In my three days of hiking and camping up the North Shore last week, the best hike I took was the Middle Falls Trail at Grand Portage State Park. The hike kept getting better and better, and at one point I heard myself out loud saying, "Wow WOW WOW!"
The route starts on the wide, paved half-mile trail to the High Falls. The streams are still running high in the Tip of the Arrowhead, and High Falls was rocking and rolling. This the highest waterfall in Minnesota, and we've been nice enough to share with Ontario, where it is just one of many spectacular water falls (Think Kakabeka Falls or, say, Niagara Falls).
There's enough mist coming off the falls to make a rainbow, which gave the whole scene that extra mythical proportion.
After the High Falls, the Middle Falls trail turns into a standard hiking trail, about the same quality as the Superior Hiking Trail. I had the trail to myself, which I always appreciate being so "geeked out" with camera, GPS, note pad, etc. Taking self-timer pictures of myself with all the gear feels pretty self-indulgent.
The trail climbs up along the side of a long ridge. At the top of the ridge, a small paper sign nearly hidden in the dirt points to a side trail that leads to a scenic overlook. You must take this side trail. It leads to the scenic highlight of the trip, and without it, the hike is not quite worth it.
It was at the top of this scenic overlook side trail that I first found a view to the south (America), then crossed over the ridgetop to a view to the north (Canada). That's when I said "Wow" three times in a row. The view to the north was so spectacular and so unexpected I was just thrilled.
The pic below is just one of the shots I took of the 180-degree panorama. In the distance you see Pigeon Point and Finger Point, then the Pigeon River runs through the valley below.
It's another mile of hiking trail after the overlook to the end of the trail, a loop that takes you by Middle Falls. Middle Falls is a very nice North Shore waterfall, and last week it was wide with 3 or 4 major chutes of water raging. It's not nearly as spectacular as High Falls. The experience is marred just a bit by the sight of a highway on the Ontario side. You may have heard that in Canada the mosquitoes carry clubs and all the portages are rocky. In a rare turn of circumstances, at Middle Falls the Canadians have the quick and painless way to see the sights, and the Americans have to work hard.
The Grand Portage fire crew had just been through with their chain saws to clear winter deadfalls. The violets were blooming. I had the entire tip of the Arrowhead to myself. It was all fresh and gorgeous. Wow, indeed.