Stair Step Falls, Minnesota

Onion River Minnesota (6)

One portion of Stair Step Falls on the Onion River in August 2015

When my father, nephew, and I visited Stair Step Falls (also referred to as Onion River Falls) in August 2015, there wasn’t a whole lot of water flowing down the river. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t fun to explore. Starting at the Ray Berglund Wayside along MN-61, I remember climbing uphill toward the Onion River. Once you’ve climbed uphill toward the river, there are a lot of different options to deviate and see different drops.

When I looked at the original picture trying to determine the height of the falls, I said approximately 15′, but I remember now that there are numerous drops. I was trying to find out if anyone else has determined the height of the overall drop along the river, and I’m going to estimate it is at least 100′ from pictures that I’ve seen when there is a lot more water flowing. I do remember climbing and being able to stand on the river bed and look down a ways to the lake shore. At high flow, Stair Step Falls on the Onion River should be very impressive!

Directions:

  1. Drive along MN-61. Between Tofte (further south) and Lutsen (further north), you’ll find the Ray Berglund Wayside.
  2. It will be on the left of the road if headed north. Park here, and head uphill to find the falls. (There may be a new trail built since I’ve last been here, but I’m not sure.)

Accessibility: 6/10 (moderate)
Height: ~100′
Length of Hike: 1 mile round-trip (this may be shorter now, or unnecessary in high flow)

Onion River Minnesota (12)

Another portion of Stair Step Falls

Where in the World is Stair Step Falls?

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Kadunce River Falls, Minnesota

I recently mentioned a waterfall that I couldn’t remember. In the case of Kadunce River Falls, I do remember the waterfall, but what I don’t remember is why I didn’t continue further along the trail. I know I visited the first significant drop along the river, but there are at least three other drops along the river, including one which the authors of the book I used dubbed Heart of the Earth Falls.

It could be that the authors of “Waterfalls of Minnesota’s North Shore”, the Wallingas, mentioned there were steep canyon walls? (It’s a question.) I don’t really remember, but I’m not a fan of big drops, so I might have turned around. I’ve done that before, though usually the drops are much larger in magnitude. Instead, it could be that I was just really tired by that point. I did take this photo later in the day, and had visited MANY waterfalls previous to this one. It may have also been that I had wandered further but hadn’t found what I expected to find. I’m guessing it was some combination of all three, though most likely the tired factor.

Just getting to the base of this waterfall required a lot of effort. I remember being worn out and sweaty after this one waterfall. It’s maybe 70′ to the base, and it’s rather steep, though more manageable than one might expect. There’s a cool and creepy cave right next to the falls. It was a lot of work to see a ~10′ waterfall, but I was determined to have a photo of something. This also gives me a reason to go back and check out more waterfalls along the North Shore. (I really want to go in the fall when the leaves are changing!)

Directions:

  1. From Grand Marais, continue just over 9 miles northeast along MN-61 to the Kadunce River State Wayside.
  2. If headed northeast, the wayside will be on your right. You will then need to cross MN-61 to reach the trail.
  3. The total trail length is about 1 mile one-way to see all of the falls, if I understand correctly. This first waterfall might be about 0.3 miles in…

Accessibility: 2/10 (to get to base, it’s very slippery, though possible…Be careful!)
Height: 10′
Length of Hike: 0.6 miles round-trip

Kadunce River Falls in May 2010

Where in the World is Kadunce River Falls?

Upper Falls, Minnesota

Some waterfall names are just not that creative. Upper Falls is one such example, and the name really hides that fact that it’s a really cool waterfall. To add to the naming issues, the waterfall upstream is known as the Devil’s Kettle, and that just has to be one of the best waterfall names.

Both waterfalls are found on the Brule River in Judge C.R. Magney State Park. It’s a really beautiful, enjoyable hike to the falls. (I have to admit there were very few Minnesota North Shore waterfalls I didn’t enjoy.) The Devil’s Kettle gets more attention because the water disappears into a hole, and nobody seems to be able to figure out where it ends up. I personally think, though, that Upper Falls was more interesting. There were numerous trees blocking the view at the Devil’s Kettle, whereas it was a much more open view at Upper Falls. I visited in early May, and the falls were really flowing very well due to the recent snow melt. It was a spectacular time to visit the parks, as they weren’t at their busiest. In the future, I would like to visit the North Shore again in the fall when the trees are changing colors.

Directions:

  1. From MN-61 along the North Shore, you’ll be looking for Judge C.R. Magney State Park.
  2. Once you find the state park, you’ll turn left (if you’re heading north) into an entrance that winds a short ways to a parking area for the falls.
  3. From there, there’s about a 1 mile hike one-way to the two falls.

Accessibility: 6/10 (moderately steep in a few sections and a lot of stairs near the end)
Height: 30′
Length of Hike: 2.2 miles round-trip

Upper Falls in May 2010

Where in the World is Upper Falls?

Split Rock Falls #7, Minnesota

The Split Rock River is a beautiful hike near Minnesota’s North Shore. At the time, it wasn’t a favorite, and I do still believe there are other more interesting waterfalls in the area. But after a period of time, I do believe the photographs of the falls along the river are more beautiful than I remember. The red rock in the area really stands out with this set of falls.

I think I might have been tired at the time. Some of the more interesting falls along this river are also the more difficult to view and photograph because of trees along with the natural curve of the river. I wouldn’t necessarily trust the numbering, but I think this was the 7th waterfall I was able to visit along the path. It is also the last that I viewed before turning around. The trail along the river continues on for a considerable distance. This falls actually seems to be two separate rivers/creeks that meet. It is interesting, but I wasn’t very close the falls.

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. Keep heading along that trail, which goes on for a considerable distance. I only traveled about 2 miles along the trail (one-way).

Accessibility: 6/10 (moderate)
Height: 30′
Distance of hike: 0.5 to 2.0 miles one-way, depending on how far you’d like to go…and it keeps going.

Split Rock River Falls #7 in May 2010

Where in the World is Split Rock Falls #7?

Split Rock Falls #4, Minnesota

There are a number of waterfalls along the Split Rock River (near Minnesota’s North Shore). I previously discussed one of the falls, Split Rock Falls #3. The main attraction in the park is the Split Rock Lighthouse, which is an absolutely amazing sight. The falls along the river are lesser known, which means you will likely have much of the trial to yourself.

I don’t particularly believe any of the falls are truly spectacular, but the hike is rather enjoyable. The thing I seem to notice the most is the iron-red color of the rock near the falls. This particular falls, which was about the fourth major drop, was partially hidden behind a large rock, at least from the vantage point I was at. If you have extra time, visit the falls, though they wouldn’t be one of my top choices.  Others are more interesting or spectacular.

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. 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: 2.0 miles round-trip to see many of the falls

A drop on the Split Rock River (in May 2010)

Where in the World is Split Rock Falls #4?

Beaver River Falls, Minnesota

I visited Beaver River Falls over two years ago, so when I started trying to think back, I couldn’t seem to remember a whole lot about the falls. And then it came to me, glimpses of the falls…

I do distinctly remember it was very easy to visit Beaver River Falls. It is essentially a roadside waterfall, found along the Beaver River in Beaver Bay. There is a large, circular parking area directly adjacent to the river and falls, though there weren’t many people there. As I got out of my car, I remember thinking that this was a really beautiful waterfall, and yet it was equally….frustrating? There were a number of different segments to the falls, and it wasn’t simple to try and photograph the whole falls. So what you end up with is a number of pictures showing what would be interesting waterfalls by themselves, but you lose the totality of the impressive whole. And yet, it is fun to explore both upstream and downstream, trying to find the best vantage point to capture at least part of the falls. I ended up with at least two different views of the falls, and there may have been even more that I did not post.

An update from August 2015:  Looking back, I guess I’m not sure why I found Beaver River Falls so “frustrating”, though I guess I do agree that you can’t take a photo of the whole falls easily. The drops are close enough to classify it as one falls and yet far enough away to capture the whole thing. When I visited the park, it had been recently redone, and there was some very weak fencing (1′ or so high) that people had climbed over to see the falls. The trails are pretty obvious, though be careful during rainy weather, as the rocks near the falls can become very slippery. In August, there isn’t nearly as much water flowing over the falls (which is to be expected). (There may be a viewpoint from the bridge that allows for a complete view of the falls, but if so, it’s not obvious that there is…)

Directions:

  1. This is a very easy waterfall found directly off of MN-61. If you’ve headed northeast from Duluth, you’ll be driving along MN-61.
  2. In the town of Beaver Bay, you’ll find a large circular parking area directly next to the Beaver River. You’ll know you’ve gone too far if you go over the Beaver River bridge on MN-61. Turn around if you do, or visit on your return.
  3. From the parking area, it’s just a short hike downhill to the falls. (As mentioned above, there may be a good view from the bridge, but there’s not an obvious path to the bridge. I may have been distracted by the other trails.)

Accessibility: 10/10 (easy)
Length of Hike: 0.1 mile round-trip
Height: ~50-60′

A lower portion of Beaver River Falls

An upper portion of Beaver River Falls

The upper portion of Beaver River Falls in August 2015

Where in the World is Beaver River Falls?

Middle Gooseberry Falls, Minnesota

When I think about waterfalls, I don’t often think about individual favorites, but often groups of falls within proximity to each other. And Gooseberry Falls State Park is a perfect example of this. It might not be my favorite set of falls, but there are a number of them on the Gooseberry River, AND they are surrounded by a number of other beautiful waterfalls along the North Shore of Minnesota.

Middle Gooseberry Falls is somewhat difficult to separate from its relative, Lower Falls. I believe there might be a way to “hike” down to the base of Middle Falls to get a better view, but I’m not 100% sure. Instead, you can get a pretty complete view of both Middle and Lower Falls together from a viewpoint further downstream. I don’t remember if the view was from the north bank of the river or while crossing the river on one of the bridges. Both falls together are impressive. Gooseberry Falls State Park is pretty popular, though, so choose your visit wisely. In early May, it was bustling, so I can’t imagine the summer months! (Trying to visit a few years later in August, we couldn’t find a parking spot…)

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. Follow the trail down to the first group of falls, which includes Lower and Middle Falls.

Accessibility: 10/10 (easy)
Height: 25′
Length of Hike: 1 mile round-trip

Both Middle and Lower Gooseberry Falls in May 2010

Where in the World is Middle Gooseberry Falls?