Palisade Head. The very name sounds dramatic and romantic, like nearby Castle Danger. The sheer red rhyolite cliffs tower over Lake Superior and provide an amazing view across the lake. 1000-foot ore boats sail past looking as small as dollhouse figurines. Peregrine falcons and rock climbers dance about the crevices of the cliff, and on a busy summer day, dozens of cars crowd the cliff-edge viewing area.
There are no crowds there today. With the Minnesota government shutdown still underway, now is the perfect time to take the slow short walk to the top of Palisade Head and have the North Shore's most dramatic shoreline all to yourself.
Palisade Head is part of Tettegouche State Park, so the gates off of Highway 61 are closed. Fortunately, there is a large parking area right off the highway, put there for cars pulling trailers to leave their trailer behind. The road to the top is narrow, winding and often steep, and trailers are not allowed. Now cars are not allowed either, and it's perfect for walking.
It's a ten-minute walk from the roadside parking lot past the gate to the top of Palisade Head. Along the way, you can pick out northern forest wildflowers like meadow rue and pyrola.
As the road reaches the crest of the hill, the view opens up out onto Lake Superior. At the same time, you'll see your first blueberries. The berries are still green. While this year's crop doesn't look real promising, some years you can fill gallon buckets of berries up here.
The view really is spectacular. Look east and you'll pick out Shovel Point; imagine the enormous flow of ashy rhyolite that once filled all the space between Palisade Head and Shovel Point before time, wind and water carried it away. Look past Shovel Point and you can pick out the triangular crests of the Sawtooth Mountains.
I have my own sentimental reasons for liking Palisade Head, memories of a full moon glittering on the vast watery palette, a cold and starlit May sky and the company of a beautiful woman.
Even after the shutdown ends, make your own slow short walk to Palisade Head.
See it for yourself
Palisade Head is at mile marker 56, just two miles east of Silver Bay.
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