North Shore Waterfalls
March and April on Minnesota's North Shore of Lake Superior is Waterfall Season! Yes, we have waterfalls here year-round, and lots of them. But you haven't fully experienced a north shore waterfall until you've experienced on in the spring! It seems like waterfalls are everywhere along Minnesota’s North Shore. This includes many that form right off the edges of Highway 61! While you can see many in the summer and falls months, and even enjoy a frozen waterfall in the winter months, many North Shore waterfalls only form in the spring when snowmelt from areas inland make their way to Lake Superior.
For this reason, we recommend you make a trip up in March or April at least once to enjoy this incredible time. The Waterfall Season starts when the temperatures start to increase and are regularly above freezing. The season continues until the inland snow has all melted and the rainy spring season has passed. Usually, the "peak" of the season is late-March to late-April. This gives you plenty of time to plan your ideal North Shore waterfall getaway.
Below you’ll find a list of our favorite North Shore waterfalls, or you can find a printable waterfall checklist here.
Lester River Falls
Superior Street Bridge, Duluth, MN
View the falls from the Superior Street Bridge, or park your car to walk the trail along the river. During the summer months these areas might slow go from a river to a medium-sized creek and slow down. But, in the later-winter/early-spring Waterfall Season, they experience heavy flow, sometimes even looking like they're coming close to washing over the bridges!
Gooseberry Falls State Park 3206 Highway 6, Two Harbors, MN
These popular falls are easy to access via a short paved trail in Gooseberry Falls State Park. The park has four sets of waterfalls. The Lower and Middle Falls are the most popular as they are easy to access, including handicap accessibility. The Upper Falls and Fifth Falls are a bit more challenging to reach but well worth the hike up!
Split Rock River Waterfall
Split Rock Lighthouse State Park, Two Harbors, MN
You’ll need to get out your hiking boots to see the cascades on the Split Rock River. At the state park, take the Split Rock River Loop Trail, one of our favorite North Shore day hikes, to get a close-up view of the river gorge and waterfalls. Learn More >
Beaver Bay, MN
The falls are just a short walk from downtown Beaver Bay. Just park at the wayside rest area on the edge of town and walk over, or find a spot safely alongside Highway 61. You can see the cascading waterfalls right from the highway overpass. Learn More >
Baptism River High Falls and Illgen Falls
Tettegouche State Park, 5702 MN-61, Silver Bay, MN
The 60-foot High Falls are downstream from the 40-foot Illgen Falls on the Baptism River. Enter Tettegouche State Park and continue past the Visitor Center. Start the hike to the High Falls at the park trail center. Both sets of falls are absolutely incredible all year round, but we especially love doing this hike in the spring. The trails can get muddy, so prepare for that!
George H. Crosby-Manitou State Park, 7616 Lake County Road 7, Finland, MN
George H. Crosby-Manitou State Park will take you off the North Shore’s beaten track. Leave the park’s main parking lot for a rugged hike to the falls. The parking area to this area is not plowed or maintained in the winter months, so you'll want to wait on this one until later in the season when the snow has melted off the road. But, it's a much less traveled area. You may find yourself being the only one in the park enjoy the waterfall when there!
Highway 61 between Little Marais and Schroeder, MN
This stop is easy to miss! Access the falls via the Superior Hiking Trail from the Caribou River rest stop on Highway 61 (near mile marker 70). Another hidden gem that isn't nearly as popular as some of the other waterfalls on the list. This is why we love it.
Cross River Falls
You’ll see this waterfall as you drive on Highway 61. Park your car in one of the parking lots and view the falls from the pedestrian bridges. You’ll get a great birds-eye view. This is another easy-access and handicap-accessible waterfall. Learn More >
Temperance River Falls
7620 West Hwy 6, Schroeder, MN
View the series of falls and river gorges with a short quarter-mile walk from Highway 61. Follow the trail north of the highway to see the Hidden Falls. This is another hike that requires a bit of effort and maybe muddy in the spring, but it's well worth the hike. Please, use caution when exploring the river, especially in the gorge area. The river here is incredibly dangerous. Please don't swim in it any time of the year, and be especially cautious in the spring as muddy edges can give away and the rapids in the river are very powerful.
Onion River Stair Step Falls
Ray Berglund State Wayside, between Tofte and Lutsen, MN
This small set of cascades is reached via a walking trail from the wayside rest on Highway 61. Climb the stairs on the north side of the parking lot to access the hiking trail. The hike isn't too long, and very few people realize there is a waterfall back here, so it's another lesser-known waterfall on the list.
Cascade River State Park Highway 61 between Lutsen and Grand Marais
Park in the lot next to Highway 61 for a short, easy hike to the Cascade Falls. You can do the quick loop and be back at the parking area in 10-15 minutes, or go to the left of the waterfall up the wooden stairs and explore the other waterfalls further back, or see what it's like looking at the falls from above them.
Brule River Upper Falls, Devils Kettle and Lower Falls
Judge Magney State Park, 4501 W MN-61, Grand Marais, MN
Devil's Kettle Falls is the most well-known of these three falls. The falls split in two with one side heading downstream and the other into a deep mysterious hole. No one knows where the water in this hole goes. The hike to the falls requires over 200 stairs (going down on the way there... going up on the way back!). However, we find that the hike is worth it to see this natural wonder. In the springtime it can be hard to see where the kettle even is as so much water is pouring into it that it eventually just starts pouring out the sides!
High Falls of the Pigeon River
Grand Portage State Park, 9393 MN-61, Grand Portage, MN
The largest (in weight and in width) waterfall on the list! This waterfall is actually the tallest in Minnesota at 120 feet. It can be viewed from observation decks at the end of a half-mile handicap accessible trail. We also recommend crossing the border into Canada (adults will need a passport or enhances driver's license) and take the trails leading to the Canadian side of the river. Although you're looking at the exact same waterfall, the views are completely different on the Canadian side. Those very familiar with the area seem to have a preference of which they prefer, but it seems pretty split between liking the American side best and liking the Canadian side best. Note that the Canadian side is not handicap accessible.
Rose Falls in the BWCA
Duncan to Rose Lake Portage, Grand Marais, MN
This waterfall requires the most effort, but it is incredible in the winter! You'll either need to canoe through at least 2 lakes (including three portages to get here) or hike many miles along the border route trail. But the waterfall is incredible and very close to the trail for viewing. In the spring, you'll probably get some spray from the falls on the trail, it's that close! Be aware that this area will have more snow later into the season. So, if going in the spring, pay attention to lake conditions and snow conditions to make sure the waterfall is accessible using the route you want to take. Go too early and the lakes may still be frozen! Also note that the falls are within the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. You will need a permit for accessing it. Here is a video of our Rose Lake/Rose Falls day trip taken in the summer of 2019.
Watch our 2019 Waterfall Season video: