Fifth Falls Loop

Gooseberry Falls State Park, Minnesota

Trip Date: Sunday, March 29th, 2015
Last Updated: Thursday, December 28th, 2017
By Ricky Holzer

Hike Information

Rating ★★★★★(5/5)
Overall Difficulty Easy
Navigation Difficulty     Easy
Distance 3 miles roundtrip
Time 1.5 hours
Terrain A few hills
Best Seasons All
Family Friendly Yes
Dog Friendly Yes
Accessible No

Highlights

Hike Walkthrough

Hordes of people driving up the North Shore stop to ogle Gooseberry Falls, and this is exactly the hike you need to escape those crowds while still glimpsing a scenic waterfall. You know the trip will be beautiful because you will be hiking a portion of the famous Superior Hiking Trail. With plenty of riverside scenery and gorgeous mixed pine and hardwood forest, you will enjoy the entire journey.

Dogs are allowed on leash. At three miles with a few hills, this is a more challenging family friendly hike, but it should still be doable for most. You can shave off a little distance by taking the shortcut trail (which also has a nice hilltop viewing area) rather than hugging the river the entire journey. Otherwise, stick to the main falls area if you don't think you can do the whole hike. This hike is available in all seasons since it is ungroomed in winter. As I mentioned previously, this park can be quite crowded near the main falls area, but you will see significantly fewer people as you hike further away.

From the parking lot, take the paved trail past the visitor center. If you want to view Middle Falls (pictured below) and the top of Lower Falls, go right at the fork; to return back to the trail, head up the stairs and turn right at the top. Otherwise, stay left at the fork and continue straight, crossing under the bridge to a viewpoint of Upper Falls, as pictured in the image at the top of the page.

Middle Falls from the viewing area

Middle Falls from the viewing area
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Keep following the trail as it hugs the curve of the river with some slight ups and downs. Being able to see the river for much of the route is what makes this hike especially scenic. Continue straight as you pass a footbridge on your right, then stay right at the intersection ahead -- if the trail you're on starts veering far from the river, you've gone the wrong way.

After a few more ups and downs, you will reach the footbridge with a view of Fifth Falls (no one knows what happened to Fourth Falls, assuming the Upper, Middle, and Lower Falls are 1,2, and 3). Unfortunately, I didn't take any decent photos of the falls for you, but I promise it's pretty. After you cross the bridge, turn right to take the Superior Hiking Trail back to the main falls area. You'll meander along the river for a bit, then reach the footbridge you passed before. If you want to take a shortcut (with the price of some hills), cross the bridge and continue heading straight. Otherwise, remain on the Superior Hiking Trail for some more views of Upper Falls.
Looking towards the bridge near Upper Falls

Looking towards the bridge near Upper Falls
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Once you reach the large bridge, cross the catwalk and enjoy the views on either side, shown in the two pictures below. Turn left onto the paved trail after you cross the river, then retrace your steps back to the parking lot. This is an excellent way to enjoy this state park without having to spend most of your time wading through crowds. Let me know what you think in the comments section below, and be sure to use #nocoastbestcoast on Twitter and Instagram!
Looking towards Middle Falls from the catwalk under the bridge

Looking towards Middle Falls from the catwalk under the bridge
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Looking towards Upper Falls from the catwalk under the bridge

Looking towards Upper Falls from the catwalk under the bridge
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Directions

Take Interstate 35 north to Duluth, then continue heading north on Minnesota Highway 61. Look for signs for the park approximately 13 miles north of Two Harbors, then turn right. Park in the large lot by the visitor center.

Google Maps Directions

Parking, Fees, and Facilities

This is a rare Minnesota State Park that doesn't require a vehicle fee to park near the visitor center (if you wish to drive to other parts of the park, you will have to pay). The visitor center is wheelchair accessible and has bathrooms, educational displays, a gift shop, and vending machines.

External Links

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