Explore the Waterfalls Along Lake Superior's North Shore

By Aliya Marxen

In the midst of a busy life, trying to juggle work, a meager social life, and my own anxieties, my grandmother made a suggestion. Why don’t we go on a hike and watch a waterfall? I was skeptical. Fall was just starting to wane, a definite chill in the air that promised frost to come. Still, I couldn’t bring myself to decline, so after bundling up and hopping in the car for a short drive north, we were on our way through the woods. 

Devil's Kettle WaterfallImmediately I was glad I had come. The soil was soft beneath our feet and the air smelled of fallen leaves and pine. The creamy bark of birch trees guided our way and a robin flew just ahead of us for quite some time. The hike alone would have made it worth my time, but then we came across the real treasure, the Pigeon River Falls.
 

Pigeon River Falls 

Struck with wonder, as well as a slight mist fresh off the Pigeon River Falls, I couldn’t help but awe at how close this wonder had been to me all this time. The hike itself had barely taken 20 minutes, and this was the reward? Amazing. The hike and the falls made me wonder, what other waterfalls had I missing out on while living along the North Shore of Lake Superior?

Lucky for me, the North Shore is home to a host of different waterfalls, each unique in their own way, but all powerful, dangerous, and beautiful. Varying from easy hikes to more strenuous climbs, the falls are sure to beautiful regardless of whether you’re viewing them in the summer, surrounded by greenery, or even in the winter, frozen into nature’s ice sculptures.
 

Congdon Park

Located in the city of Duluth, is Congdon Park. As you hike across volcanic rock that has existed in that spot for billions of years, you come across not one, but five different waterfalls of varying size. The round trip hike is 1.5 miles, making it a great picnic distance. 
 

Gooseberry Falls 

A little further north you can find the well known Gooseberry Falls. Located in the wider Gooseberry State Park, it also boosts multiple falls within close reach. The best time to visit is in spring, when the melting snow means the falls are rushing fast, but like all the waterfalls on this list, it’s beautiful any time of year. The round trip is 1.8 miles, but it’s under a mile to the first waterfall. 
 

Split Rock Lighthouse State Park 

The Split Rock Lighthouse State Park is the next destination you could stop, with only a mile to walk to the first waterfall. If you’re in the mood for a longer hike, you can continue on for another 4 miles, reaching the last waterfall. There’s also fishing opportunities and the beautiful Lake Superior beach line to enjoy. 
 

Tettegouche Falls

Tettegouche Falls is my next favorite on your way north on Highway 61. Most people know about High Falls, but the Cascades should not be overlooked. Though less dramatic, they are no less impressive, forging onward over the rocks. Sitting on the Baptism River, more information can be found at the trail center, near the mouth of the just under 2 mile hiking trail.
 

Temperance 

Temperance is another well known river and falls, but that doesn’t mean you should skip it! Right off of Highway 61, the short hike is great for if you want to make a quick day trip. One unique thing about this particular river and falls, is that the lake that headwaters it supplies the Brule as well as Temperance river. 
 

Cascade River Falls 

Right outside of Tofte, MN is the Cascade River State Park, and the Cascade River Falls. Dropping an impressive 120 feet, this waterfall has the perk of being close to our offices as well! It’s about a 1.5 mile hike, not to mention a great picnic area!
 

Pigeon Falls, Grand PortagePigeon River Falls 

Of course, this list wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t mention the waterfall that peaked my interest in the first place, Pigeon River Falls! Located in Grand Portage State Park, the hike cuts through thick forest, with several different viewing decks along the way. It boasts the title of highest waterfall in Minnesota, and let me tell you from personal experience, it deserves it! If you a love photography, I would say this is one spot you can’t miss. History lovers might also enjoy checking out the State Park information building –  and there’s also posts of history dispersed throughout the trail!

Of course, waterfalls are only a few of the highlights of what is available to those who venture up the North Shore. I highly recommend going exploring, visiting other state parks, and seeing what else there is to offer. You never know, you might discover the newest gem in the crown of North Shore Waterfalls.
 

View and print a North Shore waterfall checklist (information about additional waterfalls included).

View lodging options on the North Shore here.