Ever since I heard of the mystery of Devil’s Kettle at Judge Magney State Park, I desperately wanted to see it for myself. The mystery behind it in my home state became legendary.
It has appeared on the spotlight Discovery Channel Specials about the waterfall to nowhere. While they recently determined it just goes to an underground river, I still wanted to visit.
On our trip to the North Shore, I convinced my husband that it was within reach and we needed to go. I just didn’t mention that it included a 2.5-mile hike with 200+ steps.
What is Devils Kettle Falls?
Devils Kettle Falls is a mysterious waterfall located in Judge C.R. Magney State Park, Minnesota. It is known for its unique feature – half of the river flow seems to disappear into a large hole, called Devil’s Kettle, with no apparent outlet.
Researchers from DNR have explored this phenomenon and believe that the water may rejoin the river through recirculating currents underground.
Investigations using GPS trackers and dye tests in the river suggest that the water rejoins the river downstream, near the lower falls. The bedrock in this area is made of rhyolite, which could explain the unusual geological formation.
The Judge C.R Magney State Park Highlights
Judge C.R. Magney State Park is a smaller park along the North Shoreline. It is run by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. The main reason most people visit is to see Devil’s Kettle Waterfall.
The Falls are part of the Hiking Club State Park Trail which was perfect for us because we were hoping to get another password on our trip.
What was most surprising about the park was how remote it was. That’s because their sister park, Cascade River manages a lot of the operation.
The Devils Kettle Falls Hiking Club State Park Trail
Miles: 2.5 Miles Round Trip
Difficulty: Difficult, Hilly and Stairs
Total Hiking Club Trail Miles Hiked: 4.7 miles
Arriving at the campground, we knew that this place was a little busier than some of the other locations. The parking lot had fewer cars than Gooseberry Falls, but considering there are only two possible trails, I knew almost all of them were there for Devil’s Kettle Falls.
In my North Shore Guidebook, I’d heard that the Devil’s Kettle hike might be a little difficult. It was dubbed as a mix of accessibility and challenge. I also hear horror stories about the stairs.
After conferring with a couple of my friends that made the trek, they convinced me that it was not a problem. The kids could do it easily.
They also said there were a few viewing platforms that I could use if I didn’t want to climb all the way down. All I can say was “They LIED!”
Before Hiking any MN State Park, make sure to download your free GPS map of Devils Kettle Falls and Judge Magney State Park from Avenza.
The Lie Of Devils Kettle Falls
It may not have been an intentional lie, but it was one of the most challenging hikes I’ve done. And I’ve portaged a canoe and gear in the BWCA. This was not like my Gooseberry Falls Hike that gave me a gitty rush after completing.
As Elle Woods would say, ” Exercise gives you endorphins and endorphins make you happy… “. This was not the case with hiking at Devil’s Kettle.
It started with a gradual inclining hill through some great views of a beautiful forest floor covered in wildflowers. I forgot about my mission and just enjoyed the view.
That was when my husband decided that I should take the pug backpack for a while. I had been offering this whole time, and I secretly wanted to challenge myself with the extra weight.
My pug is a rock-solid 35lb extra pounds, lumped into a backpack that was designed to move schoolbooks from one side of the school to the next.
It doesn’t have the extra padded straps that backpacking packs have. I now felt every elevation change. This was also the point where a pair of Trekking Poles would have come in handy.
Grab a copy of the North Shore Guidebook to get more tips and Tricks on hikes in the area! It stays in my car’s glove box so I never forget it!
Hiking the North Shore: 50 fabulous day hikes in Minnesota’s spectacular Lake Superior region (There & Back Guides) by Andrew Slade
A Little Relief at High Falls
Finding High Falls overlook at the top of the hill was a nice reward, complete with two benches where I could rest. When I say “I,” I meant the pug. I let him down to chill and gave myself a rest for the extra weight.
That was when I realized the backpack had an extra strap at the bottom to wrap around my waist. I was excited. I immediately started to adjust the straps around and had some instant relief.
Instead of having a lump dangling from my back, there was now a solid object formed on my back.
After taking a quick peek at the map, it showed the other set of falls was only 700 feet in front of us. The only problem was there were 200+ steps in our way.
We stopped at the first couple of overlooks on the steps and realized that the overlooks we were promised were entirely obstructed by new foliage. The only way to see the falls would be to go down.
After getting to the bottom without much difficulty, we looked at the base of the falls. Yeah… the bottom of a waterfall isn’t that exciting, there was no Kettle insight.
We needed to go up a steep inclining hill with wood beams and steps and had a series of handrails that half fell apart.
I didn’t realize how potentially unstable these railings were until I started to use them to pull myself up. Then as I went to grab the next one, I noticed it had already fallen from rot and was laying on the ground. After reaching the top, we were rewarded with the Hiking Club Trail sign and the overlook of Devil’s Kettle.
Finding Devils Kettle
I don’t know what I was more excited about, that I reach the end of the torture trail, that we found the kettle in Devils Kettle or that I could get the password without looking in obscure places on the path!
In actuality, the waterfall was cool. But the foliage was grown over a little here as well. Darn those trees and their need to grow.
The mystery surrounding Devil’s Kettle Falls took some time to solve. Because they couldn’t see where the water went once it split and fell into the pothole, they had to get creative.
They used dye traces, ping pong balls, and all kinds of other things to track the water flow and its location.
Hydrologists speculated what is going on based on water measurements level volume measurements: “What we think is happening in the water is going in the kettle, and coming up pretty close to immediately downstream of the falls,” Green said.
When You Think You Can’t Keep Going
The trail isn’t a loop, so that means, we’d have to climb all those stairs back. We were so thankful for every single rest point on the steps.
My hubby had to remind us all what his Grandfather was told while he was fighting in WWII. When you think you can’t go any further, just take 10 more steps. After that, take 10 more steps. It really did make a difference.
Once at the top we all did a victory cheer and took the long downhill trail back. Thankfully it was all downhill from there and we went back to enjoying the trail.
After returning to the car, I checked my phone’s step count. The steps weren’t what made it so exhausting, it was the 150 feet in elevation climbed.
See Related: 12 Stunning Waterfalls Near Minneapolis
Other Things to Do At Judge CR Magney State Park
The park has a few camping spots for guests to stay at. 27 to be exact. They do allow RVs, but without many of the amenities like dump stations and electricity, it’s more for tents.
They also ask that you call ahead if you plan to use a hammock as your tent because not all campsites have trees to accommodate it. Camping is only available from mid-May through October.
Superior Hiking Trail
The Superior Hiking Trail runs directly through the State Park. Some of the trails, like the Hiking Clubs Trail to Devils Kettle, will have guests 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 park, and complete a Day Hike to the south to Blueberry Overlook. In late summer the hills are filled with blueberries.
Make sure to stop at Grand Marais before leaving the area. It’s a great small town with amazing views!
12 Exciting Things To Do in Grand Marais MN
Would I Hike Devil’s Kettle Falls again?
I think my friends that have done this trek before didn’t go with an extra 35lbs on them. But at the same time, I didn’t feel sorry for getting that extra donut at the World Best Donut Shop in Grand Marais. Or the dozen I grabbed on the way home either. I earned it!
Make sure to check Devil’s Kettle at Judge Magney State Park out if you are ever in this part of Minnesota’s North Shore. As difficult as the trip was, it was a great hike. Next time I may go without the extra pug weight. Or maybe I’ll train a little more for it.