Waterfalls on the Gunflint Trail

The recent spring-like weather on the Gunflint Trail has us thinking about the time in the not-so-distant future when the ice will disappear from the region’s rivers and lakes. As all of the winter’s snow and ice melt, the region’s waterfalls start gushing. It’s a great time to grab your camera and take a hike in the spring woods to watch the area’s rivers churn.

The North Shore of Minnesota is well-known for its waterfalls and it’s worth heading up the Gunflint Trail into the interior of Cook County to find some hidden gems of falls. Here are some of our favorite waterfalls along the Gunflint Trail:

Waterfall along Stairway Portage: One of the spots on the Gunflint Trail that seems to hold a special place in many people’s hearts is the Stairway Portage from Duncan Lake to Rose Lake. Beside the staircase on the portage — which was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s — you’ll find a wonderful waterfall. You’ll have to hike or canoe to this scenic spot. The waterfall is accessible by canoeing from West Bearskin Lake to Duncan Lake or by hiking the Caribou Rock Trail.  The trail head for the Caribou Rock Trail, as well as the canoe put-in point for West Bearskin Lake, are both located on the Hungry Jack Lake Road (Cook County Road 65). Whether you paddle or hike, pack a lunch; this makes a great day trip!

If you want another waterfall adventure, you can paddle into Johnson’s Falls, located off of the Pine Lake/Canoe Lake portage on the Pine Lake end. Start your trip either on East Bearskin or Clearwater Lake.

Gull River at Trail’s End Campground: Looking for something more accessible than the Stairway Falls or Johnson’s Falls? Gull River normally ripples through the rapids at Trail’s End Campground, but during the spring thaw, this section of river is  filled with dramatic waterfalls and churning water.  It’s just a short hike through the campground to reach the rapids and with all those picnic tables and fire grates nearby, it’s the perfect place for a spring picnic.

Larch Creek near the Seagull Guard Station: It would be easy to drive right past this sweet little waterfall which is tucked in the woods roughly 30 -4o ft off the Gunflint Trail.  Located about a mile up the road from the Magnetic Rock Trail head, Larch Creek takes a plunge just before you reach the Seagull Guard Station. The waterfall is located on the left hand side as you head up the Gunflint Trail.

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