Happy Trails: Caribou Falls Trails is an easy to access stunner
And, at the time, the prospect of seeing one up close seemed closer to fantasy than reality.
Since then, of course, I’ve been to Gooseberry, but hadn’t seen or heard of Caribou Falls.
On Monday I drove an hour and a few shoreline changes just past Little Marais and pulled into the Caribou Falls State Wayside parking lot at 7232 Minnesota Highway 61.
A couple cross the Caribou Falls Trail in Silver Bay on July 12, 2021. There you will find a wooded, easy to access hike to a waterfall with views of a gorge, Lake Superior and more. Park in the Caribou Falls State Wayside parking lot at 7232 Minnesota Highway 61, just after Little Marais. (Melinda Lavine / [email protected])
There I met the Fonseca family from Andover, Minnesota, fresh out of Sugar Loaf Bluff and for a second getaway. “The family that hikes together,” okay?
Justin Fonseca, a student at the University of Minnesota in Duluth, said he heard the Caribou Falls Trail was “a hidden gem.” Not too crowded and well worth the short hike.
Joanne, Todd, Ryan and Justin Fonseca all talked about how the hike appeals to the senses: the blues and greens of nature, the sound of flowing water, the views of cliffs and mountains.
“It’s pretty flat where we’re from, so it’s nice to come here and hike and see Lake Superior spreading out around you,” added Justin.
(Gary Meader / [email protected])
As for the Thompson family, this trail is old fashioned. They visit Lutsen together every year and most of them have been on this trail before.
“It’s relaxing; it’s beautiful. You get a little water massage when you swim,” Dylan Thompson said of the falls.
His advice: “Expect to swim.
A butterfly lands on a leaf along the Caribou Falls Trail in Silver Bay on Monday, July 12, 2021. While hiking that day, several butterflies of different colors flew over the trail. (Melinda Lavine / [email protected])
I took the trail solo, noticing the buzz of the Caribou River on my left and a distant pulsation of the falls. I spotted doggies on a leash, kids with wet hair and their guardians; a few paired hikers; and a group of middle-aged men walking in single file.
It is a narrower path with several ramifications to make room or discover the river or the woods.
Pine, birch and spruce trees lined the trail and I encountered more butterflies than I saw all summer. It was hot and I was thankful for my borrowed brimmed hat and the many wooded places to hang some shade.
It’s an out and back trail to the falls that is half a mile one way, and is well maintained. Saw zero litter but lots of signs to pick up after yourself.
A steep wooden staircase takes you from the Caribou Falls trail to a secluded waterfall on July 12, 2021. There are many landings where you can rest if you need to. (Melinda Lavine / [email protected])
Soon I descended a steep wooden staircase as the waterfall roared past, pouring a constant stream from the high peaks.
The majesty and wonder of the falls was overwhelming. With my mouth open and my knees weak, I walked slowly down the stairs, grabbing the two handrails.
Compared to Gooseberry Falls, this area is secluded and a bit more accessible for aspiring solitary swimmers. Isolation seemed sacred and welcome.
After wasting some time to the sound of the falls, I started my cardio on the way up where there are plenty of landings you can rest for if you need to.
A sign “Dangerous. Keep the Kids Handy ”acts as a warning to parents and lonely adult hikers near a cliff along the Caribou Falls Trail in Silver Bay on Monday July 12, 2021. (Melinda Lavine / [email protected])
Not ready to turn around, I ventured out onto the trail to find steeper, less rocky terrain. I reached a platform overlooking the Caribou River Gorge and Lake Superior, and again realized my, say, respect for heights.
There is access to the Superior hiking trail, but I only went to a small clearing with benches made from fallen logs and a dug fire pit.
I imagined going around in circles with loved ones, I noticed the change of terrain around me, before finally leaving.
I zigzagged down the steep hill, taking my time to stand. Back on flatter ground, I came up behind an older couple, each with canes in hand, and made another mental note for the next time.
A sign welcomes visitors to the Caribou Falls Trail at State Wayside Field at 7232 Minnesota Highway 61, Monday, July 12, 2021. (Melinda Lavine / [email protected])
Deep sunken tree roots and rocks dot the Caribou Falls Trail in Silver Bay on Monday, July 12, 2021. Go up the wooden stairs to the waterfall for smoother terrain on a steep incline. (Melinda Lavine / [email protected])
On Monday July 12, 2021, a hiker ahead of his group takes a turn on the Caribou Falls Trail near Silver Bay. Spruce, birch and pine trees line the trail which has an entry point to the Superior hiking trail. It is a narrower trail in many places, with several ramifications to make way or explore the river or the woods. (Melinda Lavine / [email protected])
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