Monday, October 19, 2015

Gitchi Gami State Trail offers variety of experiences in Gooseberry Falls State Park

Gateway Plaza. Photo courtesy of  Minnesota DNR.
Map of Gitchi Gami State Trail, courtesy of Minnesota DNR.
Day hikers can enjoy a quiet walk through the woods, see two waterfalls, and learn about the area’s geology and history on a segment of Gitchi Gami State Trail at Minnesota’s Gooseberry Falls State Park.

Primarily a bicycle trail, the paved route can be hiked as well. When completed, the trail will run 88-miles from Two Harbors to Grand Marais. A 2.5-mile section is open in Gooseberry Falls, though, and a 4-mile round trip section of the trail makes for a great day hike.

To reach the trailhead, from Two Harbors, drive north on Minn. Hwy. 61. Enter Gooseberry Falls State Park, staying right on the park road, driving to the lower level parking lot at the campground. The trailhead is on the lot’s east-central side.

From there, the trail curves southwest, heading through a quiet, largely wooded area, though with the path’s width you’ll still need a sunhat or sunscreen. In about 1.2 miles, it turns northeast, crossing the park entry road.

The trail next passes the Gateway Plaza, which is worth a stop. Sitting atop a 300-foot long retaining wall, known as the Castle in the Park, the plaza includes interpretive signs about the park’s geology and history. The retaining wall is the Civilian Conservation Corps’ largest building project in Minnesota.

From the plaza, the Gitchi Gami cross the Gooseberry River with a view of Middle and Lower Falls downstream. The trail then parallels Hwy. 61 northeast through the rest of the park.

At two miles from the parking lot, the trail crosses Nelsens Creek. Flowing out of the hills overlooking Lake Superior, the creek’s shoreline support a colorful array of wildflowers.

The creek marks a good spot to turn back. Alternately, you can continue on; Beaver Bay is a little more than 14 miles away.

Learn about more day hiking trails at and near Gooseberry Falls State Park in my Day Hiking Trails of Gooseberry Falls State Park guidebook.