Judge C.R. Magney State park sits 25 minutes north of Grand Marais, MN.
This park is popular for its famed Devil’s Kettle waterfall, a geologic mystery that has stumped scientists for decades. It’s certainly a unique experience that we consider one of the 19 best things to do along Minnesota’s North Shore!
On our most recent visit, we had all sorts of questions about this park. Questions like, how do you find Devil’s Kettle? What’s the hike like? Can you really fish along the river? And who the heck was Judge C.R. Magney?
Fresh off our most recent visit, we put together this guide to answer all those questions and more!
Map of Judge C.R. Magney State Park
You can grab an electronic copy of the DNR’s official map of the park here.
For a simplified hiking map, I found this map, located at the main parking lot, to be pretty helpful. I snapped a pic of it before our hike. (But accidentally cut off some of the side info, whoops!)
History of the Park
In 1963, Judge C.R. Magney State Park was named in honor of Clarence R. Magney, who served as as mayor of Duluth and justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court.
During that time, Magney was a legendary advocate for the park system. As mayor of Duluth, he grew the city’s parks by 1,500 acres, and he also doubled the size of Jay Cooke State Park. After retiring from the Supreme Court, he then helped establish 11 new Minnesota state parks and waysides along the North Shore.
All told, Judge Magney’s efforts single handedly contributed to over 20,000 acres of new state park land – a full 1/6 of Minnesota’s current state park system!
Aside from the historical name, the park land also served a 1934 camp that gave work and lodging to men during The Great Depression. (You can still find clues about this history in the campgrounds!)
About Devil's Kettle
The main attraction of Judge C.R. Magney State Park is definitely Devil’s Kettle!
This mysterious waterfall has confused scientists and onlookers for decades. From the viewing platform, onlookers can see the Brule River split into two parts. The waterfall on the right simply tumbles over rocks, like any other waterfall. But the waterfall on the left? It plunges into a mysterious hole, and doesn’t return.
For decades, studies to find out where the water goes ended in nothing but lost ping pong balls, GPS trackers, and if you believe the legend… a whole car. In 2017, the Minnesota DNR announced the mystery of Devil’s Kettle might be solved, but we’re not totally sold.
Devil's Kettle Hiking Guide
The #1 hike in this state park (and actually the only true hiking trail in the park) in is definitely the path to Devil’s Kettle.
While it’s not necessarily the tallest or most beautiful waterfall in the area, this is still a must see for anyone who wants to witness the strange phenomena of water disappearing into Devil’s Kettle. No doubt, this 2 mile round trip hike is worth a visit!
The hike is mostly easy, but does get much more difficult at the end. The majority of the hike is spent on a well-worn dirt path, with an uphill climb. Just before reaching Devil’s Kettle, hikers will have to descend 175 steps (we counted!) to see the waterfall.
Mostly easy with several resting spots (benches) along the well-developed dirt trail. However, the final 1/10 of a mile is rated “moderate” due to the 175 stairs needed to reach the falls.
After driving through the park entrance, follow the road straight until you reach the main parking lot. From there, find the hiking information sign and follow the trail over the bridge.
2 miles round trip.
- Summer is beautiful.
- Fall brings the colors.
- During Winter, you can bring snowshoes and take on the ungroomed path! (The stairs can be very hard if covered in snow.)
Detailed Devil's Kettle Trail Description (with photos!)
The path begins near the parking lot. To find the beginning, look for the first bridge crossing the river.
On the bridge, take a moment to enjoy the view of the river. This is one of the highlights of the hike!
Once you cross the bridge, the path becomes packed dirt interspersed with a few rocks and branches.
From here, the trail is pretty straight forward. You’ll continue a slight uphill climb for about 1 mile. (If you need a rest, there’s a few stops along the way with benches.)
While this part of the hike is relatively uneventful, you will catch some glimpses through the trees of the river, 100+ feet below. It’s a cool feeling and gives the sensation of hiking along a ridge, minus the serious risk of a fall.
Eventually, you’ll reach the HUGE staircase:
There’s about 175 of these, so get ready! (Yes, Lily counted!)
About halfway down the staircase, you’ll be rewarded with beautiful views of Upper Falls:
Once you’ve taken that all in, head back to the wooden stairs…
…before reaching the final Devil’s Kettle overlook:
This is the end of the Devil’s Kettle hike! Good luck figuring out where the water goes!
While the trail continues for another 8 miles and eventually connects to the Superior Hiking trail, the Devil’s Kettle hike is an “out and back” trail. In other words, most visitors turn around here and head back to the parking lot, using the same trail they just came from.
Additional Information on Judge C.R. Magney State Park
Open daily from 8 AM to 10 PM
Open year-round for day-use. However, Campgrounds and all provided services are closed during winter.
Yes! Pets must be kept on a 6-foot leash and picked up after.
(Pets not allowed in buildings or beaches.)
4051 East Highway 61
Grand Marais, MN 55604
Visitor's Center Information
There’s a park office / Ranger Station just after the park entrance. Here, you can learn park information, buy firewood and park permits.
There’s two picnic areas in the park. One is near the day use parking lot, and the other is located near the Brule River.
Camping is allowed at Judge C.R. Magney State Park during summer. This season runs approximately from Mid-May to October. There is no winter camping at the park.
The campground includes 26 drive in sites. The campsites are heavily wooded and well spaced.
The campgrounds include several RV spots ranging from 30 to feet feet.
A modern sanitation building is available during the Summer camping season. This building includes showers and flush toilets.
Fishing is allowed at the park along the Brule River and various streams in the park. Brook and Rainbow Trout are common.