacular time to visit. Rocky cliffs, cobblestone beaches, rolling hills, spectacular waterfalls and ridges covered in boreal forest make it a perfect spot for leaf-peeping and dog fun.
Birthplace of Bob Dylan and runner-up in Outside magazine’s “World’s Best Adventure Hub” contest, Duluth puts on quite a show in autumn. The best way to see its hardwood-forest sparkle is to take a drive along the Skyline Parkway Scenic Byway and revel in the multicolored vistas. Crossing the parkway, the 298-mile-long Superior Hiking Trail and shorter city trails provide ample opportunities to explore nature with your dog. (Trail maps are available from the Superior Hiking Trail Association.)
Lake Superior Magazine’s list of premium parkway overlooks includes Bardon’s Peak, Thompson Hill, Enger Tower and Hawk Ridge. Local dog lovers point out that the area’s many cross-country-ski trails are also great places to walk your well-behaved dog off-leash before winter blows in. For more dog-pal diversions, visit the city-owned dog park at Keene Creek Park or take an urban stroll on the Lakewalk pathway along the shore of Lake Superior. On Lakewalk, dogs need to be on-leash, and you’ll fi nd fountains with pup-level faucets. The city’s Canal Park also has much to offer in the way of shopping and local fl avor. Cathy Kates, one of Duluth’s self-proclaimed “dog fanatics,” tells us that some restaurants—including Green Mill, Caribou, Little Angie’s and Bellisio’s—accommodate diners and their canine companions on the patio.
Pet-friendly accommodations include the historic Fitger’s Inn, a former brewery now a luxury lakefront hotel (happily, when it comes to canine guests, they don’t impose size restrictions or additional fees). As you explore the Fitger’s Brewery Complex mall, keep an eye out for A Place for Fido, which caters to active, outdoorsy dogs. Shop owner Jamie Parent tells us that dogs are allowed in all the shops, not just hers. Pick up some “made in Minnesota” Sojos-brand food and treats at Jamie’s place for your drive up the coast.
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NORTH SHORE SCENIC DRIVE
“Scenic” certainly seems to be the operative word in this part of the country. The tour continues northward on what was once called U.S. Hwy 61 (inspiration for Dylan’s “Highway 61 Revisited”) but is now known as the North Shore Scenic Drive. This 154-mile- long route hugs the lake on one side and is bordered by the Sawtooth Mountain Range, with its thousands of acres of pine, aspen and birch, on the other. Just outside Duluth, stop off at the New Scenic Café and sample delicious bakery items on the dog-friendly patio, or get a farm-fresh lunch to go.
On your way to Tofte and Lutsen, you’ll travel through the Superior National Forest, known for its 1-millionacre Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and more than 386 miles of trails winding their way through a truly breathtaking landscape. Stay in one of the dog-friendly rooms at the lakeside Bluefin Bay Resort in Tofte, or go on to neighboring Lutsen and the Cascade Lodge—log cabins and miles of wild, scenic and accessible shoreline surrounded by one of Minnesota’s finest parks, Cascade River State Park.
It’s a short drive from Lutsen to the quaint harbor village of Grand Marais, where you and your co-pilot can enjoy delicious seasonal dishes at the dog-friendly Pie Place Café. Owner Mary Lear, a die-hard dog lover, welcomes canine guests to the café’s patio area with water and homemade treats; according to Lear, local dog-folk favorites include Artist Point and the breakwater/lighthouse area, as well as a new dog park along the Gunflint Trail. Want to linger a while? The Harbor Inn has several pet-friendly rooms facing the lake.
If a sense of adventure calls, head into the Northwoods for a stay at the Gunflint Lodge on the shores of one of the area’s numerous lakes—Minnesota is, after all, known as the Land of 10,000 Lakes! The resort was started by a mother/daughter duo, and has been operated by the same family for three generations. Their dog-lover weekends, which are offered throughout the year, include activities and seminars on dog massage, training, communication and pet health. Autumn’s Woofta Ufta and Waggalot weekends are great hits.
Another must-see is Grand Portage State Park on the Grand Portage [Chippewa Band] Reservation. Roughly 36 miles north of Grand Marais on the U.S./Canada border, it features the state’s highest waterfall, the aptly named High Falls. The rushing waters plummet 120 feet into the Pigeon River, and the vistas are equally stunning. The easy, one-half-mile trail to the overlook area is a truly memorable way to cap off “everything down Highway 61.”