Gooseberry Falls Accessible Route

Gooseberry Falls State Park, Minnesota

Trip Date: Sunday, March 29th, 2015
Last Updated: Wednesday, December 27th, 2017
By Ricky Holzer

Hike Information

Rating ★★★★★(5/5)
Overall Difficulty Easy
Navigation Difficulty     Easy
Distance 1 mile roundtrip
Time 1 hour
Terrain A few hills
Best Seasons All
Family Friendly Yes
Dog Friendly Yes
Accessible Yes

Highlights

Hike Walkthrough

Gooseberry Falls is one of the most iconic natural features in Minnesota, with its three tiered waterfall and a river emptying into Lake Superior. The ease of access makes this a popular destination, since it's conveniently located off a major highway and only requires a short walk to the overlooks of the falls. The Department of Natural Resources has worked hard to make this beautiful sight accessible to all, building ramps and paved trails down to the falls. This route maps the wheelchair accessible route to all the viewpoints of the falls -- note there are several shortcuts involving stairs for those who are able. The gorgeous scenery makes this one of the best accessible hikes (possibly the best) in the entire state.

Dogs are allowed on leash. The short distance and gentle grades make this an excellent hike for all ages. Because this is an accessible trail, that also means it is perfect for strollers! All of the trails are open in the spring, summer, and fall, and portions may be closed during the winter -- the trail to the overlook of Upper Falls is open year round. This park is immensely popular in the summer. For a less crowded, more unique experience, visit in the winter to see the frozen falls.

From the parking lot, follow the paved trail to the visitor center. Turn right at the first fork after passing the visitor center, then turn right again shortly after to continue downhill to the viewpoint of the Lower and Middle Falls. Some switchbacks allow you to skip the stairs on the way down. At the bottom looking to your left, you'll have the view of Middle Falls pictured at the top of the page, and to your right you can see the top of Lower Falls.

Turn around and continue up the same hill, then turn right at the intersection at the top of the hill. Soon you'll see the rock-filled Gooseberry River on your right and ahead there will be a viewing area for the Upper Falls. While these views are nice (see picture below), the best views of Upper Falls are from the catwalk under the bridge, which requires quite a bit of backtracking if you are unable to take the stairs.

Upper Falls from the viewing area

Upper Falls from the viewing area
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Return to the visitor center area, and turn right onto the paved trail. On the left, there will be a ramp leading up to Gateway Plaza, which has an overlook where you can see a glimpse of Lake Superior beyond the forest. From Gateway Plaza, you can also cross on the top of the bridge for a unobstructed, tree-free view. To reach the catwalk under the bridge, you have to descend the ramp from Gateway Plaza, then turn left at the bottom. You should see the catwalk on your right. Here you can catch another view of Upper Falls similar to the picture below.
Upper Falls from under the bridge

Upper Falls from under the bridge
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When you've had enough of this spectacular scenery, turn around and return to the visitor center. I hope you enjoyed this North Shore gem from each and every accessible overlook this park has to offer! Let me know what you think in the comments section below and be sure to use #nocoastbestcoast on Twitter and Instagram!

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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