Black Beach, on the shore of Lake Superior, is aptly named. It’s the only beach in the state that has black sand, a look usually reserved for the beaches of volcanic Hawaii, Japan, or Iceland. Luckily, this oasis is much closer to home. It’s just outside of Silver Bay, about a 3-hour drive from the Twin Cities. A haven for photographers, campers, or anyone looking for some truly unique scenery, Black Beach is an idyllic place to stop during a trip to the North Shore.
There’s a reason that Black Beach is the only black sand beach in the state—it’s not natural. For decades, the mining industry along the North Shore dumped taconite tailings, a byproduct of taconite ore, into Lake Superior. Now there are environmental regulations in place so miners can safely dispose of these byproducts, but the taconite tailings from the mid-20th century have already washed ashore and mixed with natural sand to create a beautiful dark gray shoreline.
For years, Black Beach was privately owned. Since 2015, however, the land has been operated by a partnership between the State of Minnesota and the City of Silver Bay, making its beach and surrounding grounds accessible to visitors.
A Newly Popular Site
What used to be a hidden gem along the North Shore is now becoming a must-see spot for nature lovers and families. The exotic-looking location has quickly become an Instagrammable spot for full-fledged photoshoots, TikTok video montages, and selfies with friends, and in June, the city of Silver Bay opened Black Beach Campground just minutes from the beach, giving more opportunities for visitors to explore the area.
The campground is meant to be a home base for people looking to visit not only Black Beach but also Split Rock Lighthouse, Gooseberry Falls State Park, the Superior National Hiking Trail, and other parks in and around Silver Bay. With room for tent and RV sites, free Wi-Fi, shower rooms, and other amenities, the campground has been extremely popular this year, drawing large crowds to Black Beach and beyond.
Even on busy days, however, Black Beach is still a safe excursion in the age of COVID-19. Bring your mask as a precaution, but it should be easy to socially distance on the beach.
A Day-Trip Guide to Black Beach
Start by packing the essentials—a good camera, a picnic blanket, and sturdy walking shoes—and get prepared for the drive by packing snacks and setting up a good playlist. If you’re coming up from the Twin Cities, stop at Tobie’s Restaurant and Bakery in Hinckley and grab a caramel roll for the ride up.
If you’re planning on visiting Black Beach during lunchtime, pick up something along the way for a picnic. Check out our top picks for where to eat in Duluth, or stop at the iconic Betty’s Pies in Two Harbors for some classic diner food and, of course, pie. (Note: Some of the beach’s busiest times are mid-day. Parking can also be a challenge, so be prepared to walk with whatever you want to bring.)
On your drive to the beach, don’t forget to marvel at the scenic meadows, forests, and cliffs that line Lake Superior, and soon enough you’ll arrive. Greeting you will be a stunning crescent-shaped beach with dark gray pebbled sand, freezing clear water, large burnt-orange cliffs on either side, and a deep green pine forest.
Now, all you need to do is find a spot to lay down your picnic blanket and enjoy your afternoon taking in the beauty of Minnesota. If you’re brave, you can swim at Black Beach, too—though for the less adventurous, dipping your toes in the chilly water is a great way to cool off. Make sure you take some snaps of the lovely landscape (or selfies).
Once you’re done exploring Black Beach, work your way south and check out places like Gooseberry Falls State Park, Split Rock Lighthouse, Gitchi Gami Trail, Duluth’s Canal Park, and more. Head back home when you’re tired or stay the night at a hotel or campsite. Actually, the latter option might be best—with all the nearby attractions, Black Beach is the perfect spot for one last weekend getaway before summer comes to a close.