Waterfalls in Duluth MN are a great place to visit. There are 134 registered and named waterfalls and cascades in Minnesota and who knows how many more that are not officially named.
What came as a surprise to me is the fact that some of the Minnesota’s most beautiful waterfalls are located right in the city of Duluth. A short distance from this modern port city on the north coast of Lake Superior.
What, waterfalls in the city?
The city went to great efforts to leave much of its best natural features in big, well-maintained parks that include ancient trees, deep gorges, plenty of wildlife and some spectacular waterfalls. They built trails, bridges and visitors’ centers, but mostly left the parks as wild and unspoiled as possible to the delight of thousands of visitors.
The best waterfalls in Duluth MN are accessible, and happily visited by many, year-round. You can visit them any time of the year, but they are truly awe-inspiring when the rivers are swollen with snowmelt and the falls are wild and untamed.
Summer is the time when families from Duluth as well as tourists come to camp in the parks surrounding waterfalls to cool off from the city heat. In fall, they come for the brilliant foliage reflected in the waters and in winter to see waterfalls turning into lacy shimmering ice.
When visiting Duluth, I discovered that locals have a unique but very popular sport: waterfalling – visiting as many waterfalls as you can in one day or on a weekend. Many waterfalls are accessible by city busses or short hikes. Others are just a short drive away from the city’s bustle and noise.
Let’s do our own virtual waterfalling of the most beautiful waterfalls in Duluth MN and the surrounding area.
Best Waterfalls in Duluth MN – Right In The City
For a large urban center, Duluth has a surprising number of waterfalls that are accessible right from the city streets. They are all part of the big, beautifully maintained and protected parks.
1. Amity Creek Falls
Located in Lester-Amity Park, right in Duluth, Amity Creek and the Lester River merge under Superior Street. Amity Creek runs through Lester Park, almost parallel to the Lester River. You can reach the picturesque, narrow Amity Creek Falls by taking a longer, 1.5-mile hike starting at the park parking lot going northwest. The trail ends at the base of the falls. To reach the upper side of the falls, take the short (a quarter-mile) but steep trail up the hill across the footbridge.
There are restrooms, drinking water, grills, picnic tables, and a kids’ playground at the trailhead.
2. Lester River Falls
Lester River falls is another lovely fall located in the Lester-Amity Park, right in Duluth, Minnesota at 61st Avenue East and Superior Street.
The Lester Amity Park is a wonderful surprise to those who do not hike its trails regularly. This urban park is a hidden treasure, wild and unspoiled. It is hard to believe that it is surrounded by homes and office buildings.
Lester River runs through the park, creating a charming, 20-foot high fall surrounded by ferns, old magnificent trees and large round boulders. In the heat of the summer, it is a popular place for family picnics, cooled by the water mist and greenery.
To reach the falls, cross the Superior Street bridge for wonderful views and photos. There is a trail along the creek.
If you take the northeast trail, a lovely walk through dense woods will reward you with a series of tiny falls.
Lester River Falls is the most dramatic in spring when snowmelt brings roaring waters through the park. The trails are easy and range from 0.2 to about three miles.
3. Chester Creek Falls
Another magnificent Duluth park, Chester Creek Park is a popular weekend destination for those looking to cool off in the summer or to stretch their legs on one of many hiking trails.
There are trails on both sides of the creek, which drops a few times between Skyline Parkway and Fourth Street, forming lovely, scenic waterfalls.
The trailhead is located on the corner of 14th Ave east and 4th St and has a trail map and information about the park. No bikes are allowed.
The creek is very picturesque. A vertical rise of more than 260 feet in a one-mile distance creates many waterfalls as the creek flows down towards Lake Superior.
The creek is mostly shallow, with a few deeper pools. Large boulders along and in the creek are fun to hop from one to another. A few bridges across the creek allow you to go from one side of the creek to the other. The trails are easy and perfect for family outings.
At the trailhead, you can find restrooms, drinking water, grills, picnic tables, and a playground.
4. Tischer Creek Falls
In beautiful Congdon Park, in the heart of Duluth MN, between Superior Street and 4th Street, Tischer Creek runs through a mile-long gorge, forming a series of charming falls. It is not as impressive as some other falls along the North shore, but easy to access and a pleasure to visit any time of the year.
There is a trail along the creek through the gorge and another one up along the rim. You will never imagine that you are in the city park, the gorge is so wild and rugged.
The best way to reach the falls is by starting at Superior Street and hiking up the gorge trail. The park does not have a parking lot, so leave your car on Superior Street.
Little Further Afield
A short drive from Duluth along the northern coast of Lake Superior will take you to many other magnificent falls.
5. Swinging Bridge Falls
The 12-foot high Swinging Bridge Falls is located in the picturesque Jay Cooke State Park, near Carlton, about ten miles northwest of Duluth, MN.
You can reach the falls, actually a series of cascades, by taking a short hike from the Visitors Center/Rangers’ Station. If you park further up the road, you can see the falls from Oldenburg Point. At the Point, you can find the bathroom building and the picnic pavilion.
The falls got their name from the 220-foot long pedestrian bridge that crosses the St. Louis River and provides a breathtaking view of the falls.
The superstructure of the suspension bridge is supported by enormous stone-clad pylons made of reinforced concrete. The power of the river occasionally damages the bridge, which had to be repaired several times.
The park that surrounds the falls is very beautiful, covered in dense forests that are intersected by about 50 miles of hiking trails, including the paved Willard Munger State Trail. In the summer, when the water is low, it is possible to walk all the way down to the river and dip your feet in the cool water.
6. Gooseberry Falls
Gooseberry Falls State Park is located about 39 miles from Duluth on Minnesota Highway 61. It is worth a drive as the park has five falls, and four of them you can see from your car from Highway 61.
It is an easy hike from the parking lot, so leave your car at the Visitor Center and enjoy the pleasant walk. No park sticker is necessary.
The park is always full of people who come from all over the country to see the spectacular falls, even in the middle of the winter. Fall is the best and the most popular season to see the falls when they are surrounded by breathtaking fall foliage.
7. Devil’s Kettle Falls
Devil’s Kettle Falls, located on the Brule River.in Judge C.R. Magney State Park, about 128 miles North of Duluth and 20 minutes northwest of Grand Marais, Minnesota, up highway 61 is Minnesota’s most mysterious and unusual waterfall.
The river splits in two around a massive rhyolite rock. The eastern flow forms a two-step, 50-foot waterfall as it continues downstream. The western flow falls 10 feet into a hole, where it disappears underground. Where it goes is the topic of much speculation and scientific research. It is also the main reason why so many people visit this mysterious spot.
The stretch of the Brule River that runs through the Judge Magney Park has three waterfalls: Lower Falls, which drops seven feet before the mouth of Gauthier Creek, Upper Falls, dropping 25 feet, and Devil’s Kettle Falls. Only the lower part of the park is developed. The northern part is too rugged and in parts impossible to access.
The park has a summer-only campground and a bathroom building with toilets and showers.
There are nine miles of hiking trails. The main hike is the difficult 1.1-mile trail to the Devil’s Kettle and Upper and Lower Falls, with almost 200 stairs.
The Brule River is popular with anglers, who come for rainbow trout, brook trout, Chinook salmon and pink salmon.
The river also offers a great opportunity for whitewater kayaking.
8. Cascade Falls
Located on Cascade River in Cascade River State Park, between Lutsen and Grand Marais, Cascade Falls consists of four falls that cascade for a quarter mile through a narrow gorge before spilling into the Lake Superior.
The gorge is surrounded by massive ancient trees that burst into spectacular colors in the fall when the park gets filled with tourists trying to capture the best photo.
The trails through the park are fairly easy. The Superior Hiking Trail will take you to more falls farther upstream.
9. Hidden Falls
An hour and a half drive along MN-61 will take you to the Temperance River Gorge in Temperance River State Park on Minnesota’s North Shore, between Schroeder and Lutsen. The drive is well worth it to enjoy not only the lovely falls but stroll along the beach on the lake, walk on the rim of the gorge, climb down into the gorge, and even go swimming if you are adventurous enough.
The Temperance River carves out a twisted, narrow gorge for a quarter-mile before spilling into Lake Superior. In a narrow, deep part of the gorge, the river forms Hidden Falls, difficult to see, and even more difficult to get a picture of.
There is a bridge across the gorge you can use to cross from one side of the gorge to another. Just above Hidden Falls, there is an interesting series of potholes.
The park includes a campground, a series of hiking trails and some interesting rocks popular with climbing enthusiasts.
The Biggest Waterfall In Minnesota
If you are in Duluth and got hooked to waterfalling, you will not want to miss visiting the biggest waterfall in Minnesota. It will require a weekend visit to the Grand Portage State Park, 150 miles from Duluth, at the Minnesota-Ontario border. It is only about a three-hour drive but it is unforgettable.
10. High Falls on the Pigeon River
The High Falls is located in Grand Portage State Park, formed where the Pigeon River drops about 120 feet into the gorge. It is the biggest waterfall in Minnesota, but there is another, smaller fall on the river, also worth visiting.
The High Falls lookout is about 100 feet away from the falls. If you make it to the Wayswaugoing Bay Overlook, find some time to visit the Grand Portage National Monument
The park has a nice Visitors’ Center and a series of picnic spots, most of them overlooking the river.
About four miles of hiking trails cross the park. It includes the half-mile boardwalk to the High Falls overlook and the 3.5-mile loop that runs through the woods to the Middle Falls. About three miles of hiking trails are suitable for winter hiking. There are also snowshoeing trails – the park is a popular spot year-round.
The entire area of the Lake Superior north shore is breathtakingly beautiful any time of the year. There are many waterfalls worth visiting, all surrounded by well-managed parks that protect these natural treasures for future generations.
Some of the most beautiful parks and best waterfalls in Duluth, MN are surrounded by the busy urban life, providing an oasis of tranquility and opportunity for exercise for the locals as well as tourists.
If you are visiting Duluth and do not have much time, enjoy the falls right in the city. They require just a short, easy hike but their beauty is breathtaking.
If you fall in love with the best waterfalls in Duluth, you will surely get the ‘waterfalling bug’ and will want to explore other falls nearby.
Whether you come in spring, when the falls are a roaring force of nature, full of melted snow, or in the fall, when the rainbow of colors reflects in the falling waters, you will have memories you will never forget.