Fifth Falls Loop

Gooseberry Falls State Park, Minnesota

Trip Date: Sunday, March 29th, 2015
Last Updated: Wednesday, May 27th, 2020
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 Summary

Gooseberry Falls State Park is one of Minnesota's gems. Located just off of the scenic highway along Lake Superior's North Shore, it is a must see for anyone visiting this beautiful part of the Midwest. Follow this loop trail to Fifth Falls, and you can see all of the natural beauty this wonderful park has to offer: picturesque north woods, waterfalls cascading over rocky cliffs, and the peaceful Gooseberry River. This hike is a must do for any Minnesotan or anyone who enjoys waterfalls.

From the parking lot, take the paved trail past the visitor center. Follow the signs pointing right for Lower and Middle Falls, then stay left to view Middle Falls and the top of Lower Falls. The viewing platform provides the view in the first picture below, and is great for winter when going closer is icy and dangerous. For a closer look of Middle Falls as in the second picture below, take the steps down from the platform.

Frozen Middle Falls from the viewing area

Frozen Middle Falls from the viewing area

Middle Falls is the widest in Gooseberry Falls

Middle Falls is the widest in Gooseberry Falls

Return to the trail, then turn left to continue towards Lower Falls. Again, you can take a few steps down from the boardwalk to go adventuring around the river. You'll notice that Lower Falls is split into two parts, both shown below. If you want to see the second part, you'll have to hop across some rocks (or wade in the river if you don't mind getting your feet wet).
The first part of Lower Falls

The first part of Lower Falls

The second part of Lower Falls

The second part of Lower Falls

After exploring the Gooseberry River near Lower Falls, return to the boardwalk and turn left. Walk along the boardwalk until you reach a bridge on the left. Cross the bridge, then cross another bridge, and you will enjoy the view of both Lower and Middle Falls pictured below.
Both Lower and Middle Falls are visible simultaneously from the top of the cliffs downriver

Both Lower and Middle Falls are visible simultaneously from the top of the cliffs downriver

Once on the other side of the river, there will be two trails, both heading uphill. Take either one as you walk towards the highway bridge. You'll glimpse the falls through the trees, and you can truly appreciate the majesty of this spectacle from this upper vantage point.

When you reach the highway bridge, continue straight on the Superior Hiking Trail. Two spur trails on the left lead to viewpoints of Upper Falls, but the best view won't be until the end of the hike. Keep following the trail as it hugs the curve of the river with some slight ups and downs. In contrast to the roar of the falls, the Gooseberry River is actually quite peaceful, as shown in the picture below.
The Gooseberry River is quite calm between the falls

The Gooseberry River is quite calm between the falls

Continue straight as you pass a footbridge on your left, then keep following the trail along the river. If the trail you're on starts veering far from the river, you've made a wrong turn. Soon, you'll start hearing the rushing of Fifth Falls (no one knows what happened to Fourth Falls, assuming the Upper, Middle, and Lower Falls are 1,2, and 3). Look for some side trails heading down for a close look -- the trees and cliffs block the view from the main trail. Your journey down to the river will be rewarded with views of Fifth Falls as pictured below.
Fifth Falls from beneath the bridge

Fifth Falls from beneath the bridge

Return to the main trail, then cross the bridge and turn left to start the return trip. You'll meander along the river for a bit, and stay left at all the trail intersections to reach the footbridge you passed earlier. Eventually, you'll reach the top of Upper Falls, and soon after, the epic viewpoint pictured below (both summer and winter!).
Upper Falls from a viewpoint near the bridge

Upper Falls from a viewpoint near the bridge

Upper Falls from the viewing area

Upper Falls from the viewing area

Just before the bridge, a trail turns right and heads uphill. If you follow that route, you'll find signs for an overlook. This "secret" spot yields another view of Upper Falls through the trees, as pictured below.
Upper Falls from the catwalk under the bridge

Upper Falls from the catwalk under the bridge

Feel free to walk across the catwalk underneath the highway bridge for more unique views. To end your hike, return to the main trail and follow signs back towards the visitor center.

So many beautiful waterfalls crammed into one hike! This is truly the best way to see Gooseberry Falls State Park. Connect with me using the social media links below and share your adventures!



Important Information

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. You can hike this trail in all seasons since it is left ungroomed in winter -- the frozen falls are quite a treat. This park can be quite crowded near the main falls area, but you will see significantly fewer people as you hike further away towards Fifth Falls.

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.

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External Links