Crow Wing State Park is a great place to visit for Minnesota vacations. There are so many things to do at Crow Wing State Park. The Crow Wing State Park has many outdoor activities for visitors to enjoy. There are fishing spots, hiking trails, camping sites, and lots of other activities that can be enjoyed in the sun or in the snow.
Visitors can enjoy a quiet hike through forest trails or go on a bike ride on one of the bike paths that exist near the campgrounds. All these activities combined make Crow Wing State Park a great place to visit for Minnesota vacations.
My husband told me something that I didn’t realize about myself until this trip. There are certain things in this world that bring me alive. For some, they live for food, for me, it’s all about the perfect hike.
The ride up to Crow Wing State Park was a little bit stressful. Not because of traffic, but because we were trying to squeeze in a hike before a cabin trip with the extended family.
Time was limited but we were confident the hour detour to Crow Wing would be worth it. As I got out of the car at the park, every worry melted away. The sun hit my face, a cool breeze, and hiking next to a river is just what I needed.
What’s So Special About Crow Wing State Park in Brainerd MN?
Crow Wing State Park in Brainerd MN is an amazing example of the Northwoods. It has plenty of activities for visitors to enjoy, including fishing, boating, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing.
The park is also home to many animals like deer, coyotes, beavers, foxes, bald eagles, and hawks. The scenery includes both the Crow Wing River and the Mississippi River.
The beginning of Crow Wing State Park
The land at Crow Wing State Park in Brainerd, Minnesota was originally home to the Ojibwe Indians. In the late 1800s it became a site for logging and a small settlement of loggers.
In 1823 the first citizen of Crow Wing established a fur post along an oxcart route that ran through what would become Brainerd’s Old Town District. By the 1860s the tow was a trade center with over 500 people living in the community.
In 1892, the First Church of Christ congregation was established in Brainerd by a group of settlers from Kansas. But like many other towns of the past, this too fell victim to the railroads.
The new route travels through modern-day Brainerd, leaving the town to fall with it. The Crow Wing Historical Society spearheaded the creation of the park in 1959.
Things to do at Crow Wing State Park
Crow Wing State Park Hiking Club Trail
Miles: 2.3 miles
Total Miles Hiked: 143.8 miles
The stunning views and flat paths made this easy to do for everyone. While I don’t mind the hills, my youngest still isn’t thrilled about doing them. Anytime we can make it easy on his legs, everyone has a better trip.
Regardless of if you are camping on-site, or doing a day trip, there is a good chance you’ll drive to one of the lots to get to the campground. There are three locations, by the boat launch, at Father Pierz Chapel or at the upper picnic area.
We parked at the picnic area and took a spur trail down to the river. It took us directly to the Old Crow Wing Townsite and boardwalk. If you have some time, check out some of the signs.
From there take the hiking trail around the river. What I loved is that 80 percent of the trail is riverside. With a few sections of trees, you’ll have the river in your sites the whole time.
The Hiking Club Trail loops around to the old Oxcart Trail Ford. This was very interesting to see as it was where they used to cross the river.
All I can think is they must have been crazy. Chippewa Lookout, Father Pierze Chapple, and back again to the Parking lot.
Have you started the MN State Parks Hiking Club Yet? It’s a fun excuse to start hiking and the trails take you to the best parts of the park. Find out more by clicking here.
Other Things to do at Crow Wing State Park
Camping At Crow Wing State Park
Camping at Crow Wing State Park is a great way to enjoy the beauty of nature, but also to get away from it all. The campgrounds offer plenty of room for tent or RV camping and many have picnic tables and fire pits for those who prefer to cook outdoors.
The park has a variety of sites available for camping and is conveniently located near the town of Brainerd, making it easy to find what you need.
Brainerd is a great town filled with fun adventures. Make sure to check out: 38 FUN Things to do in Brainerd Minnesota
Fishing At Crow Wing State Park
You can fish from the bank of the Mississippi River. A fishing license is not required if you are a Minnesota resident and have feet on the ground. You can also launch a personal watercraft at the boat launch and take the boat up the Crow Wing River.
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.
Ride the Paul Bunyan Trail
The Paul Bunyan Trail is a paved bike trail that stretches from the Brainerd Lakes to Bemidji. The trail is a 15-mile paved trail that is perfect for biking, running, and walking.
Though it does have some hills it’s a great trail for beginners. The Paul Bunyan Trail starts in Brainerd and ends in Bemidji.
On the way, you’ll find yourself passing through scenic areas such as Fond du Lac, where you can stop for a drink or some food at the Round Barn Restaurant and Brewery.
Built in 1849, by fur trader Clement Beaulieu, this is the only remaining building from the original town site. It’s actually the only remaining house still standing north of St. Anthony Falls.
A lot of the remaining homes and buildings were torn down or carted away when the railroad came through, 10 miles north of Brainerd.
To get a closer look, take the trail that leads to the house. There is access to it from the field and as soon as you reach the trees.
Visit a Church at a State Park
There are two churches in Crow Wing State Park. Father Pierz’ mission is the first church built. It is a log cabin with a cross at the top of it. Knights of Columbus later constructed a new building on the original mission site, on private land without support from Minnesota State Parks Department.
Father Pierz was a Catholic Priest from Austria who had an intense love for the outdoors. He came to America in 1857 to spread his faith. He used what he knew best, words, to preach the gospel.
Father Pierz realized that many settlers who were coming to Minnesota were German-speaking Catholics and he wanted them to know they weren’t alone.
Father Pierz’ mission was constructed in 1912 by Father John Pierz who lived nearby and served as a priest for Catholics living near Lake Superior and Wisconsin. He began by preaching to Native Americans in their own language.
The Knights of Columbus Church was built by a wealthy businessman, William J. Cowan, in 1958 without the support of the Minnesota State Parks Department.
When Cowan died, he left his fortune to his wife, who donated it to the Catholic Church for the construction of the new Knight’s chapel at Crow Wing State Park in 1978.
According to their website, the chapel is maintained by the 4th degree of MN and there is a mass celebrated there annually in July. Outside of the church is a plaque “in Memory of Father Lawrence Lautishar.
Born in Austria in 1820. Arrived in Crow Wing June 26, 1858 to assist Fr. Pierz. Dies by Freezing while crossing Red Lake in the performance of his Missionary Duties on December 3, 1858.
Looking for a digital version of the Crow Wing State Park Map? I get all of my maps from Avenza Maps. Download them for free before you leave and you’ll always know where you are on the trail. It uses GPS to navigate you and you don’t even need the internet to use it!
Battle of 1768
According to 19th-century historian, William Warren, this was where a major battle between the Dakota and Ojibwe occurred in 1768.
It was reported that the Ojibwe one a victory against the Dakota warriors who had earlier taken captives from Big Sandy Lake. The victory established Ojibwe’s control of the area.
From this point, you can see over a mile upriver. Local lore suspects that the Ojibwe scouts used this as a vantage point as they watched for the arrival of Dakota warriors with captives from Big Sandy Lake. Further downstream, you can visit the site of the Battle of Crow Wing.
Canoeing the Mississippi River
Crow Wing State Park sits alongside the Crow Wing River and the Mississippi River. Rent one of their canoes or bring your own and explore the river as it twists and turns around the park.
Check at the park office for local companies that also offer canoe and kayak outfitting, including shuttle service. Some even offer Tubing along the Crow River.
Commonly Asked Questions
Are there Bears at Crow Wing State Park?
Generally speaking, bears do not inhabit Crow Wing State Park. I say generally because it’s not unheard of to get bears around the Twin Cities Metro. On the state’s official list of common animals, there is no mention of Bears.
Can you hunt in Crow Wing State Park in MN?
Almost all Minnesota State Parks are open to hunting at one time or another. To see when hunting will be available this year, and see what type of hunting you can do, visit the MN DNR Website.
During hunting season, if the park is participating, sections, if not the whole park will be closed to hikers. Whenever you hike in November, always make sure to wear brightly colored clothing or a vest.
How much does it cost to visit Crow Wing State Park?
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 Crow Wing State Park in MN?
Yes, OMG Yes. This Crow Wing State Park in Northern Minnesota is amazing. We actually went back a second time to spend the night and attend the Brainerd International Raceway and enjoy the town a bit more.
I didn’t even get to visit the Native American battle locations. Next time, I’m renting a canoe and getting in the water too.
At this point, the Mississippi is big enough to be classified as a river, but not overpowering enough to make me question getting in it.