A Visit to Gooseberry Falls State Park
Katie Berg, author of North Shore Adventures: The Best Hiking, Biking, and Paddling from Duluth to Grand Portage, invites us on a visit to Gooseberry Falls. Katie guarantees it might well become one of your favorite hikes along the shore.
If you’re looking for waterfalls, Gooseberry Falls State Park is going to be one of your favorite hikes along the shore. The Fifth Falls lollipop loop winds around the biggest falls along the edge of the Gooseberry River. To reach the trail, head past the visitor center, following the paved path towards the sound of the falls. When you first walk out of the visitor center towards the falls, the Middle Falls are usually your first glimpse of the river.
People like to wade, hop, skip, and jump their way around Middle Falls. Depending on the time of year, the falls could be a cold blast from the spring melt or a friendly trickle, perfect for wading in late summer. Keep following the paved path as it travels under the MN 61 bridge, checking out the Upper Falls on your right as you walk by. After you pass by Upper Falls, you’ll come to a bridge. This is the lollipop portion of the trail. My favorite way to do this section is to pass by the bridge, keeping right to stay on the Fifth Falls Trail right next to the river.
It’s usually a little quieter on this portion, with the river blasting through the gorge, deep and loud and glorious in its power. You’ll know you’ve reached Fifth Falls when you follow the trail over a bridge. Take some pictures, guess where the hidden “fourth falls” might be below you, and cross over the bridge. The trail joins up with the SHT, and you’ll follow the blue markings down the other side of the river for different views of the gorge. You’ll recognize the end of the lollipop when you reach the bridge you passed earlier. This time, you’ll cross it and follow the path back the same way you came to finish this particular hike.
There are numerous other trails at Gooseberry Falls State Park, and it could be worth an afternoon to check out more of the Gooseberry River as it meets the lake. If you decide to walk to the Lower Falls and down to the shore of Lake Superior, be sure to bring a blanket, a snack, or even a picnic lunch. This is one of the more beautiful areas to sit and enjoy the lake. You can check out the cool rocks, peek at a wedding happening on the shores of the lake, or wade in the lake to cool off.
GETTING THERE & PARKING Gooseberry Falls is about 13 miles north of Two Harbors on MN 61. There’s a very obvious sign where you’ll turn. There are several different choices for parking. Day hikers can park in the big main visitor center parking lot, where a state park sticker is not required. Overnight parking is available; check in at the contact station for the campground where you’ll be directed to the lot. A Minnesota State Park sticker (see page 15) is required for overnight parking.
TRAIL CONDITION Moderate to difficult at times. There can be some slippery spots, but overall the trail is excellent. It’s family-friendly at the beginning, with even some paved trails, but includes a fair amount of hills and scrambling on rocks to spot the great views, so you’ll want to watch your step.
For more stories about wildlife, nature, and amazing hikes, sign up for our newsletter now!