Grand tour of the North Shore’s newest campground at Split Rock Lighthouse State Park

Split Rock Lighthouse State Park, all photos by Holly Scherer.

The campsites on Minnesota’s North Shore are in high demand. Needless to say, everyone who’s ever camped on the North Shore was excited about a new campground at Split Rock Lighthouse State Park. We couldn’t wait to see photos and hear reports about this potential new home away from home.

With another hot and dry summer in the Twin Cities, I was eager to get back up north and enjoy some cooler weather. When the day arrived I got up early and crossed a couple more hikes off of my wish list on the drive up. I arrived in the early afternoon and checked in at the park office. I then made my way to the campground and got set up.

Split Rock Lighthouse Map

After I had everything in order, I took a walk through the new campground at Split Rock Lighthouse State Park. It wasn’t what I expected and was full of surprises. Here’s what you can expect if you’re lucky enough to secure a site at the North Shore’s newest campground.

Campground Tour at Split Rock Lighthouse State Park

Let’s start with the basics. The name of the campground is Shipwreck Creek. There are 46 all-electric drive-in sites. The current cost per night is $35. There’s a modern shower building with a dishwashing station. But note that there is no dump or water fill station for RVers. Though there are two nearby in Two Harbors and Silver Bay.

The Minnesota DNR has built two new campgrounds in Minnesota’s arrowhead region over the last five years. There are similarities between the campgrounds at Lake Vermilion State Park and Split Rock Lighthouse State Park. I enjoy how the sites are laid out to offer plenty of privacy and distance from neighboring campsites. As a tent camper, I also appreciate how the designers had me in mind while laying out the new Split Rock campground. Several sites have steps that lead to large grassy tent pads that look very inviting.

Lake Superior views and cool breezes off the lake were a nice surprise. And then there were the wildflowers. The new campground at Split Rock Lighthouse State Park is overflowing with stunning wildflowers that border almost every campsite. I also noticed plenty of new tree plantings that will provide added shade and privacy in years to come.

The new campground also connects you to two bike trails. The Gitchi-Gami State Trail is a paved trail and my favorite in Minnesota. You can also access the new Split Rock Wilds mountain bike trail system. I can’t think of another campground with such excellent cycling opportunities.

There are a couple of downsides to this campground. Like most places along Minnesota’s North Shore, you might hear some road noise. I can usually tune it out. But it’s far from the quiet you can find in other areas of the Arrowhead region. Additionally, don’t expect to have a great wireless signal. Service is spotty at best throughout most of the park. But for the most part, I prefer to spend as little time as possible on my phone when I’m out on adventures.

What to do on your camping trip

In addition to the incredible cycling opportunities, there’s plenty more to explore while staying at the Split Rock campground. If you enjoy hiking, head down to the Trail Center and take the trail along the lake to Corundum Point. Make it a loop by heading up to the Gitchi-Gami Trail and then veer off to the right to hit Day Hill. Both of these stops offer jaw-dropping overlooks.

Split Rock Lighthouse State Park Sunset Views

Calm waters and warm summer days make the pebble beach a popular spot for swimming, kayaking, and paddleboarding. If you decide to play in Lake Superior please stay aware at all times and take extra precautions. The lake is especially cold this year which can lead to cold shock response and eventually hypothermia. Always wear your PFD. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve witnessed the wind seemingly shift out of nowhere on the big lake. One minute it’s perfectly calm and the next waves are pounding on the shoreline. There’s plenty of fun to be had on the greatest great lake, but never forget Mother Nature’s power.

When you’ve worn yourself out from all of the outdoor activities, let your creative juices flow by practicing your photography, drawing, and painting skills. Split Rock is a great park to capture epic sunrises, calm reflections, and foggy bays. For a challenge, see if you can capture a reflection of the lighthouse in one of the many puddles on the rocks near the historic site.

Bring a field guide or download an app to identify the plentiful wild berries, birds, and wildflowers found throughout the park and Split Rock campground. Or just grab your beach chair, a good book, and a cold sparkling water and enjoy a good old-fashioned beach day; North Shore style.

Pro Tip—the best parking is in the Trail Center Parking Lot. I have always been able to find plenty of open spots. In addition, you’ll find clean restrooms and drinking water.

Split Rock Lighthouse State Park should be on everyone’s Minnesota bucket list. And now, with this beautiful new campground, you can stay a while and explore more of what this wonderful park has to offer. Whether you prefer riding bikes or beach bumming, this is a great spot to spend part of your Minnesota summer.

Holly Scherer is a Minnesota-based writer, photographer, outdoorswoman, and guide. She’s most at home in the great outdoors; camping, hiking, paddling, cycling, and gardening. When she’s not on an adventure, she and her husband live in the Twin Cities where they’re fond of saying, “home is where we store our outdoor gear.”

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