For some of the best climbing in the whole Midwest, drive about 3½ hours north of the Twin Cities (approximately 60 miles north of Duluth off highway 61) up to Tettegouche State Park. Boasting over 100 different routes, all of which are found on sheer rocks directly bordering Lake Superior, Palisade Head is the perfect spot to work out some difficult crags. This area is primarily for advanced to expert climbers, but the nearby Shovel Point features a handful of routes meant for beginner to intermediate climbers to work on their technique.
What Makes It Great
When you park at the Palisade Head parking lot, walk towards the indentation in the cliff, this is called the Amphitheater area. You know you are at the right place if you see a small man-made rock wall. This is the “tourist retaining wall” and protects climbers from tourists tripping on their anchors. From here, you get a great view of the red rhyolite cliffs. Within the area, there some great crack climbs. They range from the 90-foot Phantom Crack (5.9) to 175-foot Oz-The Road to Emerald City (5.12b).
Looking south, the cliff face curves into the Southern Ramparts and offers fantastic views of the north shore and dramatic backgrounds for photographers trying to get the perfect climbing shot. North along Palisade Head, the cliffs are called the Northern Ramparts and features some of Tettegouche’s most challenging routes, such as the 5.12c Superior Arete, which starts from the 5.8+ Superior Crack. There is no wrong choice while climbing in Tettegouche State Park; there is only exceptional rock and a lifetime to climb it.
When your hands are exhausted and you cannot climb anymore, there are miles upon miles of trails within the state park. Even the Baptism River’s 50-foot Two-Step Waterfall is only a short hike away from Shovel Point. The trail continues deeper into the park and offers two more waterfalls and views of Lake Superior that will make your jaw drop. After a long day, there is nothing better than taking a dip in Baptism River’s swimming hole. Sometimes a little brisk, the water is still very refreshing and will rejuvenate your tired, cracked hands.
Who is Going to Love It
Climbers wanting some of Minnesota’s best climbing routes will have a heyday while climbing at Tettegouche State Park.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
The park is open daily from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. There is parking strewn about the park, but most climbers park at the Palisade Head Lookout parking lot or at Shovel Point’s parking lot.
Make sure when you enter the park to grab the free climbing permit from the park headquarters, which is a short drive north from Palisade Head. It is required by all climbers to have it on hand while climbing in the park.
It’s important to note that you have to have your own gear because the only way to climb at Palisade Head is by repelling to the bottom and climbing to the top.
Also, if you have climbed anywhere else in Minnesota, you may notice that the local climbers tend to be less laid-back and a bit more serious. This is because all climbs must be rapped in to lead or top-roped from above. There is also a strict no-chalk rule and nailing and bolting are not allowed. Not to mention that the cold winds from the lake chill you to the bone and can make it difficult to keep a good hold. Since Palisade Head is a more challenging venue, this makes climbers much more diligent about rule breaking. If new climbers come in with chalk or bolts, expect veterans to give them a talking to. Don’t take it personally, the locals love their rock and want to keep it as pristine as possible; you would do the same.