Split Rock River Loop day hike

Why go there? This hike features outstanding scenery and is one of the premier loop day hikes on the Superior Hiking Trail.

Hike highlights:

  • Split Rock River gorge with numerous cascades
  • “Split rock” columns right off the trail
  • Views of Split Rock River valley, Lake Superior, and the lighthouse

Flora / fauna of the area:  This area features a variety of small songbirds, herring gulls and common loons. The once threatened peregrine falcon nests on cliffsalong the lake. Other wildlife includes the
white-tailed deer, moose, black bear, raccoon, and snowshoe hare. A beaver colony can be found on the Split Rock River.  The area’s forests have been greatly altered by man.  Fires swept through the area
after the original pines had been logged and today birch mixed with some spruce, fir, ash, upland and lowland brush and marsh are found.

Geology of the area:  The reddish-brown rock found along the Split Rock River is rhyolite, which is different than the basalts common along the North Shore.  The rhyolite was formed by a massive lava flow which developed vertical cracks as it cooled.  Over the last 11,000 years, the river has eroded away much of the the rock and frost has broken loose chips and slabs.

Land ownership:Split Rock Lighthouse State Park

Directions to and GPS Coordinates for trailheads:

  • State Highway 61 (Department of Transportation) wayside trailhead: From Two Harbors, head 20 miles north on State Highway 61 looking for signs for the State Wayside.  GPS Coordinates: N 47°10′ 56.12″  & W 91°24′ 33.63″.  *** Note: overnight parking is NOT allowed at this trailhead.  Instead, park at the State Park parking area. ***

General route description:  From the wayside parking area, follow the spur trail for 0.5 mile to the junction with the SHT.  Follow the SHT up the river’s west side passing two campsites along the way.  At 2.6 miles, cross over the river on a bridge before passing another campsite while heading back down the river towards the lake.  At 4.3 miles turn onto the spur trail heading back down to Highway 61.

Trail map:  Superior Hiking Trail Association’s map #1 or Split Rock Lighthouse State Park map

Camping information:  Backcountry tent camping is available on the SHT at three campsites and camping is also available at the Split Rock Lighthouse State Park.

For more info: