Last updated on January 29th, 2019
As a Minnesotan, water is in your blood. We love to be near it. Seeing it move and flow. Watching the sun rise and set on the horizon over a lake. There is nothing better. It calms and brings you back to center. Seeing the water rushing takes away all of your stress. It is this feeling the led me to visit the MNs North Shore and Gooseberry Falls State Park.
The Waterfalls Falls
we found so much to do, but our main goal was to see the falls. They are the most popular attraction in the park. They consist of 4 individual falls that drop at different spots. Depending on the time of day you go, you will see people jumping right in to cool off. Since this is one of the most popular of the North Shore waterfalls, we wanted to see Gooseberry Falls undisturbed. If you get there at about 7am, you will be the only ones there. This is also when you get some of the best light for photographing the waterfalls and you’ll beat the heat too.
The waterfalls are fed by Gooseberry River and dump into Lake Superior. Of all the falls you can witness, the best view are scene by taking a hike down and around Lower Falls. You have to go past the main falls area, where all the gawkers hang out. It’s filled with about 50 people at any given time all trying to snap a selfie or jumping in play in the base of the Falls. It’s one of the only places you can do this safely in the park. But it also where a lot of guest like to leave their swimming gear.
Tips for hiking Gooseberry Falls
Gooseberry Falls hiking trails follow along both sides of the falls. There is also access directly to the falls in case you want to get your feet wet. Depending on the time of year and the water level, the water may be rushing a little faster so watch your step. Because of the storm that rolled through the night before, the trail was very humid. It was almost like being in tropics.
Wanting to see as much as the falls as we could with the kids, we found it to be an easy walk but does have a lot of stairs. Once you get to the falls, head south on the boardwalk. After a short time, you’ll reach a footbridge allowing you to cross the river. Then back up the other side. It is here that you will be able to see the falls in its entirety. This part of Gooseberry Falls is less traveled and made mostly of a dirt path. This is also where most of your workout will happen. The whole loop is less than a mile.
If you go make sure to dress in layers. By the time we finished the Gooseberry Falls hike, others were just starting to show up. If you ventured out after 10am, you’ll be lucky to get a parking spot, especially on a weekend. Later in the day, we drove by the falls entrance and the place was crazy. By 1pm on a Wednesday the parking lot was completely filled and cars were lined up on the road. We were very happy with our early morning decision.
Other Gooseberry Hikes
Hiking the whole park in a day is doable if you have the time and possibly are not traveling with small children. I ended up coming back another day to complete the Fifth Falls trek and on a separate occasion to do the Hiking Clubs Trail. Both are great hikes and perfect for those that are looking to get away from the crowds some more.
The North Shore Shoreline
One of the most under-appreciated jewels of the park is the shoreline. Most of the North Shore State Parks have access to the shoreline, but Gooseberry Falls has the best cliffs. There was a constant fog that rolled in off the water creating partial views of the cliffs that were breathtaking. In addition to the cliffs, there were pools of water all over the basaltic shoreline filled with tadpoles. The kids had so much fun checking them out. They have picnic tables and benches to sit and enjoy the view. They also have a trail that leads to the beach. Driftwood covers the beach sandy beach and it’s a great spot to skip rocks.
Camping at Gooseberry Falls
Gooseberry Falls is one of the most sought-after campgrounds along the North Shore. Trying to get a reservation there, is easier to do during the week but you can find spots on the weekends too if you plan 4-6 months in advance. They have both electric and traditional sites for tenters. This is a feature that a few of the neighboring State Parks on the North Shoreline does not have.
The campground has picnic tables and fire rings at all the sites. Most campsites also have nearby flush toilets or vaulted toilets, depending on where you are located in the park. None of the sites are directly on the water. They all have a barrier of tree’s giving you some protection from the wind. But they do have a trail that leads right to the shore for those wanting to visit.
For more information and tips about your North Shore Camping experience, check out some of these lessons I learned while doing it. Don’t Make these Mistakes Camping on the North Shore of Lake Superior
Alternative Camping Near Gooseberry Falls
If you are looking for a last minute trip or find yourself in the boat of not being able to find campsites at Gooseberry Falls State Park, don’t worry. There are other options along the north shoreline to camp.
Split Rock Lighthouse State Park
They offer cart-in sites only. The campground is right on the shoreline, but it requires all of their visitors to bring in their gear form a parking lot. They do provide carts to help guest get their campsite set up with a few trips. They also have a very famous lighthouse you can see from the shoreline. How to See Split Rock Lighthouse MN Without Breaking the Bank
Burlington Bay Campground
The Burlington Bay Campground is a municipal campground in Two Harbors. Close to Gooseberry Falls State Park, this is primarily an RV Park. While people do tent here, opt for a spot as close to the water as possible. All of the spots will have a view of the water, though it may be obstructed by other RV units. There is little room between you and your neighbor and very little tree cover for privacy.
Tettegouche State Park
About twenty minutes north of Gooseberry Falls, Tettegouche State Park is another gem. It caters more to tent camper because of its lack of electric spots, but it still allows RV who don’t mind living without that comfort. The Campground boasts many of the features that Gooseberry Falls with their trails, waterfalls and shoreline views.
If you don’t want to camp there are also hotel accommodations in Two Harbors and Duluth. You can also stay at cabins in the area too.
Other Things to do at Gooseberry Falls State Park:
Gitchi-Gami State Trail
Next time I go up there, I will bring our bikes and check out the Gitchi-Gami State Trail. The trail runs along highway 61 and has lots of shoreline views. The trail is 89 miles long paved trail running from Two Harbors to Grand Marais.
Superior Hiking Trail
The Superior Hiking Trail runs directly through the State Park. Some of the trials, like the Fifth Falls Trail, will have guest walking along the Superior Hiking Trail. The Superior Hiking Trail is a backpacking trail for through hikers. It starts at the Minnesota/Wisconsin border near Duluth and 310 miles North near the Canadian border. If you are thinking about ever doing a trip like this, start at the State Parks, and complete a Day Hike south to one of the different campsites. Or head north to Split Rock Lighthouse State Park or the more challenging Breadloaf Ridge.
Normally I wouldn’t promote a gift shop, but when you walk in this one, you’ll see why. This is a mecca for most of the parks on the north shore filled with Patches, Postcards, Swag, and guidebooks. Basically anything you may have forgotten along the way. Not only do they carry the gear for Gooseberry Falls, but they also carry swag and memorabilia for the smaller State Parks along the North Shoreline like Judge C.R. Magney State Park.
If You Only Have an Hour:
Make sure to visit the Falls. Even if you can’t hike around the whole thing, it worth it. Also, head over the picnic area for a view of the shoreline. It’s a view you will never forget. Gooseberry Falls State Park is a natural treasure for Minnesota. My hope is that everyone that visits remembers that and takes good care of it for future generations too. When you visit make sure to get your MN State Parks Passport stamped!