Hiking Club Loop

Crow Wing State Park, Minnesota

Trip Date: Friday, September 22nd, 2017
Last Updated: Wednesday, October 4th, 2017
By Ricky Holzer

Hike Information

Rating ★★★★☆(4/5)
Overall Difficulty Easy
Navigation Difficulty     Easy
Distance 2.2 miles roundtrip
Time 1 hour
Terrain A few hills
Best Seasons All
Family Friendly Yes
Dog Friendly Yes
Accessible No


Hike Summary

Just outside of Brainerd and right off of Minnesota Highway 371, Crow Wing State Park is an ideal stop on a journey up north. This hike will only take you about an hour and features a beautiful view of the Mississippi River and a historic town site all connected by a trail along the river. Both the townsite and the Red River Oxcart Trail that you will travel are on the National Register of Historic Places. In addition to being a place of convergence for two rivers, the three main landscapes in Minnesota also meet here: prairie, pine, and hardwood.

Dogs are allowed on leash. Like most Hiking Club trails, this is an excellent family friendly hike great for introducing kids to hiking thanks to the variety of things to see and the short distance. The trail is available for hiking in all four seasons, but it is ungroomed in winter. There was only one other car parked in this lot when I visited on a Friday afternoon, but expect to see many more people on weekend in the summer.

From the parking lot, follow the paved trail past the shelter. Continue on the path along the river as it turns to dirt. In about a quarter mile, you will arrive at the historic townsite, a grassy meadow nestled between pine forest and the river featuring the one building pictured below, several educational signs, and a boardwalk along the river designed to look and feel like the original. Feel free to wander around on the many short trails to envision how the town originally looked.

The last remaining building from the historic town of Crow Wing

The last remaining building from the historic town of Crow Wing
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Once you return to the main trail, continue hiking along the river. On your left, you will see the convergence of the Crow Wing and Mississippi Rivers, pictured below. Further down the trail, there is a set of stairs on your left leading down to the Mississippi River where oxcarts used to cross -- this is a good spot to take pictures.
Looking across the meadow to the convergence of the Crow Wing and Mississippi Rivers

Looking across the meadow to the convergence of the Crow Wing and Mississippi Rivers
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The trail follows the bend in the river, then veers away from the river into the forest. Up until this point, the trail will have been mostly flat, and now there will be a few small hills as you ascend to the Chippewa Lookout. Turn left at the intersection ahead. Eventually, you will arrive at the Chippewa Lookout featuring the view pictured at the top of the page. You may also choose to descend the stairs here to reach a dock; this is a nice place to sit and snack while enjoying the scenery.

Continue on the trail back to the parking lot, staying straight at the intersection ahead. Eventually this trail converges with the trail you originally took by the river and you may retrace your steps back to your car. This is a perfect stop to break up a long drive up north and the scenery will keep you entertained throughout. Let me know what you think in the comments section below, and be sure to use #nocoastbestcoast on Twitter and Instagram!


From the Twin Cities, take Interstate 94 west toward St. Cloud. In Monticello, take the exit for Minnesota Highway 25, then turn right. After crossing the river, turn left onto Park Boulevard. Turn left onto U.S. Highway 10. In Little Falls, stay right to continue on Minnesota Highway 371. Look for signs for the park in about 20 miles and turn left. Pay the fee at the park office on the right, then continue straight until the road ends at the parking lot.

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 flush toilets and a shelter near the lot.

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