Not everyone is up to taking a circle tour of Lake Superior. Lasting at least five days and spanning 1300 miles, this is not a trip for the faint of heart. Anyone who does make it around the largest of the Great Lakes will be thankful they did. In their journey, they'll see vast Canadian wildlands, thundering waterfalls, historic lighthouses, tragic shipwrecks, and amazing views at every turn. Wisconsin, Minnesota, Ontario, and Michigan will surprise travelers with their hidden wonderlands and beautiful shores along Lake Superior. There's truly something for everyone on this journey: prime fishing spots, cliffs for rock climbing, fantastic kayaking routes, gorgeous hiking paths, and amazing wildlife.
What Travelers See On A Circle Tour
Beautiful scenery. Lake Superior's shores and the parks around them are full of breathtaking landscapes. This journey takes travelers through Canadian and U.S. national parks like Pukaskwa, Quetico, Superior, Chequamegon-Nicolet, Ottawa, and Hiawatha. Isle Royale is a national park on an island in Lake Superior. There are numerous provincial and state parks along the way as well.
The stretch along Minnesota's northern shore from Duluth to the Canadian border takes tourists past rushing waterfalls. April is the month for seeing them, and melting snow mean they're fiercer than at any other time of the year.
- Gooseberry Falls located at mile 39.5 of Minnesota State Highway 61 is the easiest to see.
- It's in a state park with no parking fee.
- Travelers walk a short way to the falls.
The same highway will lead travelers to waterfalls on the Split Rock River, Beaver Bay, Baptism River, and more. Over 200 rivers flow into Lake Superior, and many have waterfalls along them.
- The Pidgeon River in Portage State Park marks the border between the U.S. and Canada.
- This river is home to High Falls which drops 120 feet over a basalt cliff.
- Visitors can also see it from the Canadian Pidgeon River Provincial Park.
The trek through Canada from Thunder Bay through Wawa to Sault Ste. Marie is the area where drivers are most likely to see wildlife. This is the northern shore of the lake and far more isolated. Bears feast on blueberries growing on wild bushes next to the road, and moose wander through the forests and across the highway. Lucky travelers may even see the northern lights.
Susan Schaeffer described this leg of the journey on her Lake Superior Circle Tour Report: "Rugged, remote and dramatic are the words that best describe this section of our route. This was the true Canadian North. The isolation of the wilderness was palatable as we traversed Lake Superior’s North Shore."
Wawa, Ontario, about halfway along the northern shore, is the home to a huge statue of a Canadian goose. Most people making a circle tour don't want to miss a photoshoot with it. Further along, travelers will want to stop at the Old Woman Bay and again at the Agawa Rock pictographs in Lake Superior Provincial Park. The drive between Wawa and Sault Ste. Marie was named one of the “Top 100 Things to do Before You Die” by Canada’s National Post newspaper.
Then Sault Ste. Marie is the perfect place to see boats go through the Soo Locks.
Entering Michigan, tourists can visit the Point Iroquois Lighthouse and then the one at Whitefish Point. This town is also known as the "Graveyard of the Great Lakes." People call it that because so many ships sank there. Curious tourists can find out more about the SS Edmund Fitzgerald and other wrecks at the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum. Munising, Michigan offers visitors cruises at the Pictured Rocks and a Glass Bottom Shipwreck Tour. Somewhere along the Michigan shore, every passer through must eat at least one traditional pasty.
Wisconsin's shore is home to some nice beaches and quaint towns worth exploring. Travelers can also take a ferry to the Apostle Islands. It's a beautiful place to camp before heading to Duluth, Minnesota.
How Long Does A Circle Tour Take?
One brave motorcyclist and member of the Lake Superior Circle Tour Club completed the circuit in just 21 hours. Kate Crowley and Mike Link, on the other hand, decided to take the tour at a "strolling" pace. These grandparents took 49 days to walk Michigan's Lake Superior shoreline when they were in their 50s. The complete journey was five months. They wrote a book about their experience, Going Full Circle.
In conclusion: making it around the world's largest freshwater lake takes at least a day, but can take as long as travelers want. There's enough to see that visitors won't get bored.
- Many travelers take somewhere between five and ten days on their circle tour.
- A ten-day tour means driving about three hours a day.
- It allows tourists plenty of time to gawk at the sights, visit museums, and frolic on beaches.
Don't Forget This On A Circle Tour
Every part of the circle tour is popular in the summer months of June and July. That means that restaurants and state parks are crowded, and lodging is fully booked. Campgrounds are crawling with visitors. Making a circle tour means planning and reserving hotels or campsites and doing this will ensure a smoother trip.
Lake Superior is split between the US and Canada, so anyone driving around it will be going through two countries. Travelers should check ahead so that they know what paperwork they'll need at the border crossing. Most likely, they'll need passports. In some cases, borders may be closed, so tourists should find out before they get there. People making the trek with children may need to present additional documentation like birth certificates to immigration control.
The work of planning a circle tour pays off, though. Anyone who makes it around this magical lake will treasure the experience.