Spirit Mountain

Gooseberry Falls State Park

By Jim Umhoefer
The inhospitable shoreline of Lake Superior in Minnesota was born from volcanoes 700 million years ago. Lava flowed over older formations and formed bedrock. You can see hardened lava along the lakeshore south of the river and at the Upper and Lower Falls at Gooseberry State Park. After the volcanic activity, glaciers advanced and retreated over Minnesota, sculpting Lake Superior’s basin and most of the land forms that we see today.
Gooseberry State Park is located 12 miles northeast of Two Harbors on the North Shore Scenic Drive in Minnesota’s Lake County.

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Middle Falls takes on a whole different shape in the winter at Gooseberry Falls State Park

Middle Falls takes on a whole different shape in the winter

The Gooseberry River at Gooseberry Falls State Park

The Gooseberry River

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Trails
The falls are a “must see” before heading upriver or into the conifer, aspen and birch forests on the 20-mile hiking trail network.
You can hike the length of the park along the Gooseberry River or explore the uplands on trails dotted with overlooks. Small trail shelters are scattered along the main paths.
The paved Gitchi Gami State Trail, which connects to the park, is a good place to observe the Lower Falls. It offers ridge top vistas of Lake Superior as well. On the other side of the gorge, the Lower Rim Trail leads to Agate Beach, at the mouth of the river.
The 310-mile Superior Hiking Trail, a footpath from Duluth to the Canadian Border, also passes through Gooseberry State Park.
Camping
The 72-site campground is close enough to both the lake and river that the water sounds might lull you to sleep. The group camp along the river above the Upper Falls is also blessed with a constant chorus of rushing water.
Backpackers sometimes like to set up in one of the walk-in sites near the main campground, because the 310-mile Superior Hiking Trail passes through the park. If you’re traveling on the Lake Superior water trail, a special campsite is available for kayak-in only.
Waterfalls
There are five waterfalls in Gooseberry Falls State Park. Most dramatic are the Upper and Lower Falls near the Highway 61 Bridge. The river tumbles 30 feet over the Upper Falls, glides to the two-tiered Lower Falls and plunges 60 feet into the last pool before spilling into Lake Superior. The Fifth Falls, though scenic, is not as spectacular as the ones near the highway bridge, but because it’s about a 1.5 mile one-way hike, it’s not as crowded, either. A footbridge near the Fifth Falls allows hikers to return to the parking lot on the other side of the river.
Fishing/Boating
Shore fishing for trout and salmon is a popular pastime in the park. Brook, brown and rainbow trout are taken farther upstream. If you’d like to try some deep-water sport fishing, charter service and boat landings are located in Two Harbors.
Winter

About 12 miles of cross-country ski trails to suit all tastes help to make Gooseberry Falls State Park busy year round. Snowshoeing and hiking are permitted throughout the park except on groomed ski trails. A warming house with bathrooms, a fireplace and vending machines is open for everybody in the trail center.
More about skiing in the Two Harbors area

Mesabi Trail
Spirit Mountain
MNDNR license plate