One of the best state parks on the North Shore in Minnesota: Cascade River State Park. This top-ranked state park features scenic overlooks, waterfalls, and the 17-mile Cascade River winding its way down a gorge to Lake Superior. Cascade River State Park is perfect for hiking, camping, fishing, wildlife, and more.
See my related Minnesota state park series.
- Take the Minnesota State Park Challenge – reviews and a list of all the best MN state parks
- How to hike all 66 Minnesota state parks in a year
- Explore Minnesota state parks on Free State Park Day (updated with 2023 dates)
- Top Minnesota state parks with waterfalls – ranked!
This post contains recommended links to products and services. While you will not accrue any additional costs to support my blog, I may receive compensation if you purchase these products and services. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. All images taken by kmf are available for purchase via digital download.
Top 10 things to do at Cascade River State Park in Lutsen, MN
Cascade River State Park in Lutsen, Minnesota is one of the best state parks on the North Shore. Here you’ll find lots of natural beauty with diverse activities and things to see all year.
- Chase waterfalls at Cascade River State Park.
- Hike to spectacular mountain, valley, lake views and along the Lake Superior shoreline.
- Fish on Lake Superior or the Cascade River – a designated trout stream.
- Watch for wildlife like moose, black bears, and wolves.
- Go camping at Cascade River State Park.
- Watch Lake Superior do its thing – largest freshwater lake in the world acts like an ocean.
- Kayak on Lake Superior.
- Picnic next to the scenic Lake Superior.
- Go birding.
- Cross-country ski and snowshoe on the Lake Superior trail.
Chase waterfalls at Cascade River State Park
Cascade River State Park offers one of the best waterfall hikes on Minnesota’s North Shore. It’s also one of the easiest waterfall hikes in Minnesota. The 17-mile river and park got its name because of the scenic cascades of rushing water that winds its way toward Lake Superior. It’s a mesmerizing sight as the Cascade River charges over ancient volcanic rock and lava flows.
The half-mile Cascade River Lower Loop hiking trail takes you to find five small intimate waterfalls known simply as The Cascades. Just a short distance away, you’ll come across a scenic overlook of Cascade Falls.
Make sure you also visit Cascade River State Park in the winter for some magical frozen waterfalls. While it’s only a short distance to the cascades, you’ll most likely need hiking poles and metal spikes for your hiking boots. That’s because the trailhead, which is not challenging in the summer, turns into a steep sheet of ice.
Hike to spectacular mountain, valley, and lake views
If you’re feeling more adventurous, Cascade River State Park offers more rugged hiking trails through hardwoods and conifer forests.
The 3.5-mile Lookout Mountain Loop takes you up 600 feet in elevation for stunning views of Lake Superior, Cascade River Valley, and the Sawtooth Mountains.
For an all-day hike, try the 7.8-mile Cascade River Superior Hiking Trail Loop. This trail is steep with bare rock and packed dirt.
While not that challenging, the 3-mile (roundtrip) Lake Superior Shoreline Trail is rugged with uneven terrain, mainly huge boulders and rocks. Here’s where you’ll also find the only groomed cross-country ski trail on the North Shore.
Fish on Lake Superior or the Cascade River – a designated trout stream
Trout fishing is a big draw at Cascade River. I also came across a father and his two children fishing right from the Lake Superior Shoreline Trail. If memory serves, I believe they were also fishing for trout.
Look for wildlife like moose, black bears, and wolves at Cascade River State Park
Watch for moose, black bears, wolves, deer, and pine martens (weasel family) while trekking through Cascade River State Park. Especially if you venture out onto the less populated trails like the Lookout Mountain Loop and the Cascade River Superior Hiking Trail Loop.
As always, keep your distance from wildlife. This is their home and they will defend themselves if they feel threatened. Be sure to pack bear spray and a bear horn (to avoid startling them).
Go camping – traditional tent, van, SUV, small Rvs, and group
Set up camp at Cascade River State Park. This Minnesota state park features:
- 40 drive-in sites (RV limit is 35 feet)
- 5 backpack sites
- 2 carry-in, tent-only group camps (no vehicles allowed)
Much of the Cascade River State Park campground opens late spring after the snow is gone (which could be as late as May) and closes in October. Or rather downsizes to three electric and three non-electric campground site in the winter. Always check the MN DNR site for Cascade River State Park seasonal updates.
Watch Lake Superior – largest freshwater lake in the world – do its thing
One of the best free things to do on the North Shore and at Cascade River State Park is watch Lake Superior. A roadside wayside overlooking Lake Superior makes it easy. Just pull over across from the trailhead at mile marker 100 on Highway 61. You can get out and watch the Lake Superior do what it does best. Mesmerize.
The largest freshwater lake in the world, Lake Superior acts and behaves more like an ocean. You may even see ocean liners and ships in the distance. Or surfers in nearby Grand Marais (or south down in Duluth).
Check out the signage along the rock wall to learn more about the area. Additionally, walk down to the most northern part of the parking area. You’ll find steps that take you down for some more beautiful views of Lake Superior – in every season.
Kayak on Lake Superior
If kayaking is your thing, Lake Superior is the perfect place to paddle. I’d recommend kayak beginners sign up for a guided kayak tour or take lessons on calmer water before attempting Lake Superior. Respect Lake Superior more as an ocean than a lake.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources I Can! Programs are perfect for those wanting to learn how to paddle. They offer entry-level, small-group kayak and canoe lessons for rivers, lakes, and sea (i.e., Lake Superior).
Picnic next to scenic Lake Superior
Cascade River State Park in Minnesota offers a scenic and shady picnic area right beside Lake Superior. You’ll find the parking area about a half-mile from the park entrance on Highway 61.
Go birding at Cascade River State Park
Pack your binoculars or borrow a birding kit or discovery kit from the Cascade River State Park office. Common bird sightings include hawks, warblers, and chickadees.
Cross-country ski and snowshoe at Cascade River State Park
For winter enthusiasts, you can hike, cross-country ski, and snowshoe at Cascade River State Park. You can rent snowshoes from the park office when open. Make sure to purchase a Minnesota ski pass online or at the park office. Cascade River State Park offers the only groomed cross-country ski trail on the North Shore.
Frequently asked questions about Cascade River State Park in Lutsen, Minnesota
Where is Cascade River State Park located? What is the address for Cascade River State Park?
Cascade River State Park is located right on Highway 61 (aka North Shore) at mile marker 100. You can park right next to the trailhead or across the way at the Lake Superior wayside overlook. The address for Cascade River State Park is 3481 Highway 61, Lutsen, MN 55612.
If I recall correctly, do not use the GPS to get to the trailhead. Those directions will take you to the Cascade River State Park trail center and group camp area.
When is Cascade River State Park open?
Cascade River State Park is open year-round, 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. The campground is seasonal, typically late spring through the fall. However, a few sites remain open during the winter. Always check the Minnesota DNR website for seasonal updates. As of this published date in late April, most of the campground is still closed because of snow.
Not to worry. You’ll find lots of beautiful cozy and charming resorts on the North Shore. I highly recommend Caribou Highlands Lodge located just 8 miles south on Highway 61 at Lutsen Mountains.
Is Cascade River State Park free? How much is the admission fee at Cascade River State Park?
Like all Minnesota state parks, Cascade River State Park costs $7 per vehicle per day ($5 per motorcycle). That includes unlimited visits to all Minnesota state parks on the same day. 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.
Admission to every Minnesota state park is free for all Minnesota state tribal members.
You can also visit Cascade River State Park on any of the four free state park days in Minnesota. See my related post for this year’s free state park days.
Does Cascade River State Park have a lake, river, or waterfall?
Yes. Cascade River State Park features the majestic Cascade River that literally cascades 17 miles down gorges until it reaches Lake Superior. Additionally, the Cascade River State Park wayside located across from the Highway 61 trailhead offers panoramic views of Lake Superior.
You won’t have to hike far to take in the scenic waterfalls. The Cascade River Lower Loop hiking trail takes you to several overlooks of the Cascades Falls. Additionally, five smaller waterfalls make up The Cascades.
Don’t let Minnesota’s notorious winters keep you away from Cascade River State Park. My husband and I enjoyed a beautiful winter hike at Cascade River State Park in February. Make sure you wear your metal spikes and bring your hiking poles. Parts of the hiking trails at Cascade River State Park do get very icy. But the views of the frozen waterfalls are worth it. See my related post: Epic guide to the best frozen waterfalls in Minnesota
Cascade River State Park also features several smaller creeks.
Why are the waterfalls on the North Shore and in Cascade River State Park brown?
Many of the waterfalls on the North Shore in Minnesota show hues of brown. The water is not polluted, The root-brown color comes from tannins – the leaching of natural, organic matter like soil or trees in the water. If you see a brownish waterfall, it’s probably because the river has flowed through a swampy area.
Does Cascade River State Park have a swimming beach?
No, Cascade River State Park does not feature a swimming beach. And the rushing Cascade River and waterfalls are not safe for swimming. While Lake Superior offers a beautiful rocky shoreline, it is not suitable for swimming. And it’s cold! Even in the summer, the surface temperatures of Lake Superior in Minnesota range in the 50s and 60s Fahrenheit. But it is lovely to look at!
Can you fish at Cascade River State Park? What kind of fish are in Cascade River?
Yes. You can fish at Cascade River State Park. In fact, the Cascade River is a dedicated trout stream. You’ll need a license and stamp to fish here.
Lake Superior also offers fun fishing experiences. I came across a father and his two sons fishing right off the Lake Superior rugged shoreline. They gave me permission to take their photos.
Can you boat at Cascade River State Park? Does Cascade River State Park offer a boat ramp with trailer access?
Yes, you can find a carry-in access point on the Lake Superior Shoreline Trail. I saw a few people kayaking on one of the summer days I visited. Cascade River State Park does not offer a boat ramp with trailer access.
How big is Cascade River State Park in Minnesota?
Cascade River State Park in Minnesota covers nearly 3,000 acres.
Is Cascade River State Park buggy? Mosquitos? Ticks?
Cascade River State Park in Minnesota did not seem buggy when I hiked in late June. Granted, the temps fell to 45*F when I camped out in my SUV the night before Yes, it does get chilly especially at night on the North Shore in Minnesota.
But don’t let your guard down when it comes to ticks. They seem to thrive any time of the year and in any temps. Protect yourself with picaridin. And I always carry my favorite Aunt Fannie’s DEET-free mosquito wipes.
How long and how difficult are the hiking trails at Cascade River State Park?
The hiking trails at Cascade River State Park range from easy to steep and challenging. And many of the trails are uneven with bare rock. So make sure you wear good hiking boots. I wouldn’t recommend flip flops on these trails.
Distances of the hiking trails range from the relatively easy 0.5-mile Cascade River Lower Loop to the more strenuous 7.8-mile Cascade River Superior Hiking Trail Loop.
If you’re winter hiking, makes sure to wear your metal spikes, crampons as the trails do get icy.
Snowshoeing or cross-country skiing trails at Cascade River State Park?
Cascade River State Park offers snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. Make sure you purchase a state ski pass. You can rent snowshoes at the park office when open.
Are hiking poles needed on the trails at Cascade River State Park?
Yes! I highly recommend trekking poles when hiking the trails at Cascade River State Park. You may not need them if you’re only stopping in to see the Cascades Falls. Or hiking along the Lake Superior shoreline trail. Unless it’s winter and there is ice and snow on the ground. Then you will definitely need your hiking poles and metal spikes. It was sheer ice when we visited in February.
What are the best views at Cascade River State Park?
You’ll be mesmerized by the cascading (or frozen) waterfalls, gorgeous and tall evergreens and hardwoods, and the dazzling Lake Superior. The Cascade River Lower Loop provides a couple of viewing spots of the waterfalls.
Lookout Mountain Loop provides stunning views of the Cascade River Valley, Sawtooth Mountains, and Lake Superior.
And then there’s the breathtaking views of Lake Superior just steps from your car. Park at the Cascade River State Park wayside right off Highway 61. Here you can find beautiful views as well as interpretive signs about the area.
Are there bike trails at Cascade River State Park?
Cascade River State Park does not feature bike trails. However, the popular Gitchi-Gami State Trail is nearby. You can bike just south of Cascade River State Park from Ski Hill Road in Lutsen to Schroeder, MN (with the exception of one-half mile). See the Gitchi-Gami State Trail website for details.
Does Cascade River State Park have a visitor center? Modern restrooms?
You can find a park office open at Cascade River State Park typically between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Additionally, you’ll find a trail center at Cascade River State Park.
Modern restrooms with flush toilets and showers are available seasonally once the campgrounds open. More primitive toilets are available year-round throughout the park.
Is Cascade River State Park dog-friendly?
Yes, leashed dogs and pets are welcome at Cascade River State Park. All Minnesota state parks welcome dogs except inside buildings (with the exception of service dogs). Leashes must be six feet or less.
Are there bears at Cascade River State Park? Can you see moose at Cascade River State Park
Yes, it’s possible to see bears and moose at Cascade River State Park. However, I haven’t.
I’ve hiked all 66 Minnesota state parks and I’ve only seen a bear once. No moose. Technically, one mama bear and three cubs. I had just finished hiking at Savanna Portage State Park. Then decided I needed to take a photo of the lake and boating area for my best Minnesota state park series. Did I get a picture or video of the bear watching me? No, I was sitting in my SUV starstruck. And also debating if I was too close and if I should start backing down the narrow road.
Can you camp at Cascade River State Park?
Yes. Cascade River State Park offers several camping experiences. You’ll find 40 drive-in campground sites, 5 backpack sites, and two carry-in, tent-only group camps. Note that the group camps do not allow vehicles. Additionally, the RV length limit is 35 feet.
Most of the Cascade River State Park campgrounds are open seasonally late spring through October. However, three electric sites and three non-electric sites are available in the winter.
What’s the best resort to stay at near Cascade River State Park?
If camping is not your thing, I highly recommend Caribou Highlands Lodge on Lutsen Mountains. It’s where to stay on the North Shore in Minnesota. You can stay at the gorgeous lodge or in the dog-friendly, ski-in, ski-out townhomes. We loved our hosted stay in one of the three-bedroom townhomes at Caribou Highlands Lodge. While our stay was complimentary, opinions are always our own.
Caribou Highlands Lodge is the most centrally located resort to stay when visiting the North Shore of Minnesota. Read our full review: Best North Shore MN resorts: Caribou Highlands Lodge in Lutsen.
Additionally, one of the best places to eat on the North Shore is located onsite. Read our full review: Best places to eat on Minnesota’s North Shore: Moguls Grille & Tap Room
Is firewood available at Cascade River State Park?
Yes, you can usually purchase certified firewood at all Minnesota state parks or certified safe-to-move firewood at nearby gas stations. 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 Cascade River State Park from the Twin Cities – Minneapolis and St. Paul (MSP) airport?
Cascade River State Park is 257 miles north of the Minneapolis – St. Paul (MSP) International Airport.
What’s nearby Cascade River State Park? Things to do near Cascade River State Park?
You’ll find additional cool things to do near Cascade River State Park.
- Lutsen Mountains Ski and Summer Resort offers skiing, hiking, a gondola, spectacular views, and an alpine slide. Read my full review of my hosted experience (opinions are always my own): Guide to Lutsen Mountains Ski and Summer Resort.
- The charming and artsy lakeside community of Grand Marais is only 12 miles north of Cascade River State Park. We especially love the Grand Marais lighthouse overlooking Lake Superior. Sven & Ole’s pizza in Grand Marais is the best pizza on Minnesota’s North Shore! And Drury Lane Books is one of the best bookstores in Minnesota.
- Gitchi-Gami State Trail, a popular paved non-motorized bike path on the North Shore, offers 12 miles to bike or hike just south of Cascade River State Park. Or head north for another section of the trail. See the Gitchi-Gami State Trail website for details.
- Another top-ranking state park on the North Shore, Temperance River, is only 17 miles away from Cascade River State Park. So if you’re attempting to hike all 66 Minnesota state parks in a year, these two state parks are close enough to explore in one day. Temperance River State Park is located in the Lutsen/Tofte area on Minnesota’s North Shore.
- If seeing a moose and other wildlife is on your list of things to do in Minnesota, then take the scenic drive on nearby Gunflint Trail. You’ll also find lots of hiking trails. We’ve yet to check out Gunflint Trail while on the North Shore. But it is on my list.
- Hiking trails at Cascade River State Park also connect with the iconic Superior Hiking Trail and the North Shore State Trail. You can also cross-country ski on some of the trails.
- Check out my list of favorite stops on the scenic North Shore in Minnesota.
When was Cascade River State Park in Minnesota established?
Cascade River State Park was established in 1957.
How did Cascade River State Park get its name?
Cascade River State Park is named after the 17-mile river that cascades through a gorge on its way to Lake Superior.
Does Cascade River State Park host deer hunts? Is Cascade River State Park closed during deer season?
Yes. Cascade River State Park hosts a deer hunt in the fall. Typically, Cascade River State Park is limited to the public for a few days in November during deer season.
For a complete list of which Minnesota state parks are closed or limited to the public during deer season, see my 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 even when the state park is partially open to non-hunters.
A list of the best Minnesota state parks
All 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
- Afton State Park | Hastings, MN (26 miles)
- Banning State Park | Sandstone, MN (97 miles)
- Bear Head Lake State Park | Ely, MN (240 miles)
- Beaver Creek Valley State Park | Caledonia, MN (148 miles)
- Big Stone Lake State Park | Ortonville, MN (186 miles)
- Blue Mounds State Park | Luverne, MN (208 miles)
- Buffalo River State Park | Glyndon, MN (240 miles)
- Camden State Park | Lynd, MN (161 miles)
- Carley State Park | Plainview, MN (88 miles)
- Cascade River State Park | Lutsen, MN (257 miles)
- Charles A. Lindbergh State Park | Little Falls, MN (112 miles)
- Crow Wing State Park | Brainerd, MN (134 miles)
- Father Hennepin State Park | Isle, MN (113 miles)
- Flandrau State Park | New Ulm, MN (93 miles)
- Forestville / Mystery Cave State Park | Preston, MN (115 miles)
- Fort Ridgely State Park | Fairfax, MN (99 miles)
- Fort Snelling State Park | Bloomington / St. Paul, MN (2 miles)
- Franz Jevne State Park | Birchdale, MN (336 miles)
- Frontenac State Park | Frontenac, MN (62 miles)
- George H. Crosby Manitou State Park | Finland, MN (231 miles)
- Glacial Lakes State Park | Starbuck, MN (156 miles)
- Glendalough State Park | Battle Lake, MN (194 miles)
- Gooseberry Falls | Two Harbors, MN (197 miles)
- Grand Portage State Park | Grand Portage, MN (308 miles)
- Great River Bluffs State Park | Winona, MN (136 miles)
- Hayes Lake State Park | Roseau, MN (343 miles)
- Hill Annex Mine State Park | Calumet, MN (197 miles)
- Interstate State Park / Taylors Falls State Park | Taylors Falls, MN (56 miles)
- Itasca State Park | Park Rapids, MN (219 miles)
- Jay Cooke State Park | Thomson, MN (146 miles)
- John A. Latsch State Park | Winona, MN (99 miles)
- Judge C.R. Magney State Park | Grand Marais, MN (282 miles)
- Kilen Woods State Park | Lakefield, MN (153 miles)
- Lac qui Parle State Park | Watson, MN (141 miles)
- Lake Bemidji State Park | Bemidji, MN (230 miles)
- Lake Bronson State Park | Karlstad, MN (409 miles)
- Lake Carlos State Park | Alexandria, MN (152 miles)
- Lake Louise State Park | Le Roy, MN (113 miles)
- Lake Maria State Park | Monticello, MN (60 miles)
- Lake Shetek State Park | Currie, MN (168 miles)
- Lake Vermilion-Soudan Underground Mine State Park | Soudan, MN (229 miles)
- McCarthy Beach State Park | Side Lake, MN (227 miles)
- Maplewood State Park | Pelican Rapids, MN (217 miles)
- Mille Lacs Kathio State Park | Onamia, MN (108 miles)
- Minneopa State Park | Mankato, MN (82 miles)
- Monson Lake State Park | Sunburg, MN (141 miles)
- Moose Lake State Park | Moose Lake, MN (116 miles)
- Myre-Big Island State Park | Albert Lea, MN (93 miles)
- Nerstrand Big Woods State Park | Nerstrand, MN (52 miles)
- Old Mill State Park | Argyle, MN (350 miles)
- Rice Lake State Park | Owatonna, MN (70 miles)
- St. Croix State Park | Hinckley, MN (105 miles)
- Sakatah Lake State Park | Waterville, MN (60 miles)
- Savanna Portage State Park | Northeast Aitkin, MN (149 miles)
- Scenic State Park | Bigfork, MN (232 miles)
- Schoolcraft State Park | Deer River, MN (198 miles)
- Sibley State Park | New London, MN (128 miles)
- Split Rock Creek State Park | Jasper, MN (202 miles)
- Split Rock Lighthouse State Park | Two Harbors, MN (204 miles)
- Temperance River State Park | Schroeder, MN (239 miles)
- Tettegouche State Park | Silver Bay, MN (217 miles)
- Upper Sioux Agency State Park | Granite Falls, MN (122 miles)
- Whitewater State Park | Altura, MN (99 miles)
- Wild River State Park | Center City, MN (58 miles)
- William O’Brien State Park | Scandia / Marine on the St. Croix, MN (43 miles)
- Zippel Bay State Park | Williams, MN (345 miles)
Pin it for later: A local’s guide to Cascade River State Park in Minnesota
Please share and pin this guide for when you visit Cascade River State Park in Lutsen, MN – one of the best Minnesota state parks on the North Shore.