Gooseberry Falls State Park waterfalls in Minnesota

Now that I’ve hiked all Minnesota state parks (some more than once), people always ask what’s my favorite. I honestly do not have a favorite. However, if I were to force-rank the best state parks in Minnesota, Gooseberry Falls State Park would be near the top of the list. And I’m not alone in that opinion. With more than 782,000 visitors annually, Gooseberry Falls State Park is the most visited state park in Minnesota.

Empty parking lot in the winter at Gooseberry Falls State Park in Minnesota

Does that mean Gooseberry Falls is always crowded? Not always if you time it right. When is the best time to visit Gooseberry Falls State Park? I recommend exploring Gooseberry Falls State Park during the week, toward late afternoon, and/or off-season. My husband and I have visited Gooseberry Falls many times through the years. When we hiked in February (parking lot pictured), early June, late August, we practically had the entire park to ourselves.

Why is Gooseberry Falls so popular and one of the best state parks in Minnesota? Read on for my top 10 reasons to visit Gooseberry Falls State Park in Two Harbors, MN.

See my related Minnesota state park series.


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Top things to do at Gooseberry Falls State Park in Two Harbors, MN

Upper Falls at Gooseberry Falls State Park in Minnesota - waterfall hiking trails

Here are the top 10 things to do at Gooseberry Falls State Park in Two Harbors, Minnesota.

  1. Chase waterfalls at Gooseberry Falls State Park – Upper Falls, Middle Falls, Lower Falls, and Fifth Falls.
  2. Hike 20 miles of scenic waterfall and forested trails at Gooseberry Falls State Park. You can also connect to the Superior Hiking Trail.
  3. Stop in Minnesota state park’s largest visitor center, the Joseph N. Alexander Visitor Center, which includes a nature store, interpretative exhibits, park history video, Gateway Plaza, refreshments, modern restrooms, and gift shop.
  4. Fish for salmon or trout in Lake Superior.
  5. Take in the spectacular views off Highway 61 at the top of the historic Castle in the Park retaining wall, built by the Civilian Conservation Corps.
  6. Hunt for agates on the rocky shoreline of Lake Superior at Agate Beach. But leave them for other visitors as rock collecting is not allowed at Minnesota state parks.
  7. Wade in the pools below Middle Falls and Lower Falls.
  8. Camp at one of the wooded sites at Gooseberry Falls State Park.
  9. Watch for wildlife including deer, black bears, gray wolves, and more than 200 species of birds.
  10. Enjoy winter activities like winter hiking, chasing frozen waterfalls, cross-country skiing, skate-skiing, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling.

Frequently asked questions about Gooseberry Falls State Park in Two Harbors, Minnesota

Waterfalls at Gooseberry Falls State Park in Minnesota - waterfall hiking trails

Where is Gooseberry Falls State Park located? What is the address for Gooseberry Falls State Park?

Gooseberry Falls State Park is located on Highway 61 (aka North Shore), Minnesota’s most scenic drive. The address for Gooseberry Falls State Park is 3206 Highway 61 East, Two Harbors, MN 55616.

When is Gooseberry Falls State Park open?

Gooseberry Falls State Park is open year-round, 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day. The visitor center is open daily 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. with extended summer hours.

Is Gooseberry Falls State Park free? How much is the admission fee at Gooseberry Falls State Park?

Admission to Gooseberry Falls only costs $7 per vehicle per day ($5 per motorcycle). That includes unlimited visits to all Minnesota state parks on the same day. Split Rock Lighthouse State Park is only 4 miles away so you could easily see both on the same day. Note that Split Rock Lighthouse requires an additional fee to tour the historic lighthouse and grounds. It’s worth it!

However, I highly recommend an annual pass, which gives you entrance to all Minnesota state parks. See the Minnesota DNR website for more information. And it’s highly recommended to pay online ahead of time. Minnesota state parks are no longer accepting cash self-payment envelopes on site.

You can also visit other Minnesota state parks for free four days each year. See my related post for this year’s free state park days. Admission to every Minnesota state park is free for all Minnesota state tribal members throughout the year.

Does Gooseberry Falls State Park have a lake, river, or waterfall?

Gooseberry Falls State Park waterfalls hiking in Minnesota

Yes. As the name implies, Gooseberry Falls State Park indeed has not one waterfall but four (maybe five). Views of Upper Falls, Middle Falls, and Lower Falls are easily accessible. Take the more rugged two-mile trail loop to see Fifth Falls. The name of this waterfall makes me think there may be an additional waterfall at Gooseberry Falls State Park I’m missing. But I keep searching and haven’t found one yet – online or in person. Unless they are considering Lower Falls as two waterfalls.

Frozen waterfalls in Minnesota Gooseberry Falls

Any time of the year is a great time to chase waterfalls at Gooseberry Falls. To witness the powerful cascades, visit during the spring thaw which is typically April and May. And the frozen waterfalls at Gooseberry Falls are magical in the winter. Fall provides a spectacular foliage backdrop.

Drought waterfall Gooseberry Falls State Park in Minnesota

While not as impressive, it is incredulous to see the falls become trickles when Gooseberry River is low in the summer. You can often wade across Upper Falls during this time. But recommend you visit Gooseberry Falls State Park when the falls are in full force for your first visit.

Make sure you check for any seasonal updates at Gooseberry Falls State Park especially during the spring thaw as some of the hiking trails next to the falls become flooded and dangerous.

Gooseberry Falls State Park also lies on the shores of the beautiful Lake Superior.

Why are the waterfalls at Gooseberry Falls brown? Are the waterfalls on the North Shore dirty or polluted?

Waterfalls on the North Shore in Minnesota often show what’s called a root beer color. That’s not because the water is dirty or polluted. The water takes on a brownish hue at times when the river runs through a swampy area where it pics up organic matter called tannins.

Can you fish at Gooseberry Falls State Park in Minnesota?

Yes. Many anglers typically fish for trout and salmon along the mouth of Gooseberry River as it dumps into Lake Superior.

Does Gooseberry Falls State Park have a swimming beach?

Gooseberry Falls State Park in Minnesota waterfalls

No. Gooseberry Falls State Park does not have a swimming beach. However, when conditions allow, you can wade and splash in the shallow pools below Middle Falls and Lower Falls. Use discretion as the river has a strong current when the water is flowing fast.

Can you boat at Gooseberry Falls State Park? Does Gooseberry Falls State Park offer a boat ramp?

No. Gooseberry Falls State Park does not have a boat ramp. However, you can go sea kayaking on the nearby and popular Lake Superior State Water Trail.

Does Gooseberry Falls State Park have a campground? Can you camp at Gooseberry Falls State Park?

Yes. Gooseberry Falls offers a variety of camping experiences year-round. Note that all but two campsites are walk-in or ski-in during the winter snow months and all sites are non-electric. More campground features:

  • 69 drive-in non-electric campsites with many of them located in wooded settings
  • RV parking length: 40 feet
  • 4 wheelchair-accessible sites with 2 near the restrooms
  • 3 tents-only group camps during snow-free season (all accommodate up to 50 people)
  • 1 kayak site (not available to reserve; first-come, first-served from Lake Superior State Water Trail kayakers)
  • 2 primitive group campsites (accommodate up to 35 people)

See my related post: SUV camping 101: Guide for beginners with FAQs

Where to stay near Gooseberry Falls State Park?

If you’re not a camper or are visiting Gooseberry Falls State Park in late fall and winter, I recommend staying at one of the best resorts centrally located on the North Shore. The dog-friendly Caribou Highlands Lodge, located just 33 miles north in Lutsen, MN, features ski-in, ski-out townhomes. While our stay at Caribou Highlands Lodge was hosted, opinions are always my own.

How big is Gooseberry Falls State Park in Minnesota?

Gooseberry Falls State Park in Minnesota covers more than 1,700 acres.

Is Gooseberry Falls State Park buggy? Mosquitos? Ticks?

I don’t recall it being particularly buggy at Gooseberry Falls State Park. However, I always apply picaridin and Aunt Fanny’s DEET-free mosquito wipes when hiking in Minnesota state parks.

How long and how difficult are the hiking trails at Gooseberry Falls State Park?

Gooseberry Falls State Park waterfall hiking trails with stairs

Gooseberry Falls State Parks offers 20 miles of hiking trails.

The most popular trail is an easy one that’s also wheelchair-accessible. The one-mile paved trail starts at Gateway Plaza/visitor center and leads to the main falls are of Gooseberry Falls State Park.

You can stay on the paved path or scramble over some ancient rock to get up close to Middle Falls, and Lower Falls. Use discretion as the water can be quite powerful especially during the spring thaw. An easy trail takes you around to a foot bridge where you can then take a full loop around the three main waterfalls. In some areas of the hiking trails, expect some stairs.

Fifth Falls waterfall during a drought at Gooseberry Falls State Park in Minnesota

Hike the more rugged Fifth Falls, a two-mile loop, for a less crowded experience through the woods. We hiked here during a drought so need to return to see Fifth Falls in all its glory.

Take the 1.25-mile (one-way) River View Trail to access the Lake Superior shoreline. It’s also a great place to picnic.

The hilly two-mile Gitchi Gummi hiking trail made of gravel and boardwalks provides some beautiful scenic views of Lake Superior and the Gooseberry River Valley. Don’t confuse this trail with the paved Gitchi-Gami State Trail. This bike trail leads you to Split Rock Lighthouse State Park or Beaver Bay.

You can also connect to the iconic Superior Hiking Trail within Goosebery Falls State Park.

Are hiking poles needed on the trails at Gooseberry Falls State Park?

Hiking trail at Gooseberry Falls State Park in Minnesota

I have not used my hiking poles at Gooseberry Falls State Park in non-winter months. However, they could come in handy as the hiking trail terrain is hilly, steep, and uneven with lots of stairs throughout the park.

Icy stairs at Gooseberry Falls State Park in the winter

In the winter, I recommend hiking poles as well as crampons or metal spikes on your hiking boots as the stairs and trails can get pretty icy.  

Snowshoeing or cross-country skiing trails at Gooseberry Falls State Park?

Winter hiking and frozen waterfalls in Minnesota at Gooseberry Falls State Park

Yes. You can snowshoe on any of the ungroomed trails throughout Gooseberry Falls State Park in the winter. Additionally, you can cross-country ski on 12 miles of groomed trails with a 1-mile loop perfect for skate skiing. as well as cross-country ski on 15.5 miles of groomed trails and skate-ski on a 4-mile loop. You can also do some winter hiking to see the frozen waterfalls. See my full review on the most scenic frozen waterfalls in Minnesota.

Can you snowmobile at Gooseberry Falls State Park? Which state parks offer snowmobile trails?

Yes. You can snowmobile on a two-mile trail within Gooseberry Falls State Park that connects to the C.J. Ramstad/North Shore State Trail.

What are the best views at Gooseberry Falls State Park?

Gooseberry Falls State Park scenic view from Highway 61 overlooking waterfalls, river valley and Lake Superior

Gooseberry Falls State Park offers several scenic views. Anywhere along the waterfalls is always picturesque. Come back in every season to see which wore it better!

Drought Gooseberry Falls State Park best waterfalls in Minnesota

From Middle and Lower Falls, make sure to turn around for a pretty view of the Highway 61 trestle bridge that crosses over Gooseberry River. Note that this photo was taken during a drought. The Gooseberry River is often flowing fast in this area.

Upper Falls Gooseberry Falls State Park in Minnesota

Take the short trail to Upper Falls for a pretty picture.

Gooseberry Falls State Park bridge near Fifth Falls in Minnesota

Continue to Fifth Falls for pretty river views and a bridge in the woods. Agate Beach on Lake Superior in Gooseberry Falls State Park is also very pretty.

Hike up past the CCC retaining wall or drive to the pull-off area on Highway 61 for a spectacular view of Lake Superior and valleys.

See related post: Top 12 breathtaking views in Minnesota.

Are there bike trails at Gooseberry Falls State Park?

Yes. You can access the Gitchi-Gami State Trail from Gooseberry Falls State Park. Here you can bike a 14-mile segment between Gooseberry Falls State Park and Beaver Bay. Eventually, this trail will run interrupted from Two Harbors to Grand Marais, MN. Hover over Gooseberry Falls State Park on the Gitchi-Gami State Trail website for details.

Note that Gooseberry Falls State Park does not feature fat bike trails. However, you can find them at nearby Split Rock Lighthouse State Park.

Does Gooseberry Falls State Park feature equestrian trails?

No. Gooseberry Falls State Park does not have horseback trails.

Can you rock climb at Gooseberry Falls State Park? Which Minnesota state parks offer rock climbing? Where can I rock climb on the North Shore in Minnesota?

No. Gooseberry Falls State Park does not offer rock climbing.

Here is a list of the state parks in Minnesota where you can rock climb:


Does Gooseberry Falls State Park have a visitor center? Modern restrooms?

Yes. The Joseph N. Alexander Visitor Center at Gooseberry State Park, the largest Minnesota state park visitor center, is open year-round. The visitor center is open daily 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. with extended summer hours. Take time to check out the nature store, interpretative exhibits, park history video, Gateway Plaza, and gift shop.

You’ll also find modern restrooms at Lakeview near Lake Superior during peak season (late May to late October) as well as the campground (with showers). Vault toilets are available year-round throughout the park.

Is Gooseberry Falls State Park dog-friendly?

Yes. Leashed dogs and pets are welcome on Gooseberry Falls State Park hiking trails. All Minnesota state parks welcome dogs except inside buildings (service dogs, of course, are allowed). Leashes must be six feet or less.

Are there bears and moose at Gooseberry Falls State Park? Other wildlife?

Black bears frequent Gooseberry Falls State Park occasionally. However, I haven’t heard of any moose sightings. But it’s always possible. Watch for other wildlife as well as migratory birds as more than 250 species nest here.

Is firewood available at Gooseberry Falls State Park?

Yes. Firewood is available for sale at Gooseberry Falls State Park when the visitor office is open or via the Yodel app. You can also purchase approved firewood at nearby stores or gas stations that sell certified wood.

To protect Minnesota trees, you can only burn certified wood on MN DNR land. Collection is not allowed in state parks and you may not bring firewood from home. This helps prevent spreading harmful insects and diseases.

How far is Gooseberry Falls State Park from the Twin Cities – Minneapolis and St. Paul (MSP) airport?

Gooseberry Falls State Park is located 198miles from the Minneapolis – St. Paul (MSP) International Airport.

What’s near Gooseberry Falls State Park? Top things to do near Gooseberry Falls State Park?

Split Rock Lighthouse on Minnesota's North Shore

Here are the top things to do near Gooseberry Falls State Park in Minnesota.

  • One of the best state parks (and probably my favorite) in Minnesota, Split Rock Lighthouse State Park (pictured) is only 4.3 miles north of Gooseberry Falls State Park. See my related post on the top things to do at Split Rock Lighthouse State Park.
  • Stop at the unique Pink Beach on the way to Split Rock Lighthouse State Park. This pebble beach, formally known as Iona’s Beach Scientific Beach, is only 3.2 miles north of Gooseberry Falls State Park.
  • Another unique beach, Black Beach (yes, Minnesota has a black beach), is located 17 miles north of Gooseberry Falls State Park.
  • You can find four more waterfalls at Tettegouche State Park, which is 19 miles north of Gooseberry Falls State Park.
  • One of my other favorite waterfalls is located at Caribou Falls State Wayside 32 miles north.
  • Fuel up at Betty’s Pies, which is located 10 miles south of Gooseberry Falls State Park. This iconic restaurant serves up pie by the slice as well as main meals.
  • Gooseberry Falls State Park is 53 miles south of Lutsen Mountains Ski and Summer Resort in Lutsen, Minnesota. The Midwest’s largest ski resort is open year round and in addition to skiing and snowboarding offers hiking, a gondola for spectacular views of Lake Superior, and an alpine slide. Read my full review of my hosted experience: Guide to Lutsen Mountains Ski and Summer Resort. Opinions are always my own.
  • Next door to Lutsen Mountains Ski and Summer Resort is the fabulous Caribou Highlands Lodge (which hosted my husband and me). And located inside is one of the best places to eat on the North Shore: Mogul’s Bar and Tap Room.
  • Plan to hike all 66 Minnesota state parks? Then I also recommend exploring the Temperance River State Park located 41 miles north of Gooseberry Falls State Park.
  • Here’s a list of all my favorite stops on Minnesota’s scenic North Shore.

When was Gooseberry Falls State Park in Minnesota established?

Gooseberry Falls State Park was officially established in 1937. However, the state preserved the area beginning in 1933 when the Civilian Conservation Corps began developing this scenic park.

How did Gooseberry Falls State Park get its name?

According to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR), a 17th-century map indicates the river that flows through today’s Gooseberry Falls State Park was named Riviere des Groseilliers. It was named after Medard Chouart sieur des Groseilliers, a French explorer and Canadian fur trader. Groseilliers translates to gooseberries in English.

Does Gooseberry Falls State Park host deer hunts? Is Gooseberry Falls State Park closed during deer season?

Yes. Gooseberry Falls State Park hosts a deer hunt typically in November each year and limits some areas of the park to the public.

For a complete list of which Minnesota state parks are closed or limited to non-hunters during deer season, see this related post: Hiker safety: MN state parks that host deer hunts.

Hiking safety tip during deer season: Wear bright orange when hiking during deer season. I typically avoid hiking at all even if the state park is partially open to non-hunters.

A list of the best Minnesota state parks

Waterfalls at Gooseberry Falls State Park in Minnesota

Minnesota state parks are the best in my opinion. You can read reviews of each one to create your own list of top-ranked Minnesota state parks: Take the Minnesota state park challenge

Pin it for later: A local’s guide to Gooseberry Falls State Park in Minnesota

Please share and pin this guide for when you visit Gooseberry Falls State Park in MN – one of the best Minnesota state parks for waterfalls and scenic hikes.

Guide to Minnesota waterfall hikes Gooseberry Falls State Park

Guide to the best Minnesota waterfall hikes at Gooseberry Falls State Park.

Author

Twin Cities-based blogger sharing memorable emptynester, solo, family and girlfriend-getaway adventures, as well as my day hiking adventures (including all 66 Minnesota state parks), latest book reviews, and updates on my quest for the best adult mac and cheese. Also two WIPs: historical fiction and psychological thriller

20 comments

  1. I’ve never heard of this place before reading your article! It sounds like an underrated gem to explore. I love how stunning the landscape is! I’d love to go waterfall chasing here. Thanks for sharing your recommendations!

  2. Who knew Minnesota was so beautiful! Great complete list of state parks, that is so helpful for us just planning our first trip, thank you!

  3. I want to visit Gooseberry Falls State Park with all the waterfalls. I would like to photograph the waterfalls when they are flowing and frozen.

  4. What a lovely park! I had not heard of it before, but it seems like such an excellent park for people who love to be outdoors. I’m adding it to my list of Places to Hike in the US. Your photos are also beautiful 🙂

  5. It’s so funny when people want you to rank your favorite State Parks… they all have things to love! BUT having said that, after reading lots of your posts I know that Gooseberry State Park must be incredible to come up on the top of your list!!

    The waterfall itself is fabulous in the snow eh!?

    1. It is so hard to choose a favorite state park in Minnesota as they all have their own special something. Gooseberry Falls is pretty special and the frozen waterfalls in the winter are magical.

  6. You know we love to chase waterfalls for great sights. Gooseberry Falls State Parks sounds like one we will have to visit. Although we would try to find a time when this most visited park is less busy. Great to see the falls frozen in the winter too!

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