Lookout Mountain – Best North Shore Hikes
Hiking Lookout Mountain in Cascade River State Park.
This hike takes us to the summit of Lookout Mountain, inside Cascade River State Park. If you have about two hours and want to pack everything into one hike, this is the one! You’ll see waterfalls, a major river, a creek, and oh yeah…a drop-dead gorgeous view of Lake Superior. The trail also takes you through a variety of forest types. The uphill to Lookout Mountain isn’t too bad, even if you’re out of shape (like me). Bring a map because Cascade River State Park has a ton of different trails for hiking, cross country skiing, and snowmobiling. Pick one up at the park office, inside Cascade Lodge, or click here.
Within the first quarter-mile, you’ll hike by the lower, middle, and upper falls of the Cascade River. See a lovely series of cascades as well as overlooks of the river gorge. My favorite spot is a place where you can climb through the trees to explore the edge of the river. Don’t get too close to the edge where the water drops into a deep gorge! (yeah, seriously).
This is a very popular place to hike because:
- it’s easy to get to (not far from the road)
- It is not difficult
- There are bridges so you can make a short loop or a long loop
- And of course because it’s an awesome waterfall and a great hike
Lookout Mountain Spur Trail
From the waterfalls, you can hike for miles parallel to the river on the Superior Hiking Trail, make a loop around both sides of the waterfalls, or continue on a number of other trails. Today we are taking the Lookout Mountain Spur Trail (which is also a cross country ski trail). The trail is marked with a brown sign near the Upper Falls overlook.
As you travel uphill and away from the cedar forest, you can still hear the Cascade River whooshing in the background. When you reach the Superior Hiking Trail, there is a map and directional sign that takes you to Lookout Mountain. Follow the trail in a northwest direction, deeper into upland fir and fern country.
Bridge over Cascade Creek
After traversing away from the river, it’s not long before the cedar trees start showing up again, which is a sure sign of water.
Sure enough, the lovely little Cascade Creek is up ahead with it’s cute little bridge! This is a great spot to take a break and wade in the water.
Bridge over Cascade Creek
Hiking up the Switchback
From here, continue uphill to reach the prize: the view from Lookout Mountain. The incline is kind of long with switchbacks to ease the strain. But it’s not too bad overall, especially with a little break here and there.
As you’re going up the hill, be sure to look for wildlife, especially birds, grouse, deer, etc. Once you get higher, look behind you to get a preview of that phenomenal forest and Lake Superior view. Now you’re in birch and aspen forest and getting much closer!
The View from the Summit of Lookout Mountain
The top of Lookout Mountain welcomes you with a couple of benches, an open viewing space, and this unbelievable view. Look to the right and see Lake Superior’s shining blue as far as you can see. Look to the left and see the rolling hills of the Superior National Forest. Wow!
Walk out to the rocks to get the best view! There is a huge flat rock at the edge of the cliff. It calls you to sit and enjoy the view. How can you not? From here you get a deeper view of the scene in front of you, and you can look down at the treetops below.
Making friends along the way
At the lookout, we met John and Tracy from Fargo. They took another route up to Lookout Mountain. They got on the trail right behind their cabin at Cascade Lodge (how convenient!). So, it is possible to do a Lookout Mountain loop, but parking areas are in different spots (but you can walk less than a quarter-mile on the road to get to your car). We considered taking that way down, but decided to backtrack and take the Cascade Creek trail.
Hiking along Cascade Creek
Once you get downhill to flatter territory, take a trail labeled Cascade Lodge. This trail traverses lovely little Cascade Creek. You could even make you way right through the creek! On the trail you will run into old disk golf baskets, most likely the remnants from an older Cascade Lodge. Kind of an interesting find along the trail!
The Secret Waterfall
Ok it’s really not a secret, but it’s definitely a pleasant surprise. The creek goes over this lovely little waterfall. To me it seems like something out of a mini-whimsical world. Definitely a cool place to dip your toes in the water. Be careful, because it can be hard to cross depending on how high the water is. You will probably have to leap-frog, or get your feet wet to cross.
Finishing out the hike around Cascade River State Park
You’re now on the home stretch! The trail takes you along a small power line, through a mixed forest, tall grasses, and returns you the upper falls of Cascade River. From here simply walk back to the parking lot following the waterfalls down.
How to Get There
Park at the wayside rest on Hwy 61 through Cascade River State Park (you do not need a park permit). The parking area is at mile marker 99.8. One side of the highway offers a way to get down to the Lake Superior beach. The trails are on the other side of the highway. Take the trail to the left (west) of the river.
Tips for Hiking to Lookout Mountain
- Depending on how far you are from Lake Superior, there could be temperature and condition variations. In the spring and fall it could be raining at the beginning of the trail which is by Lake Superior, but snowing up the hill. In the summer it can be nice and cool (or cold) by the lake, but it gets hotter up the hill. Plan accordingly with layers.
- Hiking poles come in handy going up the hill to Lookout Mountain.
- Bring a snack and plenty of water.
- This is about a 2-hour hike.
- Bring a map or download this one. Cascade River State Park has an extensive trail system that includes the Superior Hiking Trail, cross country ski trails, and snowmobile trails.
- Nearby Cascade Lodge has a lakeside restaurant and pub which is a great place to celebrate after this semi-challenging, super cool hike! Or stay here and hike right from your cabin.