|Distance||3 miles roundtrip|
- Interesting geology and scenic river
- Opportunities for off-trail river exploration and rock-hopping
- Swinging suspension bridge over the St. Louis River
Jay Cooke State Park is close enough to the interstate that it's easy to get to while being far enough away that you don't have to hear the road noise. Here you can witness the spectacular geology created by glaciers in a forested riverfront setting. The river offers plenty of opportunity for some off-trail exploration, hopping from boulder to boulder across the tea-colored waters. With no specific destination, you are free to wander and turn around when you wish.
Dogs are allowed on leash. This is a fun trail for families with children comfortable around water because there are many access points to play by the river and hop around on the giant rocks. This trail is open for hiking all year. Given the proximity to Duluth, this is a popular park. Expect to see others on the trail.
From the parking lot, follow the trail south to the swinging bridge, a 200 foot bridge that is one of only two suspension bridges found in Minnesota State Parks. The views of the St. Louis River are pretty sweet from this bridge -- see the picture at the top of the page for just one angle. After you cross the bridge, stay right at all the intersections to remain on the Carlton Trail hugging the St. Louis River (if you can't see the river on your right, you made a wrong turn). The scenery is wonderful, with mixed pine and hardwood forest lining the rushing water, much like the landscape pictured below.
From the Twin Cities, take Interstate 35 north to Minnesota Highway 210. Drive through the towns of Carlton and Thomson, then the park entrance will be signed and on the right side. Pay the fee at the office on the right, then park in the lot straight ahead.
From Duluth, take Interstate 35 south to Thomson Road. Turn left, then turn left on Minnesota Highway 210 when you reach the town of Thomson. The park entrance will be signed and on the right side. Pay the fee at the office on the right, then park in the lot straight ahead.
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 bathrooms, picnic areas, and a gift shop near the parking lot.