Duluth, MN: Wolf Creek Falls

Tour old quarry country and the hardwood forests of Banning State Park on this 7.2-mile lollipop loop that passes a waterfall payoff--twice!
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Tour old quarry country and the hardwood forests of Banning State Park on this 7.2-mile lollipop loop that passes a waterfall payoff--twice!

From the trailhead at Robinson Park, this route heads north along the Kettle River skirting an old dam, a quarry, and a railroad trestle before reaching Banning State Park's Wolf Creek Falls. The pretty, 12-foot cascade lands in a shaded pool—a perfect place for a quick dip on the return trip—before joining the river downstream.

The 4.8-mile loop section begins with a stepped climb on the High Bluff Trail and descends to the river approaching the Little Banning Rapids, one of a series of 5 Kettle River Rapids that make this area popular canoe and kayak destination. Evidence of the Banning State Park’s quarry history abound along the old-railroad-turned-trail: carved walls of pink sandstone, the foundation of a crushing and sorting room, and the 3-story frame of an old power house. Climbing away from the river, the trail transitions to clay as this route zigzags toward the northbound Cartway Trail and loops back under hardwood and aspen toward Wolf Creek. Heading south, the waterway’s namesake trail passes campgrounds and several left-hand spurs before arriving back at the falls where hikers can retrace their steps to Robinson Park.

-Mapped by Steffan Fay

Trail Facts

  • Distance: 11.6

Waypoints

WCF001

Location: 46.132839, -92.85746

Hike north from the trailhead. There is plenty of parking, a restroom, picnic area and public boat launch.

WCF002

Location: 46.134311, -92.857958

Stop for a few minutes above the Quarry Rapids, an old logging dam, to read the interpretive signs that detail local quarry history.

WFC003

Location: 46.135044, -92.858337

Bear right @ Y-junction to continue toward Wolf Creek Falls and Banning State Park, or bear left for a short detour to explore the climber-friendly blast caves of an old quarry.

WCF004

Location: 46.137127, -92.858688

The trail passes beneath a soaring railroad trestle.

WCF005

Location: 46.139774, -92.860176

Funky trailside cave: Heed the graffiti warning you to keep out.

WCF006

Location: 46.146202, -92.860672

Wolf Creek Falls. If the water is low, scramble along the edge of the falls' 12-foot ledge for a different perspective.

WCF007

Location: 46.146469, -92.861038

Approaching the Banning State Park main trail system (north of the falls), the trail crosses several rocky sections but is wider and better maintained.

WCF008

Location: 46.14946, -92.860153

Begin a loop section of trail by turning right on the High Bluff Trail and ascending a series of rock steps under a hardwood and maple canopy.

WCF009

Location: 46.155888, -92.852341

Turn right @ T-junction onto Deadman Trail, heading downhill through maple and birch woods.

WCF010

Location: 46.157513, -92.84948

Take a hard right onto Quarry Loop Trail, continuing downhill toward the river's edge.

WCF011

Location: 46.155018, -92.85006

Turn left to stay on the Quarry Loop Trail. The Hell's Gate spur trail turns south along rocky bluffs for 0.25 mile to a view of Hell's Gate rapids.

WCF012

Location: 46.15979, -92.846909

Evidence of the area's quarry history, the crusher building foundation and the 3-story walls of the power house sit beside the trail.

WCF013

Location: 46.161945, -92.843071

Turn hard left onto Spur Trail and begin moderate ascent out of the river gorge.

WCF014

Location: 46.161701, -92.84539

Turn right from Spur Trail onto the Quarry Loop Trail's upper section, heading east.

WCF015

Location: 46.162369, -92.84391

Turn left onto the Cartway Trail @ T-junction for a railroad-grade ascent through the woods.

WCF016

Location: 46.168697, -92.845474

Turn left @ 4-way junction onto the Trillium Trail. The trail passes through a stand of red pine. Watch for ripe raspberries along the trail in the fall.

WCF017

Location: 46.17062, -92.852325

Cross gravel park road.

WCF019

Location: 46.160995, -92.854889

Cross gravel park road and continue straight @ 4-way junction.

WCF018

Location: 46.171227, -92.854637

The Trillium Trail ends @ T-junction. Turn left to complete this loop section of trail and skirt the marshy edge of Wolf Creek along it's namesake trail.

WCF020

Location: 46.158119, -92.853714

Several trails intersect the Wolf Creek Trail near the state park campground. Bear right to continue south and complete this route's loop.

River North

Location: 46.143522, -92.861509

A north-looking view of the Kettle River belies the series of Hell's Gate rapids upstream. ©Steffan Fay

River South

Location: 46.144816, -92.861381

The southern view of the Kettle River from the heavily wooded shoreline includes the railroad trestle near the trailhead. ©Steffan Fay

Wolf Creek Falls

Location: 46.146302, -92.860801

Lucky you! This route passes Wolf Creek Falls' cascade twice. ©Steffan Fay