When someone asks you what are some things to do in Duluth you usually say the Lake Walk, Canal Park, Aquarium, Bayfront, Glensheen, and the North Shore just to name a few. Many of the main “tourist attractions” here in the Twin Ports are IN Duluth/Superior, to the North along the shore or East into Wisconsin. But I am here to tell you that there are plenty of “tourist attractions” to the South-West in Carlton County. I am sure many of you have traveled the 45 minute stretch of I-35 south of Duluth on your way to the Cities and haven’t thought twice about it. You are missing out! Here are my top 5 places to explore in Carlton County.
1. Jay Cooke State Park
Jay Cooke State Park is one of two state parks in Carlton County. 8,938 acres of nature awaits you just 15 minutes down I-35. With 50 miles of hiking trails, 8 miles of paved bike trails, 13 miles of mountain bike trails, and 8 miles of horseback riding trails there is something for everyone in this beautiful park. Check out the swinging bridge over the St. Louis River or the gorge at the Thomson Dam; for something extra special the St. Louis River Outpost/National Kayaking and Canon Center offer white water rafting, kayaking, and cannoning for the family dare devils! Camping and amenities are also available at the park for anyone who wants to try their hand at camping without venturing too far from home.
Looking for something to do for the little ones? There are many activities available at the visitor’s center including ‘Lil Park Peeps for ages 2-5 and there summer program “Nature Play” that starts in June. There are also adult and family programs available monthly, be sure to check out the activities calendar.
2. Moose Lake State Park
Moose Lake State Park is a smaller more low key state park just outside of Moose Lake. With only 1,239 acres and 5 miles of hiking trails this state park’s main draw is Echo Lake which offers great pan fishing and bass fishing. The park itself has a handicap accessible fishing dock and a swimming beach! Don’t forget to check out the Agate and Geological Center while you are there. Moose Lake State Park offers camping amenities and is a great place for families with small children!
3. Chub Lake Park
Looking for a place to hang out on a hot summer day but don’t want to battle all the people going to the big lake? Do dad and grandpa want to go fishing while mom and the kids relax at the beach or playground? Well then Chub Lake Park is where you want to be! Chub Lake Park is located on Chub Lake just outside of Carlton, MN. A hidden gem, this county run park offers a boat launch, sandy beach, handicap accessible fishing dock, updated playground, and room to run! Spend the day swimming, fishing, and playing without the crowd and only minutes from Duluth.
4. Gordy’s Hi-Hat and Warming House
I am sure many of you have heard of this great place to eat that was featured on Food Network’s Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. Opened in 1960, Gordy himself is still serving up great food at this seasonal diner! Located in Cloquet just off Highway 33 it is a great place to stop for a burger and fries, or their famous fresh made, hand dipped onion rings! Did you spend the day at the lake and just need a snack? Stop by Gordy’s Warming House just next door for ice cream or a shake! They have 32 flavors of hard scoop ice cream to choose from as well as soft serve and other yummy snacks and coffee.
5. Moose Lake Brewing Company
While you are exploring Carlton County and all it has to offer don’t forget to treat the adults on the adventure! Moose Lake Brewing Company in Moose Lake is the perfect place to stop for a beverage or grab a “Crowler” to enjoy later. They offer four different brews, the Blonde (my favorite), an IPA, EPA, and a Stout rounds out the offerings. Get them all to go in a 25oz “Crowler” can!
These are just a few of the great places that Carlton County has to offer. Next time you are heading south on I-35 don’t forget to stop and explore! Share some of your favorite places in the comments!