Wheelchair Accessible Waterfalls
Wheelchair Accessible Waterfalls on the North Shore, MN
Hi, I’m Jenna. I’m from Two Harbors, MN and I love exploring the outdoor beauty of my own backyard on Minnesota’s North Shore of Lake Superior!
This is a special place with so much to discover, so I want to empower those with accessibility needs to get out and explore. As a wheelchair user, I know firsthand the most accessible places to visit. That’s why I put together this list of wheelchair-accessible waterfalls along Minnesota’s North Shore of Lake Superior.
Wheelchair-accessible waterfall at Gooseberry Falls State Park
Gooseberry’s Upper Falls is one of the best wheelchair-accessible waterfalls! There are two different paved trails to access the beautiful views. Wheelchair users can also access Gooseberry Falls State Park’s visitor center with a gift shop, interpretive displays, theater, accessible parking, and accessible bathrooms. There’s also a tire fix station for bicycles, but is perfect for wheelchairs too!
Option 1 for wheelchair access to the base area of Upper Falls
Option 1 is an out-and-back paved trail that takes you to the base of Upper Falls for a beautiful view.
From the Visitor Center, take the paved trail to the fork in the road. Go right to follow the directions for “falls area” and “snowshoe trails.” This paved path takes you to the base area of Upper Falls (pictured in the photo above).
Option 2 for access to Upper Falls from the bridge
Option 2 is a loop using the paved Gitch Gami State Trail to see Upper Falls from a pedestrian bridge.
From the visitor center, take a left at the fork in the trail, to “Gateway Plaza” and “ski trails.” This paved path takes you to a nice walkway under the Highway 61 bridge. From here you can see the Gooseberry River and Upper Falls from high above the river. See the falls on one side, and the flowing river on the other.
To take the loop, continue on the bridge to the Gitch Gami State Trail to Gateway Plaza. This trail will bring you back to the visitor center. Find a bike tuning station along the way in case you need a tire tuneup!
If you take the loop, be aware that there is a 20-foot gravel path connecting the Gitch Gami State Trail to the Visitor Center trail which could be a barrier for some wheelchair users. There is also a hill but it is usable with power assist.
Wheelchair-accessible waterfall – Beaver River Falls
Another wheelchair-accessible waterfall is located in Beaver Bay, Minnesota. Wheelchair users can access a view of the lovely Beaver River Falls from the Highway 61 bridge!
Park at the Beaver Bay wayside adjacent to the Beaver River. The wayside has interesting interpretative panels, wheelchair-accessible picnic tables, accessible bathrooms, and a bike tuning station. This is a great place for a picnic. There is a paved path and sidewalk going to the Highway 61 bridge for pedestrian viewing of Beaver Falls.
Accessible View of Cross River Falls
The Cross River in Schroeder, MN offers a wonderful view to anyone crossing the Highway 61 bridge! The water plunges right by the bridge offering a unique, close-up view.
You can see it as you drive by, but I recommend stopping to take a look. Park in the adjacent parking lot and wheel onto the sidewalk crossing the bridge. See this wheelchair-accessible waterfall through the railings.
Cross the street and see the view from the other side of the bridge. Next, you can wheel over to the Schroeder Bakery. They have delicious baked goods, coffee, sandwiches, pizzas, etc. The inside is small with a counter where you place your order. There are a variety of picnic tables outside on the lawn, but none of them are especially accessible.
The bathroom is located at the parking area, which is an MN DOT wayside. There is an accessible vaulted toilet facility. These facilities do not have water.
Accessible High Falls at Grand Portage State Park
High Falls at Grand Portage State Park is the tallest waterfall in Minnesota! It is located right before the Canadian border, at the end of the North Shore Scenic Drive.
Before the Customs station, turn left into the park. There is accessible parking and a visitor center with accessible washrooms. There is also a picnic pavilion.
The paved path traverses through beautiful woods near the Pigeon River. As you get closer to the falls, you can hear it rushing!
Before you get to the falls, the paved path turns into a boardwalk with hills. The hills are usable with assistance. Be aware that the path is kind of narrow, and it can be hard for people to pass by. That is one reason why I recommend visiting during a less-busy time (October – May)
The accessible boardwalk takes you to a viewing platform of High Falls. When the river is rushing you can feel the mist, and sometimes see a rainbow. The platform has a nice view, but it is better above the railing. Also, be aware that the platform is not huge so if it is crowded, people have to take turns to see the view and it can get congested.
Jenna is a disability advocate and accessibility educator who is a 2020 Bush Foundation Fellow. Through her fellowship, “she wants to change attitudes, approaches, and accessibility so that the North Shore of Minnesota becomes a destination for people with disabilities and a model of welcome other areas can emulate.” She has been working with North Shore Explorer to publish this article on wheelchair-accessible waterfalls.
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