Lester River Falls

Lester Park, Minnesota

Trip Date: Thursday, October 4th, 2018
Last Updated: Tuesday, October 16th, 2018
By Ricky Holzer

Hike Information

Rating ★★★★☆(4/5)
Overall Difficulty Easy
Navigation Difficulty     Easy
Distance 1 mile roundtrip
Time 30 minutes
Terrain A few hills
Best Seasons Spring, Summer, Fall
Family Friendly Yes
Dog Friendly Yes
Accessible No


Hike Summary

I was on a work trip in Duluth, and the cloudy, wet, and generally miserable fall weather broke, revealing a beautiful, sunny autumn day perfect for viewing some changing leaves. Since I didn't have the time to drive further north, I blindly went to Lester Park. And what a pleasant surprise! Not only were the colors dazzling, I also unexpectedly found a waterfall on the Lester River. This city park is further evidence of Minnesota's fantastic devotion to nature and is definitely worth a stop whether you live in the area or are just visiting.

From the parking lot, cross the bridge over the Lester River and turn right immediately on the other side to follow the trail along the river. The trail winds through lovely forest with some surprisingly large trees (perhaps old growth?) -- there were a few white pines that I couldn't even wrap my arms around! Stay right to continue along the river at the trail intersection ahead. As you hike further upriver, you'll start to hear rushing water. Eventually it was loud enough that I excitedly realized there was a waterfall coming up. On the right side of the trail, you'll see some use trails leading to a high point with the downriver view pictured below and a view of the waterfall from above.

Fantastic fall colors amidst a pine forest along the Lester River

Fantastic fall colors amidst a pine forest along the Lester River

I was unsatisfied with this view, and knew I could somehow hike down to the river and along the banks to see the falls from a better angle. So, I turned around and found a stairway leading down to the river, probably installed for fishing access. As you can see in the picture below, the river is surrounded by rocky cliffs with not much hikeable area on either side. Yet I persevered and hopped across rocks and walked on the few wide but slippery sections, determined not to step my inappropriate choice of footwear into the icy water.
The rushing river is surrounded by rocky cliffs

The rushing river is surrounded by rocky cliffs

Soon enough, I reached an excellent view of the falls, as shown in the first picture below. I was in an adventurous mood after that trek on wet rocks, so I vowed to climb right up next to the waterfall, shown in the second picture below. In warmer weather, I suspect this area would be a nice place to splash, though I couldn't tell if it was deep enough to swim.
The waterfall as viewed from the edge of the Lester River

The waterfall as viewed from the edge of the Lester River

Up close and personal with the waterfall

Up close and personal with the waterfall

Once you're done with your adventure to the falls, turn around and head back the way you can. If you want to change it up, cross the first bridge you see on the way back (the rather new wooden bridge pictured below) and turn right. Follow the trail south on the other side of the river until you reach the parking lot.
The wooden footbridge over the Lester River

The wooden footbridge over the Lester River

If you have more energy or wish to hike more, this trail along the Lester River continues past the falls and you can do a loop around the entire park. All and all, this is a great short hike in the city, perfect for those short on time -- you can't beat a hike to waterfall! Let me know what you think in the comments section below, and be sure to use #nocoastbestcoast on Twitter and Instagram!

Important Information

Dogs are allowed on leash. This is a fun city hike perfect for the whole family, and the area along the river is a great place for kids to do some rock hopping. You can hike this trail in the three warmer seasons, but in the winter the trail is groomed for skiing and off limits to hikers. Since this trail is in a city park, expect to see people no matter when you go.


From Downtown Duluth, head north on Interstate 35 and continue onto Minnesota Highway 61. Turn left on 60 Avenue, then turn right on Superior Street. Soon you'll see a sign for the park, then turn left to find the parking lot along County Road 12.

Google Maps Directions

Parking, Fees, and Facilities

Parking is free! There is a picnic area and playground nearby, though I'm not certain if or where there are bathrooms.

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External Links