|Distance||3 miles roundtrip|
- Incredible views around Pickerel Lake
- Interesting topography
The main attraction at McCarthy Beach State Park is obviously the beach, and this is a popular summer destination in the Iron Range. Tucked away in the hills beyond the crowded lake are some hiking trails that provide excellent solitude, especially in spring and fall. The scenery around Pickerel Lake is gorgeous, but the rest of the trail isn't anything to write home about. You can tell a trail isn't going to be anything special when even the trail description on the park's official map (linked below) is purely navigational and doesn't attempt to persuade you to do the hike (this statement probably also holds true with my own writing on this site, read some 3-star hikes for examples). However, this trail is absolutely stunning in the fall -- I was lucky enough to visit during peak fall color and my jaw dropped, at least mentally.
Dogs are allowed on leash. The terrain and distance make this a more difficult Hiking Club Trail, but it should be doable as a family and your kids will enjoy collecting another password for the Hiking Club program. If you desire a shorter hike, follow the Pickerel Lake Trail described at the beginning of this hike and turn around when the trail veers away from the lake and starts heading uphill. Hiking and snowshoeing are allowed anywhere in the park during the winter as long as you stay off the groomed ski portions of the trail, so you can enjoy this hike any time of the year. I visited on a gloomy Sunday fall morning and only saw a couple people. This park is notably quieter in the spring and fall, so expect more people in the summer.
From the parking lot, cross the dirt road and start the trail descending to Pickerel Lake. On the right, there will be a set of stairs leading to a little dock where I took two beautiful pictures of the lake shown below: one at the beginning of the hike with cloudy skies and one at the end after the clouds had cleared. Turn right at the first intersection to continue hiking along the lake, and you'll soon see the view pictured at the top of the page on your right. This is the best scenery you'll see on the hike, so take your time here and enjoy it!
From Grand Rapids, MN take U.S. Highway 169 north to Chisholm, then take the exit for Minnesota Highway 73. Or from Virginia, MN take U.S. Highway 169 south to Chisholm, then turn right onto Iron World Road and right again onto Minnesota Highway 73. Take the first left onto 6th Street, then turn left again immediately onto County Highway 5. In 15 miles, watch for signs indicating McCarthy Beach State Park, and turn left onto McCarthy Beach Road. Look for the turnoff for the park office and pay the vehicle fee, then continue on McCarthy Beach road, turning right on a narrow dirt road -- Google Maps has it labeled as 915, but I vaguely remember the sign labeling it as 913 or 917. Drive very slowly here as the road is only one lane wide and can be rough (still passable in a sedan though). Luckily, the small parking area isn't far from the main road, and you'll soon see it on the left.
Google Maps Directions
Parking, Fees, and Facilities
Like all Minnesota State Parks and Recreation Areas, you must pay a vehicle entry fee of $7 per day or $35 for an annual pass (highly recommended if you frequently go to Minnesota State Parks). There are no facilities at this lot. If this lot is full (there's only room for a few cars), continue down the dirt road and turn right on Ski Trail Road, then quickly turn left into another larger parking area -- note this lot has pit toilets. You can access the same trail described below, just from a different starting location.