Nestled along the North Shore of Lake Superior, Gooseberry Falls State Park boasts breathtaking waterfalls, year-round recreation, north woods wildlife, and rich history. Visitors to this northern Minnesota state park can marvel at the park’s five waterfalls, watch for ships on Lake Superior from the park’s stunning shoreline, and hike, ski, or snowshoe throughout the park’s 1,700 acres—making it an obvious addition to your RV adventure bucket list.
Visitors of all walks of life will enjoy exploring this gateway to the North Shore. Hikers can traverse the park’s 20 miles of hiking trails, wildlife enthusiasts can try to spot some of the park’s 225 recorded species of birds and 46 species of mammals, skiers can cross-country ski along 12 miles of groomed trails in the winter, and cyclists can enjoy 15 miles of paved biking trails. History buffs will meanwhile appreciate soaking up the rich history of the park: the Cree, the Dakotah, and the Ojibwe all lived along the North Shore at different times, and the Gooseberry River appeared on explorer maps as early as 1670. One of the most visible historical legacies in Gooseberry Falls State Park is that of the Civilian Conservation Corps, who began to develop the park in 1934, and whose log and stone structures remain key features of the park.
Visitors to Gooseberry Falls State Park can take advantage of the park’s 69 drive-in sites. While camping is available year-round, this Minnesota state park features cold, snowy winters, so after a heavy snowfall, all but two or three of the campsites are walk-in only, since campground roads are not plowed. Visitors hoping to enjoy summer hiking and fall foliage should visit during peak season from May to mid-October, while those wishing to enjoy cross-country skiing and snowshoeing should plan to visit in the winter months.
Situated just off of Minnesota State Highway 61, Gooseberry Falls State Park, considered the gateway to Lake Superior’s North Shore, is the first of several state parks dotting the Lake Superior shoreline between Duluth and the Canadian border. Its convenient location just off the highway makes this state park very easy to reach in an RV or car, except the snowy months, which during times of heavy snowfall, might considerably slow your drive down.
Once inside the park, navigating in a rig is similarly easy during the in-season, non-winter months. Parking is available both at the campsites and in designated areas throughout the park, including near the Visitor Center, between the campground and the Picnic Flow Area, near Lady Slipper Lodge, and at two areas within the campground. The roads within the campground are narrow with some tight turns, so drive with caution in that area. Most of the campsites are back-in, but three are pull-through, offering easier access for larger rigs.
Within the park, guests can stock up on novelty items at the park’s Gift Shop, but for more extensive supply needs, guests can find several restaurants, shops, and a grocery store 14 miles southwest in Two Harbors.
Visitors to Gooseberry Falls State Park can stay in one of the park’s 69 non-electric sites. While these sites do not offer electric, water, or sewer hookups, guests can make use of nearby water, showers, and a dump station open seasonally from May through late October. Water and restrooms are located at multiple spots throughout the campground, and the dump station is located at the entrance to the campground. Most of the sites are back-in, but three sites are pull-through, for easier access for large rigs. While the campground is open year-round, all but two or three campsites become walk-in only after a heavy snowfall, since campground roads are not plowed. These sites can accommodate RVs up to 40 feet and can be reserved online up to a year in advance.
If all the sites are full at Gooseberry Falls State Park, or if you're looking for a longer list of amenities than the park offers, you won't have to travel far. The city of Duluth is 45 minutes south of the park and has dozens of options for RVs and trailers. Numerous RV resorts offer a plethora of enticing facilities, including full hookups, seasonal pools, and hot tubs, laundry facilities, and Wi-Fi.
If you're headed north to explore more of Lake Superior's shoreline, there are a number of state parks located along the way. Tettegouche State Park is a mere 20-minute drive and offers electrical hookups at their RV-friendly campground. Temperance River State Park is around 45 minutes from Gooseberry Falls and also offers electric hookups to guests. If you're headed all the way up to Canada, you'll run into Cascade River State Park. This park has a campground that offers electric hookups, and a few sites even stay open through the harsh winter months.
Visitors at any time of year will be enthralled by the CCC legacy that remains highly visible throughout the park. The CCC began to develop the park in 1934, a year after the legislature authorized the preservation of the area around Gooseberry Falls, out of concern that the North Shore might be accessible only to the rich with the rise in tourism. The men of the CCC built the park’s 300-foot long Castle in the Park stone retaining wall and various stone and log buildings, and also laid out the original campground, picnic grounds, and trails.
Visitors eager to break out their snowshoes will have even more to explore at Gooseberry Falls State Park. During the winter season, snowshoers are welcome anywhere in the park—including off-trail—except on groomed ski or snowmobile trails. Snowshoers looking to stay on-trail can try out the Gitchi-Gammi and Fifth Falls trails, which are designated as intermediate and advanced snowshoe trails. On Gitchi-Gami Trail, snowshoers will enjoy incredible views of Lake Superior and the Gooseberry River Valley, while on Fifth Falls Trail, snowshoers can check out the Fifth Falls, caves, and the CCC features. A warming hut can be found in the Visitor Center and is equipped with a fireplace, bathrooms, and a vending machine. If you didn't haul your own snowshoes along with you in the motorhome, rentals are available from local outfitters in the area.
While this North Shore park is a stellar summer destination, visitors who brave the cold will be in for a special treat, as the park transforms in winter into a snow-covered winter wonderland, offering a whole new range of recreation options throughout its 1,700 acres. One of the best ways to enjoy this park in winter is through cross-country skiing: visitors can trek across the 12 miles of trails groomed for cross-country skiing within the park. While most of these trails are moderate, some are easy, and a half-mile section is considered difficult. If you didn't bring your own gear along in the Sprinter, rentals are available from local outfitters near the park.
If you're interested in a more high-speed winter sport, attach the snowmobiles to the back of the rig and head to Gooseberry Falls State Park. Although only two miles of trail are accessible inside of the park, there are connector trails that will bring you to the C.J. Ramstad/Northshore Trail. This extension allows you to ride for hundreds of miles along the shores of Lake Superior from Duluth (located to the south of the park) to Grand Marais (north of the park). Be sure to dress in layers and bring plenty of water, as the Minnesota winters should be taken seriously.
This northern Minnesota state park has recorded over 225 species of birds, 46 species of mammals, and ten species of reptiles and amphibians—giving wildlife enthusiasts plenty to look out for during their RV camping trip. In particular, visitors can look out for gray wolves, black bears, white-tailed deer, pine martens, ravens, and herring gulls. Birdwatchers who come to Gooseberry Falls in the fall and spring can look out for the many migratory birds visiting the park since the park is located along the North Shore flyway.
Luckily for cyclists, Gooseberry Falls State Park has more than just hiking trails to offer visitors: the park also boasts miles of paved biking trails. Guests eager to explore the area on two wheels can hop on Gitchi-Gami State Trail, which travels for over two miles within the park and extends for miles more beyond it —over 80 miles, in fact! Follow the trail to explore other northern Minnesota state parks and cities, including Schroeder, Tofte, Temperance River State Park, and Grand Marais. Cyclists can access this trail from the Picnic Flow Trailhead. Those looking to ride the trails will need to bring their own bikes along in the rig, as the park does not offer any rentals.
Guests eager to explore this 1,700-acre park by foot can take advantage of Gooseberry Falls State Park’s 20 miles of hiking trails, which wind through mixed evergreen, aspen, and birch forests bordering Lake Superior. Some of the trail highlights include the two-mile loop Fifth Falls Trail, which takes hikers up the river to the Fifth Falls and back, and the River View Trail, which winds past the falls and downstream to the mouth of the Gooseberry River and the Picnic Flow Area along Lake Superior. After a day of hiking, you'll be eager for your head to hit the pillow in the pop-up for the night.
Due to its convenient location alongside MN-61, Gooseberry Falls State Park is the perfect starting point for a scenic drive. You could spend hours, or even days, trekking north towards Canada along this picturesque route with Lake Superior visible from the passenger window of the campervan. In addition to the massive lake, you'll take in views of thick forests, steep rocky drop-offs, and maybe even some wildlife. There are plenty of pit stops available along the way. Numerous state parks can be accessed right off the highway, including Tettegouche State Park, Temperance River State Park, and Cascade River State Park. Charming small towns also dot the route, and road trippers can stop off for a bite to eat, or spend some time shopping at local gift stores.