Split Rock Lighthouse State Park
Split Rock Lighthouse State Park is located northeast of Two Harbors, Minnesota on the shores of Lake Superior. It is home to Split Rock Lighthouse, one of the most popular, and most visited, lighthouses in the country. Although the lighthouse is by far the biggest draw and the reason the surrounding parking exists, the park offers visitors many views of Lake Superior as well as countless opportunities for outdoor recreation like hiking, biking, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing.
Here are some suggestions for things you can do during your visit to the park. It’s more than just the lighthouse tour!
Visit the Lighthouse:
The Lighthouse was built after many ships were lost in a fierce Mataafa storm in November of 1905. It operated for almost sixty years, from 1910 until 1969. Now, the lighthouse is open seasonally for tours. On the tour, visitors are able to view the lighthouse interior, the lighthouse keeper’s home and other outbuildings on the site. This section of the park is operated by the Minnesota Historical Society whereas the rest of the park is managed by the Minnesota DNR. There is a fee to access the lighthouse during regular hours. Entrance is not included with your park entry.
Visit the Pebble Beach:
Pack a picnic or just head down to the beach to skip some rocks. The beach provides excellent views of the lighthouse and is a great place to relax and enjoy Lake Superior.
A four-mile section of the paved Gitchi-Gami State Trail lies within the boundaries of the park. From the trail, you’ll find a great view of the Middle Falls waterfall and will also catch a glimpse of the Upper and Lower Falls. During the winter months, the trails can be enjoyed by fat bikers.
Hike the Split Rock River Loop Trail:
With 12 miles of hiking trails within the park, there are many areas to explore. One noteworthy hike is the Split Rock River Loop Trail which has unique red rhyolite rock towers. They are found near the boundary of the park.
The state park is an excellent place for birding, especially in the spring and fall months when many birds migrate along the shore of Lake Superior. The Audubon named Split Rock State Park an “Important Bird Area” because of the presence of Peregrine Falcons and their nests. When you’re at the park, be sure to bring along a copy of the Split Rock State Park Birding Checklist in hopes that you can spot and check other birds off the list as well.
Go Cross-Country Skiing and Snowshoeing:
Enjoy the groomed trails at Split Rock Lighthouse State Park in the winter months. The trails are easy to access and enjoy while there is snow on the ground.
It’s hard to miss Split Rock Lighthouse State Park. The park is located on Highway 61 about 20 miles from Two Harbors and just 5.5 miles from Beaver Bay on the lakeside of the highway. As you approach the park you will see brown signs leading you into the park.
A park permit is required to access the parking area of the state park. You can either purchase a day pass or be an annual pass holder. You do not need to purchase a pass in order to go to the lighthouse- just continue past the guard station and follow signs to the lighthouse. However, there is a charge to access the actual lighthouse and the museum. The store at the Visitor’s Center is free of charge to access. Since the lighthouse and the park are managed by different entities, purchasing a pass for one does not get you access to the other. For current prices, please visit the Minnesota Historical Society website for the lighthouse and the Minnesota DNR website for the park.
Hours and Seasonality:
The lighthouse interior and historic buildings are open seasonally spring through fall. They are closed in the winter months, however, the Visitor’s Center is open with limited hours. In the summer months, the Visitor’s Center and buildings are open from 10 AM-6 PM. The grounds remain open even after closing. The park and the campground are open year-round.
The parking lot, Visitor’s Center, and some of the historic buildings are handicap accessible. Unfortunately, due to the historic nature of the lighthouse, it is not accessible. There are two wheelchair-accessible campsites at the campground.
Camping and Lodging:
There are 20 cart-in sites, four backpack sites, and two wheelchair-accessible sites at Split Rock Lighthouse State Park. The campground also has showers, flush toilets, and vault toilets. The showers and flush toilets are only available May through October.
Many visitors find that cell phone coverage at the lighthouse and in the park is spotty most of the time. You should not expect to rely on your cell phone in the event of an emergency.
There are no charging stations at Split Rock Lighthouse. The nearest charging station is located just a few miles away at Gooseberry Falls State Park.
Information on this page is subject to change. For current information, including contact information, current hours of operation, and camping information please visit the official Split Rock Lighthouse State Park DNR website.
Exploring the North Shore visited Split Rock Lighthouse in the Two Harbors to Beaver Bay Road Trip episode. Listen now: