The summer season is fast approaching so I thought I would share with you one of my favorite places on the North Shore – Gooseberry Falls. Gooseberry Falls is a Minnesota state park that is located 40 miles north of Duluth on Hwy 61. It has three main waterfalls and one more that requires a hike into the park, but most visitors just visit the big three. The park also hosts many other trails for hiking and biking, as well as beaches on Lake Superior. Here are my 5 tips for visiting Gooseberry Falls with kids.
My husband and I used to drive up to Gooseberry on a whim and spend time at the park, but it takes more planning now that we have a little one (like everything when kids are involved!). So below are my top 5 tips for visiting Gooseberry Falls with kids.
Tip #1 Getting Started
Gooseberry Falls is an awesome place and you will probably spend more time there than you would have anticipated. With that in mind, pack water and snacks just to be safe. There are not spots out on the trails to refill water bottles or purchase snacks so bring your own. Just be sure to take every thing that you bring in out of the park again…remember, no littering! Also, there are lots of stairs in the park and on a hot summer day you can become dehydrated very easily. The visitor center is by the parking lots if you would like to fill water bottles before you get started. Another thing to consider is the weather. If you aren’t familiar with Lake Superior, it can be noticeably cooler than even a couple miles inland. Prepare for you and your little ones by packing an extra layer or two.
Tip #2 Plan for the Littles
Gooseberry is great for people of all ages and as far as water-falling on the North Shore, it is very accessible. The parking lots are easy to navigate and the visitor center is large and accommodating. The trail to the upper falls is nicely paved and easy to access via stroller or wheel chair. However, that is only to the upper falls – there are four in total. If you would like to visit the other waterfalls, a stroller is not going to work. I suggest a carrier for the little ones if you would like to do more exploring on the trails or falls. There is a lot to see at Gooseberry and a good carrier could make your trip that much more enjoyable!
Tip #3 Before you Hike…
As I said before, there is a visitor center near the parking lot. This is one of the only areas in the park where there are restrooms (there are also some down by the beach and campground but none along the falls). So be sure that everyone in your party uses the facilities before you start. I guarantee that if you only kinda have to go and you get to the falls and hear the thousands of gallons of water rushing over the cliffs, your kinda-have-to-go will change into a need-to-go!
Tip #4 Events
As mentioned, there is a fantastic visitor center at Gooseberry. For example, they have a section that is a dedicated education center. There is much to learn about the geography of the area and the plants and animals that call the park home. Gooseberry also offers many special events for learning at the park (you can check out their full calendar of events here). There is something for all levels of interest, including guided hikes, birding, interesting special programs, and geocaching.
Tip #5 Safety
I hate to bring down the mood with safety but it should be a serious consideration when out in the forests. Most accidents should be able to be avoided if the safety rules are followed. Gooseberry has signs posted that indicate warnings and risks – read them, follow them, and ensure everyone in your party follows them. There can be some real dangers in the park, so they are there for a reason. One of the biggest rules that I see people disregarding all the time is playing in the water. Because the river has some very strong currents, little kids could very easily be swept away. Stay out of the water in non-designated swim areas. These areas are also liable to change, so if you visit one year to the next the park may update these due to the ever changing nature of the river.
Also pay attention to warning signs at the beach. Lake Superior is obviously a very large body of water that is unpredictable. Things to be especially aware of are postings regarding rip tides and E. coli in the water. You can find more information on rip tides here and here. Though they are not an everyday occurrence, it is best to be informed!
I have one last safety note to pass on: be cautious on cliff edges because it’s easy for anyone to fall. But another is that the rock edge may not be stable and rock slides can (and do) occur, potentially endangering others. It is best to stay back from the edge and enjoy the view.
I sounded very much like a concerned mom in that last tip. But then again I am a mom so I guess if the hat fits, right?
My first tip is that it can get really busy during the day. Shoot for visiting early in the day and/or early in the evening.
Second tip – Gooseberry is family friendly, and that includes our four legged friends! Be sure that your pet can handle being around many people and keep them leashed at all times. Also clean up after your pet…it should be a given but some people don’t do it.
I hope with these tips you can have a fun family vacation at Gooseberry Falls. It is one of my favorite places on the North Shore and definitely worth checking out!
Let me know if you have any comments or questions. I would love to hear about your adventures at Gooseberry, so leave a comment below!
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