Minnesota is home to many stunning waterfalls from charming fairytale settings to powerful rugged cascades. Some require a little bit of hiking and scrambling over boulders, while several you can seriously walk right up to from the parking lot without breaking a sweat. If the latter is more your thing, I’ve identified more than 15 easy hiking trails with waterfalls in Minnesota – perfect for kids or if you just want to do a short scenic hike.
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Top family-friendly and easy hiking trails with waterfalls in Minnesota
Here is a list – in alphabetical order – of the easiest waterfalls to access (e.g., short walk or hike) in Minnesota. These are perfect for family hikes with kids who want to see waterfalls and cascades. But still use caution with small children as the waterfalls are especially powerful in the spring and some trails have steep drop-offs or stairs.
- Cannon Falls; Cannon Falls, Minn.
- Caron Falls / Wellstone Falls; Caron Park; Northfield, Minn.
- Gooseberry Falls – Lower, Middle, and Upper Falls; Gooseberry Falls State Park; Two Harbors, Minn.
- Hidden Falls; Hidden Falls Regional Park; St. Paul, Minn.
- Hidden Falls; Nerstrand Big Woods State Park; Nerstrand, Minn.
- High Falls; Grand Portage State Park; Grand Portage, Minn.
- Illgen Falls; Tettegouche State Park; Silver Bay, Minn.
- Jay Cooke State Park cascades; Thomson / Carlton, Minn.
- Minnehaha Falls; Minnehaha Regional Park; Minneapolis, Minn.
- Minnemishinona Falls; Mankato, Minn.
- Minneopa Falls; Minneopa State Park; Mankato, Minn.
- Ramsey Falls; Ramsey Park; Redwood Falls, Minn.
- Red Rock Falls; Red Rock Falls County Park; Sanborn, Minn.
- St. Anthony Falls; Minneapolis, Minn.
- Temperance River cascade (on Lake Superior side of park); Temperance River State Park; Schroeder, Minn.
- Vermillion Falls, Vermillion Falls Park; Hastings, Minn.
- Winnewissa Falls; Pipestone National Monument; Pipestone, Minn.
Cannon Falls; Cannon Falls, Minn.
The Cannon Valley Trail from Cannon Falls to Red Wing, Minn. is a popular 18-mile bike path. You’ll find this cascade waterfall at the Cannon Falls trailhead. It’s close to a charming downtown as well as a brewery.
Location: Located near Minnieska Park in Cannon Falls, you can find lots of public parking (lot or street) near North Sixth and Veterans Lane.
Distance to waterfall from trailhead: It’s literally just steps away from the public parking lot.
Caron Falls or Wellstone Falls; Caron Park; Northfield, Minn.
I’ve visited the Caron Falls or Wellstone Falls (I’ve heard it called both) waterfall in the fall and in the winter – love that it is secluded and remote. You won’t see many people on this trail. And it’s a super easy hike.
Location: Caron Park is located at 6816 170th Street East in Faribault, Minn. (although it feels closer to Northfield).
Distance to waterfall from trailhead: This out-and-back trail is only 0.7 miles one way.
Cascades Overlook and Cascades Falls; Cascade River State Park; Lutsen, Minn.
Location: You’ll find parking right outside the Cascade River State Park at 3481 West Highway 61 in Lutsen, Minn. near mile marker 100.
Distance to waterfall from trailhead: You’ll find the first cascade soon after you start the 0.5-mile Cascade River Lower Loop Trail.
Gooseberry Falls – Lower, Middle, and Upper Falls; Gooseberry Falls State Park; Two Harbors, Minn.
Gooseberry Falls is Minnesota’s most popular state park. That’s because the waterfalls are so accessible. Lower and Middle Falls are together (as pictured above) and High Falls is just a short trek away on a paved trail.
Location: Gooseberry Falls State Park is located at 3206 Highway 61 East, Two Harbors, Minn.
Distance to waterfall: You only have to walk a short distance to see the Lower and Middle Falls. Or you can take the 1-mile loop around to also see Upper Falls. Fifth Falls is only a 2-mile loop trail, but is a little bit hilly with gravel and boardwalks. I think it’s still a fairly easy trail. And I need to return as there was a drought when we checked out Fifth Falls last summer – so only saw a trickle.
Hidden Falls; Hidden Falls Regional Park; St. Paul, Minn.
Location: The first Hidden Falls is located in Hidden Falls Regional Park in St. Paul at 1313 Hidden Falls.
Distance to waterfall from trailhead: This trail to Hidden Falls waterfall in St. Paul is only a 1.3-mile loop.
Hidden Falls; Nerstrand Big Woods State Park; Nerstrand, Minn.
This second not-so Hidden Falls located at Nerstrand Big Woods State Park is especially popular for families. It’s a fairly easy hike and many times you’ll find kids and adults alike swimming or at least wading in the falls, However, take notice of any signs as the last time I was there they recommended no swimming I believe due to a high amount of bacteria.
Location: You’ll find this second Hidden Falls at Nerstrand Big Woods State Park, 9700 170th Street E., Nerstrand, Minn. Tip: It’s not that far from Caron Falls / Wellstone Falls so you could see them the same day.
Distance to waterfall from trailhead: Hidden Falls trail to this waterfall is only a one-mile loop. You can make your hike longer by also hiking the Beaver Loop (2.5-mile loop).
High Falls; Grand Portage State Park; Grand Portage, Minn.
High Falls at Grand Portage State Park in Grand Portage, Minn. is the most majestic waterfall trail – and super quick and easy to hike. You can’t miss Grand Portage State Park as it is the last stop before you reach the Canadian border. In fact, you can see three nations from Grand Portage State Park – U.S., Canada, and Anishinabi Tribal Lands. This free state park features an educational visitor center and lies within the Grand Portage Native American Reservation – a band of Chippewa.
Location: The 120-foot High Falls – tallest waterfall in Minnesota – is located at Grand Portage State Park, 9393 East Highway 61 in Grand Portage.
Distance to waterfall from trailhead: It’s an easy one-mile roundtrip wheelchair-accessible hike to the overlook of High Falls. You’ll find two additional viewing platforms just a short distance away. This park also features a 20-foot waterfall, but it is a more rigorous hike that I’ve yet to do.
Illgen Falls; Tettegouche State Park; Silver Bay, Minn.
The 40-foot Illgen Falls is the most recent waterfall we discovered – off the beaten path of the other Tettegouche State Park waterfalls. I didn’t include those in this post as while they are beautiful, they are more moderate hikes.
Location: GPS will take you to a different part of Tettegouche Park. So simply drive past Tettegouche Park until you reach Highway 1. Take a left and drive about 1.5 miles or so and you’ll see a small pull-off area where you can park on the left side of the road.
Distance to waterfall from trailhead: While you’ll find a few stairs and some uneven terrain, the hike to Illgen Falls is only 1 mile roundtrip – if even that. So close, you can hear it from where you park on Highway 1.
Note: While this is an easy hike, keep your children close as this waterfall is pretty powerful especially in the spring, and there is a steep drop-off.
Jay Cooke State Park cascades; Thomson / Carlton, Minn.
While you can hike for miles on rugged trails at Jay Cooke State Park, this beautiful wonder offers an easy hike to view mesmerizing cascades along the banks of the St. Louis River or simply walk across the swinging bridge.
Location: Jay Cooke State Park is located just south of Duluth and right off I-35 at 780 MN-210 in Carlton, Minn.
Distance to cascades: You’re only a short walk away from the stunning swinging bridge that spans the cascades on the St. Louis River. Tale the 1.8-mile loop CCC flat trail right along the banks of the river for some small, yet mesmerizing cascades.
Minnehaha Falls; Minnehaha Regional Park; Minneapolis, Minn.
Find this beautiful oasis in the heart of Minneapolis – Minnehaha Falls is at the top of my list when showing friends and family around the Twin Cities.
Location: The 53-foot waterfall is located in Minnehaha Regional Park at 4801 S. Minnehaha Drive in Minneapolis, Minn.
Distance to waterfall: That depends. If you find parking right near Minnehaha Regional Park (by Sea Salt Eatery – yum!), then it’s just a short walk. Minnehaha attracts more than 800,000 visitors a year so parking is a challenge sometimes on weekends. But you can find other paid parking lots or street parking within a few blocks typically.
Minnemishinona Falls; Mankato, Minn.
Location: Minnemishinona Falls is located at 40923 Judson Bottom Road in Mankato, Minn. – and not too far from Minneopa Falls (see below).
Distance to waterfall from trailhead: You’ll find a small parking lot and a short trail that takes you to the bridge that overlooks the 42-foot waterfall. We visited Minnemishinona Falls in late September, and it was a little dry, but still pretty. I returned in the winter and the frozen waterfall was magical.
Minneopa Falls; Minneopa State Park; Mankato, Minn.
Minneopa Falls ranks up there as one of my favorite waterfalls and state parks in Minnesota. Not only are you treated to a two-tiered waterfall (10 feet and 39 feet) you can walk over and between the two levels of falls (on a bridge), and the other part of the park features a drive-through bison range. See my related post about all the top things to do at Minneopa Falls State Park.
Location: Minneopa Falls is located at 54497 Gadwall Road at Minneopa State Park in Mankato, Minn.
Distance to waterfall from trailhead: It’s a very short paved trail to the bridge that crosses between the lower and upper falls. Minneopa is Dakota for water falling twice. You can also take steps down to the basin of the falls. Just be careful especially in the winter as they are slippery with ice. And don’t walk on the river even if it looks frozen over. I saw two people fall through when I visited during the winter. See my frozen waterfalls of Minnesota guide.
Ramsey Falls; Ramsey Park; Redwood Falls, Minn.
Location: The beautiful 30-foot Ramsey Falls is located in Alexander Ramsey Park – 99 East Oak Street.
Distance to waterfall from trailhead: You can park right at the viewing area of Ramsey Falls. Or I recommend taking the short hike over the suspension bridge – especially beautiful in the fall.
Red Rock Falls; Red Rock Falls County Park; Sanborn, Minn.
So Red Rock Falls County Park is one that I need to revisit. A small remote park apparently features three waterfalls. But I’m not sure how easy the other two are to access as my friends and I were chasing daylight. But I can tell you that this hidden waterfall is easy to hike to – just a short walk to the gorge from the parking area.
Location: The waterfalls at Red Rock Falls County Park is located at 48771 250th Street, Sanborn, Minn.
Distance to waterfall: You won’t find a trail to this waterfall in the gorge, but it is a super short walk from the parking area.
St. Anthony Falls; Minneapolis, Minn.
The historic St. Anthony Falls in downtown Minneapolis is one of only a few waterfalls on the Mississippi River. See my related post: Top 10 walking tours of the Twin Cities.
Location: St. Anthony Falls Visitor Center (free) is located at 1 Portland Avenue in Minneapolis, Minn. However, you can view the St. Anthony Falls from above (Guthrie Center), from a distance on the Stone Arch pedestrian bridge, or my favorite – get up close via the St. Anthony Falls Heritage Trail.
Distance to waterfall: The St. Anthony Falls Heritage Trail urban hike is an easy 1.7-mile out-and-back trail. Or catch a view of the Mississippi River and the falls by crossing the historic Stone Arch Bridge – only 0.5 miles one-way.
Temperance River cascade (on Lake Superior side of park); Temperance River State Park; Schroeder, Minn.
Location: Temperance River State Park is located at 7620 West, MN-61, Schroeder, MN 55613. This park features two sides – the Lake Superior side where you can park right off Highway 61 aka the North Shore and walk down some steps for some fabulous views of the cascades leading to Lake Superior. You can find additional waterfalls at cascades on the other side of the highway, but the trails are a little too rigorous to be included in this easy waterfall hikes of Minnesota post.
Distance to waterfall from trailhead: Get out of your car and / or walk across the highway (look both ways – can be busy) and go down the steps.
Vermillion Falls, Vermillion Falls Park; Hastings, Minn.
Vermillion Falls in Hastings, Minn. is a beautiful 35-foot urban waterfall – especially love it in the fall and winter (when it’s frozen). Back in the day, this waterfall powered a gristmill.
Location: You can find Vermillion Falls Park at 215 21st Street East in Hastings, Minn.
Distance to waterfall: Not far. Park in the parking lot and walk over on the paved pathway.
Winnewissa Falls; Pipestone National Monument; Pipestone, Minn.
I’m so happy my husband and I took a detour from my Minnesota state park challenge last year (where I hiked all 66 Minnesota state parks), to visit Pipestone National Monument. You’ll learn so much history – and an easy paved trail leads you to Winnewissa Falls.
Location: Winnewissa Falls is located at Pipestone National Monument, 36 Reservation Ave, Pipestone, Minn.
Distance to waterfall from trailhead: Winnewissa Falls is only located 3/8-mile from the Pipestone National Monument visitor center. The entire paved Circle Trail is only 3/4 of a mile.
An easy waterfall hike in Wisconsin near the Twin Cities
Just across the river and less than an hour from the Twin Cities, you can find this beautiful and easy waterfall hike at Willow River State Park. This waterfall is located at 1034 Co Hwy A in Hudson, Wisconsin.
Best waterfalls in Minnesota
If you like this post, you may also like my local guides in this best-of-Minnesota waterfalls series.
- Epic guide to the best waterfalls in Minnesota
- A local’s guide to the most stunning frozen waterfalls in Minnesota
- Top Minnesota state parks with waterfalls – ranked!