St Paul’s Best Kept Secret, Hiking at Shadow Falls

Last updated on August 20th, 2019

After seeing a few pictures of the Shadow Falls Waterfall in St. Paul, I knew I had to go. It reminded me of the falls you see on the Road to Hana in Hawaii where the waterfalls off the cliffside. Here the water is originating from a fresh spring and dumps into the Mississippi River. The best part, this hidden waterfall allows you to get behind the falls. All this without the crowds of Minnehaha Falls in Minneapolis.

When I convinced my husband to go, we did not realize what we were getting ourselves into. Unlike most of my adventures, there is little information on these falls. The waterfall is in Shadow Falls Park in St Paul MN. Getting to the park is easy enough. Finding the waterfall is another story. It ended up being one of the best hiking trips in Minnesota.

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Getting to Shadow Falls in Saint Paul

We are from the west side of the cities so St. Paul is not a place we regularly visit. Driving along the Mississippi River Road was stunning. The views are amazing along the riverfront. Parking can be found right on Summit Road and Mississippi River Road.

To get to the Shadow Falls, travel along the walking path to where it bends. You will notice a dirt path through the woods with a warning to ice climbers. This is the safest path. There are other ways to get down to the falls too, but those are not as safe. As we were looking for this hidden entrance, my husband joked that he felt like we were one of those Amazing Race. We were the team that walked in a random direction without knowing where we were going. Cut out the guessing and use this map. It details exactly where to park and how to get to the falls trail.

Stream at Shadow Falls, St. Paul

Finding the Waterfall

The hiking trail follows the muddy river bed. If you try to go when it’s drier out, you risk there not being enough water to feed the waterfall. After little ways, you’ll discover the spring. That’s when the fun begins. Now you get to cross over the pathways created by others. Stick with the path; it has the least amount of mud. Often you’ll find man-made bridges and other down tree’s people have used to help them cross. It can be kind of tricky to navigate, particularly when you’ve brought your 2 and 5-year-old with you. Don’t give up, you’ll make it. Soon you’ll find the top of the falls. Take the path down the right side. The view is amazing.

This part of the journey was the most challenging. Mostly because we were traversing a muddy hillside with two small children. Being it was fall, the leaves masked a lot of the mud. What I found amazing was how well our children listened to us the whole time. I have to figure out how to bottle this up for home. Take your time getting down. It’s worth the effort.

Shadow Falls, St. Paul

Shadow Falls

Shadow Falls, St. Paul

At the bottom, my husband didn’t want us to go any closer. There was no way to avoid the mud between the falls and us. I took one look at him and said, “I came all this way… I’m going for it!” He stayed back with the kids. I am so glad I didn’t listen to him because Shadow Falls is amazing. There was even space for you to get behind the falls. Take your time and just enjoy it before climbing back up.

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The Not-So Safeway to get Back to the Car

Getting up was another challenge. We found a couple of different ways to get back up that did not need us to go over the entire stream again. It comprised of going straight up a slippery ravine. The best part was, I was in charge of helping my two-year-old up. He thought it was so funny whenever I would pick him up and put him down over a big step up. It was so fun he didn’t want to climb anymore. Here I am, trying not to slip down the mudslide and he demands to be thrown to the next location.  We made it up with no one falling thankfully!

Shadow Falls was so spectacular it made my list of the Eight Stunning Waterfalls Near Minneapolis and is still one of the best hikes in St Paul. If you are looking for some more waterfalls in Minnesota, check out Waterfalls of Minnesota’s North Shore and More, Expanded Second Edition: A Guide for Hikers. Nearby there is also Afton State Park, perfect for more great hiking opportunities in Minnesota!

Shadow Falls, St. Paul
Shadow Falls, St. Paul
Shadow Falls, St. Paul MN

Lessons Learned

Springtime equals more water, more mud.

Best times for bug-free excursion, early spring, and fall.

Bring good hiking shoes. The boots I wore may have looked fashionable, but we’re not sturdy.

Don’t forget to check that you have a full battery and memory card in your camera. The ravine is amazing.

Would I Go Again to Shadow Falls?

I’ve been begging my husband to do it again. This time when we are properly equipped with hiking boots and now that my kids are older, it would be a lot easier. Hopefully, he’ll say yes one of these days, otherwise I’m grabbing some girlfriends to go back!

Final Thoughts

The Mississipi River Bank waterfall is one of the best you’ll see. Make sure if you plan on doing some Twin Cities hiking trips, add this to the list. You won’t regret it!


More Info: Shadow Falls Park
Directions: St Paul MN
When To Visit: Spring or Summer or after a good rain.
Recommended Guide: Waterfalls of Minnesota’s North Shore and More, Expanded Second Edition: A Guide for Hikers,
Other Recommends: Don’t forget proper footwear. It will make a world of difference on your hike!

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