Sure, we’re the land of (over) 10,000 lakes. This winter, try something new: skip the usual trip across frozen lakes and instead pack a lunch for one spectacular excursion to Minnesota’s frozen waterfalls. Spend the afternoon exploring these breathtaking icy falls and hike the surrounding paths and trails for one incredibly picturesque afternoon.
Just be sure to have plenty of storage on your phone — you’re going to be taking a lot of pictures.
Exploring the frozen waterfalls of Minnesota
Banning State Park in Sandstone is home to this beautiful hidden gem. Tucked away a half mile into the park you’ll pass along scenic rocky paths and woods until you come upon the 12-foot falls seemingly in the middle of nowhere. This frozen falls is where the Wolf Creek meets Kettle River so be sure to also explore along the river and stream for even more stunning secluded landscapes.
Not too far from the metro, Minneopa Falls is well worth the drive to Minneopa State Park in Mankato. To reach the falls you’ll walk down a limestone stairway to a trail below in the valley that encircles the waterfall ensuring spectacular views of the frozen vista. The falls plummets 40 feet over a rocky edge into a gorge that will eventually flow into the Minnesota River. And if you can tear yourself away from the beautiful falls, you will also want to check out Bison Drive Road where you might be able to catch sight of bison roaming across 331 acres of the park.
The North Shore always guarantees a beautiful scenic backdrop. And Gooseberry Falls, of course, does not disappoint. You’ll be able to explore the icy and frozen waters of the Upper, Middle, and Lower Falls frozen in time as the water fell into the chasm below. Either hike, snowshoe, or cross-country ski the trails around the falls and be sure to stop at the overlook bridge for absolutely stunning views of the icy waterfalls.
More North Shore fun with the Cascades. You’ll find five small waterfalls make up the Cascades with an additional waterfall, Cascade Falls, situated further into the park. You can either hike, snowshoe, or cross-country ski the trails which will pass by overlooks and footbridges providing great views of the frozen falls. Spend the afternoon skiing the beginner loops, hiking the trails to the falls, and then wrap up your day relaxing and getting toasty warm in their warming house.
If you don’t want to venture outside the Twin Cities, Minnehaha Falls is your spot. Each year the falls freezes into a beautiful cascade of icy blues and turquoise making it a popular winter destination. Simply walk the trails around the falls and along the easily accessible overlooks for breathtaking views of the falls. However, even as alluring as it is, remember to not wander behind the falls for safety concerns with falling ice.
One of Minnesota’s more intriguing natural phenomenon, Devil’s Kettle Falls boasts a 50 foot falls on one side and on the other, a drop where the water plunges into a cavernous hole and completely vanishes. While they have figured out the water goes underground and comes out later to meet the river, it’s still an incredibly cool place to visit especially in the frozen wintertime.
If you’re looking for awe-inspiring views, look no further. At 120 feet, High Falls is the tallest waterfall in Minnesota and also located in the only park in the nation that shares land with a Native American Band—the Band of Ojibwe. In the winter, this immense falls is a particularly stunning sight. It’s an easy one mile round-trip hike to the falls or you can opt to snowshoe to the falls on non-plowed trails. And if you’re looking for a more challenging wilderness experience you can hike the rugged 5 mile round-trip trail to Middle Falls for more frozen and icy cascades.
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