Caribou Falls, Minnesota

Caribou Falls in May 2010

I haven’t posted about any waterfalls in a while, and I figured I’d decide to post one of my favorite waterfalls in Minnesota. I visited this waterfall in May 2010, and really did find it to be impressive. I hadn’t posted on this falls because I choose waterfalls randomly. One or two other waterfall enthusiasts had mentioned that I should visit this falls, and I completely agree that if you haven’t seen Caribou Falls, go and visit it.

The hike to the falls deals with some uphill and downhill portions, followed by a set of stairs. I don’t think anybody realizes what a treat they’re in for. The falls are partially hidden from view until you pass this one corner, and then boom!

When I visited, I was almost all by myself, but it was extremely peaceful! There were two other people there, and I thought it was so cool that they had brought their lawn chairs, and were sitting at the end of the stairs just enjoying the falls. I just had such fun exploring all of the different view of the falls. I’m under the impression that the falls are taller than they appear. There is a second drop that is visible in this picture, but I believe that it may go back even further. I also think that the falls has such a unique drop pattern. It almost falls at a diagonal.

I don’t think I’m being very poetic here, and I should be in order to express the beauty of Caribou Falls…but oh well, just go and visit this spectacular waterfall!

Directions:

  1. As you’re driving along MN-61, look for the Caribou River and the Caribou State Wayside. If you’re headed north, the parking area will be off the road on your left.
  2. As you park, follow the pretty obvious trail to the falls.

Accessibility: 7/10 (easy/moderate)
Height: 40′
Length of Hike: 1 mile round-trip

Where in the World is Caribou Falls?

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Fall River Falls, Minnesota

Fall River Falls in mid-May 2010

Fall River Falls is a very photogenic waterfall that is also easily accessible. It’s not very widely advertised, though, likely due to the fact that it’s not very tall or wide.

And yet, I think it is one of the more impressive waterfalls along MN-61 on the North Shore of Minnesota. The iron-red colors on the rock accentuate the gently-flowing waterfall. There are very colorful shots to be had here. It’s almost the opposite of the waterfalls in Oregon, where the rocks are all green. Here the rocks are red without much hint of green life on the rocks. Stop and take a look at this smaller waterfall. It’s likely you’ll be the only person there, and yet it’s so easy to get to.

Directions:

  1. Heading southwest from Grand Marais, drive for 2 miles on MN-61. You’re looking for mile-marker 107.
  2. Around mile marker 107, you will likely see a gravel pit, and just south of that is the Fall River. You can park at the gravel pit or you can park just north of the river on the east side of the ride.
  3. From there, look for the Fall River, and right near the river, you should see a trail heading toward Lake Superior. Follow this trail for a short distance, and you should find the falls.

Accessibility: 9/10 (easy)
Height: 30′
Length of Hike: 0.2 miles round-trip

Where in the World is Fall River Falls?

Big Manitou Falls, Wisconsin

Big Manitou Falls from the left viewpoint in May 2010 (with fresh snow falling)

Big Manitou Falls is big. It has the distinction of being one of the tallest waterfalls in the region that includes Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota, and possibly even the Lake Superior watershed. At 165′ tall, it’s not shabby.

Now, the unlucky thing about Big Manitou Falls…The views really aren’t truly spectacular. There’s no obvious (or SAFE) way to get to the base of the falls, and the view from the left side of the river, while good, are not top notch. I think from the major viewpoint, you can’t get a real sense of how tall the falls are. There are trails on the right side of the river, but they don’t seem to lead anywhere important. Oh well, it’s still a nice waterfall. Check out the smaller, but equally impressive, Little Manitou Falls.

An update from August 2015:  When I first visited Big Manitou Falls, I viewed the falls from the left side of the river (once facing the falls). It wasn’t particularly easy to get a complete view of the falls. On the return visit, five years later, I discovered that there was another viewpoint on the right side of the falls. This viewpoint provides a much more complete picture of the falls, though you still won’t be at the base. I actually think seeing the falls from both sides provides some uniquely different pictures.

Directions:

  1. From US-2/US-53 in Superior, head south on WI-35 for 13 miles, following the signs to Pattison State Park.
  2. Once you reach Pattison State Park, you can turn left and go toward the camping area. There is a trail that leads to the falls…
  3. Or after paying at the area mentioned in step 2, you can continue down WI-35 for a short distance, turn onto County Road B, and find the parking area just to the left. This leads much closer to the falls, and allows for easy access to the right viewpoint.

Accessibility: 10/10 (easy)
Length of Hike: 0.2 miles round-trip
Height: 165′

A view of Big Manitou Falls from the right (in August 2015)

Where in the World is Big Manitou Falls?

Cross River Falls, Minnesota

The lower portion of Cross River Falls in May 2010

Cross River Falls is probably one of the easiest waterfalls to visit along Minnesota’s North Shore, and it is definitely worth a visit. It is literally feet from MN-61, and can actually be seen as you’re driving by.

The upper portion of the falls is the second photo in the post, and this is the portion that can be viewed very easily. I’m betting that the falls look best in spring as the snow is melting, though this falls is large enough that it probably exists throughout the summer. The falls are larger than they appear in the photo. There’s a visual illusion that’s occurring here, making it difficult to truly understand its size just from a picture.

There’s a special present hidden from sight, though. If you look on the opposite side of the road, you’ll notice a trail that leads downhill to another portion of the river. From there, you’ll see a second drop (photo to the right). The second drop is narrower than the first drop, making it look equally as powerful. It does require a little bit of effort to get to the falls, and you will have to likely do some rock-hopping to get the best view of the falls. If you rotate 180 degrees, you’ll get some other great views of the Cross River as it approaches Lake Superior.

Directions:

  1. Cross River Falls is found right in the town of Schroeder, Minnesota.  Schroeder is found directly along MN-61.  This can be accessed by heading north from Duluth for just over 80 miles.
  2. Schroeder is a smaller town, but it is distinct, and hard to miss.  The Cross River is very clearly marked with a sign, and you should be able to see from the falls.  If you miss the falls, it is a very easy turn-around to get back to the falls.  If you are heading north, a parking area is found directly before the falls, along with information signs.

Accessibility: 10/10 (easy to upper view), 6/10 (moderate to lower view)
Height: ~60′
Length of Hike: roadside

The upper portion of Cross River Falls

Where in the World is Cross River Falls?

Bridal Veil Falls, Michigan

I missed Bridal Veil Falls the first time I went searching for it…and I was staring right at it! Not that I would have been able to really tell. Bridal Veil Falls is extremely seasonal in nature. Of the three (maybe four) times I’ve visited the falls, I’ve only seen water flowing once. It actually baffles me that it gets so much attention compared to the more impressive waterfalls in the park.

The first time I visited, I took a picture of the cliffs, and then realized later that I had taken a picture of the spot where Bridal Veil Falls was, but there was really no water flowing. It was “wet”, but it just looked like any normal cliff. That was understandable, considering it was July or August, and it had dried up by then.

The second time I visited in May, and by then the waterfall had already dried up. I was surprised it had disappeared so quickly. The third time was the charm, and I finally saw the falls. If you look to your right while standing at the Miners Castle viewpoint, you might be able to see the falls if they’re flowing. They can also be seen from the Miners Beach if you’re looking at just the right angle. To get a good photo from any of those spots, you really do need a camera that can zoom in, as you’re still some distance from the falls.

I also hiked along an unofficial trial to see if I could get a better view, starting right near Miners Beach Falls. It was a very muddy hike, and in the end, I have to admit I really didn’t get any better views. I did get to see some other beautiful scenery, though. You might consider taking a cruise, but I wouldn’t bet on seeing the falls unless it’s been raining like crazy. Take a cruise to see the much more impressive and permanent Spray Falls.

Directions:

  1. Go down Miner’s Castle Road (Alger County Road H-13) passing over Miners River.
  2. You’ll reach a point where you can turn left toward Miners Castle or turn right toward the Lakeshore trail head. Head toward Miner’s Castle, and from the Miner’s Castle viewpoint, you might just be able to see the falls.
  3. From the Lakeshore trail head, you might also try heading toward Lake Superior, and if you walk down the beach, the falls will come into view at some point.

Accessibility: 10/10 (easy)
Height: 134′
Length of Hike: not applicable

Bridal Veil Falls in mid-May 2009

Where in the World is Bridal Veil Falls?

Split Rock Falls #3, Minnesota

Split Rock State Park is most widely known for the amazing Split Rock Lighthouse. Inside the park, though, is the Split Rock River. Along the river, there are a number of drops. As a whole, the set of waterfalls are not extremely exciting. The hike is very beautiful, but some of the drops are blocked by trees, while others are smaller. The red rock along the river is the one thing that makes the waterfalls more memorable.

This is really the first waterfall along the river that a clear view can be obtained. There are one or two other large drops before this that are tricky to photograph, even in early spring when the trees really hadn’t started getting leaves. The 3rd falls is wider but rather nondescript.

Directions:

  1. Heading north on MN-61 along the Lake Superior shoreline, you’ll enter Split Rock State Park. The Split Rock River is very close to the southern boundary, and so you’ll see the parking area.
  2. A sign indicating the Split Rock River is your best bet at identifying the parking lot for the falls. It is a smaller parking lot used frequently by fisherman. At the start of the trailhead, you’ll see a sign indicating the trail.
  3. After about 0.5 miles, you’ll come to a fork in the trail. Head along the right fork, where you’ll soon come to West Split Rock River Falls. Keep heading along that trail, which goes on for a considerable distance. I only traveled about 2 miles along the trail (one-way).

Accessibility: 7/10 (easy/moderate)
Height: 30′
Length of Hike: 2 miles round-trip the many falls

The 3rd drop on the Split Rock River (May 2010)

Where in the World is Split Rock Falls #3?

Big Garlic Falls, Michigan

Big Garlic Falls (could also be Upper Garlic Falls) is not a large waterfall, but it’s still a pretty waterfall nonetheless. Now getting to the Big Garlic River is not that difficult, but I’m not sure that I would be able to find this specific waterfall again in a quick and timely fashion. I think it would be more appropriate to say we “stumbled” upon it, with some guided help.

There are supposed to be at least 5 noticeable drops on the Big Garlic River, but this is the only impressive one that we saw. We did visit a set of rapids further upstream, which weren’t very memorable except for the very clear scent of garlic in the area. We then drove back toward the main road, and stopped where it seemed “appropriate”, and found the falls mentioned here. Otherwise, I really am not sure if there are clear directions except to just explore the area once you get there…

Directions:

  1. When in Marquette, turn left onto Sugarloaf Avenue, which will become County Road 550. Head northwest on that road for about 12.5 miles. You will know you’re on the right road if you pass the parking area for Sugarloaf Mountain (which you can hike up or climb the stairs for a great view of Marquette and Lake Superior).
  2. After 12.5 miles, you’ll drive over the bridge crossing the Big Garlic River. Continue for 1.2 more miles.
  3. Turn left onto Gold Mine Rd. and head about 2.8 miles down the dirt road.
  4. I think (it’s a little fuzzy) that we parked on the side of the road there (or off on the side) and then walked toward the Big Garlic River, and from there found these falls. The book we used suggested the other falls were just downstream, but we couldn’t see any “easy” way to go and visit them, so we just skipped them.

Accessibility: 9/10 (easy)
Height: 15′
Length of Hike: 0.2 miles round-trip

Big Garlic Falls in October 2009

Where in the World is Big Garlic Falls?

Upper Gooseberry Falls, Minnesota

Gooseberry Falls State Park is one of the more popular state parks along the North Shore of Minnesota, and you’ll definitely want to stop and take the hike to see the falls. There are 4 great falls in the park, all very photogenic and three that are easy to visit. Only Fifth Falls requires a longer hike to view. I first visited Lower and Middle Falls and then started on the loop trail that led me to Fifth Falls. I was on the north side of the river, and did not see Upper Falls on the hike to Fifth Falls. Hiking along back on the south side of the river afforded a really great view of the falls.

You actually have to be pretty careful when viewing Upper Gooseberry Falls, as I don’t remember there being any guard rails anywhere near the falls.  In one way, that can be nice, as it doesn’t prohibit your view, and yet you still do have to be aware that there is a significant drop to the river below.

Directions:

  1. From MN-61, turn into the entrance for Gooseberry Falls State Park.
  2. Head to the parking area for the visitor’s center, where you will be able to easily access the falls. There does not appear to be a fee to enter this park.
  3. Head west on the south side of the river, pass under the bridge, and you’ll shortly arrive at Upper Falls.

Accessibility: 10/10 (easy)
Height: 30′
Length of Hike: 0.5 miles round-trip

Upper Falls in Gooseberry Falls State Park in May 2010

Where in the World is Upper Gooseberry Falls?

Spray Falls, Michigan

Spray Falls plunging into Lake Superior (August 2010)

I’ve been wanting to visit Spray Falls for a considerable amount of time, and I’ve been finally able to add it to the list of waterfalls I’ve seen. I’ve visited the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore about seven or eight times by now, and I’ve always put off visiting Spray Falls.

I’ve read stories that made it sound like it was a terrifying journey to view the falls from the trail. I thought to myself, “I shouldn’t go alone just in case something bad happens.” Other descriptions also made it seem like there weren’t so great views of the falls from the trail, and that the only real way to get a great view was from the Pictured Rocks cruise. Well, that’s a bunch of bull.

The hike to the falls is not short, though.  It is rather long. I think the book I have says about 3 miles one-way, but I would hazard to say that it is longer than that. There is a lot of curving as you hug the shoreline. There are some steep parts, but they’re not all that bad. It’s just a long hike, but well worth it!!! You get to be rewarded with the view of a waterfall plunging into Lake Superior. And by the way, it is MUCH more interesting than Bridal Veil Falls, which people seem to have an obsession with when showing pictures that represent the Pictured Rocks. Spray Falls is NOT seasonal, which makes it much more worth it to hike to see the falls.

Directions:

  1. From Munising, head east on H-58 for 20 miles or so.
  2. You’ll pass the center of Melstrand on your way, and then you’ll come to the road leading to Little Beaver Lake. Take a left onto that road, and head down that road for about 3 miles.
  3. On your left there will be a parking area for the trail head.  Park here.
  4. Start your journey at the trail head. It can be a little confusing at first. You’ll be starting on the White Pine Trail, which is not very clearly marked. You’ll see a bunch of numbered signs, though, that indicate you’re following the right trail. There is another “fake” trail that looks like it might lead somewhere, but it doesn’t.
  5. After about 0.5 miles, you’ll see a sign pointing toward Lake Superior and Beaver Lake. Head toward Lake Superior. It will wind around for a ways.
  6. After a while, you’ll be at Lake Superior. Look for the sign that points toward Chapel Beach. You want to follow this trail, which will be to your left. You’ll follow this trial for however long, passing by a number of a campground sites. FINALLY, after much effort, you’ll come to the sign indicating Spray Falls which leads to the “outlook”. It’s a cliff edge, though it wasn’t really that scary, and that’s coming from someone who’s not a fan of heights. Then return the way you came or head on to Chapel Beach, another 2 miles further.

Accessibility: 3/10 (hiking), 10/10 (cruise)
Height: 70′
Length of Hike: 6 miles round-trip

Wide view of Spray Falls and the Pictured Rocks

The view of the falls from the Pictured Rocks Cruise

Where in the World is Spray Falls?

West Split Rock River Falls, Minnesota

West Split Rock River Falls in May 2010

In searching for waterfalls to visit during my trip along the North Shore of Minnesota, I found the waterfalls on the Split Rock River. They sounded very interesting and all. I found the parking area for the trail that leads to the falls, which is not as apparent as it should be.

I started hiking along, and after about 0.5 miles, West Split Rock River is the first waterfall you stumble upon. I have a hunch that it is not on the same river as the others, considering that the volume going over the falls is considerably different than that on the Split Rock River. I was pleasantly surprised to find this fall, and you can get very close to it.

Oddly enough, this is probably the only waterfall I would ever consider visiting again along the trail that leads to the other falls. After this trail, I felt like I was walking along forever and not really getting great views of any of the waterfalls. There may be a few waterfalls that could be impressive if there weren’t trees blocking them while simultaneously being 100+ feet above them. They just weren’t that impressive, while this little gem stood out.

An Update from August 2015:  Well, it ends up that this is a seasonal waterfall. While many of the waterfalls in Minnesota are still flowing fairly well in August, West Split Rock River Falls is reduced to barely a trickle.

Directions:

  1. Heading north on MN-61 along the Lake Superior shoreline, you’ll enter Split Rock State Park. The Split Rock River is very close to the southern boundary, and so you’ll see the parking area.
  2. A sign indicating the Split Rock River is your best bet at identifying the parking lot for the falls. It is a smaller parking lot used frequently by fisherman. At the start of the trail head, you’ll see a sign indicating the trail.
  3. After about 0.5 miles, you’ll come to a fork in the trail. Head along the right fork, where you’ll soon come to West Split Rock River Falls.

Accessibility: 7/10 (easy/moderate, a little steep at the beginning, but still doable)
Height: 20′
Length of Hike: 1 mile round-trip

DSC_0102

The falls reduced to barely a trickle in August 2015

Where in the World is West Split Rock River Falls?