Explore popular things to do in Silver Bay, Minnesota

Silver Bay, MN is located right in the middle of Minnesota’s North Shore of Lake Superior. There are so many things to do in Silver Bay MN because of its close proximity to state parks, biking and hiking trails, and Lake Superior’s most spectacular shoreline with unique beaches, tall cliffs, ship watching, and more.  

This is a list of the top things to do in Silver Bay MN

See the view from Palisade Head

View from Palisade Head in Silver Bay, MN
View from Palisade Head

Drive to the top of one of Lake Superior’s tallest cliffs – Palisade Head. This North Shore icon is often called Hellacious Overlook, which is a pretty good description! 

You’ll stand at the top of the 200-foot cliff for a panoramic view of Lake Superior and the adjacent shoreline. This part of the shore is so striking because of the rugged cliffs that plunge into the lake. It is absolutely stunning to see! Walk around the top of the cliff to explore the landscape and the incredible views. 

The feeling of standing near the edge is incredibly liberating and scary all at the same time. Some people sit on the edge, while others keep back. I, personally don’t go all the way to the edge! As you might expect, the cliff wall of Palisade Head is also a popular spot for rock climbing on the North Shore.  

Rock Climbing at Palisade Head, North Shore MN
Climbing Palisade Head

Palisade Head is part of Tettegouche State Park. The road is located approx 3 miles northeast of Silver Bay on Highway 61. The road to the top is a narrow switch-back, open during the summertime. The park is open in the winter, but you’ll have to park at the bottom and hike or snowshoe up the road. Palisade Head is approx 3 miles northeast of Silver Bay, MN. 

Ship Watching – a unique thing to do in Silver Bay, MN

watching ship from the Silver Bay Marina
watching ship from the Silver Bay Marina

Silver Bay’s most obvious landmark is the taconite plant. They make small pellets of iron ore (taconite) from material brought on trains from Minnesota’s Iron Range, just west of Silver Bay. The taconite is loaded into huge iron ore tankers and shipped all over the world! 

Watching the ships come and go from the Silver Bay Marina and Bayside Park is a popular thing to do in Silver Bay! The park and marina are located adjacent to the taconite plant and there are some great spots to watch the ships. 

Bayside Park also has a nice picnic area, making it a great place to chill for a while. You can read more in my blog post Top 10 North Shore Picnic Areas. 

Black Beach in Silver Bay, MN

Black Beach on Lake Superior, Silver Bay MN
Black Beach in Silver Bay

Put Black Beach at the top of your “things to do in Silver Bay” list! The black sand beach on Lake Superior is unique only to Silver Bay. The black sand was created by taconite tailings from the nearby taconite plant. Today, it’s a lovely park where you can enjoy the protected coves, go for a swim, kayak or paddleboard, have a picnic, or just relax on the sand beach and enjoy that Lake Superior feeling.

North Shore State Parks Near Silver Bay, MN

There are three Minnesota State Parks located near Silver Bay. Tettegouche, Split Rock, and Crosby/Manitou State Parks all have unique offerings. They all have trails for hiking, skiing, and snowshoeing, picnic areas, and the chance to explore the remote Northwoods and spectacular views of the North Shore. A Minnesota State Park Pass is required to drive into the parks. Some of the activities mentioned below can be accessed without a State Park pass. 

Tettegouche State Park

view from Shovel Point at Tettegouche State Park, North Shore MN
View from Shovel Point at Tettegouche State Park

Tettegouche State Park is situated around the rugged Baptism River and Lake Superior shoreline. There is a wide variety of scenery to explore which makes this one of the best things to do near Silver Bay! 

Walk the trail that traverses the long cliff edge out to Shovel Point. There’s nothing like seeing the rugged ridgeline of The Big Lake from this trail!

Stroll down to the soft sandbar where the Baptism River meets Lake Superior.

Hike up the river to see the 4 waterfalls of Tettegouche State Park, including the beautiful High Falls, one of the tallest in Minnesota. 

High Falls at Tettegouche State Park, North Shore Minnesota
High Falls at Tettegouche State Park

Explore the short trail out to Crystal Cliffs for more Lake Superior panorama. 

The Tettegouche State Park visitor center is located about 4 miles northeast of Silver Bay on Highway 61 (if you park here, you do not need a state park pass). You can access the Lake Superior shore, Shovel Point, and three of the waterfalls from the visitor center. Illgen Falls and Chrystal Cliffs are located just a short drive down Highway 61. See the Map of Tettegouche State Park.

Split Rock Lighthouse State Park

view of Split Rock Lighthouse
view of Split Rock Lighthouse

Snapping a picture of Split Rock Lighthouse is definitely a popular thing to do near Silver Bay! Head to Pebble Beach inside the state park for a fantastic view of the lighthouse. You’ll want to explore the protected cove while you’re there. There’s a pebble beach to skip stones, ledgerock to climb, and some trails around the shoreline. This is a great place to stick a foot into Lake Superior on a hot day! 

Split Rock Lighthouse State Park has a ton of great trails for hiking, paved trail biking, mountain biking, cross country skiing, snowshoeing, and more. Check out a GPS unit or birding or discovery kit. You could also scuba dive the Madeira shipwreck! 

Please note that you can’t get to the historic lighthouse site through the State Park. The Minnesota Historical Society operates Split Rock Lighthouse, therefore requiring separate admission. 

Split Rock State Park Map

George Crosby Manitou State Park

In just a short drive inland from Silver Bay, you’ll find a remote state park situated around the Manitou River. Visit this low-key state park to get off the beaten path, and maybe even see a moose! 

Explore the trails around Benson Lake or along the Manitou River. See if you can make it to the park’s five remote scenic overlooks. There’s also some great backpacking to remote sites ranging from ½ to 4.5 miles from the parking area. Many sites are along the Manitou River and some are near Benson Lake. 

Crosby Manitou State Park Map

Hiking trails near Silver Bay MN

Silver Bay, Minnesota overlook, Lake Superior, Palisade Head
View from the Silver Bay Overlook

Hiking is one of the most popular things to do in Silver Bay. Don’t miss the Silver Bay Scenic Overlook, located right in town. The short loop brings you to three overlooks of the mining plant, Lake Superior, and the town of Silver Bay.

To get there from Highway 61, turn on Outer Drive. Follow the little blue signs for Scenic Overlook, right past the North Shore Federal Credit Union. The small road switchbacks up a hill and soon you will come to the parking lot. The loop is moderately easy and has interpretative panels with information on the mine, Lake Superior, and the history of Silver Bay. 

The Superior Hiking Trail traverses the rocky, hilly terrain to some outstanding overlooks. If you’re looking for longer hikes with huge rewards, take the SHT to Round Mountain, or to the top of Mt. Trudee. The overlook of Bean & Bear Lakes is a very popular hiking trail, but it will be closed for maintenance starting May 15, 2024. 

The paved Gitchi Gami Trail is another option, more on that below. Or, you could hike anywhere else mentioned in this article! 

Bike the Gitchi Gami State Trail 

Bike along one of the most scenic bike trails in the country is a unique thing to do in Silver Bay, MN! The Gitchi-Gami State Trail runs through two state parks in the Silver Bay area, traversing the shore of Lake Superior. It’s paved, so it’s perfect for biking, in-line skating, hiking and more. 

Bike through Gooseberry Falls, Split Rock Lighthouse State Parks, the town of Beaver Bay, and into SilverBay. Wind through quiet, undeveloped areas of the North Shore and take in the peace and beauty of The Big Lake.  Take the spur trail to the historical Split Rock Lighthouse, ride past Iona’s Beach Scenic and Natural area with its famous pink stones, and bike into the towns of Beaver Bay or Silver Bay for refreshments or a meal at a local restaurant. 

This section of the Gitchi-Gami State Trail is the longest completed segment. However, when it’s done it will stretch 89 miles between Two Harbors and Grand Marais. 

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