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Minnehaha’s Frozen Waterfall is not to be missed. But how do you see it safely?
For those that are not accustomed to the north, winter can be one of the most beautiful times of the year. There have been many instances where I have wanted to go stop the car just to capture what’s infront of me.
But nothing compares to seeing a waterfall.
Thankfully, Minnehaha Falls in Minneapolis is just 30 minutes from my house, in the heart of Minneapolis.
When most people think of looking at a waterfall, they think they have to venture into the woods. With these falls, go into the city.
The History of Minnehaha Falls in Winter
Minnehaha Falls Regional Park has been a part of Minnesota History for a while. It is home to the Minnehaha Depot, built-in 1875, the Longfellow House, and the John H. Stevens House.
The waterfalls first gained notoriety from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem The Song of Hiawatha. However, today it’s known best for the pictures from those that ventured behind Minnehaha Falls in winter.
Minnehaha Falls is fed by Minnehaha Creek, before flowing into the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers. It is most famous for its ice cave. Every year people love to explore the frozen water that forms.
The falls is part of the much larger Minnehaha Regional Park. The urban park is one of many in Minneapolis, but this is probably the most popular.
Does Minnehaha Falls Freeze in the Winter?
Yes, Minnehaha Falls does freeze in the winter. The falls, which are located in Minnesota, are known for their stunning appearance when they are frozen over.
The freezing of the falls is a natural occurrence that happens each year when the temperature drops below freezing for an extended period of time.
What to do at Minnehaha Falls in Winter?
Minnehaha Falls has a lot going on at all times of the year. But during winter, it draws in most people that are looking to see the frozen falls. Besides the falls, there are also a lot of trails to take advantage of.
But the Gardens, biking, and café that are popular in the summer will all be closed during winter.
A glimpse of the Frozen Minnehaha Falls
At the top of the falls, you can see water misting out from it. The base of the falls had a big mound of frozen ice from where the water is been piling up.
Because the water is constantly moving, it is always changing. If we went back in a couple of weeks, we could probably notice a bunch of differences.
You could see open water at the base of the falls where the ice had not fully formed. There are usually big openings between the frozen falls where you could see behind them.
It’s these openings that people take advantage of. They use this to get behind the falls to see the ice cave formations.
The Dangers of Minnehaha Falls in Winter
As a warning, going to the base of the frozen falls is illegal, and even worse, behind the frozen falls.
They have barricades up and no trespassing signs all over the place. To get down to the falls, you have to climb over a barricade that looks like a mangled fence.
Then going down a set of icy stairs that are not maintained at all in winter or scale down the snowy side of the riverbanks’ walls.
This is when people venture out onto the ice, of unknown thickness and make their way through an opening in the wall of ice. Those that venture in are rewarded with a view of an ice cave.
Notice you don’t see a picture behind the falls? That’s because it’s illegal.
Legal Risks of Minnehaha Falls
It is not safe for you to go down there, even if you are just planning on staying on the paved trails. The people that walked on the ice were just crazy.
You are putting yourself at risk, along with anyone else that may try to rescue you.
When it comes down to ice conditions in a situation like this, don’t do it. It’s one thing to venture onto a lake, but when there is moving water involved, it’s another story.
The park is littered with No Trespassing signs at the stairs. If someone ignores these warning signs and enters the restricted area, they could be cited for trespassing or other offenses.
In 2017, falling ice injured a group of people as they went behind the falls. Be smart and just don’t do it. I wish that was just a single occurrence, but it happens every year.
The Safe Way To Explore Frozen Waterfall
Instead, stay up top and explore the park from all angles. Minnehaha Falls Regional Park has a great footbridge allowing guests to walk over the river from above, getting a new perspective on everything.
This allows guests to easily access the Falls from both sides. This will give you the best views of the falls.
Another thing to do is walk around both sides of the falls.
From the Parking lot side of the park, take the paved trail above the falls to the far end. There you’ll get to stand right in front of the Frozen Minnehaha Falls from a distance.
Other Things to Know
How much does it cost to visit minnehaha Falls
The waterfall is free to visit. Because of its popularity, they charge for parking. Don’t worry, it’s only $1.5 an hour and they take credit cards. On weekdays it’s cheaper.
You can park near the waterfall on both sides of the park. One side is street parking and on the other, there is a parking lot. They have a free parking lot to the West of the falls by the Longfellow Gardens.
How to get to Minnehaha Falls
Getting to Minnehaha Falls Regional Park is easy. It’s right off of Hwy55.
As long as the snow isn’t falling, the Minneapolis Park systems do an excellent job of keeping the pathways around the falls clean and dry, including the bridge going over the falls.
If you are unsure of where to go from the parking lot, just follow the mass of people heading toward the river. You can’t miss it.
Tips for your visit
- Bring a pair of Ice Cleats to give you some extra stability for walking around the falls. You don’t need to spend a fortune or even wear anything crazy on them. For help in picking the correct pair, check out: The 10 Best Ice Cleats for Hiking You Need This Winter
- Bring a camera. Yes you can use a cellphone, but nothing beats a real camera
- Dress Warm. It is Winter after all. You won’t need to walk too far, but you’ll have a much better experience when appropriately dressed.
- Check out the nearby Hidden Falls Waterfall for a less buy trip. No fee for parking and you can get closer to the falls without issue.
If you love waterfalls as much as I do and are interested in finding more, check out 12 others in the Twin Cities.
There are also a few good books you can pick up that have more hidden falls to explore. My favorite for Waterfalls all over the state is Waterfalls of Minnesota by Lisa Crayford.
If you want something more specific to the North Shore, Eve Walligna has a great book Waterfalls of Minnesota’s North Shore and More. She’s found all the hidden locations.
Other Things to Do Around Minnehaha Falls
Other Attractions to Visit
Minnehaha Falls Park is at the intersection of many walking and bike paths. One of which takes you to Fort Snelling Park. There is also the Princess Train Depot, one of the first ones in the State.
It’s not in operation and closed during winter, but you can explore the outside. The park is also home to many sculptures that are viewable from the falls.
For more ideas on how to stay busy this winter, check out 28 Things to do in Winter in MN.
If you only have an hour?
This is such a fun little day trip to take in the Twin Cities that doesn’t require much hiking. You will have so much fun taking all kinds of pictures in this little winter oasis.
Remember, Minnehaha Falls isn’t the only waterfall in the Twin Cities that freezes either.
What fascinates me most about Minnehaha Falls, is I’ve lived in Minnesota for all my life, and it took until the middle of winter for me to visit this urban waterfall.
If you loved this adventure, you’d also love exploring Nerstrand Big Woods State Park and its Frozen Waterfall, or Gooseberry Falls State Park. Thiers is easier and safer to access than Minnehaha. Happy Exploring!