With its gnarled cedars, pristine cascades, and prime location on the North Shore, Gooseberry Falls State Park ranks among Minnesota’s most iconic green spaces. It’s also one of the busiest, receiving an average of around 750,000 visitors each year. And while the summer crowds give the place a buzzy, communal energy, Gooseberry on ice has its own charms—namely frozen falls, ski and snowshoe trails, and noticeably fewer selfie sticks.
What to Know Going In
*The park is located just off State Highway 61, 40 miles northeast of Duluth. Winter hours are 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily (9 a.m. to 4 p.m. for the visitor center).
*Only one trail to the Upper Falls is maintained in the winter. No matter where you plan to hike, bring ice cleats (or purchase them at the park store) to avoid slipping.
*From 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on Feb. 15, Gooseberry will host its annual luminary event, when snowshoers, hikers, and Nordic skiers explore candlelit trails.
What to Do Once You're There
*Hike to the Upper Falls, which freezes during extended periods of cold weather. Keep an eye out for the ice climbers who flock to the Middle and Lower Falls in January and February.
*Hit the park’s 15 miles of groomed cross-country ski trails, including the 4K skate-ski loop.
*Just north of the Gooseberry River, an ungroomed section of the Gitchi Gummi Trail that leads to a Lake Superior overlook is open to snowshoers and hikers. It’s a stunning vista on a sunny winter’s day.
*The park maintains a few drive-in campsites in the off-season if you’re feeling hardy.
*Gooseberry Falls State Park opened in 1937 and today spans 1,687 acres.
*The Gooseberry River, which flows through the park, is thought to be namedafter the Anishinaabe name Shab-on-im-i-kan-i-sibi or the French explorer Sieur des Groseilliers. Both names refer to gooseberries.
*During warm-weather visits to Gooseberry, admire the dark basalt bedrock at the park’s waterfalls—the result of billion-year-old lava flows.