From prairies, forests, and lakes to bustling and lively cities, Minnesota is a place that offers big adventures. Best known as the land of 10,000 lakes, the state provides a wealth of activities for thrill-seekers.
Waterfalls are abundant in Duluth, Minnesota. There are over 134 named and registered waterfalls in the state. During the summer, both locals and tourists come to camp in the parks around the waterfalls to take a break from the city heat. Some if the most beautiful sights include the Amity Creek Falls, Hidden Falls, and Swinging Bridge Falls.
In Duluth and surrounding areas, many waterfalls are accessible by busses, hikes, or a short drive. Read on for a tour through some of the most popular and beautiful waterfalls the city has to offer.
1. Amity Creek Falls
These beautiful falls are also known as “The Deeps” for their 40-foot-deep pools. They are located in the Lester-Amity Park in Duluth, where the Amity Creek and Lester River merge directly under Superior Street.
This small cascade at around twenty feet tall is best seen after heavy rain. It is also quite beautiful in the spring season after the winter thaw when the snow is melting.
The falls are relatively easy to get to, depending on how you want to see the falls. For a longer hike and to see the falls from the top, begin at the Lester Park parking area and hike for 1.5 miles to the northwest, where you can see the base of the falls.
For the upper river view, hike up the short steep hill and cross the footbridge. For a shorter, easier hike, you can drive north on Occidental Boulevard to the parking area and follow the path to the footbridge.
You can walk down the hill to see the falls from below, but keep in mind you will have to go back up the steep hill to the parking area. The park is distinguished by the seven historic stone bridges throughout the park, and ten falls of various heights.
There are several amenities in the park, such as restrooms, water, picnic tables, grills, and even a playground at the trailhead. Amity Creek Falls is perfectly located for day trips and even camping.
The park and falls are perfect for both summer and winter visits. Cross country skiing and snowshoeing are perfect for winter, while biking and swimming are best enjoyed in warm weather.
2. Gooseberry Falls
Gooseberry Falls State Park is located along the North Shore of Lake Superior and beneath Minnesota Highway 61. It features five dramatic sets of waterfalls, with Upper, Middle, and Lower falls.
The scenic overlooks are connected to several hiking trails, including the Falls Loop Trail. Thus leads to the Gateway Plaza and visitor center, and ideal fishing spots for trout, pike, and even salmon.
The 30-foot Upper Falls are about just upstream from the bridge. The middle and lower falls are downstream from the bridge.
There are multiple ways to experience these falls. The ease of accessibility make this state park and these waterfalls some of the most popular attractions along the North Shore in Duluth.
The hiking distance to the falls is about a three-mile loop, and experienced hikers are suggested to allow at least an hour and fifteen minutes for the hike.
There are so many trails, bridges, and overlooks along the way to stop and take in the views. You’ll have plenty of places to rest as well. Guests can even schedule a naturalist-led interpretive hike or park tour during the summer months.
Gooseberry has 20 miles of hiking trails, including 1 mile of trail that is wheelchair accessible. They begin at the Visitor Center and extend to the main falls area.
The park is open daily from 8 am until 10 pm. Visitors should keep in mind, however, that parking permits are required.
For an annual permit, the cost is $35 for one vehicle and $26 for a second vehicle. Handicapped parking costs $12, and day passes are $7. Camping fees are separate from parking costs.
3. Hidden Falls
Hidden Falls is located in the Nerstrand Big Woods State Park near Saint Paul. It is only five miles from Interstate 35, but feels much more remote.
The Falls themselves are only a mile from the parking area, through a young section of woods. This park is made up of the largest remnant of Big Woods plant life in Minnesota.
The area is complete with endangered wildflowers and a hardwood forest that tucks away the small waterfall among the tall trees.
Remember to stay on the trail and keep dogs on leashes. This will help to preserve over 200 species of wildflowers, ferns, and mushrooms that grow in the park.
Hidden Falls is easily accessed by the Hidden Falls Trail, which begins at a picnic area and leads you through the “Big Woods”.
The pathway leads across a boardwalk that protects the endangered dwarf trout lily. At the end of the trail, you will first hear, then see the graceful 20-foot waterfall.
The falls are wider than they are tall. This will give you a chance to get a little closer to the water as it tumbles over the rocks.
The park is open daily from 8 am until 10 pm. During the summer it is a very popular attraction, so guests should keep in mind that parking may be an issue.
Remember to get there early, or you may have to park two miles away and hike into the park. Along with most state parks, parking permits are required.
4. Swinging Bridge Falls
Swinging Bridge Falls is only a mere three miles from Carlton, Minnesota. This beautiful sight is located within the Jay Cooke State Park. The falls drop at least 20 feet following the St. Louis River.
Depending on the water level, they can be thunderous or gently trickle over the rocks. The falls are best seen from the suspension bridge for which they are named, the Swinging Bridge.
It was originally a Civilian Conservation Corps project in the 1930s. The bridge definitely affords fantastic photo opportunities. Many people like to hike down to the water level to either dip their toes or wade in the water.
You can either hike the park or drive the 9-mile “Rushing Rapids” Parkway from Carlton to Fond Du Lac. This allows for the opportunity to see even more cascading falls along the river.
The best time to see this sight is generally between the beginning of March and the end of July. From the River Inn Interpretive Center, visitors can attend naturalist programs and learn more about the park.
From the center, the Swinging Bridge Falls are only 0.1 miles away. For this reason, it is one of the easiest and most accessible waterfalls to hike to. Like most of Minnesota’s state parks, there is an entry and parking fee.
5. Congdon Falls
Congdon Falls are located inside Minnesota’s Congdon Park. It is comprised of 33.7 acres of land donated in 1908. The falls are part of the rugged beauty and quiet, smack dab in the middle of a residential Duluth neighborhood.
Congdon Park is located along Tischer Creek and features some of the most unspoiled hiking trails in the city of Duluth. These include fantastic bridges, stone steps, and beautiful waterfalls.
The trail to the falls is only 1.2 miles long round trip. It is generally seen as an easy route, especially if you take the paved path.
However, there is an unpaved trail only a few feet from the paved path that allows for more exploration and better views of the creek.
This is a popular destination, especially for locals, but it is possible to find some quiet and solitude. Locals say the best time to visit is from April through November, when the waters are flowing best and the days are warm.
Although there is no parking lot, there are good places to park on the upper side of the park. These are located just off St. Marie Street and Lakeview Drive. If waterfalling is your goal, this is one of those easy-to-find places within the city to check off your list.
Related Read: 15 Minneapolis Hiking Trails
6. Big and Little Manitou Falls
As part of Pattinson State Park, Big and Little Manitou Falls feature the fourth tallest waterfall east of the Rocky Mountains. Big Manitou Falls is directly across the highway from the main park and is accessible by tunnel.
The 165-foot-tall Big Manitou Falls is a quick walk from a nearby parking lot. Across a small picnic area, you will find a small lookout, where you will be rewarded after a short walk.
There are several more lookouts and trails to observe and take photos of the falls. Big Manitou Falls, with its mineral-laden brownish water, sends the Black River plunging 165 feet into a foggy canyon. This makes it difficult to capture in a single photo.
Just downstream is Little Manitou Falls, twin waterfalls each 31 feet high. These are accessible by heading south on Highway 35 about a half mile. Signs on the road will point you to Little Manitou.
Some visitors claim Little Manitou Falls is more impressive due to its higher visibility and the ability to get closer to the falls. In terms of hiking, there is a modest three-mile round trip trail.
It is approximately 1.5 miles in each direction, totaling one and a half hours round trip to see both waterfalls. There are parking lots available near both waterfalls if time or accessibility is a bit of an issue.
7. Chester Creek Falls
Chester Creek Falls lies at the heart of Chester Park in Duluth’s East Hillside neighborhood. The park is free and has a playground for children.
It also includes plenty of hiking trails that lead through the woods and directly along the creek. Each trail features views of its beautiful waterfall and swimming holes.
From the main parking lot in Chester park, you can head downhill for a quiet looped trail beside the creek. If you head back uphill, you can see the Chester Bowl Ski area. There’s even live local music in the park during the summer.
The creek itself has a beautiful waterfall just below Skyline Avenue. The hiking trail is a 2.4-mile loop with several side trails that can lead you to the edge of the creek.
As the hill rises over 260 feet to a total of 400 feet, you’ll notice several small waterfalls. The creek continues to flow down toward Lake Superior.
Due to a slightly steep hill, the difficulty level of this hike could be considered intermediate. There are several bridges to cross over to the other side of the creek throughout the hike.
Be careful during rainy or winter months, as the trails can become slippery. There are some particularly steep drop-offs that are not protected or marked.
Related Read: 18 Best Hiking Trails in Duluth, MN
8. Orienta Falls
Orienta Falls is a man-made waterfall below the Orienta Dam on the Iron River. It is located just about 30 miles east of Duluth and 5 miles east of Port Wing, Wisconsin.
The Falls are accessible from multiple areas, and the parking area is easy to reach. It is not too far from Highway 13. The trails that lead to the falls are undeveloped and can be dangerous.
This is due to wildlife, overgrown plant-life, and muddy conditions after rainy weather. Hiking poles may be a good idea for this particular waterfalling expedition.
The trek from the parking area is only about 200 yards or so, but the rocks near the river can get slippery. Orienta Falls is much wider than it is tall. There is also plenty to explore once you reach the falls.
You can also kayak and fish by the waterfall, and the surrounding area is great for hiking and checking out the gorge trails. Nearby is a popular camping spot that isn’t well known, so you may have it to yourself.
9. Tischer Creek Falls
Tischer Creek Falls are protected by a mile-long gorge in the middle of Congdon Park in Duluth. The Falls are a series of five waterfalls along the creek that runs throughout the park.
Locals recommend starting at Superior Street and walking up the gorge trail to get the best views of the waterfalls. You can get to the falls and find amazing views of the falls from above on the bridges and upper trail.
The trail is about 1.5 miles in total, and is considered easy to moderate difficulty, depending on your ability to hike up hills. As you start from the trailhead on Superior Street, take the stairs down.
You will find yourself surrounded by the red volcanic rock that originally made up the gorge. As part of Congdon park, Tischer Creek Falls is free to the public and open year round.
Tischer Creek Falls offers a retreat from the chaos and a feeling of being in the wilderness without ever leaving the city. The creek also offers a fun spot to fish for rainbow trout and other types of fish.
The fairytale environment of this park and falls allows individuals and families an intimate waterfall experience. As you walk the different trails and stone steps, you may forget the city just beyond the woods.
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10. High Falls On The Pigeon River
This waterfall is located a few miles inland from Lake Superior, near the town of Grand Portage. The Pigeon River suddenly drops 120 feet, creating the largest waterfall only partially contained in the United States.
Pigeon River High Falls is shared between Canada and the United States. It is visible from both sides of the border, however. The one-half mile to the falls on Minnesota’s side is paved with moderate elevation changes.
The roundtrip walk is one mile and contains several benches for resting along the way. Locals and park officials suggest taking about thirty to forty minutes to take the trail.
Guests should include time to take photos of the spectacular High Falls! There are several viewing decks to see the High Falls. The Main Deck is accessible to wheelchairs and strollers.
This view often affords visitors a view of rainbows arching over the river as well. The West Deck allows visitors to get closer to the High Falls, and the East Deck provides a view of Canadian decks.
From both locations, whether in Canada or the US, the Pigeon River High Falls can be enjoyed year-round. In the winter, the falls are beautiful even when frozen. From mid-March to mid-April, the falls tend to be even more spectacular.
11. Devil’s Kettle Falls
Located in Judge C.R. Magney State Park, Devil’s Kettle Falls has baffled visitors and scientists for decades. The Falls themselves are impressive. One side tumbles onto a stone embankment and down the rocks, just as typical waterfalls do.
The other side flows into what is known as a Devil’s Kettle and disappears. Over the years, visitors have tossed various objects, like ping pong balls, logs, and GPS trackers, into the kettle to see where they ended up. The force of the water just ended destroying the items, however.
The hike into the park to the Falls is 1.9 miles, totaling about 3.2 miles round trip. The trail leads you past the Upper Falls on the Brule River to the mysterious Devil’s Kettle Waterfall.
There are lots of stairs to climb down and up, but plenty of benches to rest. This is not an easily accessible waterfall, especially for those with mobility issues.
The park is open year-round, with daily hours from 8 am to 10 pm. However, the campground closes, and there are no services available in the winter.
12. Lester River Falls
Lester River Falls, a 20-foot-high cascade, is just a short hike from the parking area at the east end of Lester Park. If you cross the bridge over the Lester River and follow the trail upriver, you will find the beautiful waterfall.
Like many of Duluth’s city parks, Lester Park is an ideal place to experience the natural beauty and get away from the city. Amity Falls can be viewed as well if you follow Seven Bridges Road.
Hikes through this park range from 0.2 to over nine miles. Most hikes are easy for everyday walking. Since this is a public area, parking is free to the public.
Related Read: 45 Best Camping Spots in Minnesota
13. Fifth Falls
Fifth Falls is the smallest and uppermost waterfall in Gooseberry Falls State Park. Generally, Fifth Falls is less crowded than the other main waterfalls in the park. This gives it a slightly quieter, more meditative quality.
To get to the Fifth Falls, start at the Visitor Center and follow the signs to the Upper Falls. The trail is paved and goes underneath Highway 61 to the Upper Falls.
Continue to follow the trail, paralleling the river and climbing about 100 feet in elevation. You will know you have reached the Fifth Falls when you find a bridge crossing the river.
The 3.1-mile loop is generally considered an easy route. It takes an average of 1 hour and 15 minutes for most to complete.
14. Cascade Falls
Located in the beautiful Cascade River State Park, Cascade Falls is on the Superior Hiking Trail. It is only a 1.1-mile hike to reach the falls. This is an easy-to-reach waterfall with great photographic opportunities.
The trail itself only takes about 35 minutes to complete and is kid and dog-friendly. Cascade Falls has several drops, one over 30 feet before entering Lake Superior.
If you follow the Cascade River, there are several falls over the course of 17 miles. The river drops 900 feet in its last three miles.
The easiest way to visit Cascade Falls is to park at the parking area on Highway 61. This is conveniently located near the mouth of the river. From this spot, you can hike up either the west or east side of the river to a footbridge and make a loop.
15. Amnicon Falls
Amnicon Falls State Park in Wisconsin highlights a string of four beautiful waterfalls. It also features many unnamed rapids along the Amnicon River.
There are several vantage points to view them, including covered footbridges and trails along the river. The rocky shore of the river allows visitors to wade in.
Although the falls are not too large, they are easy to get to with a simple hike, consisting mostly of flat trails. In the park, you can picnic, camp, walk in the woods, and even learn about the fault line that created the falls.
With all the different activities you can do in the park, Amnicon Falls is perfect all year round for individuals and families. The park is open from 6 am to 11 pm year-round.