If you’re dreaming of an adventure elopement in the wild, Minnesota may not be the first place that comes to mind, but the gorgeous North Shore of Lake Superior offers some incredible elopement destinations.
I’m talking black sand beaches, rocky cliffs, and massive waterfalls— who knew this was all in Minnesota?!
The North Shore of Lake Superior is one of the best places to elope if you’re looking for something under-the-radar and unique.
Minnesota’s North Shore is also a uniquely accessible elopement destination. From a travel perspective, it’s right in the center of the US, with a major international airport providing convenient flights.
Once on the North Shore, there are gorgeous parks and great lakes views at every turn. Many of the most beautiful places are easy to get to with just a short hike, which is perfect for a couple who wants to elope surrounded by nature, but doesn’t necessarily want to hike 15 miles to get there.
(Short, easy hikes also mean you can go big on a dramatic dress and your dream wedding shoes— hooray!)
Just like any location, there are many things to consider when planning your elopement on Minnesota’s North Shore, such as the best locations, time of year, legalities, elopement packages, and more.
This guide will walk you through everything you need to know about eloping in Minnesota!
What’s the North Shore of Lake Superior Like?
Minnesota’s north shore is a gorgeous patchwork of small towns, scenic trails, and unspoiled wilderness stretching 145 miles along Lake Superior from the city of Duluth to Grand Portage near the Canadian border.
The North Shore scenic drive connects all of the biggest destinations on the north shore and makes for a great road trip (How fun does an elopement road trip sound?!)
There are also plenty of amazing restaurants and beautiful hotels along the way if you want to add some luxury to your adventure elopement. Imagine getting married on a windswept cliff overlooking the Lake Superior shoreline, then retreating to a rustic cabin or enjoying an amazing meal!
If you want to make sure there’s plenty of adventure in your adventure elopement, the North Shore of Lake Superior offers plenty of opportunities for hiking, sailing, rock climbing, off-roading, and much, much more.
North Shore Elopement Location Ideas
Whether it’s a scenic overlook on rocky cliffs, sandy beaches, or a stunning river gorge, there’s a perfect adventure elopement destination for anyone on Minnesota’s North Shore.
As a North Shore local and an adventure elopement photographer, I love helping couples find a unique location that’s perfect for them. But if you’re looking for some inspiration, here are some awesome places to elope:
Palisade Head has beautiful cliffside views overlooking Lake Superior, and they happen to be quick and easy to get to (even in wedding shoes). The wind up there can be a bit chilly so make sure you are prepared with warm clothes nearby!
TETTEGOUCHE STATE PARK
Tettegouche State Park has all the North Shore classics in one place. Here, you’ll find raging waterfalls, cliffside hikes, and quiet inland forests.
There are three other major waterfalls in the park, as well as the beautiful Baptism River.
If you’re looking for cliffside views, Shovel Point is the spot for you. The hike ends at a stunning peninsula jutting out into Lake Superior. The Shovel Point hike is just over a half-mile, so it’s easy to get to.
This beautiful black sand beach is reminiscent of the famous black beaches in Iceland, only much closer to home if you’re based in the US! It’s the only black sand beach in Minnesota.
The beach has two sides that come together to a point at a beautiful rust-colored rock island. A very short hike will get you here, so it would be great as one of many locations along the shore for a full-day elopement!
With plenty of waterfalls, the Gooseberry Falls state park would make a stunning backdrop for an adventure elopement. A short hike takes you past high, middle, and lower falls, while a longer hike will take you out to fifth falls.
Gooseberry Falls State Park is located in Two Harbors, just north of Duluth, so it would be a good place for a wild photoshoot just outside the city.
SPLIT ROCK LIGHTHOUSE STATE PARK
Split Rock Lighthouse is one of the quintessential North Shore destinations, complete with scenic views, historic buildings, and rugged shoreline.
If you’re looking for something cinematic, this picturesque lighthouse was featured in the 2013 film The Great Gatsby! It’s good enough for Leo DiCaprio, so you can be sure Split Rock Lighthouse will make an elegant elopement backdrop.
TEMPERANCE RIVER STATE PARK
Another gorgeous North Shore state park with cliff views, beaches, and hiking, Temperance River State Park sets itself apart with a stunning river gorge. There’s even a footbridge over the gorge if you want to get married mid-air above the river!
This state park is located in Schroeder, Minnesota, halfway between Silver Bay and Grand Marais, so it would make a great stop on a full-day shoot or an elopement road trip.
CASCADE RIVER STATE PARK
If you’re keen on eloping in a wild, untouched location, Cascade River State Park is a great choice. The park is surrounded by millions of acres of untouched national forest and features long hiking trails and backcountry campsites.
While it might feel wild, Cascade River State Park is located just south of Grand Marais, one of the most picturesque north shore communities.
This little town is known for its vibrant arts community and excellent amenities for travelers. Grand Marais is walkable and has all the charming hotels, quaint cabins, and excellent restaurants you could want.
GRAND PORTAGE STATE PARK
Imagine eloping in front of a hundred-foot waterfall straddling the border between two countries. Grand Portage State Park is the place to make that happen. Located right on the Canadian border, this state park is one of the crown jewels of the North Shore and all of Lake Superior.
The High Falls in Grand Portage State Park is the tallest waterfall on the entire north shore and all of Minnesota, in fact. It would make an amazing location for an American/Canadian couple to say their vows.
Best of all, getting to the High Falls requires only a short walk on a half-mile, wheelchair-accessible paved trail, so anyone can get there easily.
How to Elope in Minnesota
Here’s everything you’ll need to know to get legally married in Minnesota:
Marriage License – To get married in Minnesota, you will need to apply for a marriage license. It does not matter what county you apply in, as long as you are getting married somewhere in the state of Minnesota.
You can fill out an online application for St. Louis County Minnesota here.
Fees – The fee for a marriage license in Minnesota is $115, unless you take 12 hours of premarital education classes. If you take the classes, a marriage license is only $40. You will need to look up premarital counselors that are certified to provide the education and have proof that you took the classes.
There is no waiting period to get the license typically, you will just need to make an appointment at the licensing office. Your license is good for 6 months from the date it is issued.
Officiant – In Minnesota, you need to be married by someone who is authorized to perform marriage ceremonies, which includes judges and ordained ministers of any faith (this means online ordinations are OK).
In addition, officiants need to file for their “officiant credentials” with any Minnesota county. The documents you’ll need for this credential will likely vary a bit from county to county.
If your officiant got ordained online to perform your ceremony, they’ll need to call a Minnesota county clerk and find out exactly what documents they’ll need for their officiant credential before they perform the wedding.
Witnesses – You’ll need to have 2 witnesses present to sign the marriage license. If you’re planning an intimate elopement, don’t worry. Your elopement photographer can help you find two people nearby (usually at the trailhead or parking lot) who can serve as your witnesses without having to attend the ceremony.
Permits – Depending on where you’re eloping, you might need a special permit to have a wedding ceremony there. Some state parks and national parks, for example, require ceremony or photo permits.
What permits (if any) you’ll need will vary by location. Your Elopement Photographer should be able to help you with all this! My elopement packages come with assistance in getting all of your legal documents and permits squared away.
Best Time of Year to Elope in Minnesota
Summer and Fall (June-October) are by far the best times to visit and elope in Minnesota as far as comfortable weather!
Of course, every season can be absolutely beautiful depending on what you are looking for. Here’s what to expect for different times of the year.
Summer (June- August) – In summer, Minnesota’s North Shore is lush and green with clear or partly cloudy skies.
The North Shore stays fairly humid in the summer thanks to Lake Superior. Rainstorms will often move in and out pretty quickly. With average temperatures ranging from the 50s to the 80s on Lake Superior, it’s a good idea to dress in layers and always be prepared for big changes in the weather (actually, this is a good rule year-round in Minnesota).
Also, BE PREPARED FOR MOSQUITOS! They are known as the unofficial state bird for a reason!
Fall (September – November) – If you like slightly cooler temps and beautiful colors, fall is the way to go! Temperatures range from 20s – 60s, so you’ll definitely want to keep a jacket with you. Mornings and evenings after the sun goes down are cool and crisp, but daytimes are very comfortable and pretty much perfect (according to this local).
Winter (December – March) – If you’re dreaming of snowy winter wonderland elopement photos, Minnesota has the weather to make that happen.
In fact, Lake Superior can get several feet of snow in a single day! Temperatures can be pretty brutal at times, with highs in the 20s and 30s and lows commonly below 0 (record lows can get down to -60— yikes! 🥶)
But, if you’re willing to brave the cold, you can have an absolutely magical elopement on the north shore. Always bring plenty of warm clothes and dress in layers. A 4×4 vehicle is recommended in the winter as well!
Spring (April-May) – Spring in Minnesota is beautiful, with blossoming trees and flowers, but the weather can be pretty hit or miss.
Sometimes winter temps and conditions can last well into spring, with snow falling as late as May. Be prepared for melting slushy snow, and, again you will want to wear layers as temps can be cool in the morning but nicer by afternoon!
The trees don’t start blooming until pretty late spring typically but the grass and some other greenery may start peeking out from the melting snow!
Travel on the North Shore
If you’re eloping on the North Shore, the best airport to fly into would be the Duluth International Airport. This is a smaller airport, so it’s very easy to navigate (eloping is all about getting married stress-free, right?)
While you’re in Duluth, there are plenty of great things to check out before heading up the North Shore, including the Duluth Rose Garden, Glensheen Mansion, or the Duluth lakewalk, which will take you through the beautiful Canal Park on the edge of Lake Superior.
Renting a car is the best option for visiting the North Shore of Lake Superior. There isn’t much public transportation in the area and having your own car will allow you to stop and see all the amazing sites along the way.
If you’re coming to the area in the late Fall/ Winter/ early Spring you will definitely want to get a 4×4 vehicle as snow can make for some interesting driving situations!
Best Hotels, Cabins & Airbnbs for Eloping
There are tons of hotels in Duluth and the surrounding area, but if you’re eloping, you might want to find something a little more secluded and special.
Here are a few cabin and lodge resorts that are right on the North Shore!
Cove Point Lodge – Beaver Bay, MN – You can stay in the beautiful grand lodge here, or choose a cozy private cabin. There are plenty of activities for all seasons and it’s convenient to Split Rock Lighthouse, Gooseberry Falls, Tettegouche State Park, and so much more!
Breezy Point Cabins – Two Harbors, MN – These private lakeside cabins range from studio to two-bedroom and are right along the edge of the lake. You cannot get better views than what you’ll find here.
This resort is convenient to all the popular attractions for exploring on your own, but they also offer guided experiences such as hikes, snowshoeing, kayaking, paddleboarding, fishing, sailing, and even a brewery tour!
Lamb’s Resort – Schroeder, Minnesota – This lovely little resort offers adorable cabins right on the lake or river, as well as RV or tent camping if you want to keep it rustic for your elopement.
Anderson’s North Shore Resort – Grand Marais, MN – These cabins right on the shore of Lake Superior are open year-round if you’re looking for that winter wonderland experience. They offer plenty of privacy, and even outdoor decks complete with a BBQ!
If you’re looking for outdoor activities along the north shore, this resort is great for canoeing, kayaking, and hiking.
Bluefin Bay Resorts – Tofte, MN – These luxury rooms & homes sleep up to 6-8 people, so they’re perfect if you want to include friends or family at your elopement!
There are tons of amazing places on Airbnb and VRBO as well!!
Check out this beautiful cabin near Grand Marais perched on a hilltop overlooking Lake Superior.
Imagine snuggling up by the wood stove in your own cozy, intimate cabin after a day of adventuring!
Want to watch the Aurora Borealis while curled up in bed? This cabin, complete with lofted skylights, has you covered.
While Agua Norte Cabin can’t promise you an aurora viewing, you’re guaranteed to love the sauna and massive cedar deck at this cabin, which Condé Nast called “the coolest AirBnb in Minnesota.”
Here are a few must stop places to get some tasty eats along the North Shore!
Betty’s Pies – Two Harbors, MN – You can’t visit the North Shore without stopping to get one of Betty’s world famous pies!
New Scenic Cafe – right outside of Duluth on scenic highway 61, and right on the lake with delicious New American Cuisine.
Angry Trout Cafe – famous for its Lake Superior trout and whitefish.
Things to Do on Minnesota’s North Shore
Eloping is all about focusing on your love and what you love as a couple. If you choose an adventure elopement, then you can make any activity you love part of your special day.
There are so many amazing things you can do on the North Shore. Here are just some of the options:
- Paddle Boarding
- Rock climbing
- Water Skiing
- Cross-Country Skiing
- Ice Fishing
Minnesota is home to all kinds of amazing wildlife! You might see black bears, moose, wolves, foxes, bobcats, whitetail deer, and so much more!
Please be sure to always respect wildlife and make sure to take proper precautions such as carrying bear spray, or bear bells when hiking and spending time outdoors.
If you do venture into the backcountry, consider hiring a photographer who is Leave No Trace certified and has wilderness first aid training. It’s one less thing to worry about on your big day.
I hope this guide has helped you imagine what your perfect elopement in Minnesota would look like.