Sandstone cliffs, high bluffs, scenic overlooks, flowing streams, and of course, a spouting waterfall. Curtain Falls is an invigorating hike, perfect for kicking off the warm weather hiking season. A must for springtime hiking!
With these intense, warm spring days we’ve had this week the kids and I hit the trail! Curtain Falls has been on my mind for a while now and I knew that we needed to hit this one in the spring for optimal falls action. The warm weather gave us the perfect opportunity for a revisit to Interstate State Park.
Distance: 1 mile
Level: Moderate to Strenuous
Best Time: Spring is best with the snowmelt feeding the falls and streams. After a heavy rainstorm. I suspect this hike would be quite dangerous if attempted in the winter months.
Dog Friendly: Yes, athletic dogs only. Keep dogs on leash.
Curtain falls is about the halfway point on the Sandstone Bluffs Trail. I would consider this trail a moderate to strenuous trail. There are steep tilted steps, rock step climbs, narrow cliff edge trails and steep drops. All of those attributes makes for some pretty amazing views.
Sandstone Bluffs Trail Head
Plant your vehicle at the southern parking are near the campground and park office. The trail starts right at the park office. Grab yourself a map and head northwest from the south side of the office, follow the creek upstream.
Under the Road
This was so neat! Right off the bat, the trail leads under the road. There is a concrete path leading under the highway with a divot in the concrete to allow for water to continue flowing. Be careful in early spring, there may still be some ice pack on the path with the limited sunshine. We also experienced some downed trees and debris, but that didn’t hinder our progress.
Never Ending Stairway
Once on the other side of the road, there is a very intimidating stairway leading up the bluffs and an inviting path leading north. Take the stairs.
It’s much easier to ascend these monstrously narrow steps than it is to descend. Stay on the trail to avoid any damaging of the hillside. The park has even placed a nice little sign at the beginning of the steps.
The sandstone cliffs are a marvel, but the trail gets fairly narrow in spots along the cliffs. Keep small children in hand, a tumble down the hillside would be disastrous. The trail along the cliffs are a mixture of dirt path, boardwalk and stairs.
Early in the season, there is much trail maintenance needed. In time these things will be cleaned up and restored. If you’re heading out for a spring hike, use caution. There are downed trees and one particular tree that has uprooted and taken part of a boardwalk with it. We were able to concur the obstacles, you will to!
A ‘Y’ in the trail will give the option of steep stone steps or a boardwalk. The boardwalk is what leads to the falls. After viewing the falls, you’ll backtrack and take the steps to continue the rest of the loop.
The reward for the most difficult stretch of the trail is the refreshing view of Curtain Falls. A sputter of falls spewing over the cliff of sandstone from what seems like an unknown source. If ever a falls were to be dubbed “cute” this would be it. It’s not a rushing river or a cascading masterpiece, but a cute, petite, sputter of a falls. A falls worth seeing for sure, but don’t expect anything of majesty. The boardwalk near the falls stretches over the cliff near the falls giving viewers a closer look.
Only a short ways left up hill, over half of this trail is uphill. These uphill strides bring hikers to a grand view of the St. Croix River. There are benches along the way for a break and a snack.
The descent from the bluffs is quite mild, a gradual slope zigzagging down the hill. There are a few bridges and little falls along the stream when the water is flowing. The path winds with the stream, it’s a very peaceful stroll after the quick aggressive ascent to the falls.
The loop meets up with the Railroad Trail. The options here are to go up the stairs or cross the bridge. Taking the stair will follow the Railroad Trail for an additional mile and a half of out and back of hiking trail. Crossing the bridge will lead south on the Railroad Trail to complete the loop bringing you back to the trail under the road.