Monday, March 7, 2016

Secluded waterfalls awaits on North Shore

Map of West Split Rock River Falls Trail, courtesy Minnesota DNR.

Trail rambles
1.6-miles total
alongside river

Day hikers can enjoy a pleasant walk to a little-known waterfall on the Superior Hiking Trail in Minnesota’s Split Rock Lighthouse State Park.

With the North Shore well-known for its many waterfalls, few offer much solitude. The West Split Rock River Falls Trail, 1.6-mile round trip hike, offers the opportunity for just that. Spring is the best time to visit, as by August the waterfalls will be barely a trickle.

To reach the trailhead, from Two Harbors, drive north on Minn. Hwy. 61. At mile marker 43.2, turn into the parking lot for the DOT’s Split River Rock Wayside on the road’s north side.

The path – a leg of the Split Rock River Loop – heads up the west shore of Split Rock River through a birch grove. The trail is a gradual climb, offering nice views of the river valley below. Be aware that the clay banks on this side of the root beer-colored river at times are steep and after a rainfall can be slick; boardwalks, timbers and bridges make up part of the rugged trail’s surface.

At 0.5 miles from the trailhead, the spur reaches the junction with the actual Superior Hiking Trail; go right/north, remaining along the river. Watch for the blue blazes that mark the SHT.

A wooden bridge crosses the West Fork of the Split River, a small creek that drains into the main waterway, at about 0.8 miles from the trailhead. Large, mature cedars grow near the confluence, and a rock ledge allows a great place to rest and even enjoy a picnic as viewing West Split Rock River Falls, which tumbles 20 feet over gray rock.

Once taking in the falls, retrace your steps to the parking lot.

Learn about nearby hiking trails in Day Hiking Trails of Split Rock Lighthouse State Park.