Snowshoeing the Kadunce River Gorge

Snowshoeing the Kadunce River Gorge

Snowshoeing the Kadunce River gorge is one of the most unique winter hikes on the North Shore! Hike the surface of the frozen Kadunce River, climb over frozen waterfalls, and explore the bottom of the narrow canyon. Snowshoeing the Kadunce River is an awe-strikingly awesome experience! 

Kadunce River Canyon frozen waterfall

Frozen waterfall inside the Kadunce River Canyon

Kadunce River

The Kadunce River crosses Highway 61 around mile marker 119, or 9 miles northeast of Grand Marais. There is a wayside parking lot on the Lake Superior side of the highway. 

Before snowshoeing the Kadunce River, be sure to check out the mouth of the river as it empties into Lake Superior. This beach area is a nice spot to enjoy Lake Superior, no matter the season. It is also a popular spot for anglers fishing for Lake Superior steelhead in the spring. 

Mouth of Kadunce River in winter

Lake Superior beach at the mouth of the Kadunce River in winter.

Hiking the Kadunce River gorge is popular in both winter and summer. Obviously, you will want to avoid hiking in the river during high water, like spring snowmelt. But it’s much easier and safer during the deep of winter. There is also a trail that traverses the top rim of the canyon and hooks up with the Superior Hiking Trail. 

Winter Hiking on the Kadunce River

From the parking area, cross Highway 61 to get to the river on the north side of the road. One thing that winter hikers know – you don’t need snowshoes on a packed trail. This is a popular hike, so unless it just snowed a ton, you may not need snowshoes. But you may want to wear ice grippers on your boots and bring a set of hiking poles.

The moment you step onto the river, it’s like a different world! Puffy snow mounds undulate across the narrow river, occasionally breaking away to glimpse of the water running underneath. Even when you can’t see the water running, you can hear it! 

Snow covered Kadunce River

Snow-covered Kadunce River

There’s not much of a canyon at the start of the hike, but the forest closing in around the river gives you a feeling of peaceful seclusion. 

Winter Waterfalls

Snowshoeing the Kadunce River gorge will bring you face-to-face with frozen waterfalls to climb over. I would say it’s more of stepping-up than climbing over, so don’t panic. If there is a packed-trail, it will lead you along the easiest, safest path. Sometimes there’s only a narrow ice shelf that hugs the canyon wall! Sometimes there are short, steep sections where it can be hard to get your footing. But it is very doable! Especially with ice grippers and hiking poles.

Hiking up frozen waterfall on the Kadunce River

Hiking up a frozen waterfall on the Kadunce

 Another doable challenge is that you will encounter open water. Especially at the base of a few of the waterfalls. So be careful, and maybe leave the dog at home for this hike. But like I said, it’s totally doable and super-cool!  

Hiking the Kadunce River canyon

Open water inside the Kadunce River Canyon

Inside the Deep Canyon

The Kadunce River gorge is a deep and narrow canyon, and one of the most beautiful and unique places to find yourself. And winter makes it so easy to access this breathtaking natural feature! 

Kadunce River gorge in winter

Deep canyon walls of the Kadunce River

Tall trees above the Kadunce River

Tall trees above the Kadunce River

The narrow walls of the canyon snake through the landscape creating those waterfalls, and amazing, towering, sculptured walls. See textured rhyolite up to the sky, ice cycles, and trees growing out of the rock way over your head. Hike through narrow pathways, sometimes only six feet across. The canyon walls are so tall that when you look up you can barely see the sky! There is nothing like being there. These words and pictures don’t do it justice! 

Kadunce River Hiking Trail

After stepping up another waterfall and emerging from the canyon, you can hop on the Kadunce River Hiking Trail for a quick return. This trail traverses the top of the river gorge and makes an easy finish to your hiking or snowshoeing adventure along the Kadunce River gorge. 

Kadunce River hiking trail in winter

Kadunce River hiking trail in winter

I’m not sure the distance of the canyon hike, but I would say it’s about a mile. With all of the oohing-and-awing, and picture taking along the way (which was excessive, since we were 3 photographers), it took my crew about 2 hours to do the loop. 

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Onion River Hiking Trail, Lutsen, MN

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2 thoughts on “Snowshoeing the Kadunce River Gorge

  1. Amber Rappe says:

    The website and booklet are amazing resources for anyone to learn from!!!

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