Old Caribou Camp and Marsh Vista Trail Loop

Big Bog State Recreation Area, Minnesota

Trip Date: Saturday, July 4th, 2015
Last Updated: Thursday, December 12th, 2019
By Ricky Holzer

Hike Information

Rating ★★★★☆(4/5)
Overall Difficulty Easy
Navigation Difficulty     Easy
Distance 3.5 miles roundtrip
Time 2 hours
Terrain Mostly flat
Best Seasons All
Family Friendly No
Dog Friendly Yes
Accessible No


Hike Summary

While the main attraction in the Northern Unit of Big Bog State Recreation Area is the bog boardwalk, there are also other trails that allow you to explore more of "Minnesota's Last True Wilderness" as some have called it. You will travel through different landscape types including bog, marsh, and hardwood forest. The environment is peaceful and beautiful, and you will enjoy hiking beyond the boardwalk to see everything else this park offers.

From the parking lot, follow the trail around Ludlow Pond, pictured below, going counterclockwise if you wish to go to the bog boardwalk first, or clockwise to go straight to the Old Caribou Camp Trail. There aren't many trails here and the few trails are well marked, so you shouldn't have trouble finding this trail no matter which direction you go on the Ludlow Pond Trail. The Old Caribou Camp Trail is very lush, even overgrown in a few places. In the summer, everywhere you turn will be vivid green. There isn't anything particularly special about this trail, but you will appreciate the great calm and quietness of this wilderness.

One view of Ludlow Pond

One view of Ludlow Pond

After you finish the Old Caribou Camp Trail, the loop returns to the Ludlow Pond Trail. Follow the southern end of the trail for a very short distance to reach the Marsh Vista Trail. The marsh will be on your right side for the first half of the trail, with a viewing platform eventually appearing, revealing the view pictured below. Although you may hear the words bog and marsh used interchangeably, they are actually two very different ecosystems. Bogs do not usually have visible water and are instead covered by a carpet of moss. The soil and water in a bog is slightly acidic, so only special kinds of plants can grow, like spruce, tamarack, and the carnivorous pitcher plant. In contrast, marshes are visibly wet and almost always feature cattails. Unlike bogs, their soil and water is not acidic.
The viewing platform on the Marsh Vista Trail gives you this lush scene

The viewing platform on the Marsh Vista Trail gives you this lush scene

Now that you're an expert on the different types of wetland environments, you can thoroughly enjoy the rest of this trail! After passing the marsh, the trail turns to the left, then you will cross the road. The landscape will transition from marsh to forest to bog as you travel north, then the trail turns left again and the landscape will be boggy until you reach the end. I hope you enjoy this journey through this great wilderness. Let me know what you think in the comments section below, and be sure to use #nocoastbestcoast on Twitter and Instagram!

Important Information

Dogs are allowed on leash. This entire hike is probably doable by a family given its short distance and flat terrain, but honestly the bugs are so bad in the summer that your kids probably won't want to do it all. Do one of the trails and/or the big bog boardwalk instead for a more family friendly experience. These trails are open for hiking all year. This park is so far from population centers that you won't see many people -- I went on 4th of July weekend and didn't see many people at all. I can't stress enough to wear bug spray and protective clothing on this hike, this area has some of the worst mosquitoes I've encountered in all my travels of the Midwest so far.


Big Bog State Recreation Area is quite remote, so the drive itself will be an adventure. The recreation area is located along Highway 72 just north of Waskish. Stop at the visitor center to pay your vehicle entry fee, then continue 9 miles north on the highway to the Northern Unit.

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 is a parking lot a short drive from the highway and has a covered picnic area and vault toilets.

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External Links