Given its location around Lake Superior, Duluth is a port city that is within an hour’s drive of a number of outstanding state parks.
This is great for those who love the outdoors, because there are plenty of places with gorgeous scenery, wonderful hiking trails and numerous opportunities for recreational water sports activities, that you can escape to when you need a break from work, or the pressures of city life in general.
Whether you are just wanting to visit them for a few hours, or enjoy a weekend, or longer camping stay, these state parks provide the perfect opportunity to immerse yourself in nature.
Below is a list of five of the best and closest state parks near Duluth, which you should definitely add to your ‘must visit’ list.
Map of State Parks Near Duluth MN
Here is a map of the Minnesota state parks covered in this post:
List of State Parks Near Duluth
The five state parks outlined below are situated within easy driving distance from what has affectionately been labelled the ‘air conditioned city’.
1. Gooseberry Falls State Park
Location: 3206 MN-61, Two Harbors, MN 55616
Magnificent Gooseberry Falls is regarded as the gateway to the North Shore.
Just 40 miles from Duluth, the area is renowned for its stunning waterfalls, impressive river gorge and its stretch of beautiful Lake Superior shoreline. Which makes it an excellent spot for hiking in the summer, and skiing in the winter.
The Upper, Middle and Lower cascades of the Gooseberry River, which rampage loudly through the rock gorge, are mesmerizing, and you will want to take plenty of photos of them. Whilst the lake provides excellent options for kayaking, paddleboarding and swimming.
For those wanting to camp there are 69 drive-in sites available, many of which are wooded. There are also three pull through sites and three sites for group camping of up to 50 people. Unfortunately there are no electric sites available at this park, but there are four wheelchair accessible sites, two of which are located near the restrooms.
The sites are available on a first come, first serve basis, and seasonal showers and flush toilets are available in the campground. In the visitor center, flush toilets are available all year-round.
2. Jay Cooke State Park
Location: 780 MN-210, Carlton, MN 55718
Established in 1915 the Jay Cooke State Park boasts a rugged terrain of hardwood forest, steep valleys, deep, water-eroded gorges and imposing rock formations, which are crying out to be explored on foot, mountain bike or kayak.
In the spring gorgeous wildflowers carpet the area, whilst the vivid colors in fall are scintillating. One of the highlights here is the swinging suspension bridge that resides high above the Saint Louis River – definitely not for the faint hearted! There is also a notable and historic cemetery to check out, as well as the impressive gorge at Thomson Dam.
Overall there are 79 camping sites, 21 of which are electric, (between 20 and 50 amp) and most of which are wooded. Unlike in other state parks, 12 sites are kept open in winter and of these five are electric. So you can visit here all year round.
Best of all the park is situated only 18 miles from Duluth. So it’s nice and close to home!
3. Moose Lake State Park
Location: 4252 Co Rd 137, Moose Lake, MN 55767
Lying just 43 miles from Duluth, the Moose Lake State Park is a wonderful landscape of rolling hills, dense woodland, verdant fields, wood life ponds and shimmering fishing lakes.
A very popular camping destination for those who love to hike, fish, swim and engage in water sports, you will probably spot plenty of wildlife too. Including white-tailed deer who often pop up in between the mature aspen, birch, basswood and maple trees.
Two miles west of the park, the Willard Munger Trail is a terrific hiking spot that extends for 60 miles all the way from Hinckley to west Duluth.
In terms of camping options there are 33 drive-in sites that are situated in three loops, 20 of which are electric 30-amp sites. There are also two wheelchair accessible sites, while showers and flush toilets are available from Memorial Day weekend all the way through to Labor Day.
4. Split Rock Lighthouse State Park
Location: 3755 Split Rock Lighthouse Rd, Two Harbors, MN 55616
Nestled on the North Shore of Lake Superior, Split Rock Lighthouse State Park is about 47 miles from Duluth.
Offering plenty of opportunities for fishing, watersports and hiking, a number of scenic trails around the lake lead up to the spectacular Superior Hiking Trail. This picturesque trail runs alongside much of the lake’s coastline and will take you past some fabulous Instagram worthy waterfalls.
Housing a historic lighthouse, the snowy forest landscape here in the winter is especially delightful and becomes a very popular cross-country ski trail. Throughout the year visitors might cross paths with the likes of black bear, moose, white-tailed deer and even lynx. Which is why this park is also popular with wildlife enthusiasts.
A brand new campground is due to open on 1st June 2022 which is due to have 46 electric sites and will stay open every year between May and October.
5. Tettegouche State Park
Location: 5702 MN-61, Silver Bay, MN 55614
At just under 60 miles from Duluth the Tettegouche State Park is the furthest state park away from it on this list. However it is possibly the most beautiful too.
Providing you with a fabulous appreciation of the North Shore the park is well known for its rock climbing, hiking, fishing and fabulous birdwatching opportunities.
Encompassing steep rocky cliffs and stunning inland bluffs there are miles of walking trails here that overlook the magnificent Sawtooth Mountains. They also corkscrew down to incredibly picturesque inland lakes you can only reach by foot.
One of the major highlights here is the rampaging 60 ft cascade of the High Falls of the Baptism River, which is definitely worth a trek to.
The campground here has 28 sites available all year round, as well as cabins and group camping facilities. It’s located on the Baptism River and is just one and a half-miles from Lake Superior.