A Visit to Gooseberry Falls State Park is Memorable
Anne Arthur and daughter Signy Sherman, authors of Minnesota State Parks, help us to discover the beauty and the countless things to see and do at Gooseberry Falls State Park.
Gooseberry Falls State Park covers 1,687 acres, and the park’s beautiful lake frontage features five waterfalls, including spectacular Upper and Lower Gooseberry Falls. Gooseberry was the first park created on the North Shore of Lake Superior, and it receives half a million visitors a year.
The original visitor center and rest area, located next to Highway 61, were built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) during the 1930s. The CCC also created roads, buildings, and the park’s water supply.
The proximity of the falls to the highway helped it become popular, but it also created a dangerous traffic situation. To relieve congestion, a new visitor center was built on the lake side of the highway. The new visitor center does not require a state park permit, and it includes a rest stop, a gift shop, an interpretive center, plenty of parking, and easy access to the river or lake.
WHY YOU SHOULD GO
The center is located about 13 miles northeast of Two Harbors along Highway 6. The parking can fill up fast in the busy summer month. The falls are the park’s major draw. From the free parking at the visitor center, the falls are easy to access.
There are 20 miles of trails in the park, including access to the Superior Hiking Trail. The Hiking Club Trail follows the Gitchi-Gami Trail for a 1.2-mile loop featuring incredible views of the lake. One mile of trail is accessible for those with disabilities. The Gitchi-Gami State Trail has a trailhead in the visitor center parking lot.
There are 2.5 miles of paved bike trails in the park connecting with the Gitchi-Gami State Trail, which when finished will connect Two Harbors with Grand Marais (ggta.org). This segment of the trail goes 14.1 miles from Gooseberry State Park through Split Rock Lighthouse State Park and on to Beaver Bay. Winter users will find 12 miles of groomed cross-country skiing trails, some with incredible lake views. In addition, 2 miles of snowmobiling trails connect to the extensive North Shore Trail system. Snowshoeing can be done anywhere in the park except for on groomed trails. The visitor center serves as a warming house in the winter.
Three picnic areas are located along the lake and the river. There are two enclosed shelters: The Lakeview Shelter is located near Lake Superior, and the Ladyslipper Lodge is in a wooded area. Anglers can enjoy fishing in the river or along the shore of Lake Superior. Trout are a popular catch here. Geo-caching is available, and GPS units are available for loan.
There are 69 sites, but none are electric. Four of the sites are wheelchair accessible. There are three group campsites, each accommodating up to 50 people. The park has one kayak-in site along Lake Superior; it is part of the Lake Superior Water Trail. For more info, visit dnr.state.mn.us/watertrails/
Programs are offered throughout the summer and occasionally in the winter. The visitor center is open year-round with interpretive displays and exhibits.
Iona Beach is located at mile marker 42.6 on Highway 61 in Two Harbors. Its 10 acres include 300 feet of Lake Superior Shoreline. Check out the pink- or salmon-colored rhyolite rocks.
The Lake County Historical Society manages the following sites in Two Harbors: The Two Harbors Lighthouse, the 3M Museum, and the Depot Museum. 218-834-4898.
For more information, visit the website of Lake County Historical Society.
1] Visit Gateway Plaza, which is next to Highway 61 and includes interpretive displays and panoramic views of the river. The plaza sits on top of the largest retaining wall that the CCC constructed in Minnesota.
2] To avoid the crowds, head down to one of the picnic areas by the lake. It is a good place to explore the rocky shoreline and even find a sandy beach. Trails from the beach lead up to the falls area. Search for all the CCC buildings in the park.
3] Bring your bike: The Gitchi-Gami State Trail starts from the park and heads 14.1 miles to Beaver Bay, passing through Split Rock Lighthouse State Park along the way.
4] In winter, the groomed skiing trails have great views of the lake.