Step Outside - Minnesota WELCOME TO STEP OUTSIDE! Find the best outdoor fun near you! en-us 30 Step Outside - Minnesota 144 144 Tue, 20 Nov 2018 19:56:47 -0600 5 Cool Spots for ATV Off-Roading in Minnesota Minnesota is widely regarded as one of the best trail states in the country. Folks who love to off-road will be ecstatic to learn that more than 1,000 miles of the state’s trails are open to ATVs. Whatever terrain you crave, Minnesota is sure to have a trail that will tickle your off-road fancy. Here’s a handful of our favorites.

The Spider Lake Trails area was voted the “Best ATV Trail” in the state by viewers of Twin Cities CBS affiliate, WCCO—and for good reason. The 26 miles of trails trace the shorelines of lakes and ponds and trek along ridgelines as they traverse the forests northwest of the Brainerd Lakes area. The combination of smooth, sandy trails and rocky, hilly tracks makes Spider Lake Trails a perfect place for beginning ATV riders, as well as more experienced off-roaders. Unlike most of Minnesota’s ATV trails, Spider Lake is open year-round. A trail permit is required.

Does it really matter if it rains when you can make your niece smile this big?

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The Fourtown-Grygla Trail, named for the two towns in Northwestern Minnesota where it can be can be accessed, is 170 miles of easy-to-ride but varying terrain. The trail system is privately maintained by a local club but most of the rights-of-way are on Beltrami County land, trails, and roads. The trails run past fields and farmland, along streams, and through forested areas. The trail system is relatively level throughout and offers few obstacles, making for suitable riding for everyone. A trail permit may be required for some parts of the system.

The Northwoods Regional ATV Trail System contains more than 200 miles of uninterrupted trails designed for minimal environmental impact. The well-maintained trails wind past lakes and rivers, along streams, through swamps lined with ashes and willows, and across boggy oak savannahs. The area the system covers is the size of the state of Delaware and encompasses oak and maple forests, pine growths, and stands of birch and aspens. Six Aitkin County communities are connected with the trail and welcoming to off-road ATV riders. Trail permits are required.

More than 100 miles of connected trails winding across two counties and through several state forests give the Forest Riders Trail its name. The terrain varies from easy to moderately difficult as the trails leave smooth and flat ground into rougher, more hilly sections. Lakes and streams, and marshes and ponds punctuate the pine and hardwood forests that the trails wind through. Camping is available in Two Inlets State Forest and Itasca State Park is nearby. A private club maintains this public trail system, and permits are required.

At only 13 miles, the Snake Creek Trail in Southeast Minnesota is relatively short—but what it lacks in length it makes up for in scenery. The trail climbs 300 vertical feet as it ascends the Mississippi River bluffs along the Snake Creek valley in the Richard J. Dover Memorial Hardwood State Forest. The trail is generally easy riding but exposed bedrock and limestone outcroppings offer a bit of a challenge along some portions of the trail. Make time to stop at the scenic overlooks along the trail and enjoy the vistas across Southeast Minnesota’s Blufflands and the Mississippi River Valley. The trail is maintained by the DNR and permits are required. 

*Note: Age restrictions, special licenses, and other requirements for off highway vehicles vary from state to state. Before heading out on your OHV, please consult your local regulations.

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5 Stunning Foliage Hikes in Minnesota Autumn is coming, and autumn in the North Star State is nothing short of stunning. Hiking amidst the color bursts of foliage is one of the best ways to enjoy Minnesota’s fall colors. Here are a handful of our favorite hikes!  

Nerstrand Big Woods State Park contains one of the last remnants of the Big Woods—a huge deciduous forest that once covered southern Minnesota—in the state. This means oaks, maples, and basswoods that burst into blossoms of red, orange, and gold when the weather starts to turn cold. Start with the White Oak Trail from the trailhead, then take the Maplewood Loop counterclockwise until you connect with the basswood Trail. When you hit the Fox Trail, take it north and cap off your hike with a walk around the Hidden Falls Trail Loop, where you’ll be treated with a waterfall and an easy stroll back to the trailhead.

Moose Lake is located between Duluth and Hinckley, not far from Interstate 35. This easily-accessible park, at just over 1,200 acres, is relatively small. But shoreline on Moosehead and Echo Lakes, as well as several ponds within the park, create gorgeous water vistas. Combine this with mature stands of aspen, mixed with maple, birch, and basswood, and the fall palette paints the ponds like watercolors. Start on the Wildlife Pond Trail to take advantage of views of the fall colors over water, then head onto the Rolling Hills Trail and complete the loop for some autumn tree bathing. The changes in elevation are moderate at worst, and a portion of the trails are paved for easy accessibility. 

Twin Cities folks looking for a nearby foliage fix should head southwest to the Minnesota Valley State Recreation Area and the Minnesota Valley State Trail, which snakes through the area, following the course of the Minnesota River. In places, the river valley can be five miles wide and as deep as 300 feet. In autumn months, the floodplain forests and bluff top oak savannas explode with colors, surrounding you on all sides with festive foliage. If you prefer a paved trail, hike the portion between Shakopee and Chaska. The trail continues from Chaska to Belle Plaine with a natural surface and also connects with the Louisville Swamp District of the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge.

In Western Minnesota, head over to Maplewood State Park to enjoy some of the state’s finest fall foliage. As the park’s name implies, it is home to a healthy hardwood forest of mostly maple trees. Basswood and oak lend support to the maples’ lead role and create a dazzling display of colors over the park’s hills and valleys, reflecting across its clear, cool lakes. An extensive trail system enables you to take advantage of the vistas and bathe in the autumn colors. From the trailhead, set out on the Ironwood Trail. The changes in elevation and views along and across Lake Lida, as well as Beaver, Field, and Andrew Lakes, punctuate the colors and enhance the vibrancy of the fall foliage in the park.

In a transition zone where hardwood forests and oak savannas meet the conifers of the Great North Woods, Wild River State Park is perfectly situated to highlight all the stunning glory that fall foliage in Minnesota has to offer. Soaring views down the St. Croix River valley enhance the experience and drama of the park’s vistas. The best foliage views take advantage of the valley’s bluffs. The Old Logging Trail and Deer Creek Loop follow the bluff lines above the St. Croix and offer forested vistas for miles downriver and across the valley to Wisconsin. For a more immersive foliage experience, hike the Trillium Trail and connect with the Sunrise Trail.

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ATV Off-Roading Adventure at Soo Line South Trail Minnesota has more than 1,000 miles of state-designated ATV trails that cover all sorts of terrain, from deep North Woods forest to rolling prarie landscapes. With all these trails to choose from, it’s hard to pick out just one on which to spend a day riding. But there is one trail that covers more than 100 diagonal miles in a southwesterly/northeasterly direction, crossing wetlands, passing through state forests and parks, skirting dozens of streams, rivers and lakes: The Soo Line South Trail. Having so much to see and do on a single trail helps to make for a perfect day on your ATV.

Get an early start toward the trailhead, which is located just north of Royalton on US-10. On your way, stop in at the Old Creamery Café in Rice for coffee and a breakfast meal that will fuel your stamina for the trail. The Old Creamery has been a community fixture for more than 30 years and is a favorite among both locals and tourists. Located in a former dairy creamery (hence the name), the café serves up scratch-made dishes seven days a week. Try one of their sunrise steams—served with eggs and toast—or a three-egg, build-your-own omelet. They open at 6:30 a.m. every day but Sunday, when they start serving at 7 a.m.

If you travel the length of the Soo Line South Trail from the trailhead near Royalton, you’ll traverse several Minnesota counties, and more than 100 miles, before you reach the Wisconsin border. The Soo Line Trail, itself, is an easy ride with few challenges, making it a great ride for riders of all skill levels. Experienced riders looking for more of a challenge needn’t fret, though. There are several connected loops along the way that offer more technical off-roading experiences. Look for the Foxy Loop Trail, the Red Top Trails, the Solana Loop, and the Soo Pits Trails, as you make your way northeast, past the Rum River and Solana State Forests, Father Hennepin and Moose Lake State Parks, as well as the edge of Mille Lacs Lake—one of the state’s biggest. Contact the Minnesota DNR for a trail pass.

After you get to the trailhead, park, unload your ATVs, and ride the first 30 miles or so, you’ll find yourself in Mille Lacs Lake country. You may not see the big round monster in the middle of Minnesota, but you’ll feel its presence on your left as you ride through the flat, reedy wetlands, past smaller lakes and ponds that fringe it. You may also be hungry. The Farm Market Café is located just off the trail in Onamia, and it’s a great place to grab lunch, whether you plan to eat it in the restaurant or to take it with you for a picnic farther up the trail. The café is owned by producers and specializes in delicious fare made from locally-sourced, seasonal ingredients. The homemade chicken and noodles will keep you warm all day.

As you ride through Moose Lake, be sure to visit the Moose Lake Depot & Fires of 1918 Museum. A former Soo Line Depot (which is why it’s located so close to the trail), the museum recounts the history of the area’s railroads, and displays several period pieces from the early 20th century. The museum also memorializes the devastating forest fires of 1918, which burned a quarter-million acres, destroyed 38 towns, and killed 453 people. This event permanently scarred a large part of Northeast Minnesota and is worth learning a little more about.

After passing through Moose Lake, take a short, northward detour on County 13 toward Hanging Horn Lake and the lakeside resort that shares its name. This is the place where you’ll relax with the sunset, shake off some of the trail dust, then settle in and wake up with gorgeous North Woods views. The resort has a restaurant where you can relax and replenish after a full day on the trail. A former youth camp, the resort offers hiking trails and a swimming beach (in season, of course) where you can get your land legs back and stretch out your body. In the morning you can do it all again—in the other direction.

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5 Best Fishing Spots in Minnesota In Minnesota, fishing is a very big deal. Every year, the opening of walleye season (which almost always falls on Mothers Day weekend) has folks lined up, ready to put in their boats at midnight. Anglers will never tell you their favorite honey spots, but here are some of the best places to drop a line in Minnesota! 

Mille Lacs Lake in North Central Minnesota is famous for its walleye and muskie fishing. A popular, year-round angling destination—in winter, it’s home to one of the world’s biggest collections of ice fishing shanties—Mille Lacs used to the be the first lake that walleye anglers would rush to when the season opened. Its popularity, however, has stressed the walleye population in the lake. In order to manage the fishery, the DNR occasionally imposes special regulations. For example, in 2017, anglers could only target walleye for catch-and-release. But what about folks who want to bring home a trophy? There are, of course, huge muskies and hard-fighting northern pikes in the lake—and plenty of guides who’ll show you where they are—but smallmouth bass are the recent stars of the show. Bassmaster Magazine ranked the lake as one of the 10 best smallmouth bass fisheries in the country, and USA Today listed it among “America’s [25] best bass fishing lakes and ponds.” 

More than 60 species of fish have been documented in the St. Croix River, from Taylor’s Falls, Minnesota, to its confluence with the Mississippi River. Anglers looking for walleye will want to concentrate their efforts in the lower stretches of the river, below Stillwater, where the species has above-average abundance. The minimum length for keepers on the St. Croix is 15 inches. If you’re targeting hard-fighting smallmouth bass, or hunting river monsters like lake sturgeon or catfish, focus your angling efforts on the stretch of river north of Stillwater. In order to prevent the proliferation of invasive species upstream, the National Park Service does not allow upstream boat traffic above the mile 29.5 (the Arcola sandbar) checkpoint. Boat anglers are better served to launch upriver and work their way downstream.

Lake Pepin is a natural widening of the Mississippi River that stretches for 21 miles where more than 80 species of fish have be recorded. Among these are healthy and abundant populations of walleye, sauger (a tasty relative of the walleye), and northern pike. Sport anglers will enjoy the bass fishing on Lake Pepin, which hosts good populations of largemouth, smallmouth, and white bass. Abundant panfish and crappies will keep your lines as busy as you want them to be if you’re just fishing for fun. The lake stretches south from Red Wing, Minnesota, to a point across from Alma, Wisconsin.

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While Minnesota anglers are definitely walleye-centric, there is another fishing opportunity that shouldn’t be ignored: Brown trout. The trout streams of Southeast Minnesota are often underutilized, which means that the populations are solid and larger fish are abundant. One of the best places to target Minnesota’s browns is in the South Branch of the Root River. Because it’s a wider river that’s tracked by the paved Root River Trail, access to the water is excellent and and fly anglers have plenty of room for casting. Trout fishing is best in the western reaches of the river (and requires a current trout stamp). There’s more to the Root River than trout, though, smallmouth and rock bass, as well as channel catfish inhabit the streams pools. 

Twin Cities anglers who don’t want to travel too far for awesome walleye fishing head to Bald Eagle Lake in the Northeast Metro. The lake is known for its walleye but also has good populations of northern pike, muskies, and largemouth bass—including some lunkers. Kids and anglers who enjoy targeting panfish will not be disappointed in Bald Eagle Lake’s abundant sunnies. Despite its size, access to the lake is pretty limited, which can make for crowded launches. There’s public access and a fishing pier at the county park and also a boat ramp at a bait shop on the north end of the lake. 

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5 Awesome RV Campsites in Minnesota One of the best ways to enjoy all the natural beauty that Minnesota has to offer is in the comfort of your RV. Not only do you get to commune with nature, you get to do it with a bed and a refrigerator. Who can argue with that? These are some our favorite places to park the RV and explore the North Star State.  

If you want your RV camping experience to be more like a resort experience, Bluff Valley is the campground for you. Tucked along a meander in the Zumbro River, the campground has 275 good-sized sites. Standard sites are up to 2,000 square-feet, and premium sites are 4,200 square-feet or bigger. Bluff Valley has a regular schedule of activities that include all-you-can-eat pancake breakfasts, weekly karaoke, live music, and other events. A driving range, climbing wall, disc golf course, and tubing on the Zumbro River will ensure that you’re never bored while camping at Bluff Valley.

The Grand Marais Campground and Marina is located in the city limits, but stretches along the harbor and shore of Lake Superior. From the lakeside sites, you’d never know that you’re only blocks from the town’s quaint business district. A playground, as well as courts and fields, will keep sports-minded campers busy. Meanwhile, the adjacent forest and nature area, along with the Gitchi Gami State Bike Trail afford opportunities for campers to enjoy some of the North Shore’s natural beauty. The campground has 161 sites with full hook-ups, and another 82 with just water and electric. Wi-Fi and cable TV are also available at Grand Marais Campground and Marina.

Campers in the Brainerd Lakes area will love the North Woods, family feel of Fritz’s Resort and Campground in Nisswa. Tucked onto the east side of Lake Edna, the resort is a laid-back spot for campers who enjoy Minnesota lake life. A clean, sandy beach, boat rentals—fishing, pontoon, and paddle—and canoeing will help you enjoy it even more. Fritz’s Resort and Campground also has an air-conditioned recreation hall, where campers can pick up necessities, play pool, ping pong, or shuffleboard and get to know their neighbors.

Sometimes an RV campground can feel a bit crowded, but if you hook up at one of St. Croix State Park’s three campgrounds, you’ll have plenty of wide open space to explore. The park, the biggest in the state park system, sits at the confluence of two federally-designated Wild and Scenic Waterways: The St. Croix and Kettle Rivers. In addition to river-oriented activities, like fishing and canoeing, the park also offers a swimming beach on an inland lake, miles of hiking trails, and a fire tower that can be explored. A nature store and interpretive center are located within easy walking distance of all three campgrounds. Wi-Fi is available but its range is limited.

Campers looking for a little nature that’s close to attractions like the Mall of America or the Minnesota Zoo, need look no further than Lebanon Hills Regional Park. Although its situated among 2,000 acres of woods and lakes in the Twin Cities’ southern suburbs, Lebanon Hills feels like a million miles from civilization. A playground, camp store, and laundry facilities are available on site for those who don’t want to burst the illusion of being “someplace else.” Campers in the West Loop, however, can still get news of the outside world via Wi-Fi.

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5 Perfect Fall Camping Spots in Minnesota Autumn in Minnesota is gorgeous. One of the best ways to get out and enjoy what fall has to offer before winter arrives is to find a beautiful campsite among the trees and bathe in the colors. Add a water view to the foliage to make things even better. Here are a handful of our favorite places to camp in the fall!  

To sleep among some of the most picturesque fall foliage in Minnesota, head to Whitewater State Park in Southeast Minnesota’s Bluff Country. Limestone cliff faces tower over the Whitewater River and Trout Run Creek as they run through deep, forested ravines. The hardwoods in the park burst into a stunning array of reds, golds, and oranges in the autumn. Try and book one of the 10 riverfront sites in the campground to maximize your views or to have a go at the native brook trout that inhabit the park’s streams. A special trout stamp is required if you do decide to fish for them. Hiking in the park is gorgeous, but several of the trails can be challenging, so be sure to bring sturdy shoes or boots.

If you prefer to enjoy your autumn with a little more solitude than that offered by larger campgrounds, Silver Island Lake Campground in the Superior National Forest offers an experience somewhere in between car camping and a backcountry hike-in site. The campground has only eight sites, strung along the shore of Silver Island Lake among the fall-golden aspens, birches, and poplars. Each site has a fire ring and a picnic table. There is a vault toilet, and that’s it. There’s no electricity, potable water, or other people (except for those in the other seven sites) for miles. Be prepared to rough it from your car. This means you’ll need to bring your own drinking water or treat the water from the lake. There are black bears in the forest, so take necessary precautions with food storage! 

Kruger Campground is pretty much ground-zero for fall foliage in Minnesota. The campground is located among the Mississippi River bluffs, near the mouth of the Zumbro River in the Richard J. Dorer Memorial Hardwood State Forest. The steep, forested bluffs, deep ravines, and views up and down the valleys make Kruger an awesome spot for fall camping and hiking. Because it’s a state forest campground—rather than a state park campground—sites are available on a first-come, first-serve basis. On the other hand, the campground is also smaller and, therefore, much less crowded than typical park campgrounds. The campground is located near a stream, but take advantage of the nearby hiking trails to see the gorgeous river views in the forest.

The Nemadji State Forest is part of a transition zone where hardwood forests of Southern Minnesota begin to give way to the aspens, birches, and balsams of the Great North Woods. This means that fall camping on the shore of Pickerel Lake in Gafvert Campground is spectacular. The Nemadji State Forest is in a sparsely populated part of the state, and a little off the beaten path, so chances are good that you’ll be able to score a site with a water view in the fall. Hike or bike the Willard Munger State Trail to take in all the beauty that autumn in Minnesota has to offer. There is a popular grouse hunting area nearby, so if you’re not a hunter, be aware that you may be sharing the forest with them in the fall.

Prepare to be blown away by some truly magnificent waterfalls. Gooseberry Fall State Park has 69 drive-in sites (no electric), three pull-through sites, as well as two wheelchair-accessible sites, and three group campsites. The RV length limit is 40 feet. On the grounds, you’ll find showers and flush toilets, but these are only available until late October as the water is turned off. Although, vault toilets are available year-round. At the park, you’ll find hiking trails, biking trails, and more. The visitor center includes bathrooms, vending machines, interpretive displays, a nature store, a video wall and theater, and more. Grab some firewood at the visitor center, too, for a cozy campfire to end your crisp days at Gooseberry Falls. 

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10 Best Bait and Tackle Shops in Minnesota Fishing is serious business in Minnesota. And serious anglers require serious tackle—as well as their favorite bait for the fish they’re targeting. That’s why bait and tackle shops are beloved institutions in the North Star State. The proprietors know their home waters, what’s biting, and what you need to catch them. These are our favorite bait and tackle shops in Minnesota.

Recently voted the state’s favorite bait shop, Full Stringer Bait & Tackle has everything you need to tackle the big walleye, muskies, and pike on Leech Lake. This mom-and-pop shop carries any kind of live bait that you’d need, artificially, lures, rods, reels, and of course, ice.  

Folks looking to hit the lakes in the North Metro or the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area, should stop by Vados Bait Express on the way. A Twin Cities institution for more than six decades, Vados will likely have whatever you need to hook the fish you’re looking for—plus, you can pre-order your bait online.

If you’re going to fish Shagawa, Burntside, Snowbank—or head into the Boundary Waters with your rod and reel—be sure to stop by Babes Bait and Tackle in Ely. They’ll hook you up with whatever you need to catch the area’s walleye, smallmouth bass, and lake trout.

Making a bait run!! Time to fish! 🐟🐟🐟 #Minnesota #fishing #ely #boundarywaters

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Big B’s Bait & Tackle is owned by a pro angler who has more than a decade of competitive walleye tournament experience. So, if you need to know how to get on the fish in the West Metro—Minnetonka, Medicine, Bass Lakes, e.g.—stop by Big B’s for your bait, tackle, and fishing report.

If you’re looking to fish Lake Superior, Devil Track Lake, or the Bruce River, you’ll need some gear and some local knowledge. And the Beaver House in Grand Marais is the place to get it. To find it, all you need do is head into dowtown and stop at the first building with a giant, fiberglass walleye protruding from it.

Favorite storefront in GM #beaverhouse #grandmarais #mn

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Whether you’re looking for a trophy muskie or just a tasty shore lunch, stop in to Stop Light Bait, Tackle & Guns on your way to the lake or the nearby Mississippi River. They’ve got gear, live bait, fishing reports, and whole lot of central Minnesota local knowledge to help you get the fish on your hook.

And even more Rapala's

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Blue Ribbon Bait & Tackle has been a favorite among East Metro anglers—whether they’re heading to White Bear Lake for walleye, the St. Croix River for smallmouth, or the Mississippi River for whatever’s hitting—since 1981. Now located in Oakdale, stop in for advice on how to hook anything from sunnies to muskies.

Just in! Headlocks and Mattlocks! #musky #muskyfishing #muskylures #headlocks #mattlocks #lures #muskybaits #imnfishing #fishingminnesota

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Whether you’re heading to the Brainerd Lakes Area for a languid afternoon of summer walleye fishing or for the Ice Fishing Extravaganza—the world’s biggest ice fishing tournament—you’ll find all the bait, gear, and supplies you’ll need for a day out on the water, whether it’s liquid or frozen. 

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Mille Lacs Lake is probably the best known Minnesota lake among anglers. It’s a world-renowned walleye, muskie—and now—smallmouth bass fishery. When you head up to Mille Lacs, stop in at Tutts Bait and Tackle in Garrison to see what bite is on and what they’re hitting. 

Anglers hitting the water in the Detroit Lakes area can find all the supplies, gear, and bait that they’ll need at the venerable Quality Bait & Tackle in Detroit Lakes. The only full-service, fishing-only store in the area, Quality Bait has kept anglers on the water and on the fish for decades.

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10 Best Archery Outfitters in Minnesota In a state that loves its outdoor activities—and hunting in particular—archery is important. Whether you’re an experienced bow hunter or a novice who loves hitting bullseyes on the range, you’ll need the right equipment. These are our favorite archery outfitters in Minnesota.

Folks in central Minnesota can find bows, arrows, tips, strings, gloves, and any other archery equipment they may need at Archery Country. With three stores in Brainerd, Waite Park, and Rogers, Archery Country had just about anything an archer would need, whether for hunting or competition.

#Americanbadass #matthews #archery @archerycountry #365archery #katniss #katnisseverdeen

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Bwana Archery in Little Canada is most likely the North Star State’s premier archery gear store. With deep knowledge and experience, Bwana equips archers across the state and, via the Internet, around the world. They carry many brands, including compound, recurve, and crossbows, and even host archery leagues on their indoor range.

For more than three decades, Chalstrom’s Archery has been serving archers in the North Land. They are a full-service shop, offering bow sales, repair, replacement, and gear. They sell a full range of bows, arrows, and tips, as well as releases, targets, and sights. 

Mindy is also Katniss. And she ❤️ France apparently.

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Wild River Archery will not only sell you a bow and all the equipment you need to get started, they’ll teach you how to use it. They have an indoor range, offer beginner classes, and host leagues of all types. In addition to sales, they also service all compound bows and crossbows. 

Oakridge Archery is a dealer for Bowtech products, as well as many other top archery brands. They sell bows and all the accessories you’ll need to get out into the field or onto one of their ranges. In addition, they host several leagues that compete during most months of year. 

Zero Degree Archery sells bows and arrows, as well as other archery needs and accessories. In addition, they also offer archery lessons and coaching for all levels of archers. If you need your compound bow, crossbow, or arrows serviced or sized, they can help you with that, too. 

Average Joes Archery is one of the largest archery shops in the state of Minnesota was voted by “Best Archery Range” WCCO viewers. It has a full line of archery products for both hunters and target archers, as well as several range options. In addition, they host classes, leagues, and even archery birthday parties.

It took a few tries, but I just about nailed a 🎯 Thanks for the adventure, Elizabeth!

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Full Draw is a full-service archery shop, complete with sales, service, and ranges in their newer 7,800-square-foot facility. In addition to 3D ranges, they also have a virtual Techno Hunt that allows you to travel the world, virtually hunting in many different location.

With three decades in the archery business, the Footed Shaft has the experience to help you find any traditional archery supplies—including used and collectible equipment—you may need, in person or online. In addition to their shop, they attend and sell merchandise at many shooting events throughout Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Adrenaline Archery, located in Pine City, is a full-service archery pro shop that carries a complete line of bows, arrows, sights, strings, and other accessories. They also have a range and an archery simulator, where they host leagues throughout the year.

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8 Best Fall Activities in Minnesota Bright blue skies and deep blue waters form a perfect backdrop for the fiery fall reds, yellows and oranges in the Land of 10,000 Lakes. Summer may be gone, but there’s still plenty to do in the Upper Midwest. These are our favorite fall activities in Minnesota.

There’s nothing that says autumn in Minnesota quite like heading out to an orchard and picking your own apples—and then warming up with a bonfire and a cup of hot cider. One of the best places to do so is Minnesota Harvest Orchard, near Jordan. Perched on a bluff in the Minnesota River valley, the orchard grows more than two dozen varieties of apples, offers hay rides, a petting zoo and regular events throughout the fall.

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In the fall, all the fish are biting in Minnesota. So, why not head to one of the state’s best fisheries—Lake of the Woods and Rainy River—to maximize your time. The fall walleye run on the Rainy lasts through October, and the big muskies and northern pike are always biting. Stay at the Wigwam Resort for an awesome experience and a depth of local knowledge.

When fall comes to the St. Croix River Valley, the bluffs explode in a kaleidoscope of colors. There’s no better way to see all of the St. Croix’s splendor than from the deck of a river boat. Stillwater River Boats (St. Croix Boat & Packet Co.) offers the most cruising options on the Lower St. Croix. Cruise packages mostly include an extravagant meal from their on-boat dining room.

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Hit this 42-mile multi-use trail for a gorgeous fall ride among the hardwood foliage in the Root River Valley. If you’re looking for a place to stay in the area, make the Stone Mill Hotel and Suites your basecamp. While you’re in Southeast Minnesota, be sure to take a side trip to Spring Grove and sample some of Rockfilter Distillery’s fine Minnesota whiskies.

As most everyone knows, fall is also Halloween season, so no list of fall activities would be complete without at least one scary entry. Few attractions combine the spirit of autumn with the scariness of Halloween like the Dead End Hayride near the town of Wyoming. Faint of heart? Maybe sit this one out.

Believe it or not, the biggest corn maze in the state is in the northern suburbs of the Metro. Every year, the Twin Cities Maze in Brooklyn Park carves a new design into their enormous corn field, so that you can solve the puzzle or simply get lost and enjoy an autumn afternoon in the crisp, Minnesota air.

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Explore the flooded forests of the Mississippi River’s backwaters and hidden channels or enjoy a sunset paddle with gorgeous fall foliage views up and down the river valley and across to Wisconsin. Broken Paddle Guiding can help get you on the water and even lead you on a tour of some of the state’s most gorgeous paddling places.

Participate in a guided hunting adventure with Autumn Antlers for whitetail deer, elk, stag, and more. This five-star hunting lodge offers hunter’s a multi-day package including food and bar, lodging, and a professional guide. Book a time with Autumn Antlers and have the best hunt of your life. 

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Best Places to Fish in the Midwest This Fall Walleyes and a variety of salmon are on the autumn menu in the Midwest as anglers have a last chance to fish open water before the winter freeze starts to set in. Fishing for either species can be excellent; how the weather and the water temperatures line up are more critical where salmon are concerned, but the fall run extends well into November.

Walleyes aren’t so picky, and all the traditional waters such as the Mississippi River, Big Saint Germain Lake in Wisconsin, Otter Tail Lake in Minnesota and Great Lakes feeder streams give up tons of  ’eyes in the fall.

One Last Salmon Fling

The big attraction nowadays is king (chinook) salmon that make their fall spawning runs up rivers and creeks. Whether fishing from a small boat or a Great Lakes charter boat, latching on to a 20- or 30-pound king can quickly warm up an otherwise chilly fall day.

Hot Spots To Fish: Michigan’s Grand River, which empties into the eastern side of Michigan, is a prime destination for salmon. Getting Bit Guide Service (616-570-2946, in Grand Rapids is a good starting point. In fact, any port of call along Lake Michigan on either the east or west sides is likely to have plenty of knowledgeable salmon guides or charters. Fishing from jetties or piers – such as the famed McKinley Pier in Milwaukee – is also productive during the fall salmon runs.

In northwestern New York, the Salmon River lives up to its name through mid-October, but the run might linger into November in the Lake Ontario feeder, depending on the weather. Coho and steelheads also are in the mix too.

The Yankee Angler (315-963-2065, in Pulaski, N.Y. keeps tabs on the fishing. In the big waters of Lake Ontario’s southern shore at Rochester, N.Y., give Reel Em In Sportfishing Charters (585-317-5325, a call.

Farther to the northwest, the waters and feeders of Lake Superior near Sault Ste. Marie are teeming with big salmon. One of the benefits here is that you can always slip in to the St. Mary’s River System to get away from those rough autumn nor’ westers. Live To Fish Charters (906-440-7797) can help make it happen.

New York rivers and inshore waters are teeming with big salmon in the fall.

Tackle You’ll Need: Salmon tackle and striped bass tackle (see above) are practically interchangeable. Fish might range from a few pounds to well over 20 pounds, and rods and reels should be in the medium- to-heavy range. A light- to-medium spinning outfit capable of holding a couple of hundred yards of 10- to 14-pound-test monofilament or 30- to 50-pound-test braid should do for most applications, especially when casting lures. Try the Okuma Epixor XT-20 with a matching rod.

Quick Tip: Just to hedge your bets, tie a foot-long section of 2x mono to your streamer hook and add a beadhead Prince nymph or similar pattern to the other end. When salmon are finicky, they might flash at a streamer, but not take it. Sometimes, a smaller mouthful such as a nymph trailer will seal the deal.


Best Lures/Bait: For the most part, spawn-run salmon hit spoons, crankbaits or roe bags out of reaction rather than hunger. Shiny lures, such as the Luhr-Jensen Twinky Rig behind a flasher, the Acme Kastmaster Spoon and a variety of soft-plastic swimbaits or hard crankbaits, will elicit strikes. Fly fishermen favor Dahlberg Divers, Wooly Buggers, Hex Nymphs and Glo Bugs.

Find the best fishing spots near you:

Find the best bait and tackle shops near you:

Walleyes Are Hungry and Willing

In similar fashion to bass, walleyes follow baitfish from the bigger lakes to feeder creeks and rivers with current.

Hot Spots To Fish: The Van Hook Arm of Lake Sakakawea (701-421-0360, in North Dakota is a prime walleye destination, as is Wisconsin’s Lake Winnebago (920-598-0586,

Tackle You’ll Need: Power fishing it’s not. Though walleyes might fatten up to well over 10 pounds, 2- to 4-pound fish are more the rule. Depending on the average size of the fish, 4- to 10-pound-test monofilament or fluorocarbon will do.

For spinning enthusiasts, the Quantum Vapor PT with matching rod will work. If you prefer trolling to casting, or bouncing a weight and natural bait on the bottom, try a baitcasting outfit such as a Fenwick/Pflueger Night Hawk or Iron Hawk combo.

Quick tip: Trolling at night with diving jerkbaits, such as the Storm Original ThunderStick or Lucky Craft Pointer 110, is a great way to catch walleyes. Troll in patterns from deep to shallow and back again, as the fish tend to relocate up and down drop-offs and channel runs depending on bait movement.


Best Lures/Bait: Leeches, nightcrawlers, minnows and everything from crankbaits to spinners will find favor with hungry fall walleyes. Top picks include: Rapala’s Shad Rap, Berkley’s Flicker Shad, Mepps’ Black Fury, Rapala’s Husky Jerk and Northland Fishing Tackle’s Forage Minnow Jigging Spoon.

Photograph Courtesy of Michigan Department of Natural Resources Walleyes weighing more than 10 pounds apiece are routinely caught in the fall, but most fish are "good eating size," averaging about 3 pounds. Thu, 11 Oct 2018 00:00:00 -0500
Camping Done Right: 7 Essential Outdoor Stores in Minnesota Getting outside is a favorite pastime in the North Star State. And one of the best ways to dive deep into all that nature has to offer is camping. However, as any pro will tell you, camping without the right equipment is just foolhardy. You need gear to do it—especially in a state where conditions can change in an instant and a 30 or 40-degree daily temperature change is not unusual. Fortunately, Minnesota has some great stores where you can not only get the gear you need but also get good advice about the right equipment and how to use. Here are seven essential camping gear retailers in the state.

REI is the state’s—and probably the country’s—premier outdoor retailer for camping gear. They have three Minnesota locations in Roseville, Maple Grove, and their flagship store in Bloomington. A huge selection of camping gear, from tents and sleeping bags to backpacks and sporks, combined with knowledgeable staff who are always happy to guide you in your gear quest make REI an essential store. In addition to their own high-quality house brand, they also carry many renowned brands like Mountain Hardwear, Big Agnes, Osprey, and MSR. REI also offers classes on camping and wilderness skills.

Piragis is a premier outfitter for the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW). In addition to permits, canoe rentals, and a ton of good advice, they also have a retail operation that sells new and used gear from respected outdoor brands like Nemo Equipment, Sea to Summit, and Sierra Designs. If you don’t want to drive to Ely to grab your gear, you can order online from their Boundary Waters Catalog.

Before REI made it to Minnesota, a frustrated rock climber took matters into his own hands and opened Midwest Mountaineering, a beloved Twin Cities institution for almost half a century. Their carefully-selected staff is made up of industry veterans and outdoor enthusiasts. Their camping department has a deep selection of tents, packs, and gear that anyone from a Superior Hiking Trail thru-hiker to a car-camping family can use.

Poised at the eastern end of the Gunflint Trail, Grand Marais is a launching point for many North Woods camping adventures. If you’re looking to pick up some last-minute camping necessities—whether for your BWCAW canoe voyage, Superior Hiking Trail trek, or your state park campground site—Lake Superior Trading Post is a place where you’ll find a solid selection of gear. A range of equipment from brands like Coghlan’s, Camelbak, and Hydro Flask will help keep your camping adventure on track.


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Joe’s Sporting Goods is a locally-owned outdoor store with a lot of floor space. They’ve been a go-to spot for camping gear for more than half a century because they have a big selection to match the size of the store. You’ll find tents, sleeping bags and everything in between—from brands like the North Face and Marmot —along with a friendly and knowledgeable staff at Joe’s. 

Folks in southeast Minnesota can find a solid selection of camping gear at Tyrol Ski & Sports in Rochester. Whether you’re looking for a tent or a headlamp, a water filter or topo map—or all of the above—Tyrol will likely have it. They carry top-quality brands like Granite Gear, Petzl, and Klean Kanteen, so you’ll know that you’ve got the best gear for your next camping adventure. If you’re new to camping or not ready to make a big initial investment, they also offer equipment rentals.

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Camping gear is not cheap. And outfitting from scratch can result in a pretty hefty price tag. Fortunately, there’s Repair Lair. Not only will they (as the name implies) repair your well-worn gear, they also sell used gear. Because their carefully-curated inventory tends to turn over, it’s a good idea to pop in on the regular and see what’s new. Get big-brand names like Kelty or Patagonia for a fraction of the price. 

Gotta big tent that needs fixin? Lucy says "bring it in!"

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5 Gorgeous Beach Campsites in Minnesota In a state that has more than 10,000 lakes and at least as many campsites, it can be tough to choose the best spots to pitch a tent or park your RV. But we’re here to help you out. Minnesota boats an abundance of beautiful water-side campsites that allow for a weekend of active fun. Here are five campsites that will take your breath away. 

Devil Track Campground isn’t in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW), but it may as well be. The campground stretches along the northwest shore of Devil Track Lake, just off the Gunflint Trail between Grand Marais and the BWCA. Most of the 16 sites have a view of the lake, which is easily accessible no matter where you pitch your tent. The campground’s location in the Superior National Forest means you’ll get that big, remote North Woods feel that the BWCAW offers. But you won’t have to wait for your name to come up in the permit lottery to camp. Just make a reservation. Bring a canoe or kayak, fishing gear, and your hiking shoes. Take advantage of the angling opportunities on Devil Track Lake, as well as the nearby streams. While hiking, keep your eyes peeled for moose, bear, and the ever-present but often-elusive timber wolf.

Mille Lacs Lake is a vast circle of fresh water in the center of Minnesota. It’s a fishery that attracts smallmouth bass and walleye anglers in all seasons. And when you’re sitting at a campfire, looking out over the water, it seems almost magical. One of the best ways to enjoy a roaring fire on the shore of Mille Lacs is to book a site at Father Hennepin State Park. Located on a peninsula, just west of Isle, Minnesota, the park offers lakefront glory at its best. Don’t settle for just any site, though. Reserve sites 1-7 at the Lakeview Campground. Others in the campground, while close to the lake, are not exactly lakefront. Our favorite is site seven because it’s a little farther away from traffic and other campers.

McCarthy Beach State Park, on Minnesota’s Iron Range, is an isthmus of boreal forest separates Sturgeon Lake and Side Lake. The terrain is hilly, the roads are narrow, but the half-mile of sandy beach on Sturgeon Lake was listed among the best beaches in the country by Highways Magazine. The Side Lake Campground offers a strand of lakefront sites. Our favorites are sites 46 and 50 because of their privacy. About half the sites at the smaller Beatrice Lake Campground are lakefront, but you do have to walk in. On the other hand, this helps guarantee a little more solitude.

Located in west-central Minnesota, Maplewood State Park contains thousands of acres dotted with deciduous forests and punctuated by placid lakes and ponds. It shows it’s true colors—literally—in the fall, when the park’s namesake maples take on their fiery autumn hues. Trees such as these are best enjoyed near water, and the Grass Lake Campground is the place to be for this. On the Main Loop, sites seven, eight, 16, and 27 offer the best lakefront experience. The best sites may be on the Knoll Loop, though. If you can reserve one, grab site 46, 48, 50, or 52 for the best lake views.  

Temperance River State Park is located on the North Shore, where the eponymous river flows into Lake Superior. Spectacular rapids that burst into roiling cauldrons mark the river’s gorge as it flows to its mouth at the Big Lake, and this is where you’ll make your camp. While there are some awesome views in the Upper Campground, try and get a site in the Lower Campground so that you’re closer to the lake. The best lakeside spots are cart-in spots, so you’ll need a tent to enjoy them. Sites 46 and 47 are definitely the way to go. If you want to enjoy the park’s ruggedness without carting a tent to your site, you’ll have to work with a little more altitude above the lake: Shoot for site five or six in the Upper Campground.

kosmos111/ Tue, 14 Aug 2018 00:00:00 -0500
5 Beautiful Backpack Camping Spots in Minnesota Hiking in to a campsite with everything you need on your back is a great way to take a break from everyday life and make a primal connection with nature. Often, you won’t even have easy access to potable water, meaning you need to come prepared to boil, filter, or otherwise treat it. Such self-sufficiency can be liberating. And when combined with stunning landscape and sprawling vistas, it can be downright euphoric. Here are a handful of places where you can feel this way in the North Star State.

Located within the state’s first true wilderness park, this site is worth the hike in. Setting up camp at site 10 brings you to a bend in the Manitou River. Park at the trailhead in George H. Crosby Manitou State Park, then take the Yellow Birch Trail southeast (right) for half a mile. When your path meets up with the Cedar Ridge Trail, keep left and descend for half a mile, keeping an easterly track into the Manitou River Valley. When you reach the river, turn right onto the Manitou River Trail. Follow the river downstream, passing sites eight and nine, for just over half a mile to site 10, where a tight bend in the river creates a point on which you can pitch your tent. Then kick back and enjoy deeply-forested vistas of the Sawtooth Mountains while you listen to the rushing Manitou River and wait for the stars to come out.

Another of the state’s designated wilderness parks, Lake Maria State Park offers only hike-in (or ride-in, if you’re an equestrian) camping in a remnant of the Big Woods, a deciduous hardwood forest that once covered most of Southern Minnesota. Site B5 lets you enjoy the splendor of these woods with a small lake that you won’t have to share with anyone but resident fish and visiting birds. Park at the trailhead and follow the Bjorhlund Trail west for about half a mile to its intersection with the main Big Woods Trail. Turn right, and head north for a mile or so. For a short segment, the trail will follow a small access road. Then it will continue straight as the road curves to the west. When you cross back over the road, a small lake will appear in front of you. The trail will curve to your left and head uphill. Look for a marker for site B5 and a small path heading downhill to the left. Follow the path to your lake shore site. Be sure to get there before the sun sets so you can watch the colors burst from the horizon, tinting the trees, and reflecting off the lake.

Site BP5 is not technically in Cascade River State Park. It’s on the Superior Hiking Trail in the Superior National Forest. However, you can reserve the site via the state park, and should park at the trailhead in the park. The other thing you should know is that you will work to get to the site. But it’s totally worth it. Park at the trailhead and take the trail to the Cascades. After 1,000 feet or so, you’ll cross the Cascade River at a walk bridge over these gorgeous cataracts. Stop and enjoy the level terrain of the bridge. Because you’re about to go uphill. Stay with the trail, heading west for another 1,000 feet, skirting the bluff. Then the trail will start to head even more steeply upward. Another thousand feet and the trail will come to a “T” at the Superior Hiking Trail. Take a left and continue climbing for another half mile. The site is at the summit of Lookout Mountain, less than two miles but almost 600 vertical feet (most of it in the last mile) from the trailhead. From your site, you’ll have an expansive view of the Cascade River valley to the north and east, Lake Superior to the south, and the Sawtooth Mountains to the west. You won’t want to come down.

Most dispersed camping sites on the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway, a federally-designated Wild and Scenic River can only be reached by boat. The riverfront Spring Creek site offers all the gorgeous scenery of the St. Croix River but with the nearby amenities (e.g., drinking water that you don’t have to boil) of a developed state park. The forested Upper St. Croix valley is in a transition zone that exhibits characteristics of prairie, eastern hardwood forest, and northern boreal forest. Near the river, you’ll see mostly the deciduous trees of the hardwood forest, with an occasional conifer to remind you that the North Woods are not far away. To get to the Spring Creek site, start southward on the Mitigwaki Loop. Follow this paved trail for six tenths of a mile, to where the Windfall Trail branches off to the right. Follow the Windfal Trail down into the river valley, crossing the Old Logging Trail, until it meets up with the River Trail at a scenic overlook. Follow the River Trail down to the St. Croix, then head upstream (north) for another half mile. The Spring Creek site will be on the left side of the trail, about half a mile from the overlook. You’ll have a gorgeous view of the Wisconsin bluffs and vistas up and down the river valley.

At 88 acres, Franz Jevne State Park is small when compared to most other units in the system. But its remote Rainy River beauty will make you feel like you’re as far from civilization as possible. As a bonus, the hike to the northernmost walk-in site is relatively short and not too rugged as it meanders through a mixed forest of white pine, birch, and jack pine. To get to the site, park in the designated parking area near the picnic area above the rapids. Take the short trail north, past the vault toilet toward the river. When you reach the river side trail and turn left. Follow the trail west, and then north as it curves upriver. You’ll pass a handful of campsites on your left. After a little over half a mile, just as the trail turns back toward the rest, you’ll come upon a short path that leads toward the river on your right. At the end of the path, you’ll find the Rainy River, your campsite, and plenty of peace and solitude—along with beautiful views of Canada and awesome fishing.

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5 Awesome Campgrounds for Families in Minnesota Minnesota is a wilderness lover’s paradise, but not all of the state’s most beautiful areas are ideal for families who want to camp. Fortunately, there are plenty of family-friendly campgrounds that will keep the kids interested and the adults happy. Here are some favorites! 

Only half an hour from the Twin Cities—which hastens the answer to the “Are we there yet?”s from the backseat—Lake Auburn Campground feels like a world away. It’s a rustic campground, so there is no electricity, which makes for an authentic-feeling camping experience. Moreover, this lakeside campground has a swimming beach, play equipment, and offers canoe and kayak rentals for those who want to explore the lake by paddle, looking for loons, trumpeter swans, or ospreys. 

As part of the Three Rivers Park District’s Carver Park Reserve, Lake Auburn Campground is connected by paved trails—which make for easy biking or walking—to the Lowry Nature Center, Grimm Farm Historic Site, or the King Waterbird Sanctuary. The trails meander through gorgeous wooded terrain and skirt the edges of interconnected lakes and marshes. Keep your eyes peeled for white tail deer or barred owls.

Goodnight baby. Goodnight lakes. #onlyinmn #capturemn #MakeItMN_GO

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Straddling the St. Croix River, Interstate State Park is cooperatively managed by Minnesota and Wisconsin, and the Minnesota side is, itself, divided into two units. The lower campground is more open and exposed. For those who like to be among the trees and with a wilder view of the river, head for the campground closer to Taylors Falls. 

From here, campers can enjoy any of several spots overlooking the river where it moves through basalt gorges known as “dalles.” For climbing families, there are plenty of marked climbing and bouldering routes in the park. The awesome climbing is due to the unique geology of Interstate, which derives a from more than 10 ancient lava flows and two discrete glacial depositis. Not into climbing? Grab a fishing rod and try to land a monster bass or sturgeon. Families can also rent a canoe from the upper unit and spend an afternoon paddling to the lower unit, across from Osceola, Wisconsin, then grab a shuttle bus back to camp.

Summer in MN >> ❤️🌻⛺️

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Itasca State Park is the oldest park in the state system. At 32,000 acres, the park includes more that 100 lakes, but its namesake is particularly significant: it’s where the Mississippi River begins its journey of more than 2,500 miles to the Gulf of Mexico. The park has several campgrounds, as well as camper cabins and the state park system’s only guest lodge, offering families numerous choices of accommodation.

Kids will love wading into the tiny stream that pours from one end of Lake Itasca and becomes the Mississippi River. Hike through the Wilderness Sanctuary to see some of Minnesota’s tallest old-growth trees or climb a fire tower for spectacular views of the park and lakes. Pontoon, canoe, and kayak rentals let you explore the park at lake level. Explore the area’s history by visiting one of Itasca’s Native American sites or historic cabins. There is so much to do at this park that a weekend may not prove to be enough time.

Ignore all our rosy pink noses, at the end of June... but this weekend has been nothing but the best!💚

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Gooseberry Falls is one of Minnesota’s most popular state parks—and for good reason. It has miles of relatively easy hiking and biking trails (some paved), as well as the gorgeous series of cascades carved out by the Gooseberry River as it steps down to Lake Superior. The rocky, yet smooth, Lake Superior shoreline makes for an leisurely lakeside walks or scrambles over boulders.

The campground at Gooseberry is near the mouth of the river, tucked into the woods near the shoreline. This affords some privacy from the rest of the park, as well as Lake Superior vistas and gorgeous night skies for stargazing or simply watching the moon rise over the lake. The park offers interactive interpretive programs in the campground, but campers can also pop in to the park’s updated visitor center for films, slideshows, or talks about the ecosystem, geology, and history of Gooseberry Falls State Park. Feel like exploring? Check out a GPS unit and do some geocaching. Because of the park’s popularity, it’s always a good idea to reserve a spot well in advance, but if you’re feeling lucky, state parks usually hold back a few sites for walk-up campers.

The pictures don't do it justice...

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Forestville Mystery Cave State Park highlights the rugged beauty of Southeast Minnesota’s Bluff Country, part of the geological “Driftless Region” that was missed by glaciers, leaving limestone bluffs, and deep, forested river valleys. In addition to hiking the bluffline and riverside trails, visitors to this park can fish in three of Minnesota’s premier trout streams for native brook or brown trout.

Kids will also love going back in time—both geologically and historically. Mystery Cave is the state’s longest cave, and tours are offered on a regular basis during peak seasons. Explore the geological makeup of this part of Minnesota and see the amazing artistry water can produce over eons. After emerging from beneath the surface, head over to Forestville. A once-ghost town that’s been restored by the Minnesota Historical Society to a re-enacted 1800s village. Visit the general store for a treat or visit one of the farm buildings to help out with chores. Because of its location in the far south of the state, this park makes for excellent spring and fall camping.  

Phonix_a Pk.sarote/ Mon, 13 Aug 2018 00:00:00 -0500
5 Energizing Hikes in Minnesota Hiking is a wonderful way to get your heart pumping. As you hike with more frequency, you can up the ante by attempting to navigate longer, more challenging routes. The satisfaction of conquering a difficult trek combined with the gift of breathtaking views makes for a rewarding experience. Here are some of our favorite trails for an invigorating workout and energizing hike in Minnesota. 

The entrance to Banning State Park is so close to Interstate 35 that you’d be hard-pressed to believe that a heavily-wooded park with steep bluffs and several sets of class III-V rapids is there. But lucky for you, it is. Banning State Park is bisected by the Kettle River as it rushes down toward its mouth. The state-designated Wild and Scenic River has carved a steep, rocky gorge through the boreal forest. Wolf Creek, on its course to meet the Kettle River, hewed its own gorge through the forest’s sandstone bedrock. And the trail along Wolf Creek is steep, rocky, and gorgeous. Upland forest gives way to large, exposed boulders as the trail steepens. Take the four-mile loop from the trailhead, following the creek downstream to 20-foot Wolf Creek Falls, where the stream cascades into the river. Then head back upstream. If you want to add some distance and elevation to your hike, cut over to the Hell’s Gate Trail, which skirts the whitewater on the Kettle River, via the High Bluff Trail, which intersects with the Wolf Creek Trail less than half a mile from the falls.

Tettegouche State Park is well-known for its challenging terrain. Most trails in the park have a “difficult” rating from the DNR, except for those rated “most difficult.” Parts of the trail to Mt. Baldy Lookout have earned the latter designation. To get to the trail, enter the park from inland, parking at the lot on Lax Lake Road, just north of the lake itself. Then start hiking up. You’ll hike about a mile through pines, aspen, birch, and balsam, gaining almost 300 feet of elevation, before turning left to head for the summit. Once you hit the top of Mt. Baldy, rest and enjoy the view. Then take the trail down toward Tettegouche Camp on Mic Mac Lake. You’ll find drinking water there. Be sure to fill your water bottle before heading out toward Floating Bog Bay, skirting around Tettegouche Lake, taking in views of Cedar and Lax Lakes, before rejoining the trail to the parking lot. The hike is about four miles with an elevation gain of more than 400 feet before you start heading back down.

Park at the Willard Munger State Trail lot on the east side of the town of Carlton. Start hiking east on the paved Munger Trail until you come to trail intersection 27. Take a right onto the rugged Carlton Trail, which follows the big rapids of the St. Louis River as it slices through Jay Cooke State Park. More than three miles of steep, rocky terrain follow the river gorge to a swinging bridge that leads to the park’s headquarters. At this point, you can make a choice: Fill your water bottle and go back the way you came or fill your water bottle and take the paved Forbay Trail to Thomson Trail. Compared to the Carlton Trail, the Forbay and Thomson Trails traverse relatively easy terrain. The Thomson Trail intersects with the Munger Trail on the other side of the river from where you started. Head west on the Munger Trail to get back to the trailhead.

Don’t let the wide, mowed grass of the Prairie Overlook Trail fool you: Sure, it’ll be easy on your feet, but your thighs will be screaming before you’re done. Park at the trailhead in William O’Brien State Park, which is located just outside the Twin Cities on the St. Croix River. Take the Wetland Trail 1.2 miles uphill through oak savanna and prairie to the Prairie Overlook Trail loop. The 1.4-mile loop skirts a pond and enables you to see sweeping vistas across and down the St. Croix River Valley. The loop ends at the Woodland Edge Trail, which you’ll take along the bluff’s edge before heading back down to the trailhead. The entire hike is more than seven miles, with a lot of ups and downs as you traverse the river bluffs. Wear good shoes and being plenty of water, as you won’t have a chance to refill until you pass the Savanna Campground on the way back down.

Folks looking for a trail workout in Southeast Minnesota need to head over to the Reno Recreational Area and test their mettle against the steep bluffs of the Mississippi River Valley. Start from the horse campground on Hillside Road in Reno Township, and take the short trail straight up and over the bluff. Hang a left at the “T” then a right at the fork that will lead you switch-backing down through the hardwood forest to the Crooked Creek Valley for about a mile. Head up the next bluff, then follow ridgeline along the creek until you meet the Brownsville Trail and Sand Rock Point Forest Road. Turn left to follow the trail back down the creek until it meets up with another forest road at a gate. Continue heading downhill on the road until you run into Reno Trail near where it crosses Crooked Creek. Follow the Reno Trail back to where you started. This hike is nearly 10 miles with a lot of ups and downs—but also a lot of payoffs: Views across and down the Mississippi Valley and out over the Bluff Country of Southern Minnesota. Bring a daypack with lots of water and snacks. Wear sturdy shoes, as some of the trails can be tricky and there are rattlesnakes in the area.

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