Hiking Club Loop

Schoolcraft State Park, Minnesota

Trip Date: Sunday, August 27th, 2017
Last Updated: Wednesday, August 30th, 2017
By Ricky Holzer

Hike Information

Rating ★★★★★(5/5)
Overall Difficulty Easy
Navigation Difficulty     Easy
Distance 1 mile roundtrip
Time 30 minutes
Terrain Mostly flat
Best Seasons All
Family Friendly Yes
Dog Friendly Yes
Accessible No

Highlights

Hike Walkthrough

This state park is a hidden gem filled with giant old-growth white pines and wild rice along the Mississippi River and is definitely worth a stop if you are ever near Grand Rapids. The trail is part of the Hiking Club and you can collect another password while circling the entire park on a short but scenic 1 mile hike (this state park is the 4th smallest by area in Minnesota). The park is named for Henry Schoolcraft, the first European to discover the Headwaters of the Mississippi; he is believed to have camped in this location during that famous journey. Interpretive signs are scattered throughout the park and will inform you more about this history and wildlife of the area.

This hike is perfect for the whole family, and dogs are allowed on leash. I visited early Sunday afternoon and the park was empty -- the only other person I saw was the campground host and his cute little dog.

The trailhead is clearly marked with a blue Hiking Club sign, and the trail begins by following the Mississippi River heading northwest. Openings in the trees on the right side will provide you with pretty views of the marshy river much like the picture below.

The marsh surrounding the Mississippi River

The marsh surrounding the Mississippi River
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Soon you will enter the best part of the entire park: the towering white pine trees. Some of these trees are over 300 years old! Much of Minnesota's forests used to look like this before settlers discovered this valuable timber. Ahead, the trail splits. You may choose whichever direction you feel like since both ways meet and the added difference is negligible (I opted for the slightly longer route to the right just so I could enjoy these trees longer).
White pines so tall they can't fit in the photo's frame

White pines so tall they can't fit in the photo's frame
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Eventually, the trail crosses the main park road. Stay right when the trail splits a while after crossing the road, then follow the trail through a parking lot and the group camp. Look for openings in the trees to find beautiful views of the Mississippi like pictured at the top of the page -- it's amazing how tiny and calm the river is here compared to further south. Navigation is a little funky in the group camp, and you will have to cut through a campground (hopefully it's empty) to continue following the trail. If you can't find the trail, follow the river heading north and you will eventually get back on track. In the last section of trail, you will walk through the main campground on the dirt road then cross the water access road and through the picnic area to the parking lot.

This hike is surprisingly fun and scenic. If you agree, be sure to let me know in the comment section below and use #nocoastbestcoast on Twitter and Instagram!

Directions

From the south, take Minnesota Highway 6 heading north then turn left on County Road 65. From the north, take Minnesota Highway 6 heading south, then turn right on County Road 65. If you are coming from Deer River or other areas west, take County Road 11 (also called Deer River Shortcut) heading south from U.S. Highway 2, then turn right on Minnesota Highway 6 and right on County Road 65.

Once on County Road 65, turn right onto 88th Avenue, then turn right onto Schoolcraft Lane -- this is a dirt road but it is well maintained and easily passable in a sedan. There will be signs directing you to Schoolcraft State Park at each turn. There will be a kiosk on the right side of the road when you enter. Pay your fee here, then continue straight on the main park road until you reach the parking lot by the picnic area.

Google Maps Directions

Parking, Fees, and Facilities

Vehicle entry fees are $7 per day. Unlike other Minnesota State Parks, there is no park office where you can pay your fees. Instead, you must use the self service envelopes to pay and deposit the money into a slot -- this is one of those situations where purchasing an annual pass for $35 ahead of time comes in handy if you don't have exact change. There is a picnic area, water pump, and pit toilet near the small dirt parking lot.

External Links

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