Gooseberry Falls State Park is the Minnesota park with the highest annual attendance. It is known as the gateway to the North Shore. It has lots of waterfalls, a gorge, Civilian Conservation Corps structures, wildlife, and Lake Superior shoreline. We could see how well-loved it was when we visited on a weekday and had trouble finding a parking spot.
We started (as always) in the Visitors Center where we visited the restrooms and picked up a trail map. Our hiking began with the trail to the waterfalls. Middle and Lower Falls are surrounded by shelves of rocks and there were lots of people hanging out by the waterfall, playing in the water, and jockeying for the best position to take a picture. After the solitude we encounter at most places along the North Shore, it was a shock to have to push our way through groups of people. There are several signs that warn that there are leeches in the Gooseberry River, but the water around the falls seemed to be flowing too fast for leeches.
It was a relatively hot day (for the North Shore) and the water looked cool and refreshing. We continued on the trail to the Upper Falls – a little climb up and fewer people. We even found an empty bench so we could contemplate the beauty of the falls. There was also a sign warning of the danger of playing in the falls. From the Upper Falls there was a spectacular view of the Gooseberry River valley as it meanders to Lake Superior.
Gooseberry Falls State Park was established in 1933 and benefited from the work of the Civilian Conservation Corps. They built the 300 foot long “Castle in the Park”: a stone retaining wall that supports MN 61. They also laid out the original campground, picnic area, and trials. Today Gateway Park, on top of the retaining wall, has waysides that describe the history of the park and the role of the CCC in developing it.
There are some places where you can see volcanic lava flows around the falls and glacial grooves from the ice age 10,000 years ago. There is a primitive campground with 70 sites and a large picnic area. The Visitors Center has a large Nature Store and a movie about the park.
Gooseberry Falls is a beautiful state park with something for everyone. It is a good place to visit and explore for an afternoon or a week.