I’ve gone up to Gooseberry Falls State Park a couple of times now. It seems like every time, I never make it to Fifth Falls.
I usually have a couple of little people with tinny legs following behind me that insist that it’s just TOO HARD. You know the ones.
They are often cute and convince you they need a piggyback ride back up the entire height of the falls. And you enviably get sucked into their cuteness.
This time, I would not let that happen again! We were going to do all the Gooseberry Falls Hiking Trails!
My sister had reserved a camping spot in early spring for us to go, just the two of us to do some Gooseberry Falls Camping. We both left our kids behind with some responsible adults and took off for Minnesota’s North Shore.
We planned out the trip a month in advance and just crossed our fingers that the weather would cooperate. It ended up being 50 degrees out and rainy the whole time. We didn’t let that stop us!
Gooseberry Falls Hiking the Fifth Falls Trail
This Gooseberry Falls Hiking trip would be different. To make sure we saw Fifth Falls this time, we skipped Middle falls and Lower falls altogether.
We blew past upper falls, knowing at any moment the clouds could open and unleash buckets of water on us. The trail is 2.5 miles long and does a loop around the falls.
We started on what we thought was the Fifth Falls Trail and headed north. We were on a snowmobile trail but soon met up with Fifth Falls trail.
Our mistake was we took the North fork from the visitor’s center. We should have stayed on the trail that said ‘To the Falls!”, Oh well.
Since everyone was at the “easier to access” Middle and Lower Falls, we didn’t see too many people on the hike. Middle and Lower falls are easier to access but include a LOT of stairs.
Comparing the two treks, it’s equivalent in workload. The falls were a short walk and didn’t have as much of an elevation change as I expected for a waterfall.
It only took us 20 minutes to get there at most. They have a bridge that crosses the river at the top of the falls. If you want to get a good look at the falls, you have to be on the Fifth Falls Trail. It curves around too much to see it on the other side.
My sister and I found a few trails that would lead down to the water. We brought out our food and had a picnic. There were also some bald eagles hanging out overhead.
Being out on the riverbank brought me back to my teenage years when we would go up the BWCA.
On the way back we hooked up with the Superior Hiking Trail. This trail system starts just south of Duluth and ends past Grand Marais, following Lake Superior the whole way.
This trail was a little more maintained than the Fifth Falls trail on the opposite banks. It included boardwalks on some of the more muddy sections.
In a couple of years, I’m hoping that I can get up there for a week and hike more of the trail. My sister actually went back to complete some of the Superior Hiking Trail.
Check out her experience in A First Timers Experience on the Superior Hiking Trail.
Tips For Your North Shore Hiking Trip
- Dress in layers. It’s better to have stuff that you can take off and stuff in your backpack.
- Don’t be afraid to ask others for direction and if you are really concerned download All Trails before you leave. It uses your phone’s GPS to map your position and tell you exactly where you are on the trail at all times. It’s available on iTunes and Google Play. We brought it out a few times just to see how accurate it is. Worked great.
- Plan a trip to do some Gooseberry Falls Camping. It’s a treat but I got my own bunch of lessons I learned when camping there for you to check out. Lessons Learned Camping on the North Shore of Lake Superior
- Bring a first aid kit. I bring mine wherever I day trip and I have used it.
- Bring water to keep you going. I always bring my hydration backpack with me on all my trips. My favorite backpack is the Rupumpack because of its extra storage space. It’s got plenty of room for you to put the extra layers you might shed.
Pack a lunch and picnic by the falls. There are so many opportunities to slip off the trail and find a spot by the water. Remember always to pack out what you bring in. We want to make sure this place stays special for years to come.
While you are there, check out some of the trees. The trees have some of the most amazing roots I have ever seen. I had so much fun photographing them.
One of my photographs even won the DNR’s Arbor Day Tree challenge for Most Interesting Tree. The best ones I found were off of the Superior Hiking Trail.
Was It Worth the Hike to Fifth Falls?
Of course! I’m so glad I got to explore this part of the falls. Have you gotten the chance to see Fifth Falls? Or did you fall into the same trap I do and end up just seeing the Middle and Lower Falls of the Gooseberry Falls Hiking trails? I’d love to hear about your experience.
All I know, is I plan on conditioning my kids for hiking because I’m not letting them hold me back! For more details on other waterfall trails in the area, check out the book Waterfalls of Minnesota’s North Shore.
Since we got rained out for some of the trips, we also completed the MN State Parks Hiking Club Trail. It was a whole other world, with little to no crowd. Check it out.