DayTripper is supported by its audience. When you purchase though links on our site, we may earn a small commission. It doesn’t cost you anything additional. I never promote things I haven’t vetted myself.
In early December, I was getting kinda bummed that we still hadn’t seen any snow in the Twin Cities. I actually went looking for it. The only thing I wasn’t expecting was the level of ice on the trail.
This season is definitely a learning curve. Moose Lake State Park has been on my list for a while.
Like most of you, I’ve passed it on Highway 35 a million times and even said, should we stop? But we are usually too drained from our other adventure to make it happen. This time, I was going to take a special trip to Moose Lake State Park and make it happen.
Moose Lake State Park Highlights
Between two high-profile state parks, Jay Cooke and Banning. That doesn’t diminish the fun you can have. Some of the favorite things to do are hike, fish, swim at the beach, and visit the Moose Lake Agate and Geological Center.
The park was created in 1962 when a group of locals wanted to have more camping opportunities in the area. It turns out they created a nice oasis.
Because of everything near the park, visitors love the quiet camping experience. I can confirm that there isn’t much activity.
The park is easy to find off the highway.
Moose Lake State Park Hiking Club State Trail
Miles: 2 miles
Difficulty: Easy with Rolling Hills
Total Miles Hiked: 93.9 miles
The Moose Lake State Park Hiking Club Trail wanders through the forest and past some of the best features of the park.
The Rolling Hills Trial trailhead is located at the park entrance. There is a short trail leading from the parking lot before it crosses the road.
Then you get access to two different hiking trails, the Rolling Hills Hiking Club Trail or the Wildlife Pond Trail.
Make sure to download your Moose Lake State Park Map before you leave. Avenza has GeoPDF Map from MNDNR. This doesn’t require internet on the trail and will track your location using your phone’s GPS. You’ll never feel turned around again! The best part is, it’s free!
The first thing you’ll come to is the Dam. This is a natural land dam, not the traditional one you think of. If the map didn’t have a dam symbol on it, you’d never know you were on one.
The great thing about the dam is that it creates a beautiful wildlife lake. A group of trumpeter swans live here and are seen on the wildlife pond trail. During winter, they migrate to warmer waters.
Bird Watching at the Park
Wander along the wildlife pond trail loops to catch glimpses of migrating colorful warblers, nesting ducks, geese, and trumpeter swans. Butterfly watching opportunities abound in the meadows, field edges and hardwood stands.
The Canadian tiger swallowtail, northern pearly eye, and mourning cloak are a few of many colorful butterflies to enjoy.
Love exploring state parks like these? Right after we got done exploring Moose Lake State Park, we took a quick trip up to Jay Cooke State Park to see it in winter. It didn’t disappoint: Jay Cooke State Park Hiking Club Trail: Swinging Bridge, Waterfalls & more
Adirondack Style Shelter
After making it past the wetlands, you’ll go through some more woods before coming to an Adirondack-style shelter. This is a great opportunity to rest and get out of some of the winter wind.
The park is made up of a mix of wildlife ponds, wetlands, and lakes. But my personal favorite is entering the tall hardwood forests.
If you continue your hike counterclockwise, the best view of the tall trees is towards the end of the loop. They are not virgin trees, based on their rows, but they do make for some impressive sights. It canopies the trail perfectly.
Finding the Password
The hiking club password was easy to find on the trail. We took the trail in the traditional clockwise direction around the loop. The sign was facing us. If you go counter-clockwise, you’ll walk right past it, since it’s a view from the side.
Other Hiking Trails To Check Out
If you are looking for more trails for hiking you should check out the Echo Lake Trail. If has great lake views. There is also the Wildlife Pond trail to explore.
Other things to do at Moose Lake State Park
One of the favorite features of the state park for families is the swimming beach. It is a great way to cool off in the afternoon.
Located walking distance from the campground, this clean, sandy beach spot is just right for campers, day users, or travelers heading through looking for a quick swim.
Nearby is a volleyball court and horseshoe pit. Check with the park office to see if they have any horseshoes to borrow. Or you can have a picnic and enjoy the waterfront.
Echo Lake Fishing
The quiet Echo Lake was formed by large, melting blocks of ice left by the glaciers. It is stocked with bass, northern, walleye, and panfish.
Bring your boat or canoe and put in on echo lake. Or rent a canoe from the park office. The park also has a fishing pier just east of the beach. In winter, when the lake freezes over, visitors enjoy ice fishing on the lake.
Fish For Free in Minnesota State Parks
Did you know if you have a Minnesota driver’s License you can fish for free in Minnesota State Parks? The only expectation is if the body of water requires a trout stamp, or if you are in a Recreation Area. To fish for free you must be:
1. Fishing from shore or wading in water within the state park; or
2. Fishing through the ice, from a boat or a float on a designated lake that is completely encompassed within a Minnesota state park.
Click here for the official statue.
Moose Lake Agate and Geological Center
One of the coolest features at Moose Lake State Park is the Agate and Geological Center. It showcases Minnesota’s best gemstone, the Lake Superior Agates.
The building includes a nature store/gifts shop, classroom, workspace and so much more. Rockhounds love getting to visit and see some of the great agates found in the area. There is no cost for admission.
As early as 1962 people had been agateing from the park. Located at the ranger’s station, is a series of informative displays about the Lake Superior Agates. The agate is the official gemstone of Minnesota. Formed by the during lava eruptions that occurred in Minnesota over a billion years ago.
The stones red color comes from iron, found extensively through the iron range. The Lake Superior Agate is in a category all on its own.
Unfortunately, this was closed during my visit, or I’d be showing you all the cool things hidden inside. Hopefully, it will open up next summer again.
Bike the Willard Munger Trail
Bring your bikes to the park and venture on the Willard Munger State Bike Trail. The paved trail is two miles west of the park.
The trail is 70 miles of paved roadway, running through rugged rock-cuts and outcrops. It connects Duluth to Hinkley. From Moose Lake, Take the bike trail from the visitor’s office 3.7 miles to connect with the Willard Munger State Trail.
The park is a good base camp for those looking to ride in this beautiful part of the state.
Moose Lake State Park Campground has 33 drive-in sites and 20 electric sites. There are 2 wheelchair-accessible sites for all to enjoy. Teh Campsites can accommodate RV’s up to 60 feet.
Questions about Moose Lake State Park
How big is Moose Lake State Park?
Moose Lake State Park is 1,194 acres. It includes 5.5 miles of hiking trails.
Are dogs allowed at Moose Lake State Park?
Yes, dogs are allowed at all Minnesota State Parks an on the trails. They must be kept on a 6ft leash. They are not allowed in building, and you cannot leave them in your camper unattended.
Where is Moose Lake Park?
Moose Lake State Park is right off highway 35 just south of Duluth. The official address is 4252 Co Rd 137, Moose Lake, MN 55767.
How much does it cost?
All Minnesota State Parks are free with an annual permit. You can buy them in person or online for $35. If you are planning to visit for the day, expect to pay around $7. Throughout the year, there are a few free days and other discounts you can check out too.
Camping costs anywhere from $25-35 a night.
Pro Tip: Visit any State Park during one of their free days. Check out Minnesota State Park Pass Hacks, Tips, and Free Days to find all the days
Would I Go Back to Moose Lake State Park?
Yes, I would love to go back to Moose Lake State Park during the summertime and see the beach and swans. I’d also like to see inside the Agate and Geological Center. Unfortunately, the buildings are all closed due to Covid.
I’d also think it would be fun to camp there. Also, make sure to check out the nearby Banning State Park on your visit.