Sunday, March 1, 2015

'Highest waterfall entirely within Minnesota’

High Falls in Tettagouche State Park.
Photo courtesy of Minnesota DNR.

Three waterfalls, cascades await hikers in state park

A trail to a 70-foot high waterfall awaits day hikers in Minnesota’s Tettegouche State Park.

High Falls Trail
Located on the North Shore, the High Falls Trail, including a couple of spurs, runs 3.2-mile round trip, as it heads past three falls and rapids. Though unnamed on park maps, the popular trail is christened here after what most hiker taking it come to see – the High Falls.

To reach the trailhead, from Silver Bay drive north on Minn. Hwy. 61. After crossing the Baptism River, turn right/southeast into the park. Veer right/south on the park road and pass the visitor center, heading into a wooded area. Park in the pullout lot on the road’s right/northwest side. You can pick up the trailhead on the lot’s southwest side.

Baptism River gorge
Take a right onto the trail, heading northwest. The trail goes under Hwy. 61 and parallels the Baptism River.

A short spur heads to the scenic river’s shore. The Baptism runs a mere 8.8 miles, as it flows from the Minnesota Arrowhead’s uplands then through a gorge of ancient rock into Lake Superior.

From the spur, the main trail curves northeast and quickly gains in elevation until it follows the rim overlooking the Baptism River gorge.

Below the rim are the Cascades, a set of rapids in the Baptism River. The hard black rock the river tumbles through is more than a billion years old.

Farther up the river, the trail passes Two Steps Falls, a pair of small waterfalls that flow into a large pool. The pool then drains downhill as the river rushes toward Lake Superior. A spur trial leads downhill to an overlook of the falls.

'Controversial' High Falls
Continuing north on the main trail, the route reaches the Superior Hiking Trail. Go left/west on that trail to High Falls.

One of four waterfalls in the park, High Falls is an impressive sight as it drops more than six stories over a black basalt cliff capped by stately evergreens.

There is some controversy over the bragging rights to the highest waterfall in Minnesota. Some would argue the tallest is the 120-foot high High Falls on the Pigeon River in Grand Portage State Park. As part of that waterfalls is technically in Ontario, however, the same-named High Falls on the Baptism River sometimes is advertised as “the highest waterfall entirely within Minnesota.”

A trail bridge crosses the Baptism above the falls, offering a dramatic view of the river valley below. The bridge also marks a good spot to turn around on this out-and-back trail.

Read more about day hiking Northeast Minnesota in my Headin’ to the Cabin: Day Hiking Trails of Northeast Minnesota guidebook.