In Minnesota, we love our lakes, no doubt about it. We sail, we kayak, we wait for winter so we can build cool fishing shanties. There is something calming about staring out into a flat, glassy lake, isn’t there? But maybe that simply isn’t enough for you today. Are you looking for some drama from your next nature walk? Some dewy, refreshing air? A new spot for an impressive selfie? Aha! Sounds like it is time to chase some waterfalls (no matter what TLC has to say about it). Let’s go on an adventure together to find the best waterfalls in the Twin Cities area, shall we?
The most obvious suggestion, of course, is Minnehaha Falls. Minnehaha Regional Park is one of Minneapolis’ oldest and most popular parks, attracting more than 850,000 visitors a year. That is in no small part due to the falls, which drop for an impressive 53 feet from limestone bluffs, and are known to freeze over in the winter. While visible from a bridge right above, Minnehaha Falls is best observed after walking down a few steps to its base. Once in the ravine, you can continue along a walking path by the stream for a pleasant miniature hike. In fact, Minnehaha Park has hiking trails that lead all the way to Fort Snelling, if you are so inclined. The park also features several gardens, outdoor sculptures, historic homes, a wading pool, and novelty bikes for rent. Perhaps the most important feature (other than the falls themselves, silly) is Sea Salt, a scrumptious seafood restaurant known to attract long lines.
Are you in search of a more secluded spot? In that case, may I humbly recommend Hidden Falls in St. Paul’s Hidden Falls Park, perfect for the introvert in all of us. Fed by a small spring, this less-populated attraction is the reason the area became one of St. Paul’s original four major parks, selected by landscape architect Horace Cleveland in 1887. The trails are unmarked, so be prepared to wander, explore, and take in the grandeur of some old growth trees. The “hidden” in Hidden Falls is no joke — the falls can be hard to locate. I’ll take some of the mystery out of it and tell you to follow the trail behind the women’s restrooms. (Shhh! It’s a secret!) The park also has a boat launch in case you plan to catch some panfish from the great Mississippi. If you do, invite me over for a fish fry, s’il vous plaît.
If you have time in your agenda to venture outside of the immediate area, then I have another suggestion for you: Cannon Falls. These falls are located in a town of the same name about one hour south of the cities. Strangely enough, the locale has absolutely nothing to do with cannons. Nope, the name comes from a misunderstanding of the word “canoe!” The waterfall is part of Cannon River and can easily be enjoyed from the Cannon Valley Trail. Formerly a railroad track, it is now a paved, 20 mile hiking trail connecting the town of Cannon Falls to Red Wing. The path is wide and well-maintained, making it perfect for biking or rollerblading. You’ll also be happy to learn that Cannon Falls is also home to Cannon River Winery, which has a large tasting room featuring wines made from locally grown grapes. (Yes, you apparently can grow grapes in Minnesota — who knew?) It’s the perfect spot to stop after some romantic waterfall appreciation.
By Liz Walker