Thursday, October 15, 2015

Trail passes three falls in Gooseberry SP

Map for Fifth Falls Trail. Click on map for larger version.

Fifth Falls loop
offers quiet
from crowds

Day hikers can enjoy a riverside walk to a little seen waterfalls on the Fifth Falls Trail at Minnesota’s Gooseberry Falls State Park.

Though not as high or as wide as the other Upper and Middle falls, Fifth Falls is still impressive, especially during autumn. The looping trail runs 2.4–miles round trip.

To reach the trailhead, from Two Harbors, drive north on Minn. Hwy. 61, turning into the Gooseberry Falls Wayside (near mile marker 39) and park. Walk northeast past the visitor center. At the first T-intersection, go left/north toward Upper Falls. Along the way, watch for and follow signs pointing to the Fifth Falls Snowshoe Trail.

At the Hwy. 61 bridge over the Gooseberry River, continue north along the waterway’s west bank past Upper Falls. This waterfalls is about 0.2 miles from the trailhead.

West bank
After passing Upper Falls, the crowd thins considerably. Most park visitors stick to the lower three falls clustered near the visitor center, but there’s plenty to see on the way to Fifth Falls.

Gooseberry River’s west side definitely is the rougher of the two banks. After crossing a floodplain, the trail climbs up a steep bank. The upside: A lot of ledges along the riverbank prove fun to explore, especially for any kids accompanying you.

After passing a horseshoe bend north of Upper Falls, the trail comes to a bridge crossing the river. Stepping onto the bridge offers good views. Once taking in the sights, stay on the river’s west bank continuing straight/south.

Following a smaller horseshoe bend, the river and trail head primarily north to northwest. You’ll pass a tiny waterfalls, the fourth on the river (Of the Gooseberry River’s five waterfalls, this hike skips Lower and Middle Falls, the two closest to Lake Superior).

Fifth Falls
At the junction with the Superior Hiking Trail, go right/east. This takes you to a bridge over the river, about 1.1 miles from the trailhead, and delivers a great view of Fifth Falls, which is upstream.

With a 15-foot drop over ancient volcanic rock, Fifth Falls is most impressive in spring when water levels are higher from the snow melt. Autumn offers a chance to see more of the rock formations and potholes, however. You can continue north past the bridge to the falls and explore the rocks up close, but be careful of any wet stones, which can be slippery.

Once across the bridge to the Gooseberry River’s east bank, turn right/south/east. This takes you down the river, as it makes its way toward Lake Superior. This part of the route, which is shared with the Superior Hiking Trail, is wider and generally better maintained than what you walked up on the opposite shore. It also offers another view of both the river’s fourth waterfalls and Upper Falls.

At the Hwy. 61 bridge, which is 2.2 miles from the trailhead, take the walkway back to the Gooseberry River’s east shore. Retrace your steps to the visitor center and parking lot.

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