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THE BEST TRAVEL GUIDE FOR THE STATE OF MINNESOTA

A guide to give you inspiration & ideas for planning your vacation in the state of Minnesota.

This article may contain affiliate/compensated links. For full information, please see our disclaimer here.

Best Places to Travel in Minnesota Wanderlust in real life.com and four pictures of the beautiful outdoors in Minnesota

About Minnesota

Minnesota became the 32nd state of the United States on May 11, 1858. The state of Minnesota is located in the Midwest of the United States boasting a landscape full of more than 11,000 lakes. Commonly used nicknames for the state of Minnesota include: Land of 10,000 lakes, North Star State, Gopher State & The State of Hockey.

Geography of Minnesota

Minnesota is located in the Midwest of the United States. The state is bordered by North and South Dakota to the West; Iowa to the South; Wisconsin and Lake Superior to the East & Canada to the North. When you look at the shape of the state of Minnesota, the small little “nub” on the very top of its unique shape makes Minnesota the most northern state within the lower 48 states of the USA. So when we say “up north” we really mean it!

Why a Minnesota vacation?

Minnesota is such an underrated state! From all of the lakes and outdoor activities in all seasons to the Minneapolis/St. Paul metropolitan area Minnesota truly has something to appeal to everyone. Read on to help you start planning to give you Minnesota vacation ideas to explore beyond what you might already know about this Midwestern state.

How to get to Minnesota

Plane

If you’re flying into Minnesota, there are two international airports. Minneapolis/St. Paul & Rochester. Minneapolis/St. Paul services the majority of air traffic for Minnesota having the most passengers. The other airports I list below are small hub and non-hub USA airports. American Eagle, Delta and Allegiant Air are the most common airlines at these smaller airports. When planning your travel to Minnesota, passengers should consider Minneapolis as it’s the main international airport in the state.

MSP (Minneapolis/St. Paul) International Airport is comprised of two terminals. Terminal one being the main terminal and where most of the International flights leave out of. A majority of the restaurants, shopping & amenities are located in terminal one. If you go through the south security checkpoint in terminal one my favorite restaurant at the airport is located right on the other side. Stone Arch focuses on pub fare and having an extensive MN craft beer draft list. MSP is a huge hub for Delta flights. Metro Transit and Light Rail Transit options offer public transportation from and to the airport. From the airport there are also, taxis, shuttles and there are designated app based transportation pick up spots available.

There are several other smaller regional airports across Minnesota, however, availability and timetables are much more limited. Many of these regional airlines you will fly into MSP (Minneapolis/St. Paul) and have a connecting flight to your final destination. Regional airports within Minnesota include: Bemidji (BJI), Brainerd (BRD), Duluth (DLH), St. Cloud (STC), International Falls (INL), Chisholm-Hibbing (HIB).

Car

Depending where you hail from and what your thoughts are on road trips, you could definitely drive to Minnesota on vacation. Even in the metro area of Minneapolis/St. Paul, the public transportation options here aren’t as robust compared to other metropolitan cities in other states so keep that in mind when planning. Typically having your own car would be great! If you do fly, I would definitely recommend renting a car if you’re planning to travel to the northern part of Minnesota. As it will be a lot easier for you to get around.

Amtrak

Located in St. Paul, MN, Amtrak trains leave and arrive from the historic Union Depot from many different destinations. There are several Amtrak stations in both central Minnesota as well as in the southern part of the state. You can navigate from MSP (Minneapolis/St. Paul airport) to Union Depot via the light rail system.

When to go to Minnesota

Minnesota experiences all four seasons. Don’t let that deter you, there are plenty of vacation ideas in Minnesota year round! While it can be difficult to predict the weather at times, the most mild weather is typically experienced in the spring and fall. Summer can get extremely hot and humid. After enduring long cold winters native Minnesotans welcome the short stint of warmth.

Minnesota summers are enjoyed by long weekends at many lakes, camping, boating & generally enjoying many of the outdoor activities the state has to offer. Typically the best weather in Minnesota is from May-September. September and October are absolutely gorgeous with the fall foilage. Depending on where you are in the state, peak fall colors usually occur between September and October. This largely depends on the weather and the part of the state you’re planning on visiting.

Check out more in depth information on what to pack when visiting Minnesota by season in my Minnesota packing guide. (It even includes a free checklist!)

blue skies lake and some fall foilage a great time for an idea to vacation in Minnesota

Minnesota Activities

Minnesota is so diverse in the activities you can enjoy all year round. It really creates a lot of vacation ideas within the state of Minnesota. Here are some examples of activities for your trip.

In the winter: skiing (cross country and downhill), snowboarding, curling, skating or playing hockey, snowshoeing, and ice fishing.

In the fall: hiking, biking, leaf peeping, stretching out patio season, camping or glamping.

During the summer: long days boating or fishing on many of the lakes and rivers, having a drink or food on one of the many outdoor patios, biking, golfing, barbecues, camping glamping or staying in a cabin, kayaking/canoeing and stand up paddle boarding.

In the spring: hiking, getting outside more as the snow melts. (Spring activities are very dependent on the snow and mud level but many summer activities will start at the end of the spring season.) In 2021, it was 80 degrees Farenheit hiking at Tettegouche State Park the first weekend in May. For the record, that is extremely warm that far north for early May!

sky lift on a sky hill with blue skies and Lake Superior in the distance. Skiing or snowboarding in Minnesota is one of many great vacation ideas
Lutsen, Minnesota Mountains ski resort

Minnesota Weather

Minnesota experiences all seasons. We have what can be a really long winter, a crisp fall with beautiful fall colors as the leaves change, a brisk and vibrant spring and an absolutely unforgettable summer. Summers tend to be short, but absolutely worth braving some of the colder months for.

Average temperatures by month can greatly vary. Typically January is the coldest month of the year with July being the hottest month. Spring and fall in Minnesota are somewhat subjective. We’ve been known to have gorgeous pre-summer weather in April and there have been some years where it snows a foot or more in April! There are many Minnesota vacation ideas that can be amazing during all seasons. (Including winter!)

If you’re planning on spending any time in Minnesota, before you pack definitely check the weather. We’re one of the lucky states where you can experience harsh extremes within the same day.

Minnesota Lakes

Minnesota’s landscape includes over 11,000 lakes that are 10 acres large or more. Another idea to add to your Minnesota vacation ideas is renting a houseboat to actually stay on a lake for an extended period of time. According to Minnesota’s DNR, the ten largest lakes that are within the borders of the Minnesota include:

1) Red Lake (both upper and lower)

2) Mille Lacs

3) Leech Lake

4) Lake Winnie (Winnibigoshish)

5) Vermillion

6) Kabetogama

7) Mud Lake (in Marshall county)

8) Cass Lake

9) Lake Minnetonka

10) Otter Tail Lake

While the largest lakes crossing the Minnesota state border are Lake Superior & Lake of the Woods.

The largest lake located in the city of Minneapolis is Bde Maka Ska (formerly named Lake Calhoun). This lake is a part of the chain of lakes including Lake Harriet, Lake of the Isles & Lake Nokomis. This popular chain of lakes have an extensive biking and walking path system around them. This is a very popular part of Minneapolis to enjoy the many parks dotted along their shores to stop and relax.

beautiful pink and colorful light blue sunset over a glass calm lake and trees towering in Northern Minesota in the summer
Calm lake at sunset in Northern Minnesota

MN Vacation Ideas: Minnesota State Parks

There are 66 state parks across Minnesota. The oldest being one of my favorites, Itasca State Park. Itasca State Park is where the Mississippi River starts. Believe it or not, you can actually walk across the river here! I grew up a little over 30 miles from this state park so personally Itasca State Park holds a lot of great memories for me and is my favorite. I remember in elementary school we would come here on field trips and I’ve camped here numerous times with friends over the years. Itasca also has several cabin lodging options as well so definitely check those out!

Other than Itasca State Park, some of my other favorite state parks are mostly on the North Shore. I actually got engaged at Gooseberry Falls State Park in the fall! The state parks located on the North Shore are especially popular during the Spring & Fall. During the spring for waterfall chasing and in the fall, for seeking out the gorgeous fall foilage.

sign stating Mississippi Headwaters located in Minnesota. A great location to add to Minnesota vacation ideas.
Itasca State Park, Minnesota

National Parks & Monuments in Minnesota

Another Minnesota vacation idea includes visiting the National Parks and monuments recognized by the NPS within Minnesota. The most well known National Park in Minnesota is Voyageurs National Park (BWCA) Boundary Waters Canoe Area.

There are several other monuments and areas in Minnesota that are recognized by the National Park Service. My favorites include the Saint Croix River & Mississippi River which are close to the metropolitan area of the Twin Cities.

the gorgeous rocky bluffs and green trees along the st croix river in Minnesota during the summer
St. Croix River in Minnesota

Vacation ideas: Where to go in Minnesota

Twin Cities (Minneapolis/St. Paul) Metro area

The Twin Cities have an abundance of vacation ideas for your time in Minnesota. From sampling some local beer at a Minnesota craft beer brewery, going on a brewery crawl using only public transportation, eating at one of the local burger restaurants to determine who truly has the best juicy lucy, taking in the best view of the Minneapolis skyline, enjoying some street art to biking around the lakes on Minneapolis/St. Paul’s extensive trails there’s sure to be something for everyone in this metropolitan area.

The skyway system in downtown Minneapolis is the world’s largest continuous indoor pedestrian pathway. It stretches over eight miles and connects 73 blocks. You can sleep, eat, work and shop without ever needing to step foot outside. (Which is a great perk considering how cold MN winters can get!)

Twin Cities suburbs

The state of Minnesota is home to the largest mall in the United States, Mall of America. The mall opened in 1992, which has over 400 stores and attracts nearly 40 million people each year! Mall of America, is located in the southern suburb of Bloomington and isn’t far from MSP airport. In fact, you can even take public transportation to get to the mall from the airport. Prior to living in the metro area, I’ve done this on longer layovers at MSP.

There is so much to do in the large metropolitan area of the Twin Cities. From Minneapolis to St. Paul and all of the sprawling suburbs in between. One of my favorite memories growing up was always going to “The Cities” and doing some fun things such as the Mall of America, sporting events, the MN Zoo or the MN State Fair. It’s just such a fun memory of getting to spend a weekend before school started shopping and spending time with my family. Although now my yearly trips to the Minnesota State fair look a little bit different as I’m scoping out the new and state fair exclusive craft beers. For more detailed information check out this post that has tons of suggestions for Things to do in the Twin Cities. It includes both Minneapolis, St. Paul and beyond into the sprawling suburbs in the surrounding area.

Spoon and cherry sculpture located at Walker art center sculpture garden in Minneapolis, Minnesota

Day Trips from the Twin Cities

If you’re in Minnesota for more than a week, I suggest at least taking a day trip away from the metro area. There are several great day trips located only a short drive away. Some of the best day trips (or weekend trips) from the Twin Cities include: Stillwater, the Cuyuna/Crosby area or Brainerd area, several state parks such as Afton, Nerstrand Big Woods, William O’Brien, St. Croix & Interstate State Park.

“Up North” Minnesota (Bemidji, Walker)

Beyond the metro area there are many vacation ideas within Minnesota located up north. As an original “Up North” dweller growing up here there are definitely a lot of things to take advantage of that I took for granted growing up. The north woods has a lot of opportunity for time outdoors whether hunting, fishing, hiking, biking or spending time on the lakes. Some of the best places to spend time up north in Minnesota include: Bemidji, Walker & Itasca state Park. More details on things to do in the Bemidji area are located here.

Paul Bunyan and babe statues on Lake Bemidji's waterfront in Minnesota
Bemidji, Minnesota

Way Up North (bordering Canada)

I haven’t personally spent a lot of time in this area of the state. Popular locations include: Lake of the Woods, International Falls & Rainy Lake or Ely, Minnesota.

Along the North Shore, closer to Canada than the United States sits Grand Portage which is a part of the National Park System. Grand Portage State Park is a day use only state park featuring hiking trails and stunning waterfall views. From the parking lot you can actually see just down the road border control for Canada.

The Boundary Waters (BWCA) Canoe Wilderness Area is partially located in Minnesota and in Canada. This is a very remote and outdoor experience but there are also many resorts and less roughing it options available. So it truly is a location for everyone. Especially if you’re looking to really unplug and relax.

Waterfall at Grand Portage State Park in Minnesota
Grand Portage State Park

Duluth, Minnesota

I consider Duluth to be the “gateway” to the North Shore as it’s always a stop for me whether it’s a few hours or a day before heading to the smaller towns and more of a remote experience on the North shore along Lake Superior.

There’s a lot to do in Duluth whether you’re planning on staying there for a weekend or longer or if you’re continuing on along the North Shore. Check out my post that goes more in depth on Things to do in Duluth, and of course, you always have to stop at a few breweries. Here’s the scoop on the best breweries in Duluth to help you to drink local wherever you are!

Duluth lift bridge on Lake Superior in winter with woman sitting on bench looking on to the bridge.
Duluth Lift bridge in winter

North Shore of Lake Superior

Past Duluth, up along Lake Superior to Canada is what makes up the North Shore in Minnesota. This is one of my favorite parts of the state. There are so many gorgeous state parks to hike in with waterfalls abundant and views of Lake Superior for days! Some of the more popular destinations along the North Shore include Grand Marais, Tofte, Lutsen, Grand Portage, Tettegouche State Park, Gooseberry Falls, & Split Rock Lighthouse.

The drive from Duluth up the North Shore has received the national designation of “All American Road”. There is an abundance of things to do along the North Shore. It really is a great destination within Minnesota to slow down and relax. Of course, you will want to have some great beer on the North Shore. One of my favorite cities along the North Shore is Grand Marais, MN.

Bean and Bear Lake on the North Shore of Minnesota during fall/autumn
Bean & Bear Lake hike in the fall

Central Minnesota: Cuyuna/Crosby

Another great Minnesota vacation idea is Cuyuna or Crosby, Minnesota is practically located right smack dab in the middle of the state of Minnesota. It’s an easy day trip from the Minneapolis/ St. Paul metro area but an even better destination to spend a weekend.

Downtown Crosby has several restaurants, bars & even a brewery. But, what they’re the most well known for is their biking. Throughout Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area there are 50 miles of mountain bike trails. Not only that, but the iron ore lakes in this area are absolutely stunning with the most beautiful crystal clear water. So taking a kayak or stand up paddle board out after biking is the perfect end to a great day in Cuyuna.

Central Minnesota: Brainerd & Brainerd Lakes area

Brainerd is a very popular destination from the metropolitan area as well. It’s a short drive and there are many resorts and golf courses making it a great vacation spot within the state of Minnesota. Between mini golf and full courses there are 16 within the Brainerd area! There are also many resorts along the lakes so you could fit in some golfing or just lake and cabin or camping time.

Southern Minnesota: New Ulm

New Ulm is a smaller MN town that’s well known for its German heritage. So, it should come as no surprise that August Schell Brewing Company is a German craft beer brewery located in New Ulm. August Schell’s is America’s second oldest family brewery. Since August Schells acquired Grain Belt, it’s the largest brewery in Minnesota.

Other points of interest in New Ulm include Flandrau State Park & the Glockenspiel that chimes at noon, 1, 3, 5 & 6 PM daily. True to its German heritage many shops downtown carry authentic German goods & food.

Southern Minnesota: Mankato

Mankato is located just about an hour south of Minneapolis/St. Paul. It has a state college Mankate State University and is well known for Minneopa State Park, Mankato brewing & during the holiday season Kiwani’s holiday lights. Prior to 2018, the American NFL football team the Minnesota Vikings held their training camp at Mankato State since 1965.

Southern Minnesota: Rochester

Just a short distance from the Minneapolis/St. Paul metropolitan area, Rochester is most well known as the birthplace of the Mayo Clinic. The city of Rochester boasts over 100 city parks with 85 miles of bike trails so it’s a great location in Minnesota to get outside. After your bike ride, Rochester has some great breweries to enjoy as well. We spent some time at said breweries during a road trip. Read more about the specific breweries here.

The outside of Forager Brewery in Rochester Minnesota
One of the breweries in Rochester, MN

Western Minnesota (Moorhead & Fargo, NoDak)

Moorhead is actually located in Minnesota & Fargo is just over the border into North Dakota. But it’s a great vacation idea, especially if you’re a craft beer fan like me! Honestly, one of the main reasons I travel to Fargo/Moorhead is for beer. Two of my absolute favorite breweries are located in the Fargo/Moorhead area. Luckily, they also distribute to the Minneapolis/St. Paul metropolitan area but road tripping to visit their taprooms every once in awhile is fun. It’s literally a straight shot from MSP to Fargo/Moorhead north on I-94. On your way there you pass through Alexandria & Fergus Falls which are

“Bluff Country” from Red Wing to Winona

Red Wing is located south east of the Twin Cities metropolitan area and is most well known for being the birthplace of Red Wing shoes. The Cannon Valley Trail is a paved bike trail that connects Cannon Falls, Welch, & Red Wing. It’s 20 miles one way and is available for year round use for biking, hiking/running & cross country skiing.

This southeastern stretch of the state is along the border of Minnesota and Wisconsin which is carved out by the Mississippi River. The dramatic limestone bluffs and views out over the river will be sure to leave a lasting impression. There are many popular hikes to take in these impressive views in this area. One of the most well known in Winona is Sugar Loaf because of the amazing view at the top.

Along the Cannon Valley Bike trail from Cannon Falls to Red Wing Minnesota during the fall.
Biking the Cannon Valley Trail

Most Well Known Minnesota Vacation ideas

Some of the most well known attractions that easily come to mind in Minnesota for vacations include: Voyageurs National Park (Boundary Waters Canoe Area- BWCA), Mall of America, and the North Shore of Minnesota along Lake Superior from Duluth, Minnesota north to the Canadian border and hiking the Superior Hiking Trail.

Minnesota in the fall truly is so colorful and beautiful. Especially in the northern part of the state. It’s always my favorite to make it up to the North Shore or my hometown of Bemidji to hike and take in all of the foilage changing colors.

If you liked this post, be sure to pin it for later!

More Minnesota vacation idea details:

The Ultimate Minnesota Summer Bucket List

The Best Festive Christmas Events in the Twin Cities

Where to see the Best Christmas Lights in Minnesota

Minnesota Winter Bucket List

The Ultimate Two Day itinerary for Yellowstone’s North Entrance

This article may contain affiliate/compensated links. For full information, please see our disclaimer here.

About Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park is incredibly iconic. It was the first National Park in the United States established in 1872. Just this year it celebrated its 150th year. 11 years after Yellowstone National Park was established, the railroad made it much easier for the public to visit. Honestly, I just always remember watching Yogi bear as a kid stealing picnic baskets in “Jellystone”.

With all of Yellowstone’s unique natural beauty, it’s a great place to visit with family, friends & loved ones. Spanning across three different states (Montana, Wyoming & Idaho) makes it a great location for a summer road trip. It’s very popular to visit Yellowstone & Grand Tetons National Park in Wyoming within the same trip.

Yellowstone from the North Entrance a two day Itinerary

The north entrance of Yellowstone National Park is right by Gardiner, Montana. Gardiner is about an hour drive from Livingston, Montana or about an hour and a half from Bozeman, Montana. There are many vacation rentals and some really bougie resorts in between Yellowstone & Livingston. Alternatively, you can also stay inside of Yellowstone by getting a hotel or camping. But, it really just depends on the type of experience you want to have.

Day 1 in Yellowstone from the North Entrance:

Drive from Livingston, MT to Gardiner & the North Entrance

As you make your way to the North Entrance of Yellowstone on day one of your two days in Yellowstone, near Roosevelt Arch is a small coffee stand offering espresso drinks and breakfast items called Bears Brew is located in Gardiner. Definitely stop to fuel up for the day! We stopped here both days for coffee and one day got a muffin & another a breakfast burrito. Everything was phenomenal I can’t recommend them enough. Definitely get the white chocolate blueberry latte. It was so unique and tasty!

Roosevelt Arch

Spend some time driving under, walking under or near but at least snapping some pictures of Roosevelt Arch. It is one of Yellowstone National Park’s most famous monuments. You definitely want to take some time to explore this arch as a part of your two days exploring Yellowstone. The arch now can be bypassed when accessing Yellowstone via the north entrance but in the past it marked the official north entrance into the park. Since Yellowstone was the first National Park in America, it served as visual flair standing 50 feet high and two flanking towers measuring 12 feet across to allow horse drawn carriages to pass through.

standing under Roosevelt Arch at the North Entrance of Yellowstone National Park
Standing under Roosevelt Arch at the North Entrance of Yellowstone

45th Parallel of Latitude

Along the road from the North entrance of Yellowstone there is a sign denoting the 45th parallel of latitude. This means that where this sign is located in Yellowstone National Park, it marks the halfway point between the equator and the north pole. Pretty cool that this is within America’s First National Park.

sigh for the 45th parallel near the north entrance of yellowstone national park

Hike #1 Hellroaring Creek Trail

From Roosevelt Arch to Hellroaring Creek Trailhead it’s about a 20 mile drive that takes just under 40 mins. Arriving at the trailhead early there should be ample parking. There are many different hikes you can take from this trailhead, but since we planned on a few other hikes throughout the day we opted for the easier out and back hike to the suspension bridge and back. This hike was a little over 2 miles and a relatively easy journey but I must note that it’s mostly downhill on the way there, so the way back could take a little longer as you’ll be hiking uphill.

There was a lot of fresh bear scat in the area, although we didn’t encounter a bear it’s definitely possible. Another group of hikers stated they saw a black bear about 45 mins earlier near the bridge. So, be prepared and have bear spray with you and most importantly, know how to use it!

The view down on the river from the hellroaring creek suspension bridge in Yellowstone National Park

Scenic Drive East through Lamar Valley

After hiking, take the time to relax in the car a bit by taking a scenic drive heading east through Lamar valley. In Lamar valley there are so many opportunities to see wildlife. I was blown away at the herds and herds of buffalo as well as other animals we saw. Be careful though, they will get close to your vehicle and do not approach them or get too close to them. Remember, it’s not a zoo this is their habitat that you’re in. Stay back to stay safe! Most cameras or phones have really impressive zoom features.

Throughout Lamar Valley there are many places to pull off alongside the road to view wildlife or just relax.

buffalo in lamar valley in yellowstone national park

Hike #2 Trout Lake Loop Hike

After relaxing for a bit in the car and being blown away at the amount of wildlife in Lamar valley although it was sprinkling a bit, a short hike around Trout Lake was a great stop. This easy loop at just over one mile offers stunning views of the mountain reflecting off of the lake and the possibility for wildlife viewing as well. While we visited we saw two bald eagles & a cute little otter swimming.

woman standing in front of trout lake in yellowstone national park
Hiking Trout Lake Loop

Hike #3 Bunsen Peak Trail out and back hike

Heading back toward the North Entrance and Mammoth Hot springs area is a moderate but longer hike. Honestly, it felt a lot more challenging than moderate to me at 4.4 miles. The last 0.30 mile of the trail toward the peak on June 11th, there was considerable snow on the path. It was melty snow and plus had loose rocks so I was a little wary of stepping and needed to gather footing before trusting it. Once we reached the summit, it was so extremely windy! But, still definitely worth the effort for the amazing view out over Yellowstone and the North Entrance area.

As we finished the hike, we did notice an incredibly fresh scraping on the tree. So glad we didn’t actually encounter the bear during our hike. But, it’s always a possibility! Be bear aware and ensure you’re carrying bear spray with you! It’s very unlikely you’ll have to use it, but you are in bear country so it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

part way up bunsen peak at yellowstone national park

Golden Gate Canyon

As you head back toward the entrance and the Albright Visitor Center, you will see the Golden Gate Canyon area. You were able to see down into the canyon from the Bunsen Peak hike you just completed but I’m always an advocate for viewing things from different angles and perspectives. There are a few pull offs right off of the side of the road where you can see a waterfall and the canyon area that are definitely worth stopping at.

yellowstone national park golden gate canyon
Looking down on Golden gate canyon from Bunsen Peak hike

Albright Visitor Center

At the conclusion of day one, hit up Albright Visitor Center to get your National Parks passport stamp. This is the visitor center closest to the North Entrance of Yellowstone so you could even stop to ask any questions you may have at the beginning of the day. But, if you’re like me you already have your day (mostly) planned and are hitting the ground running a lot earlier than the visitor centers open.

Day 2 in Yellowstone from the North Entrance:

Entering Yellowstone from the North Entrance on day two, you’re probably a little sore from hitting it so hard the day before but still super excited to explore more of what the Northern part of Yellowstone National Park has to offer.

Mammoth Hot Springs

Mammoth Hot Springs area is near the North Entrance of Yellowstone. It seemed like many of these hot springs were somewhat dormant until we got up to the upper terraces. We parked in the first parking lot and went around the right part of the lower terrance then moved our vehicle and completed the loop around the left side of the lower terrace. Then we chose to drive up and around to the parking area for the upper terrace. You can definitely just park in one spot and explore all over the lower and upper terraces. Just for times sake and due to the rain, we wanted to be as efficient as possible.

day 2 Mammoth hot springs geothermal pools located in Northern Yellowstone National Park

Artists Paint pots Trail

This short easily accessible trail is only a little over a mile (total distance) to walk along the lower part of the artists paint pots. The paint pots consist of hot springs, geysers & a few colorful little mud pots. (Hence, the name artist paint pots.)

artists paintpots geothermal features in northern yellowstone National park
Artists Paint pots lower area

Canyon Visitor Center

This visitor center is in an area where there are a lot of amenities. The visitor center, then there’s a general store where they sell groceries, snacks, souvenirs and items you may need but have forgotten as well as a smaller sporting goods store. You can also rent bear spray from this area if you plan on hiking. Across the road there is also a gas station.

At this visitor center, there are museum like exhibits explaining the geothermal activity in Yellowstone National Park. As well as a huge map showing where the volcanic activity is and interactive explanations. I’m a complete nerd when it comes to maps so I really loved learning about this and why Yellowstone is so unique. Plus, I got another visitor center stamp as well!

zoom in on a 3d map of yellowstone in the visitor center when spending  days in yellowstone national park
Up close view of map showing the Mammoth Hot Springs area & the Bunsen Peak hike

Grand Canyon of Yellowstone

You’ll enter the loop to view the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone that’s a one way road. (Don’t be like the people we saw and turn around and go the wrong way on the narrow one way. Insert face palm here!) This is the North Rim drive loop along the northern part of the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. There are many parking areas to pull off along the different view points and even some small trails in the area. We had planned to hike the Canyon Rim South Trail to Artists Point but ended up skipping it due to the rain. Regardless of the inclimate weather Grand Canyon of Yellowstone was absolutely stunning. Aside from Yellowstone’s more known landmarks of the Grand Prismatic Spring & Old Faithful in my opinion they don’t have anything on the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. Hands down this is what I would say is the must stop destination in Yellowstone National Park. Especially when visiting the park via the north entrance.

grand canyon of yellowstone national park

Listed below are all of the pull off spots along the North Rim drive of the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone:

All of these (aside from Artists Point) you can access by driving then parking and walking a short distance to the overlook or viewing platform.

Upper Falls View

This viewing platform you get near the waterfalls of the Yellowstone River within the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone.

Lower Falls

Personally this was my favorite turn off point along the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. The platform is up close and personal by the rushing waterfall within the canyon. One thing I will note is the walk down to this lookout is quite steep down. On the way up it’s not long but it’s quite an incline. It’s definitely worth the effort!

Lookout Point

The short paved path will bring you out to an observation point. You will see the views of the falls as well as the beautiful colorful walls that make up the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone.

Grand View Overlook

The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone is truly mesmerizing. Looking at it from multiple different angles and all of the view points is a must.

Inspiration Point

The view from inspiration point is gorgeous, but like the others a slightly different view of the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. From inspiration point you can only see a little bit of the falls but it offers sweeping views of the canyon. Technically this is the last overlook that you can access without hiking by driving the loop and stopping at all of the lookout spots.

Artists Point

This is only accessible via a hike. If it wouldn’t have been as rainy, I wanted to hike out to Artists Point. If it’s great weather, definitely take the hike and check it out! I was super bummed I didn’t get to do this. If the weather is nice, definitely take the time to hike out to Artists Point.

Hayden Valley

Not sure if it was the weather but there really wasn’t as much to see in Hayden Valley in comparison to Lamar Valley. We ended up pulling over at the outlook area and eating our lunch but this really wasn’t my favorite compared to the other things we saw during the second day in Yellowstone.

Sulphur Cauldron

You definitely could smell this before you even saw it! (Insert cheesy rotten eggs joke here.) You could just feel the heat radiating off of this area. There are many areas within Yellowstone where you can observe the effects of geothermal activity such as this. Mother Nature really is something else!

rainy day visiting sulphur cauldron in yellowstone national park via the north entrance

Le Hardy Rapids

This was another item we nixed due to the rain. However, these rapids are located on the Yellowstone river. (That was really rushing while we were there!) Which, sadly the very next day caused a lot of flooding and destruction in the area the next day causing Yellowstone to shut down for who knows how long at this point to ensure safety & repairs of the damaged structures such as roads and bridges. The cause of the flooding was due to the rain and also snow melt.

The main reason I wanted to visit Le Hardy Rapids was due to the fact that you can sometimes see the iconic cutthroat trout leaping upstream. Bear will often be there trying to catch trout for their next meal.

Wraith Falls Hike

This was another item we had decided to nix just due to the rain and weather. However, this hike is near the north entrance so it would make a perfect first hike of the day or one to cap off an itinerary if you were entering and exiting Yellowstone National Park via the north entrance.

Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel

Located in the lobby of Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel there is a map room where depending on the time of day you can have a coffee or cocktail. But, the map attraction you guessed it, is the large wooden map. Being a sucker for maps, I knew I had to stop and check it out. It was absolutely beautiful!

Seeing such a large scale map and taking a step back realizing my husband, dog and I have already traveled a considerable distance was really a wow moment for me. One of those moments in time you just want to realize you are capable of doing hard things and taking the road less traveled. Yellowstone is the second National Park that we visited along this relocation road trip as we left Minnesota and will be settling in Texas (my husbands home state.)

a zoomed in photo of Texas in the wooden map located close to the north entrance of Yellowstone National Park in the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel Map room
Just a snapshot of the gorgeous wooden map

Follow along on Instagram for allllll of the shenanigans! Plus, we’ll be sharing Vlogs on YouTube of our travels & RV living.

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More Montana, Wyoming & Yellowstone Travel:

Yellowstone from the South Entrance

Jackson to Yellowstone

National Park Travel Tips: Things to Know Before you go

Things to do in Livingston, Montana

8 Easy Things to do While Working Remotely in Livingston, Montana

This article may contain affiliate/compensated links. For full information, please see our disclaimer here.

Working Remotely in Montana

With the world changing a lot since 2020, many more people have the capability to base themselves wherever they want and work remotely. If you are in this position and want to get the most out of remote work, why not work remotely in Livingston, Montana? There are plenty of things you can get out and do after you’re done working to be able to maximize your time in the gorgeous surroundings.

After basing ourselves remotely in Livingston, Montana for a little over a week in June here are all of the fun & easy things we did!

About Livingston, Montana

Livingston is located a little over an hour north of Yellowstone National Park while still being around 30 mins from Bozeman, Montana. Livingston has a small town feel but it’s large enough where there are several restaurants, breweries and things to do. It’s a perfect place to base yourself out of for some adventures around remote working!

mural in historic downtown livingston montana, the original rail gateway to yellowstone
Downtown Historic Livingston, Montana

Things to do in Livingston, Montana

1) Golfing

Imagine golfing with picturesque scenery along the Yellowstone River with the snow capped Absoroka & Crazy Mountains off in the distance. This perfectly explains what its like golfing at Livingston Golf Course. You can book a tee time in advance online or by calling the clubhouse. You can easily fit 9 holes in after a day of work so be sure to add this activity to your list of things to do while working remotely in Livingston, Montana.

golfing in Livingston, Montana

2) Hiking nearby Livingston, Montana

Livingston Montana is near the Gallatin National Forest. The Gallatin National Forest is a great area that’s close to Livingston, Montana for a quick hike. Pine Creek Falls out and back hike at 2.5 miles with a beautiful waterfall at the end was a perfect hike. Dogs are allowed on leash and mid week the trail wasn’t overly busy.

According to All Trails, this hike is considered moderately challenging however I’d rate it closer to an advanced easy hike. You can continue on for a longer hike, but given the fact that it was an evening after work hike it was the perfect length.

To access the hike from Livingston it’s a little over 15 mile drive that takes about 30 mins. But, I promise it’s so worth it! The falls are stunning and its a beautiful way to experience the Absaroka Beartooth Wilderness in the Gallatin National Forest.

Be sure to be “bear aware“! Carry bear spray and prepare yourself with the appropriate information if you do encounter a bear while hiking so you know what to do. You can purchase bear spray many places in the area such as convenience stores & grocery stores. If you plan ahead, buy it online from Amazon. (This is what we did.) But, keep in mind that bear spray is really hazardous and you cannot fly with it on a commercial airplane (even if it’s in your checked luggage.) Several places in the area will also rent the bear spray if you don’t want to purchase it. But, in the off chance you do experience an aggressive bear it’s way better to be prepared.

3) Visit Yellowstone Gateway Museum

Yellowstone Gateway Museum has more like bank hours so be sure to check the opening hours before you go. Since we’re still working central hours for our full time remote jobs we were able to get there with still ample time to explore and learn before they closed.

It included many interactive exhibits, and be sure to get your “ticket” to punch off the exhibits you visit. Due to a focus on Livingston, Montana being a gateway to Yellowstone National Park in history much of the museum talks about the railroad.

If you have a National Parks passport, there is an official stamp (or cancellation) here too! Due to this being on the Lewis & Clark trail. Following the whole Lewis & Clark trail would make for one hell of a road trip, but I digress! When visiting the museum, be sure to bring your passport with you if you’re into that thing.

4) Visit Chico Hot Springs

Chico Hot Springs Resort is located a short drive from Livingston, Montana in Pray. It’s south of Livingston toward Yellowstone National Park. Staying at the resort can be an experience in itself as they offer horse riding, the hot springs and other activities onsite. The best part, honestly was the amazing dinner in the historic dining room. I will be dreaming about that meal for a long time. Chico Hot Springs Historic Dining room has earned many awards for having an extensive wine list as well. Everything was absolutely amazing! Just be sure to make a reservation in advance because prime dinner time reservations tend to book out.

Enjoying a beer while soaking in the natural hot spring pool in pray, montana

5) Livingston Craft Beer Breweries & Restaurants

The Livingston area has so many great places to have dinner. Keep in mind, some of the more popular spots get really busy, so if they take reservations it’s a good idea to make one in advance.

Neptunes Taphouse & eatery

There are actually two different locations for Neptune’s brewerin in Livingston. Neptune’s Taphouse & eatery is a restaurant also carrying the beers from the nearby brewery. While Neptune’s brewery is a more traditional craft beer brewery the Taphouse and eatery is a restaurant with an extensive tap list & cocktail menu. The cuisine isn’t something you’d expect to find in Livingston, Montana. It is mostly seafood & sushi (hence Neptune you know the the King of water.)

Katabatic Brewery

Located in historic downtown Livingston, Montana this brewery has all of the amazing brewery vibes. Fresh beer on tap, rustic interior and super helpful and friendly beertenders. In typical fashion, wanting to try all of the things the fact that they offer tasters and flights always makes visiting a new brewery a great experience.

craft beer flights at katabatic brewing in livingston montana
Cheers!

Chico Hot Springs (Main Dining Room)

I will be dreaming of this meal for some time! Everything from the appetizer, salad, drinks & wine, to the main course and dessert was absolutely amazing. If you’re in the area, plan ahead and make dinner reservations. You won’t regret it! You can also plan to stay at the resort or get a day pass to soak in the naturally heated pools.

Mark’s In & Out

This is a place where all the locals go (so you know it’s good!) On a Friday night, the line was pretty long but it was totally worth the wait. All of the ice cream they use is a local Montana brand, Wilcoxson’s. They do shakes and malts and have an extensive flavor list. The all beef burgers are local and fresh and word to the wise the double and triples aren’t huge so don’t shy away from ordering those!

They will ask how you want your burger. The “Standard” is ketchup, mustard, pickle & onion. But, you can also add mayo, ranch dressing, sweet relish or tartar sauce if you’re so inclined. The burgers and sides are separate and everything we had was really tasty! This was our order: Bacon Supercheese with the standard minus mustard add mayo lettuce & tomato, a Supercheese with the standard minus mustard add mayo lettuce & tomato, a side of french fries, a side of battered mushrooms and a peanut butter hot fudge shake as well as a fountain drink.

Once you order from the order window, you will receive a buzzer and when your order is ready they’ll buzz you and you pick up your order on the side past the order window at a separate window. It’s really just a walk up place, however, across the street there are several picnic tables to eat your meal at if the weather is nice.

Marks in and out takeout style burger joint located in livingston montana

Rosa’s Pizza

We stumbled upon this place being super hangry driving back from Yellowstone National Park one day. Wanting to pick up pizza and being thoroughly against ordering Dominos or a chain pizza enter Rosas! Since they state they specialize in specialty pizza, that seems like an oxy moron but I’ll be honest that’s what made me say yup lets get pizza here! Ordering online as we were driving back to Livingston was absolutely perfect.

It’s located in a strip mall that’s really easy to pop into driving back from Gardiner, Montana. There are many different pizzas offered but we love to try the jalapeno popper pizza which came with cream cheese to spread on top. It was really tasty, the only qualm was they didn’t take the seeds out of the jalapenoes!

Eating Rosas pizza at the RV park in Livingston Montana

Livingston Bar & Grille

Definitely a little bit of a nicer spot to have dinner. The service here was super attentive and after speaking with the manager and realizing they only are open limited hours due to staffing challenges made me realize how much local businesses like this are hurting after the pandemic. All of the food was great and I would definitely go back. We ordered the fried deviled eggs as an appetizer then a bison steak & a chicken pasta dish.

livingston bar and grille sign outside in Livingston, Montana

Faye’s Cafe

Our last meal in Livingston, Montana before we left town was at Faye’s Cafe for a lovely breakfast. Seriously, if you had to pick one place to go while in Livingston this would be it! Everything was amazing from the friendly service, down to the cute quirky non matching napkins and decor to the concept. I absolutely LOVED the concept! They don’t have a traditional menu it’s super creative. Sure there are a few daily specials and things that are constant (like the cinnamon rolls.) Trust me, get a cinnamon roll! But, the rest of the menu is so much fun, you pick a few descriptive words and more of a category and what you get is somewhat of a surprise. An example would be you say I want a sweet and savory eggs benedict. Then the exact dish you get is somewhat of a surprise.

We ordered one special which was a biscuits and gravy omelet and a fayes choice sweet and savory plate. The sweet and savory plate ended up being two eggs, some delicious cheesy grits with some grilled veggies mixed in and some waffles with whipped cream, gummy bears and syrup. It was all so good! I would return in a heartbeat.

Pickle Barrel Livingston

This is actually a chain, but a chain that is local to Montana. The Livingston store was the first one to be established so that has to count for something, right? Anyhow, on our way out of town we grabbed some “half” subs that were no joke! They were absolutely huge and loaded with fillings. This would make a great place to stop even if it’s for a lunch to throw in the cooler for hiking adventures in the Gallatin National Forest or Yellowstone National Park. So good!

6) Relax

After working & adventuring be sure to take care of yourself with some down time at your hotel, vacation rental or RV park. It’s important to stay balanced even when you’re probably like me and want to do alllllll of the things!

7) Walk around and explore Historic Downtown Livingston, Montana

Downtown Livingston has blocks filled with restaurants, bars & retail stores. If you look down some of the streets you’ll be greeted with the views of the nearby mountains. The downtown area is really very walkable. There are a lot of locally owned shops to explore and you can pop into the breweries or bars for a quick drink.

8) Spend the Weekend in Yellowstone National Park

Whether you’re planning on seeing all of Yellowstone or just the northern part, Yellowstone is easily accessible from Livingston, Montana. The northern part of Yellowstone is more remote and you’re more likely to see wildlife.

Here’s a one day itinerary for visiting Yellowstone National Park from the Southern Entrance. The southern entrance is more so if you’re basing yourself out of Jackson, Wyoming. But, while basing yourself out of Livingston, you’re going to enter Yellowstone from the Northern Entrance. From Livingston, you will travel about an hour S on highway 89 to the Northern Entrance of Yellowstone National Park. Entrance to the park from the North entrance is right after you pass through Gardiner, Montana near the Montana & Wyoming state borders.

artists paintpots geothermal features in northern yellowstone National park
Artists pain pots in Yellowstone National Park
standing under Roosevelt Arch at the North Entrance of Yellowstone National Park

Beyond Things to do in Livingston, Montana: More Montana Travel

Livingston, Montana was our first stop on a stint of living out of our RV as we relocate states. We were able to have some fun in Livingston, explore Yellowstone National Park from the North Entrance and then head to Glacier National Park as our next location in Montana.

ONE DAY YELLOWSTONE ITINERARY FROM JACKSON & THE SOUTH ENTRANCE

YELLOWSTONE FROM THE NORTH ENTRANCE

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The Best Internet for an RV or Travel Trailer

This article may contain affiliate/compensated links. For full information, please see our disclaimer here.

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The Best Internet Solution for an RV/Travel Trailer

Internet is definitely something everyone takes for granted when you’re at home. It’s so easy to open your phone, tablet or computer and access the web. Well, that’s great but what happens when you work at home full time and your home is on wheels? Having a hotspot is generally a great back up option you can have available on your phone. But realistically that’s not a solution for a full-time corporate tele-commuter. Especially when both you and your spouse or partner/friend need to be online. Not only just being online but also streaming zoom video meetings. In terms of data usage, wireless data on a phone is different than data needed for full time online work.

Internet & Data: How much data is needed?

The first thing to consider is how much data you currently use on a monthly basis. Before we sold our home, we had a Comcast internet & cable bundle. On Comcast’s website they have a monthly internet usage portal that tracked overall data usage each month. This was somewhat helpful but also misleading. Why do I say that? Well, we didn’t only have our work computers connected. We had phones, personal computers, smart home devices and even our garage door opener as well as security system were all connected to our home internet. So a lot more devices drive more usage. While some of these had negligible usage this was still another consideration to keep in mind.

Unfortunately, we were only able to view the last 6 months of data usage. During that time, our peak data usage was just under 500GB. That’s not bad considering all of the devices that were connected and used at will. The other big usage of our data was our cell phones. Our cell phone carrier tracks our data usage regardless of being on a cell tower or a Wi-Fi network. But, unfortunately only tracks the past 90 days of usage. So after doing a little number crunching for each of those three-month billing cycles, we used anywhere from 30GB to 80GB per month. So just assuming the average usage in a three-month period, we’ll assume it was right around 55GB. Subtracting that usage from our peak usage of 500GB in a month, we’re right around 445GB of usage subtracting our phones.

Calculate Internet usage

The main thing to consider is that this just a rough calculation to try and get a ballpark number of data usage. So, if our various other connected devices use 30GB per month that leaves us with an approximate peak usage of 415GB of data in a month. Dividing that up by two (since Heather and I both work remotely) that’s about 208GB for each of us.

As of the writing of this post that shows to be a bit high based on my current usage. I’ve been tracking my data usage on my work computer for the past two weeks and I’m right around 54GB in a two-week span putting me on pace for about 110GB in a month or so. This is a great sanity check and ensures that the allowance of approximately 400GB per month of usage for just work telecommuting should be no problem! Whew, what a relief

How to set up internet for RV on the go (other than from your cell phone)?

Before setting out on the road the main thing to solve is, internet. Not only that, but how do you get internet when you’re traveling for an extended period? If you’re staying in a hotel, you can use their Wi-Fi. Similarly, if you’re staying in short term rentals like an Air B&B, typically they offer Wi-Fi as well, so again, no problem there. Speed and reliability at times can leave some to be desired!

But what if you’re just kind of more on the adventurous side and want to wander for a few months, buy a travel trailer, visit a few national parks and explore; well you get the point. What if your scenario falls “outside the norm”? Well, that was exactly our thought as well. What do we do now? How does that work? Is it even doable? And how much is it going to cost? All great questions we had to answer, so where better to get answers than you guessed it, the Interwebs (copyright of the WanderLuster herself, Heather).

Photos of the antenna secured on the top of the travel trailer

RV internet: personal situation

One of the first resources I found was a website called RV Mobile Internet. Perfect! Exactly what we were looking for. It didn’t take long after clicking around on this website to learn that this is a common question. The answer isn’t very straight forward either. There really is no simple answer. Long and short of it is there are a many different ways to get connected while being mobile. But, you must figure out what works for your specific situation. So, in our case, we needed a reliable solution that we could setup and essentially not have to worry about. That old infomercial comes to mind about the rotisserie chicken cooker slogan “set it and forget it” You know the guy, right?!

Well, I quickly learned that one cannot just “set it and forget it” when it comes to having a mobile internet solution. Bummer! But, the good news is that there is an entire community of full time RV’ers that live this lifestyle every day. Therefore there are a ton of resources available. They’ve been through thousands of options and have tons of content if you just do a quick Google search. For our specific situation there were a few options considered and used to make our decision.

Mobile RV Internet Options

Our biggest concern for our internet in our mobile home on wheels was reliability. We wanted to ensure that we could be online for our jobs especially since that’s our primary source of funding our adventures! Most of the research I came across had a common theme, internet is reliable…until it’s not. So therein lies the fundamental necessity of redundancy. Knowing we needed at least 400GB of reliable internet monthly and at least two ways of doing so without relying on our phones. Our phones have 50GB of hotspot data for each of our phones and that’s just one cellular carrier. Again, only one method there so the recurring theme popping up again…redundancy. So, in my search efforts I THANKFULLY came across a YouTube channel named Mobile Must Have. This channel, and website, has so much information for those looking for exactly what we were…reliable and fast mobile internet.

Ways to Obtain Mobile Internet

In our search, I discovered there are many ways of getting internet. But there’s really only three ways main ways to get mobile internet. So there are three options when considering an internet solution for an RV.

1.) Internet for an RV: Mobile Hotspot

The first option is a mobile hotspot. Now these can be great if you just need some internet here and there and don’t really care about speed or are not going to be streaming audio or video. They are affordable and can be taken with you wherever you go, even on adventures away from your travel trailer. For telecommuting, this is the most unreliable option. (But a great backup option when you’re really in a pinch!)

2.) Internet for an RV: WiFi

The next option is Wi-Fi. This is great because it’s free. But it’s rarely reliable for an extended duration of time. Depending on where you plan on being with your RV, this isn’t the best option for an RV internet solution. Plus, being as type A as we are, not knowing the reliability and just assuming it will be fine gives us anxiety! eeek!

3.) Internet for an RV: Cellular internet

The third option is cellular. This is the most reliable source of internet. Everyone that has a smartphone has some sort of internet associated with it. It’s with you everywhere you go and cellular is becoming more and more reliable and faster every single year. Based on our needs, this seemed to be the best option. But how do we use that exactly? Enter Mobile Must Have.

Internet for RV’ers started by RV’ers

To provide context, Mobile Must Have is a company that was started by full time RV’ers. They wanted to create mobile connected solutions for digital nomads and full time RV’ers. The founders have extensive IT experience and wanted to share their knowledge and experience with other people looking for mobile internet solutions. They have a full online store for a wide variety of mobile internet solutions which include exterior roof mounted antenna’s you can install to go along with routers called Pepwave. Pepwave mobile routers are a high speed way to be connected while being mobile.

The specific router we went with is below. This Pepwave BR1 Pro router can connect to all the major cellular carriers and at 4G speeds. This router has one modem capable of using two wireless carries so gives you some redundancy which is what were looking for in terms of reliability. The router can hit throughput speeds of up to 1GBps which essentially wouldn’t limit the speed of cellular internet we would be able to receive.

Mobile Internet Solution Selected

The specific solution we purchased is the Speed Demon V2 package. There are a few reasons we went with this package, see below.

1. Price Point

2. Two wireless carrier options (AKA redundancy)

3. 1 GBps throughout

Essentially this is enough to not limit the cellular internet we’re able to receive.

4. CAT-20 router

This is a single modem capable of higher speeds on one carrier. The CAT-20 router is a newer technology that allows faster throughput on a single internet carrier. This is a great option as it has multiple modems that allow for multiple internet carriers to run simultaneously. So, this creates reliability. The reliability is in place by the automatic fail-over technology. So, if one internet source drops connection for whatever reason the other connected one will kick in. This will all happen in the background and you won’t notice any change.

While this sounds like a great option the other thing you need to consider is how much internet you get on your internet plans. Most plans have data caps, and this option uses both at the same time burning through multiple plans simultaneously, which is ultimately why we didn’t chose this option. We opted for the since modem (one internet source at a time) and will keep in mind where we stay ensuring cell coverage in those areas is decent.

Router power

Along with our router and mobile antenna package there was the option of hardwiring our router to our travel trailer battery power. This was important to do because we can always have access to internet while we’re literally driving down the road and we also don’t have to have converters on while traveling. The standard power option is a normal 110V AC plug in adapter but to run this you must have a converter on and running converting that 12V DC power to the AC power, a situation we didn’t want to be in. The final missing piece to our mobile internet solutions was cellular data.

Modem located in the overhead cabinet & wire management strips secured along the walls & ceiling to allow us to hardwire into the internet in our two work spaces in the travel trailer.

Choosing Cellular SIM Card Plans for RV Internet

When it comes to SIM card plans for the Pepwave router we knew we needed around 400GB and multiple carriers. The issue with that is if you buy SIM card plans directly from wireless carriers (AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, etc.) those monthly GB limits are typically low and are almost always throttled (reduced speed). There is another option, which we ultimately went with, called third party resellers. A great resource that explains this is great detail is Mobile Resource.

For our particular case we opted to go with two SIM card plans, Verizon and AT&T. The decision of what carriers to purchase was made after determining the signal strength for different carriers everywhere we were planning on staying.

The Verizon plan we were able to snag with our Pepwave mobile internet bundle has a month to month prepaid plan. This allowed us to get up to 300GB per month. The plan comes with a 10 Mbps cap speed. But this is more than enough speed for us both to be on work meetings at the same time with no signs of slow speed.

For reference, a Zoom call takes about 1.2 Mbps to operate so should not be an issue. The AT&T plan is an unlimited GB/month plan which does not have any speed limitations and while unlimited, it does have a limit of 1TB per month which is over double what we would need on a monthly basis.

Internet Solution Versatility

One other key thing to note, the way the internet was set up in our travel trailer, we didn’t hard wire the modem. So, if you really wanted to you could take that modem out and use it in a hotel, long term rental or somewhere other than just in the RV. This versatile piece to our solution made it really attractive!

two seperate work stations set up in travel trailer using rv internet
Work stations set up in the travel trailer using the rv internet

Mobile RV Internet Solution in Summary

Our mobile internet solution for the RV was not easily determined. We’re confident, once it’s set up and running, it will allow us to work on the road while being able to travel all over the US. Installing our roof mounted antenna, Pepwave router and DC power supply will give us a reliable internet solution that gives us piece of mind and added flexibility for our full-time remote work. Thus allowing us to get things done & explore to our hearts content.

We were strategic about the places we are going to stay this summer and ensured they all had decent AT&T and/or Verizon coverage. A great resource to knowing that the roof mounted antenna will only enhance that signal we’re able to receive on our devices, will let us work with ease and not have to worry about being connected…. hopefully. As with the disclaimers we’ve read, cellular internet SIM card plans through third party companies are great solutions, until they’re gone sometimes without notice. Hoping that doesn’t happen to us this summer but for now, we are set.

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BUYING A TRAVEL TRAILER: A CHECKLIST FOR OUTDOOR ENTHUSIASTS

This article may contain affiliate/compensated links. For full information, please see our disclaimer here.

Buying a Travel Trailer

In the world of camping there are many different options. Depending on your desired experience (and budget) will determine the type of trailer you purchase. You can get a camper that’s just an enclosure to sleep in and very basic. To being an extremely luxurious loaded out Recreational Vehicle that is your roaming house on wheels. Somewhere in-between that broad spectrum lies a very popular option, a Travel Trailer. When considering your personal wants and needs it’s important to have goals in mind but to also be flexible. Not everyone’s solution is the same. But, at the end of the day hold true to what you want, how you want to obtain it and most of all the type of experience you want to have with your trailer.

What is the difference between a Travel Trailer vs. a Camper?

So you might be wondering, just what the heck is a “Travel Trailer”? Isn’t it the same thing as a camper? What’s the difference between a Travel Trailer and an RV? To be perfectly honest, they are all different and also alike in some respects. As if it wasn’t already confusing enough! I’ll explain the primary differences at a very high level to cut through most of the technical jargon and to give you a clear understanding to grasp of the terms. Let’s start with a Camper.

Camper

A camper is the most common term used when it comes to camping. You may think well I’m going camping in a structure of some sort so yes, it’s a camper! Well, in general that’s a completely fair assumption. But, if you go to an RV dealer asking to look at campers, some will actually ask for clarification on what you’re looking for.

To put it simply, campers are small trailers (or in some cases can take up the bed of a pickup truck) and are strictly meant for a place to sleep while outdoors. Most campers do not have any type of storage and some have very little. A camper’s primary purpose is to offer some structural protection from the elements while being outdoors and camping, hence the term “camper”. They’re usually very budget friendly and lightweight. Keep in mind they offer limited storage, can be hard to maneuver and offer less amenities and comfort.

Travel Trailer

Travel trailers are essentially larger campers. They offer a lot of what campers do in terms of structural protection from the elements but offer more room, more facilities, more cargo space and can hold more people. Travel Trailers are larger than campers offering more space and are typically easier to maneuver. This however comes with some cons such as higher price tag and reduced fuel economy when towing.

Towing a Camper or Travel Trailer

Now that you have a general understanding of the difference between a camper and travel trailer, your specific situation now comes into focus.

Questions to ask yourself/Things to consider:

These are a couple of the questions you need to consider when choosing the best fit for you personally.

  1. Do you already own a vehicle you’re going to use to pull the camper or travel trailer?
  2. Do you know what the maximum weight your tow vehicle can tow is?
  3. Does your vehicle have a tow hitch receiver?

We have a 2020 GMC Sierra 1500 Denali Crew Cab with a maximum tow package on it. This truck is a beauty and we purchased it at the end of 2020. I was born and raised in Texas and my parents drove trucks and naturally I did growing up as well. Trucks offer many benefits like increased hauling capability, the ability to pull trailers and just flat out they look great! In the past fuel efficiency was something to be desired, however as of 2019, trucks have come a long way! Some can even rival smaller cars that get around 25 MPG! Knowing that we already have a truck prior to purchasing a travel trailer and that we both work remotely, so we would need working space in a trailer, we quickly decided that a camper was not the solution for us.

Me being the analytical and scientific thinker that I am, I needed solid facts and research to make my decisions. Where else to turn to but the Inter-webs (my wife’s term 😆 ).

I never really was a YouTube watcher but holy moly did this come in handy! I started searching anything from “Towing a travel trailer” to “Things to know before towing a travel trailer”. Well you get the idea, but it was a wealth of knowledge. Doing so allowed me to gather information from many sources! Then I compiled all of the information and organized my thoughts into lists.

I’m no rookie to towing trailers given my Texas roots. Honestly, I used to hook up and go without a thought of maximum towing capacity, Gross Vehicle Weight Ratings, and Payload capacities! Even though I’ve towed many trailers it was definitely an eye opening moment for me.

Towing Terminology

You may be thinking, “what the heck is he talking about right now?” Or if you know exactly what I said good for you, you’re a step ahead. If you don’t know what I’m referring to, not to worry I’ll explain those terms here. When you are considering towing a trailer of any kind you always need to keep these terms in mind! Below is a list of terms you should know and become familiar with but keep in mind this list is not exhaustive.

1.) Curb Weight

The curb weight is the total weight of a vehicle. This includes all fluids necessary to operate the vehicle, and all options in the trim level of the vehicle. This weight does not include any cargo or people inside the vehicle. If the vehicle was sitting parked on the street with nothing in it and no people inside; that’s what it would weigh.

2.) Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR)

Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) is the maximum amount of weight a vehicle can carry including all cargo and passengers.

3.) Gross Combined Vehicle Weight Rating (GCVWR)

The Gross Combined Vehicle Weight Rating (GCVWR) is the maximum combined weight of the vehicle and trailer. This weight includes with all cargo and passengers loaded in both the vehicle and trailer.

4.) Max Payload

Max Payload is the maximum weight your truck can carry in both the cabin and the truck bed.

5.) Gross Axle Weight Rating (GAWR)

Gross Axle Weight Rating (GAWR) – This is the maximum amount of weight that an axle can withstand.

6.) Conventional Trailer Weight Rating

Conventional Trailer Weight Rating – This is the maximum amount that a trailer can weigh when being pulled by the vehicle. The conventional term refers to traditional towing. Which is using a bumper pull trailer with a hitch receiver. The hitch receiver is mounted to the frame located under the body of the vehicle.

7.) Max Tongue Weight

Max Tongue Weight is the maximum amount of weight (trailer weight applied to the tow ball) that your vehicle can handle.

Terminology Recap

These are basic terms to know when looking to purchase a tow vehicle or considering what your current vehicle can tow. Every vehicle make is different in terms of where this information is located. Some places this information is located include: in the glovebox, drivers side door jam, or on the hitch receiver itself.

Some of the terms can be confusing at first. But once you realize the numbers are the absolute maximums your vehicle can handle its helpful. It also makes it pretty clear that you should stay well under those numbers!

Travel Trailer Terms Example

A good analogy to explain this is that you would never fill a glass up to the brim and expect to walk a considerable distance without spilling any. Kudos to you if you can! But, it’s a pretty unrealistic expectation. Similarly, you wouldn’t max your vehicle and trailer and expect to hit the road safely. For the safety of those around you it’s your responsibility to understand these numbers to tow a travel trailer safely.

Our Specific Situation

In our specific situation, we already own a tow vehicle that we are going to use. The next step was to apply the terms and numbers to our situation. Below is a snapshot of our truck’s numbers and it’s quite clearly laid out. We have a max GVWR of 7,100 lbs and a max trailer weight of 8,800 lbs.

picture of the towing capacity of the truck from GM
Truck trailering information

The max combined GVWR is 15,000 pounds. After doing simple math that tells us that the max values already do not match. For example, subtracting 7,100 pounds (Max truck GVWR) from the max combined weight of 15,000 pounds. This tells us that the maximum amount our trailer can weigh is 7,900 pounds. (Assuming our truck is at the max GVWR of 7,100 lbs.) This was a head scratcher for me so again back to YouTube I went. I found a great channel “Keep your Daydreams” and they have an associated blog as well here. This video was helpful and the spreadsheet was an excellent tool! It really helped to narrow in on our specific weights and what we could tow. (Spreadsheets are life!) Yes, I am a nerd and yes I love my spreadsheets…I have a spreadsheet for just about any occasion, just ask Heather!

Then putting our information together, with the aid of this excel spreadsheet I was able to run our exact numbers. (As shown below.) It’s easy to see that when we are hitched to a trailer with the maximum trailer GVWR and max hitch (Tongue) weight, we are left with only 588 lbs of payload capacity. (Recall from earlier that the payload is the total weight of cargo and passengers in the tow vehicle. ) Technically we are under our numbers that assumes the total weight of the trailer is 8,800 lbs. and we carry only 588 lbs. of passengers and cargo in the truck. I don’t know about you but I could probably say we have 588 lbs. of dog toys and Heather’s shoes and makeup so didn’t leave us much room for anything else!

This is another reason why I stated that towing at your maximum numbers is not a good idea! This tool was very enlightening for me. It allowed me to work this spreadsheet into a more usable case scenario based on our weight, weight of our dog, and all the gear we’d typically want to travel with. So, armed with this new handy dandy tool; I ran with it and input multiple scenarios according to travel trailers I found online.

What’s great about looking at travel trailers online is that you can go directly to the manufacturer and pull those trailer GVWR numbers and hitch numbers from their website. The just plug those into the calculator to see if what you like fits within your current configuration.

Personal towing decision

Given my engineering background I always like to be more safe than should be. So I chose to add in a factor of safety to our trailer GVWR. I’ll spare you the engineering technical definition but in layman’s terms it just means that the max weight for our system would be less than the manufacturer specified maximum weights. So in our case, 8,800 lbs. is our manufacturer designated trailer GVWR so I chose to take 80% of that as our max or about 7,000 lbs. My new combined GVWR could now be right around 14,000 lbs. and I knew I wouldn’t have any issue with safety, capability or legally being overweight. Using that new trailer GVWR we could now narrow in our focus on travel trailers that had a maximum 7,000 lb. GVWR.

Researching Travel Trailers

Once I had the numbers for my specific vehicle I relied on my spreadsheets. There was a multiple tab spreadsheet involved in making the final decision. Information on the spreadsheet included calculations based on the GVWR calculator mentioned previously and created several tabs that incorporated the travel trailer numbers, floor plans and links to view them.

In the grand scheme of things putting it together at this level of detail was probably overkill but it was very organized and it made it easy to have discussions to make decisions. We started searching the internet for some floorpan options and found Camping World to be one of the best options. They have a ton of inventory and they even have walkthrough videos that show you the floorpans.

Many of the videos are a bit sales pitchy but if you ignore that piece they’re great for doing a virtual walkthrough of a travel trailer. They even have tow guides that you can enter your vehicle make and model or VIN number and it will auto sort options that your vehicle can tow. Be sure to keep in mind the previous discussion about towing within your maximum GVWR numbers, though!

Travel Trailer Floor plans

So on to our spreadsheet with selected floorpans. We originally started out with about 10-15 options and watched a few videos. Heather had some pretty specific criteria in mind and lets be honest I just wanted a bathroom and a place to sleep and was more wrapped up in the style and being within our capacity limits. Once Heather and I sat down and walked through some videos and floorpans we agreed on a list of criteria that we wanted in our travel trailer.

Our Travel Trailer Wishlist:

1.) Two separate sitting areas

Since we would both be working remote, we didn’t want to be right next to each other all day everyday working!

2.) Storage

We wanted plenty of storage space. Most travel trailers are great at doing this and utilize space under dinette’s and sofa’s so this was pretty easy to find. We will definitely get creative about where things go and what makes more sense but having the organizational spaces to store things is huge!

3.) Trailer Length

I wanted to be under 30 feet in terms of a travel trailer just based on the research I did. Because the longer the trailer, the heavier duty your tow vehicle should be in theory. This is to help counteract any trailer sway you may experience. A fantastic YouTube channel I watched a ton of videos on is “Big Truck Big RV“.

This is not an exhaustive list but these were the big hitters for us that needed to be there. Our spreadsheet eventually dwindled down to 1-2 solid options for us. The first option was the KZ Sportsmen SE 241RKSE and the Forest River 23MK.

Common Travel Trailer Model Number Terms

You’re probably wondering what all the letters and numbers mean because that sounds like a whole lot of jibberish. It actually is somewhat of a code for Travel Trailer model numbers and letters.

The numbers listed in the model typically refer to living space of the enclosure in terms of feet. So, in the example about “241” would correlate to 24 feet and 1 inch of living space. The “23” above would mean 23 feet of living space, and so forth.

Key thing to remember here: this is not the overall travel trailer length, only the enclosure length. Typically a travel trailer is anywhere from 3-5 feet in addition to the living space. This includes the trailer lounge and rear bumper and in some cases a fold down storage rack.

Travel Trailer Layout Model Codes

The letters following the numbers also denote a general description of the layout of the travel trailer. There is an entire dictionary dedicated to what these acronyms mean. But, I won’t bore you with the full list. Here are a few common ones for the travel trailers we were looking into.

RK – Rear Kitchen

MK – Middle Kitchen

RE – Rear Entertainment

RKS – Rear Kitchen w/Slide

RL – Rear Living

RD – Rear Dining

RB – Rear Bath

Putting the numbers and letters together is an easy way to identify the kind of travel trailer you’re looking at. Once you look around at a few you get the idea and will better understand the layouts. It becomes easier to narrow in on what you want and not waste time looking at trailers that won’t meet your needs.

In our case we really liked the Rear Kitchen (usually these had the most countertop and overhead storage space) and the Rear Living (nice open living area) models. Now that we had models we liked narrowed down we could focus in on searching for them in our area. We wanted to make time to go look at them in person. Always a great idea to look at things in person, I’m not a sight unseen purchaser by any means!

Buying our Travel Trailer

We started scoping the RV dealers in our area and found some models we liked and wanted to see in person. Now, in the middle of all this we were packing our home & selling our home. So the time between all of the research and when we were starting to look at travel trailers in person was stretched out.

Once we had completed that phase of moving and relocating we were able to get serious about looking at travel trailers in person. We hadn’t been considering a used travel trailer just because it didn’t seem like there were many options out there, but then….we found an almost perfect fit for us! We found a Rear Kitchen model with an oversized foldaway sofa and a dinette all within our budget, overall length and weight specs! To be honest I was very excited to go look at this one because I knew we were getting a step above entry level travel trailer for an entry level price, so the value was there for me. It seemed like the perfect option!

Travel Trailer Walkthroughs

We made plans to go see the trailer the first chance we could. Once we got there it was evident the travel trailer was used just by a few blemishes and bit of dated inside but it checked all the storage and spec boxes. The travel trailer is a 2018 Forest River Vibe Extreme Lite 258RKS (remember those letter and number combos from earlier?). This travel trailer also had a few of our “nice to haves” like power stabilizer jacks versus the traditional hand crank ones and a front power jack, both of which save time and energy! Especially as we set out on our travels this summer, working remotely and moving every so often this was a huge selling point.

This trailer checked all the boxes for us. It has two separate sitting areas, an enclosed bedroom, and plenty of under and over storage options. Best of all this trailer fits within our 30 foot maximum length and 7,000 lb. Maximum weight requirement we have!

Purchased Travel Trailer Specs

So what do you think we did? Bought it of course! To give you a final number roundup of where we will be with this trailer and how much cargo capacity we will have, see below. Inputting over-estimated weights for passengers and cargo, our truck is at the max GVWR and trailer is under our imposed 80% of our trailer GVWR. Total combined GVWR is 13,473 which is under the 15,000 GCVWR.

Buying a Travel Trailer Checklist

To recap, here are the things you need to as yourself or consider when buying a travel trailer: (you can use this as your checklist to refer to later!)

1.) Type of RV: Do you really want a travel trailer vs. a camper?

2.) What vehicle are you going to use to tow it?

3.) Do you understand towing terms? Have you ensured your desired tow vehicle & travel trailer is a safe set up?

4.) What are your wants and needs? Functionally what floor plans make the most sense for you?

5.) What is your budget?

Things to know before you go: Tips & Tricks you need to read before visiting all of the USA National Parks

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Visit all National Parks

Visiting all of the National Parks is definitely an item that’s on many travelers bucket lists. National Parks truly are for everyone! You can experience them in so many different ways by camping within the parks back country style, staying in a lodge or cabin (if the park has them), driving through during the day and stopping at the many stop offs of interest and lookout areas, or completing day hikes. Even a combination of all of them! What’s amazing about National Parks and why people should make a point to visit at least some of them (if not all of the National Parks) is their diversity and beauty! This world and country is so amazing so get out and see some beautiful landscapes in the National Parks of the United States.

Mountain and reflection in the river at Oxbow Bend in Wyoming
Grand Tetons National Park

When to go

Many people will visit National Parks during the summer. (It’s definitely the busiest time!) But, depending on what National Park you’re planning on visiting shoulder seasons (or even winter!) could be a great time to go and see the park in a different season with wayyyyy less people! But, summer usually has the best weather (depending on the park.) For example, if you’re visiting Grand Canyon or National Parks in Utah winter/spring or fall would be better as it can get really hot! Especially if you plan on doing hiking. So it really depends on your specific situation, what you plan to do within the park or park(s) as to when you should visit.

Things to do to prepare to visit any National Park

Plan ahead!

Depending on what National Park you’re visiting and the time of year, accommodations both in and close to National Parks fill up fast! Be sure to plan ahead as far in advance as you can to get your top place to stay and lay your head after long days of National Park adventures. Keep in mind, some National Parks have a lot more accommodations within the park vs. others. Regardless if you’re planning on staying in the park or not, accommodations that are close to the parks (including campsites) fill up fast too! Especially in the summer people plan months in advance to reserve for the dates they want to visit.

Park Specific Alerts

Depending on the time of year and where the National Park you’re visiting is located, there can be roads that are only seasonally open and detours. Check on the specific National Park page online via NPS. Or, you can also follow the parks specific account on Twitter for road status updates. But, it’s always really important to check these closer to when you visit so you’re aware of any changes and can plan your day or days in he specific National Park accordingly.

Are Advance Reservations Required?

Additionally, some National Parks require advance reservations or entry times in order to keep crowds controlled. Researching if there are requirements like this is very helpful! It depends on the specific National Park, but there’s usually a 3 month window prior to the date that you can get a reservation online. But, definitely check on the directions with the National Park Service and the specific park you plan to visit. Many of them offer times entry permits that you purchase in advance during a certain period of time. Some highly trafficked trails or hikes even have a lottery system that you need to enter into. So, as soon as you know when you want to travel to a particular park it’s really important to research these nuances.

Entrance Passes

When you visit a National Park there is a fee associated with entering the park. These Entrance fees can really add up! Especially if you’re going on a longer road trip and exploring several different National parks in an effort to visit them all. In order to better plan your visit, research the entrance fees in advance but likely purchasing an America the Beautiful pass will result in some cost savings.

You may even be eligible for a free annual pass by being affiliated with the United States Military or if you have a permanent disability. There are also lifetime passes you can purchase as well. The most common pass people purchase is the America the Beautiful pass which grants you unlimited entrance into National Parks for a year. Even if you planned on only visiting one park but stay outside of the park and will travel in and out of the park each day, it would likely make sense for you to get this pass.

Maps & Directions

Be sure to download any maps so you can access them offline. (Cell service can get pretty dicey in most National Parks!) You will want both a paper version of a map and a downloaded version on your devices. Many times when you enter the park, they will provide you with a paper version of the park with a lot of popular places marked, but not always. If there are some more off the beaten path places you’re wanting to visit, having a plan for the days in the park is definitely recommended! Some parks are so large and you can spend so much time driving and back tracking you want to ensure you have a good daily plan so you make the most out of your time visiting the National Parks.

If you’re hiking, All Trails is a great app to use. But again research when you have service and save the information so you can access it offline.

sitting nearby a lake surrounded by the rocky mountains in colorado at rocky mountain national park
Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP)

Food & Drink

Some National Parks have a lot of amenities when it comes to food & drinks. However, not all of them do! So, I always plan ahead. I pack snacks for hiking within my hiking backpack. Usually granola bars, dried fruit, trail mix, nuts etc. Nothing that will melt if it gets too hot. Then usually we’ll pack a cooler full of cold waters, gatorades & stop at a deli or make sandwiches to keep on ice in the cooler for a post hike meal. If you’re visiting Rocky Mountain National Park and staying in Estes Park, check out the deli and other Estes Park restaurants I recommend.

Another great thing I always take with me on hikes and visiting National Parks is LIQUID IV hydration multiplier. This significantly decreases the chance of you getting dehydrated. There are so many different flavors and you can purchase it on the website and use code WANDERLUSTINREALLIFE for 25% off and free shipping!

Weather

Be prepared for a multitude of different climates and weather conditions. Depending on the park, the weather can change very rapidly! Especially if you’re hiking and gaining significant altitude. I always pack my hiking backpack for different weather and emergency situations in mind. For example: I wear layers bringing a waterproof outer shell, usually a zip up or long sleeve SPF shirt and then I pack a t -shirt or tank in my backpack. I always wear a hat and sunglasses usually covering my ears depending on the weather. And pack bug spray, sunscreen & of course water, food & snacks.

Domestic Pet Regulations

Most National Parks allow dogs only in the main areas & walkways and obviously within your car or vehicle. But, if you’re planning on hiking in most National Parks dogs are not allowed on hiking trails. This is usually due to the natural wildlife in the area. However, I would definitely check the guidelines of the specific parks to be sure prior to visiting.

Wildlife

Many National Parks have amazing wildlife. Especially in the more remote parts of certain National Parks. However, it’s really important to remember that you’re not in a zoo you’re in the animals home and habitat so don’t be stupid! Stay back and give the animals their space.

Especially more aggressive animals such as wolves or bears. In the Grand Tetons and other National Parks it is well communicated to visitors that are hiking to bring bear spray with them. Bear spray is highly toxic and if you were approached aggressively by a bear could save your life.

If you’re flying to your destination you CANNOT FLY with bear spray. (Not even in your checked luggage!) So, if that’s your situation plan accordingly as many outfitters in the towns surrounding National Parks will offer bear spray rentals for a fraction of the cost that you can purchase it for. Many retailers, if you buy it will not allow the item to be returned even if it wasn’t used so know that as well!

a Moose amongst trees and tall green grass in Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming along a hiking trail
A moose along the hiking trail in Grand Tetons National Park

Explore Responsibly

Please, while exploring our gorgeous National Parks be sure to leave no trace! What this means is to leave the natural lands the same as when you first arrived. This is a sustainable way to travel to ensure the National Parks and wilderness are around for years to come. Check out Leave No Trace for specific details on what this means, and follow their guidelines.

Know your Limits

Especially when hiking, acclimate yourself to the altitude if you ordinarily don’t live in an area with a similar elevation. Take breaks when needed & be sure to bring enough water as well as snacks. Altitude sickness is a very real thing and if your body isn’t reacting well it’s best not to just power through! Take a break and even get to a lower altitude to help alleviate your symptoms. I’m not a medical professional, but just in my own personal experiences I’ve had symptoms of mild AMS (Altitude Mountain Sickness.) Anytime you’re at an altitude above 8,000 feet you run the risk of developing Altitude Sickness. So, listen to your body! If you have specific concerns about possible altitude sickness and your health situation consult with your primary care physician prior to spending an extended amount of time at locations with high elevations.

Yellowstone

Yellowstone’s attractions are so diverse & this park is so magical. From the Grand Prismatic Spring, waterfall hikes to seeing Old Faithful erupt Yellowstone is so full of surprises! It’s a large National Park and some areas on the North side are more remote. Visiting from the South you easily can explore Grand Tetons and some parts of Yellowstone during the same trip. From staying in Jackson (or Jackson Hole) exploring Grand Tetons & also Yellowstone makes for a great National Park trip. Deemed the first USA National Park makes it a destination for everyone to visit even if you aren’t trying to visit all of the National Parks, Yellowstone is one of the handful you should definitely be sure to visit! It’s a lot of fun for the whole family.

A photo of the Grand Prismatic Spring geothermal area in Yellowstone National Park
Grand Prismatic Spring at Yellowstone

Glacier

Currently Glacier is one of the National Parks that is requiring reservations in 2022. However, check directly with Glacier NPS website to confirm the current status on if this is needed for your visit. Glacier is one of the higher visited National Parks. Much of the area in Glacier is covered in well, glaciers (duh!) and with that there are a lot of lakes that are incredibly gorgeous! There are over 700 lakes within Glacier National Park. That alone makes this National Park a destination in itself.

Grand Canyon

Aside from Yellowstone National Park, the Grand Canyon is definitely a quintessential family vacation. This National Park holds a lot of nostalgia for me because it’s the first ever National Park I visited! Visiting in January, it was snowy and somewhat chilly but it really was magical. The crowds weren’t as thick so at times along the South Rim trail it felt like the park was all to ourselves. This experience really is what sparked the interest in wanting to visit more National Parks. They’re kind of like Pokemon, you’ve gotta catch them all! (haha!)

Gorgeous views into the Grand Canyon when hiking along the south rim trail during one day at the Grand Canyon in January
Grand Canyon in January

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Between the states of North Carolina and Tennessee sits the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Many people visit this area as it’s a relatively easy drive from Asheville, NC and also Gatlinburg, TN. Making it a great add on day or two of hiking and exploring.

Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP)

Rocky Mountain National Park is absolutely stunning. Per it’s name it’s set in the Rocky Mountain range located in Colorado. Driving along the Trail Ridge Road to the highest elevation visitor center in the National Parks System is located at over 11+ thousand feet.

Gorgeous stream running through the trees with the rocky mountains in the background and a beautiful blue sky with puffy white clouds in rocky mountain national park in colorado
Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP)

Road Trips to visit all National Parks

A great way to visit many National Parks (no matter where you’re located!) is by planning a National Parks road trip. A popular road trip through National & State Parks from Minnesota to Colorado would include Badlands National Park & Custer State Park in South Dakota eventually making it to Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) in Colorado.

Some National Parks are somewhat close to each other and you can go on a road trip visiting many in a row. For example, I really want to do a Utah National Parks trip since there are so many located in Utah. I want to visit all of the National Parks, but definitely having to prioritize some over others!

Stay tuned for more National Park content on my social channels as well as the blog as my husband and I embark on a relocation nomad journey this summer!

THE BEST PLACES TO EAT & DRINK IN ESTES PARK, COLORADO

This article may contain affiliate/compensated links. For full information, please see our disclaimer here.

Estes Park, Colorado

Nestled in the mountains, Estes Park has a lot of great places to eat. Estes Park is located in Northern Colorado. It’s a great place to base yourself for Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) adventures, but there’s also a lot to do and see within Estes Park itself.

One of the best parts of traveling is checking out local places to eat, breweries, coffee shops and the like. Food is life! In Estes Park, many of your meal views will have a backdrop of the gorgeous Rocky Mountains. If that isn’t a reason in itself to explore here, I don’t know what is!

This list isn’t all inclusive as to what we tried and where we ate. These are just the places I would return to and recommend. Cheers and enjoy these places to eat in Estes Park, Colorado!

Places to Eat & Drink in Estes Park

Broken out by category below are the recommendations of establishments to eat and drink delicious fare in Estes Park, Colorado.

Estes Park Restaurants for Breakfast & Coffee

Donut Haus

The Donut Haus is amazing fresh made daily pastries and donuts. Be sure to get there early as they do sell out and once they’re gone selection is limited for the day. Keep in mind that they have seasonal hours so check directly with the link above if they will be open when you’re there.

My favorite was the cheesecake roll. At first I thought it looked like egg salad, but just trust me it’s so tasty! But really you can’t go wrong. The only wrong decision would be to skip going here altogether when in Estes Park.

Mile High Coffee House

Offering specialty coffee and non-coffee drinks as well as light food. We stopped here on our way out of town and got some iced coffees. Definitely check this place out instead of a chain coffee shop! Plus, who can resist the cute name with a nod to the awesome state of Colorado while surrounded by the mountains in Estes Park?

an iced coffee to go in the car after getting it at mile high coffee in estes park colorado

Egg of Estes

There is nothing better than breakfast (or brunch) out. (In my opinion anyway!) The Egg of Estes has a huge menu so there’s bound to be something for everyone there while looking for a place to eat in Estes Park. The amount of juices and alcoholic brunch drinks was amazing! Since they specialize in breakfast, they close earlier so be sure to check their hours in advance. It was really busy while we were there but don’t shy away just because there are crowds.

brunch spread at the egg of estes in estes park colorado
Brunch at Egg of Estes in Estes Park, Colorado

Coffee on the Rocks

Tucked into a little outdoor oasis off the beaten path sits the coffee shop, coffee on the rocks. Added bonus, they also offer coffee drinks with alcohol. Whether you check them out earlier to really start your day or for a relaxing happy hour drink with an added boost of caffeine, you can’t go wrong! Definitely have a delicious pick me up here while exploring Estes Park.

Estes Park Restaurants for Mid-day or Lunch

Smokin’ Dave’s Q

My Texan husband is a bit of a barbeque snob and this lunch is certified by his picky stamp of approval. If you’re a fan of tasty barbeque, you should definitely check out Smokin’ Dave’s Q as one of the places you eat in Estes Park. We had a lunch here but since they offer lunch and dinner as well as a full bar you could check it out for a later evening meal as well.

a spread of barbecue lunch at smokin daves Q in Estes Park, Colorao

Rocky Mountain Deli

This deli is amazing! Offering subs, sandwiches and wraps that are perfect for picking up in the morning, putting them on ice in the cooler and enjoying after a beautiful hike in Rocky Mountain National Park. Even after having snacks mid way through our hike, it was absolutely perfect planning to enjoy waters and Liquid IV alongside deli sandwiches.

Liquid IV is one of the things I ALWAYS pack no matter where I’m going or what I’m doing. Air travel and hiking it’s such a lifesaver! They’re always coming up with fun new flavors to try too! Check it out at Liquid IV and use CODE: WANDERLUSTINREALLIFE for 25% off with free shipping!

One bit of advice, depending on the type of cooler you have (if it’s a YETI style sealing cooler) be sure to release the drain valve to let out the pressure. Our cooler was un-openable after taking it in the high elevation at RMNP and the seal and pressure built up in it we couldn’t open our cooler until we did this to release the air that was pressurized inside.

Dinner & Drinks in Estes Park

Hunters Chophouse

I can easily say out of all places to eat in Estes Park the Hunter’s Chophouse should be your destination. Absolutely everything was amazing! The decor is very rustic and mountain themed while the food and drinks are locally sourced.

For an appetizer we enjoyed the smoked trout cheese dip. (We were also considering the wild game brat sampler.) As mains, the elk chops with shrimp & the ribeye were amazing. I had never had elk before but I was a fan! In my opinion elk is definitely not a game-y tasting meat and depending on the cut you have it’s very similar to steak. The blackberry port wine sauce it was in was phenomenal. I even had a local wine from the winery in Estes Park Snowy Peaks Winery. If we had more time (and weren’t checking out breweries) we would have gone here as well to do a tasting. So if you prefer wine to beer, skip the next two on the list and go there instead!

elk and shrimp and a ribeye at Hunter's chophouse in Estes Park Colorado
Hunters Chophouse is a must while in Estes Park!

Rock Cut Brewing

Located close to downtown Estes Park, Rock Cut Brewing is a perfect place to pop in for a few pints after a day exploring Estes Park or after an adventure in Rocky Mountain National Park. Colorado has so many great breweries so not visiting a few during your time here if you’re a beer lover you’d be doing yourself a major disservice.

a flight of beer on a table in Estes Park Colorado at Rock Cut Brewing

Avant Garde Aleworks

Many of their beers are more of a German style. However, they also do fun things such as slushees made with beer. If it’s a nice warm day, cooling off with a beer or slushee on their relaxing patio is the perfect choice.

Travel beyond Estes Park, Colorado:

Colorado is a very popular road trip destination. Read my Top Road Trip tips to prepare for your journey.

More National Park & United States travel.

BREWERIES NOT TO MISS ON THE NORTH SHORE OF MINNESOTA

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Craft Beer in MN

Minnesota really has a great beer scene! Mostly across the suburban area of Minneapolis/St. Paul. However, there have been many more breweries popping up in smaller towns such as Bemidji & along the North Shore of Lake Superior starting with a plethora of awesome spots to grab a brew in Duluth, MN and a few places even more North along the lake.

North Shore of MN Breweries

The North Shore is my favorite part of the state of Minnesota. It’s close enough to go for a long weekend, yet you’ll definitely want to stay much longer. It’s dotted with State Parks and is along the shore of the mighty Lake Superior. What’s better than spending time hiking, on a lake and outdoors in Minnesota then enjoying a delicious beer (preferably on a patio)? Drinking beers around the campfire during spring, summer and fall are some of the best memories I have of growing up in Minnesota. So let’s dive into the breweries starting with the south side of the North Shore, the city of Duluth, MN.

Duluth, MN Breweries

Duluth, MN is the gateway to the North Shore and one of my favorite cities in all of Minnesota. Over the years, like the rest of the state of Minnesota they’ve seen an increase in the number of breweries. Here’s a list of favorites:

Bent Paddle

Bent Paddle is definitely a MN classic. One of my favorite brews here is their cold press. They’ve tried a lot more styles over the years. They’ve even expanded their taproom! It’s set up so well to check out some of the nearby restaurants. A super good barbecue restaurant (OMC Smokehouse) is so convenient to their taproom (pictured below.)

flights of beer and barbeque take out from OMC smokehouse in Duluth MN
flights of beer and barbeque take out from OMC smokehouse in Duluth MN at Bent Paddle Tap room

Hoops

Located in the really fun area of Canal Park in Duluth, MN is Hoops brewing. There are many fun restaurants & hotels in this very walkable area to explore. Duluth is a great long weekend or longer destination either on your way to the North shore or after.

a flight of beer sitting on a tray at hoops brewing in Duluth Minnesota
The cherry beer was my favorite!

Blacklist

A multi faceted location. Blacklist Brewing has a taproom with beer & seltzers, food & also axe throwing! It’s the perfect location for a few brews and a fun activity.

taproom at blacklist brewery in duluth mn
Superior water, Superior beer!

Ursa Minor

Ursa Minor has such awesome tables. Literally mesmerized by the custom tables that are maps of the local area. You can see in the photo below. Ursa Minor also has a patio and outdoor area that has fire pits when the air is a little on the chilly side.

flight of beers at ursa minor brewery duluth mn
Ursa minor flights, love the tables with map of Lake Superior on them

Wild State Cider

While I’m normally not a huge cider fan, the variations here are amazing! There are a lot of different seasonal fruit offerings as well as cider that is more dry. A lot of it really reminded me more of wine and was so refreshing! If the weather is nice, they also have some great outdoor space.

flight of ciders at wild state cider taproom one of the best breweries in duluth MN
Flight of cider in Duluth, MN

Fitgers

Get the apricot ale and the wild rice burger. Trust me on that! Fitgers is the OG when it comes to breweries in Duluth. So definitely be sure to stop in here for a brew and a bite.

North Shore, MN Breweries

Beyond Duluth, MN and Superior, WI where a bulk of the breweries are on the North Shore there are a few additional stops you’ll want to be sure to make. What makes breweries on the North Shore of MN so special is the fact that they brew with Lake Superior water. Water, one of the key ingredients that can really change the balance of flavor in whatever style of beer you’re brewing.

Castle Danger (Two Harbors, MN)

Castle Danger has a great sprawling outdoor space when the weather is pleasant. Visiting in the early fall it was a beautiful day. They don’t have food onsite typically however sometimes they will have a food truck in the back area. Dogs are welcomed on the patio so bring the whole family after an outdoor adventure, even your furry members of the family!

Added bonus which would be huge points for kids (I’ll admit I enjoyed it too!) is that a train frequently passes by in the back of the outdoor patio.

Voyageurs Brewing Company (Grand Marais, MN)

Grand Marais, MN is one of the best cities along the north shore. They even have a brewery! The patio has an amazing view of Lake Superior and dogs are also allowed on the patio. Definitely a great spot in a super chill up north town.

glass of beer on the patio looking out over the sunset on Lake Superior
Voyageur Brewing in Grand Marais, MN

Beyond North Shore Breweries-More Beer & Travel:

Best Breweries in the Twin Cities

Best NYC Breweries

Craft Beer Road Trip

Craft Beer in Italy

Minnesota Travel Guide

THE MOST MAGICAL STREET ART IN MINNEAPOLIS: THE CUTEST TINY MOUSE DOORS

This article may contain affiliate/compensated links. For full information, please see our disclaimer here.

Minneapolis, MN

Art in Minneapolis consists of murals, museums, summer art festivals and of course my absolute favorite, these tiny mouse doors sprinkled all over the city. They add a bit of magic and whimsy to Minneapolis as you run across them when you least expect it. You might think they’re fairy doors but if you know a little more about the artist you’ll realize they’re tiny mouse doors.

About the Mouse Doors

A street artist transplant from California to Minnesota started a fixing small little 3D doors sized for a mouse at 4 x 3 inches. He goes by “Mows 510” (pronounced mouse.) They are in locations all over Minneapolis, but you just have to be aware and look down to spot them! You could very easily miss them if you aren’t paying attention.

The classic version is a red door, with a yellow window and a cute little black welcome mat. But, there are many other fun variations that pay a tribute to their locations. Around Christmas time sometimes there will be fun wreaths on the doors and even a small Christmas tree with teeny tiny presents. During pride month there have been small pride flags alongside the doors as well.

small doors alongside each other with a sign saying mows motel in Minneapolis, MN
The Mows Motel (semi covered by snow.)

Mouse Door Locations

If you follow the artist on Instagram you will have more insight into where some of the doors are located. (And where new ones have been placed.) However, there used to be a map of the doors posted online, but someone was going around and destroying them all so then it was taken down. Sometimes, the doors don’t last long as people will rip them off and take them.

Walking around near popular places all over Minneapolis, you’ll likely find at least one mouse door. Some are located inside establishments such as taprooms and restaurants while most are out on the streets of Minneapolis. Many of them are located in the downtown and North East Minneapolis areas. Be sure to keep your eyes peeled! The first time I ever spotted one, it was my nephew who excitedly asked about it and pointed it out. See his cute picture below.

small boy crouching down by the classic red and yellow mouse door in Minneapolis, MN
Classic red mouse door

Other Street art in Minneapolis beyond Mouse Doors

While in Minneapolis walking around, having a bite to eat or popping into a local brewery keep your eyes peeled or rather fixed downward to look for the mouse doors. Aside from the magical little mouse doors, there is other art in Minneapolis including murals & one of the most well known locations the outdoor sculpture garden.

Murals

So many cities have beautiful murals and Minneapolis is no different. There are murals throughout the city. A few of my favorites are the mural at the State Fair Grounds in St. Paul (Greetings from Minnesota) and the Greetings from Minneapolis mural showing the iconic Stone arch bridge and Minneapolis skyline. Another really fun mural located downtown Minneapolis at the First Ave concert venue is all of the stars with performers names on them.

Walker Art Museum Sculpture Garden

One of the most popular sculptures in Minnesota is the Spoonbridge & Cherry that’s located outside in the Walker Art Museum Sculpture Garden. There are many other sculptures located here and on a nice spring or summer day it’s a fun afternoon walking around the sculpture garden. (Although you won’t find any mouse doors here! That I know of or have seen anyway.) You’ll have to venture back to the streets of Minneapolis and pound some pavement to find them. I promise it’ll be worth it!

Spoon and cherry sculpture located at Walker art center sculpture garden in Minneapolis, Minnesota
Spoonbridge & Cherry

More Minneapolis & Minnesota Travel

Things to do in Minneapolis

Other things to do while you’re exploring Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Minnesota Travel Guide

All about all regions of the state of Minnesota.

Minnesota Summer Bucket List

Things to do to have an epic summer in Minnesota.

Minnesota Winter Bucket List

It sure can get cold during the winter, but here’s a list of fun things to do during wintertime to heat up the season with fun!

THE BEST THINGS TO DO IN GRAND MARAIS, MINNESOTA

This article may contain affiliate/compensated links. For full information, please see our disclaimer here.

Where is Grand Marais?

Grand Marais is located on the North Shore of Lake Superior in the Northern part of Minnesota in Cook County. It’s truly gorgeous year round! Right on Lake Superior this harbor town is remote enough to enjoy some solitude while close enough to Duluth, MN at the same time. The sunsets out over Lake Superior can’t be beat!

Grand Marais is a perfect retreat for those who love to hike and just soak in some gorgeous views and solitude while being surrounded by so much natural beauty. The lakes, hiking trails and views are abundant!

The sunset out over Lake Superior in Grand Marais, MN featuring the lighthouse in the distance
Lake Superior & the light house in Grand Marais during sunset in September

How to get there

Depending on where you’re coming from you will need a car. Driving is usually the best bet as there isn’t public transportation in this part of the state. Even if you decide to fly into Duluth airport, you will need a car to drive up the North Shore to Grand Marais.

Grand Marais MN is a little over a 4 hour drive (if there isn’t traffic) from Minneapolis and about 4 and a half hours from MSP (Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport). If you’re flying into MSP, definitely spend some time in the metro area grabbing some juicy lucy burgers and some great craft beer.

Where to stay

There are many different places in Grand Marais to stay. From roughing it and camping or renting a cabin to comfortable and relaxing resorts, there is a place to stay for any type of experience and budget.

The BEST Things to do in Grand Marais, MN

The best thing to do in Grand Marais, MN is enjoy the scenery. Spending time outdoors in Grand Marais is, in my opinion, the best way to spend your time here. Whether you get out and hike, curl up with a good book while looking out at the lake getting in some much needed R&R, Grand Marais MN is a great place to do all of these things. You can’t forget, enjoying the local food and drink because that’s half of the fun in traveling and exploring.

Hiking

The Superior Hiking Trail can be used as a day hike by breaking up many routes along the trail or a full overnight backpacking trip spanning many days. The Superior Hiking trail is over 300 miles so hiking the whole trail requires significant planning and endurance. There are several sections of the trail from Lutsen to Grand Marais or Grand Marais to they 270 degree overlook. Some of the hiking along the SHT goes through state parks along the North Shore.

Pincushion Mountain Overlook is an easy trail with little elevation but a large reward! You can visit by hiking or driving along the Gunflint Trail. This is the perfect trail to view gorgeous fall colors along.

There are an abundance of state parks nearby with many trails for hiking. You will need more than one trip here to explore them all.

State Parks Nearby

There are many State Parks along the north shore, but the ones closest to Grand Marais are listed below.

Judge C.R. Magney State Park

Within this state park, is a waterfall that is quite the phenomenon. Coined “The Devils Kettle” you have to checkout the unique waterfall while in Grand Marais, MN. The trail is a few miles long and boasts views of the river and forest so it’s definitely worth the effort.

Cascade River State Park

Even if you don’t have a lot of time to visit, you can fit Cascade River State Park into your plans of what to do while you’re in Grand Marais, MN! the cascades that include five small waterfalls on the lower loop is only a half mile hike. Add onto that, Lake Superior’s Shoreline Trail than spans a mile near the lake.

Camping

Grand Marais Recreation Area is a full service RV & tent campground located right on Lake Superior next to the harbor.

If you’re looking for a more remote experience, you can hike in the Superior National Forest and camp at East Bearskin Lake which is on the edge of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA). There are a lot of different camping opportunities that are available in the Superior National Forest close to Grand Marais but in nearby towns.

For a comprehensive list of campgrounds on the North Shore of Lake Superior check out the details here.

Eating & Drinking

Of course, eating and drinking has to be on the what to do list for Grand Marais, MN! Eating and drinking is a lot of the fun of getting away from home and your ordinary routine.

Start your day by enjoying some donuts from World’s Best Donuts. While it’s not normally my go to, definitely get the cake donuts as this is their specialty! My favorites were the cinnamon sugar & coconut cake donuts. There will be a line, so be sure to get there early.

To fuel the rest of your adventures, caffeine is needed so head to the Java Moose! The best local coffee shop offering standard coffee drinks as well as fun specialty lattes. The last time I was there I had a maple almond milk latte. It was so tasty!

Latte from java moose in grand marais mn in the car

Post hike or relaxing day on the lake/water make your way to Voyageur Brewing Company for happy hour! Their expansive patio is dog friendly and they also serve food. What’s better than capping a great day on the North Shore in Grand Marais by having a pint and admiring the view out over Lake Superior?

glass of beer on the patio looking out over the sunset on Lake Superior
Voyageur Brewing company at sunset

Another great place to grab a bite to eat when exploring Grand Marais is My Sister’s Place. Offering many different burgers as well as other American fare you’re sure to satisfy a hungry appetite. Be sure to try some Minnesota local specialties including dishes with wild rice in them.

Exploring

Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA)

The Boundary Waters is a vast wilderness area in northern Minnesota where wildlife is abundant and many people seek solitude. There are several entry areas via permit into this remote solitude and a lot of regulations surrounding motors on boats in this area. Outfitters in the area can help plan your trip into this area. Grand Marais is a great place to enjoy a day or two before or after your BWCA adventure.

Isle Royal National Park

Isle Royale is an island located in Lake Superior. One of the ways to get to this island (there are three ways) is from Grand Marais, MN via seaplane. You also can get there via ferry from Grand Portage, MN as well as from Michigan. Technically Isle Royale National Park is part of Michigan. It is extremely remote and there aren’t vehicles on the island at all. You can only visit seasonally so be sure to check opening dates.

Artists Point

Located in the downtown area of Grand Marais, Artist’s Point is an enjoyable walk out near Lake Superior. The point gets its name due to the fact that it’s a really scenic location, you will find many artists sketching or painting the beautiful scenery from Artists Point.

Gunflint Trail

The Gunflint Trail is something fun to do for the whole family in Grand Marais. It’s a scenic byway spanning 57 miles where you can drive up to Pincushion Mountain to the overlook to see the gorgeous views of Grand Marais and Lake Superior. There are several stops along the trail, however it’s definitely a gorgeous drive year round. You can plan to stop and shop, Poplar Lake and Gunflint Lake toward the end of the trail.

More MN North Shore Travel Information:

State Parks on Minnesota’s North Shore

What to do in Duluth, MN

Craft Beer in Duluth, MN

State of Minnesota Travel Guide

YOUR GUIDE TO MINNESOTA STATE PARKS ON THE NORTH SHORE OF LAKE SUPERIOR

This article may contain affiliate/compensated links. For full information, please see our disclaimer here.

Where is the MN North Shore?

The North Shore and the state parks located along the shore of Lake Superior is truly a special place in Minnesota. The North Shore of Minnesota is located from the town of Duluth all the way along the shore line of Lake Superior to near Grand Portage State Park and Canada.

Lake Superior

Lake Superior is the most northernmost of all of the Great Lakes of North America. It is a large massive body of freshwater. Because of its size, Lake Superior borders Canada as well as three states in the United States (Minnesota, Michigan and Wisconsin). As you look out upon the lake it has the appearance of an ocean as you can’t see the other side of the lake. It’s truly a special place in Minnesota.

Planning your visits to North Shore State Parks

When spending time in state parks on the North Shore and all over the state of Minnesota be prepared by having a state parks pass or vehicle permit upon arrival. Purchasing a year round pass you pay one fee and can visit any of the 75 state parks across the state an unlimited amount of times. You can purchase your pass in advance online, from a station at one of the state parks or via the self service kiosks within most parks. If you plan on visiting at least 5 state parks throughout the year, the yearly pass is definitely worth it for you. even if you’re just visiting all of the state parks along the North Shore it would be a good idea!

Places to Stay along the North Shore

Duluth

Many people stay in Duluth, MN and use it as a base for North Shore State Park day adventures. However, keep in mind that you will be doing more driving depending on how many state parks you want to visit and what your specific plans are. For example, Duluth to Grand Portage State Park is 150 miles so around 2 hours 45 min drive one way.

Two Harbors

Located just 27 miles north of Duluth is the town of Two Harbors. So by driving 30 mins along the shore of Lake Superior will bring you to Two Harbors.

Silver Bay

55 miles north of Duluth is the town of Silver Bay. Silver Bay or Tofte are good “mid way” up the North Shore locations to stay. Silvery Bay is very close to Gooseberry Falls, Split Rock Lighthouse & Tettegouche if those state parks are slotted into your Minnesota North Shore adventures.

Lutsen

In my opinion, Lutsen is the very best location in the whole state of Minnesota for skiing and snowboarding. Lutsen is located about 93 miles from Duluth along the shoreline of Lake Superior. (While on some of the ski hills, you have an awesome vantage point out over Lake Superior.) They have a number of places to stay and activities year round beyond just winter sports.

Leaving Lutsen Mountains on the North Shore of Minnesota in the winter
Lutsen: a year round resort in Minnesota on the North Shore

Grand Marais

If I had to pick my favorite place to stay along the North Shore, it would definitely be Grand Marais. At over 100 miles from Duluth, making the trek from the Twin Cities is a bit of a drive but so worth it! Its definitely easier to make it up to the northern state parks along the North Shore while also making your way back toward Duluth.

Minnesota State Parks on the North Shore

These state parks are listed from south of Duluth to all the way to the tip of Minnesota (near the Canadian border.)

Jay Cooke State Park

Jay Cooke State Park is located 10 miles southwest of Duluth, MN in Carlton, MN. One of the main attractions here is the iconic swinging bridge crossing over the St. Louis River. There are over 50 miles of hiking trails and spring or fall are fantastic times to visit! There are a lot of beautiful scenic views along many of the trails.

Typically, visiting Jay Cooke is either the first or last state park along the North Shore that you should spend time at. After hiking or exploring, nearby a seasonal favorite to eat at is Gordy’s Hi Hat in Cloquet, MN. A seasonal classic drive through specializing in shakes and burgers. It was even featured on the TV show Diners, Drive-In’s and Dives!

Gooseberry Falls State Park

True to its namesake, Gooseberry falls has beautiful hiking trails with waterfalls as well as scenic views of Lake Superior. The proximity of this state park to the city of Duluth while having gorgeous waterfalls and trails that are very family friendly make this one of the most popular state parks along the North Shore of Minnesota.

Fall and spring are really popular times to visit Gooseberry falls. In the spring, with the snow melting and the falls rushing with water. Then again in the fall when the tree foilage is gorgeous and changing colors. Be sure to plan ahead well in advance for these seasons as they tend to get really busy and acommodations book out way in advance.

bridge and trees at gooseberry falls state park on the North Shore of Minnesota

Split Rock Lighthouse State Park

Split Rock Lighthouse is likely one of the most photographed spots along the North Shore Lake Superior shoreline. The rugged rocky cliffs with the light house standing out amongst the nearby cliffs with trees and overlooks.

One bit of advice: If you want the iconic picture of Lake Superior with the backdrop being the lighthouse, do not actually navigate to Split Rock Lighthouse. Enter the park, but take a right toward the campground located there. Park your vehicle at the trail center. Then go left past the building to Little Two Harbors Trail. Continue walking (it’s a short distance) and you will have the best view of the lighthouse off in the distance.

dog sitting along the rocky shoreline with Lake Superior and the Split Rock Lighthouse in the background on the North Shore of Minnesota

Tettegouche State Park

Tettegouche State Park is one of my favorites in the whole state of Minnesota. It combines so many great things: the view of Lake Superior, great hiking trails & waterfalls. Like most of the North Shore, if you’re waterfall chasing spring is ideal but nothing can beat the fall when the leaves are changing and the air is starting to get crisp.

If you’re a waterfall lover (or chaser), Gooseberry Falls & Tettegouche are must stops for you!

Temperance River State Park

This state park isn’t open year round, but it has some of the best views of Lake Superior. You can reserve camping in advance and even some same day reservations can be available if they’re not already at capacity. Temperance River State Park is a great location to take in gorgeous lake and river views while exploring the North Shore of Minnesota.

Cascade River State Park

Another great Minnesota state park along the North Shore! The location is rocky and rough where the Cascade river meets with Lake Superior. You can hike through birch and spruce wooded areas to explore the falls.

Judge C.R. Magney State Park

Judge C.R. Magney is most known for the waterfall located within the park known as “The Devil’s Kettle“. The hike isn’t particularly long in terms of miles but there is about a 400ft. elevation gain so it’s a somewhat moderate hike. The stairs along the hike can be steep at times. Definitely worth it to witness the unique waterfall!

Grand Portage State Park

Grand Portage State Park is located right before the Canadian border within Minnesota. Their claim to fame is the highest waterfall in the whole state. The best part is that it’s an easily accessible one mile hike/walk along a paved trail to the waterfall making it an easy and fun spot to visit with the whole family.

In the 17th century, Grand Portage played a large part in the fur trade. It was there where many people started a journey along the fur trade route.