Minnehaha Falls

Minnehaha Park / Mississippi National River and Recreation Area / Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA

Rating: 2.5     Difficulty: 1
Minnehaha Falls

TABLE OF CONTENTS



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INTRODUCTION

Minnehaha Falls was perhaps the most well-known waterfall in the state of Minnesota. I'd imagine the biggest reason for this was that it was pretty much an urban waterfall within the city of Minneapolis (though I had also read that famed poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow brought widespread notoriety by publishing "The Song of Hiawatha" in 1855 when he was inspired by a photograph of the falls). Yet belying our experience with urban waterfalls (which we tended to associate with that stale, Frankenstein mix of urbanization and Nature), this waterfall was actually in a scenic and serene park with plenty of trees and greenspace essentially concealing the fact that there were a fair bit of urban and suburban developments surrounding it. From looking at the photos on this page, the relative lack of such developments immediately visible from within the park kind of illustrated this pleasing aspect about the falls. And given the number of people (especially families) that I had seen on my late afternoon Autumn visit, it also happened to be one of the most accessible and family-friendly waterfalls that I could recall.

There were plenty of ways to access Minnehaha Falls, but I happened to find street parking near the Minnehaha Depot, which was very close to the falls (see directions below). My visit pretty much consisted of a short loop walk that took me above and below the waterfall. My path began by going across a large lawn area with picnic tables before traversing a bridge upstream from the brink of the 55ft waterfall. Beyond the bridge, there was the Sea Salt Restaurant (I had previously thought it was Se Salt because the "a" was missing on the sign during my visit) as well as nice angled views along the rim of the gorge encompassing the plunge pool and continuation of Minnehaha Creek.

While the walk continued further downstream along the gorge rim, where there were more distant and obstructed views back to the falls (looking against the sun during my late afternoon visit) as well as a small garden, I took some stairs descending into the gorge itself where I was able to get direct views of Minnehaha Falls itself. It looked like there was a trail of use that continued past the sanctioned lookout leading to the backside of the falls, but it was closed due to public safety concerns. I saw some younger folks behind the falls when I first showed up, and I'd imagine this was the manner in which they got there at risk. I then crossed the bridge within the gorge, where I then followed some steps up (past more evidence of past use trails leading to the backside of Minnehaha Falls) towards a relatively obscure (because it seemed that fewer people ventured here) angled look at the waterfall.

Back at the top of the steps, there was a canopied walkway leading further downstream along the rim of the gorge as well as the finishing of the loop walk going in the opposite direction back to the bridge above the brink of the falls. Overall, I had spent 40 minutes to take in Minnehaha Falls in all the different ways legally possible.

One funny thing I saw from one of the signs here was a picture of President Lyndon B. Johnson, Senaror Hubert H. Humphrey, and Governor Karl Rolvang by Minnehaha Falls. The irony here was that Minneapolis was experiencing a drought so the falls was flowing in the photograph only because many fire hydrants were opened further upstream and out-of-sight to feed Minnehaha Creek. I guess since my home state of California was facing unprecedented drought at the time of my visit here, this irony wasn't lost on me.




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PHOTO JOURNAL

About 15 minutes drive from Minnehaha Falls was the incredible Mall of America, which was perhaps the highlight of the trip according to our daughter given its extensive indoor amusement parkAbout 15 minutes drive from Minnehaha Falls was the incredible Mall of America, which was perhaps the highlight of the trip according to our daughter given its extensive indoor amusement park
The Mall of America also featured your usual assortment of shops as well as a massive food court throughout the 3rd floor, but Tahia and Julie really liked the giant Lego statues by the Lego StoreThe Mall of America also featured your usual assortment of shops as well as a massive food court throughout the 3rd floor, but Tahia and Julie really liked the giant Lego statues by the Lego Store
Looking towards the Minnehaha Depot from where I had parked along Minnehaha AveLooking towards the Minnehaha Depot from where I had parked along Minnehaha Ave

Looking towards the big lawn and picnic area near Minnehaha FallsLooking towards the big lawn and picnic area near the falls

Looking over the brink of Minnehaha Falls from the bridge just upstream of itLooking over the brink of the falls from the bridge just upstream from it

This was the Sea Salt Restaurant (I had mistakenly thought it was Se Salt since the sign was missing an 'a' during my visit), which was just a few paces from the views of Minnehaha Falls from the rim of the gorgeThis was the Sea Salt Restaurant (I had mistakenly thought it was Se Salt since the sign was missing an 'a' during my visit), which was just a few paces from the views of Minnehaha Falls from the rim of the gorge

My first look at Minnehaha FallsMy first look at the falls

Looking back at the Sea Salt Restaurant as there was apparently some kind of performance going onLooking back at the Sea Salt Restaurant as there was apparently some kind of performance going on

Further downstream from the Sea Salt Restaurant side of the gorge rim was this gardenFurther downstream from the Sea Salt Restaurant side of the gorge rim was this garden

The stairs leading down into the gorgeThe stairs leading down into the gorge

Approaching Minnehaha Falls as I had descended into the gorgeApproaching the falls as I had descended into the gorge

Frontal view of Minnehaha Falls from within the gorgeFrontal view of Minnehaha Falls from within the gorge

View of Minnehaha Falls from the other side of the gorge, which was less busier than the Sea Salt sideView of the falls from the other side of the gorge, which was less busier than the Sea Salt side

Looking downstream from the bridge within the gorgeLooking downstream from the bridge within the gorge

Back near the top of Minnehaha Falls was this nice view downstream of the Minnehaha Creek and gorgeBack near the top of the falls was this nice view downstream of the Minnehaha Creek and gorge


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VIDEOS OF THE FALLS


Starting from the base of the falls then walking across the bridge and going up steps before reaching one of the upper lookouts for a more angled look at the falls


Starting off with distant partial view of Minnehaha Falls against the sun, then walking closer to the falls for better looks while a performance was going on at Se Salt


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DRIVING DIRECTIONS

There are many ways to get to Minnehaha Park so I'll just describe the way that I managed to get here from the Minneapolis-St Paul Airport (MSP) and Mall of America vicinity (which was where we stayed) since that was the way that I did it.

From the I-494 and Route 1 interchange, head east on the I-494 for about a half-mile then merge onto Highway 5. Follow the Hwy 5 for about 4 miles as it merges with the MN-55 along the way, then exit at Hiawatha Ave. Turn right at E 54th Street and follow it as it becomes Minnehaha Ave.

I managed to find street parking on Minnehaha Ave (metered parking at a rate of 75 cents per hour) near the Minnehaha Depot building about a mile north from E 54th street, but I noticed many other car parks along the way as well as along Minnehaha Parkway west of the roundabout just a short distance further to the north. So it's not terribly important where you park as the difference in walking could be at worst an additional 30 minutes in each direction if you really parked far from the falls. The Minnehaha Depot was merely a couple minutes walk from the top of Minnehaha Falls.

Overall, this drive took me roughly 15 minutes to go from Minnehaha Depot to the northeast side of the Mall of America near Sears.

For additional context, Minneapolis, Minnesota was 268 miles (4 hours drive) northwest of Madison, Wisconsin, 337 miles (5 hours drive) northwest of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and 408 miles (6 hours drive) northwest of Chicago, Illinois.




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ITINERARIES

For more information about our itineraries involving this waterfall, check out the following links.




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MAP OF THE FALLS



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TRIP REPORTS

For more information about our experiences with this waterfall, check out the following travel stories.




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TRIP PLANNING RESOURCES




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NEARBY WATERFALLS




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