One thing I love about Fairy Falls is that its entrance is not advertised. Though it’s easier to find once you know where to look, you’ll still enjoy that sense of discovery when you locate the start of the trail and begin your journey into Stillwater’s hidden gem.
Entering Fairy Falls in the early Autumn feels like something out of a story, like a long-forgotten feeling of exploration awaits you amidst the golden leaves and crisp underbrush. As soon as you cross the treeline, the path begins its descent, and you’re leaving the civilized world behind you. After bundling up with a warm jacket and busting out my scarf for the season, I ventured there with Harris P. to see what a hike in scenic Stillwater looks like in the fall.
Upon entering the woods we started walking downhill, making our way over golden trampled leaves and exposed tree roots. Distantly, we could hear the sound of rushing water and the rustling of trees in the brisk, autumn wind. We continued on the path until we came across a wooden bridge that passed over the creek of water leading to the cascading waterfall that was flowing steadily over the eroded cliff-side nearby.
With great caution, we were able to step closer to the edge near the waterfall, which gave us a great view of the ravine below. The entire cliff-side around the falls was smoothed out by the current and looked as if it had been carved by hand. The water was so clear and cold to the touch that it was almost refreshing, and after throwing on my pair of gloves, we decided to move on and keep hiking deeper into the woods.
We worked our way along as the path moved uphill and narrowed along the edge of left side of the ravine, and it felt as if we were traveling along the precipice of a cliff, making me grateful we had worn our good hiking boots. The path grew tighter as we climbed over fallen trees and ducked under broken branches.
After making our way along the edge, we were high enough on the ridge that we could see the St. Croix river past the trees in the distance before we started walking downhill. The trees here were sparse but large, and they were just starting to change color for the season.
Eventually we came to a fork in the trail, with one half leading towards a steep stony hill that dropped sharply into the lower part of the ravine and the other leading deeper into the golden woods and farther away from the falls.
Unfortunately, the sun was just starting to set and a cold wind was moving in, so in the interest of time, we decided to head back for the evening. We ended our hike with one last stop at the falls overlooking the ravine.
Looking back in the dimming light, I could make out the path we followed leading deeper into the woods, and I thought about how if I hadn’t been looking for an autumn hike in Fairy Falls, I would easily have missed this picturesque natural scenery hidden in Stillwater, MN.