George H Crosby Manitou State Park is a remote park like you’ve never seen in Northern Minnesota. It is the only park that is not along highway 61 and Lake Superior.
When the land was first donated to the state, they decided to limit the development to make it a haven for remote camping.
It was a great decision in my mind due to how overrun the other parks in the area are. If you want some peace and quiet, you definitely need to hike at George H Crosby Manitou State Park.
My trip to Minnesota’s North Shore started off with my daughter and me doing a small section of the Superior Hiking Trail. It was her first time and she learned the importance of packing lite.
On the way home, I had my husband join us with our camper to visit a few other state parks on the north shore we haven’t done yet.
The goal was to complete another 9.6 miles of hiking trails before heading home. When it came to getting one last park in, after doing Lookout Mountain earlier in the day, I didn’t have the heart to make the kids come with me. This would be a solo adventure.
The George H Crosby Manitou State Park Hiking Club Trail
Miles: 4.2 miles
Total Miles Hiked: 117.5 miles
The primary trail everyone does is the hiking club. It loops from the parking lot to the river and falls, and back around to the parking lot.
There are other trails in the park that branch off from here, including the Superior Hiking Trail. But most day hikers do the Hiking Club Loop. It’s broken into three trails, Middle Trail, the Manitou River section, and the Humpback Trail.
The middle trail is a nice well-traveled path. Narrower than most on the north shore and park renunciant on what you’ll find on the backcountry sections of the Superior Hiking Trail.
The map shows a scenic viewpoint, but there is no bench or overlook to be seen. The trail has plenty of roots, rocks, and other obstacles in the trail, but for the most part, descends the entire way to the river trail.
Do you have your George H Crosby Manitou State park map yet? Avenza Maps has free park maps for all Minnesota State Parks. They are GPS-enabled, showing you exactly where you are on the trail. The connection at this park is very limited so I recommend downloading it before you get there.
Soon it turns into the rockier river trail. This is where things fun. Alongside the river is a stunning waterfall with multiple overlooks. Any chance you get to go near the water, I recommend it. I had a lot of fun exploring without the worry of someone else tripping.
The park has three waterfalls: Upper, lower, and Middle. Middle falls flow down a rocky raise into a pool before continuing on.
Lower falls empty into a shallow pool near the convergence of the Middle and West Manitou River Trails. Within the park, the river falls a total of 100ft. The best views are along the Humpback trail on your way to campsite number two.
After a brief stint on the river trail, it transitions to the humpback trail. This trail is the least used based on the amount of brush on the trail. ALWAYS WEAR PANTS.
Normally on established hiking club trails, it’s not a big deal. But the brush had grown so tall, it was impossible to miss them. With shores, you could easily get scrapped up.
During a rainstorm, each brush against a plant dumps all their water all over you.
If you thought the other trails are rocky, this is a whole other level. At one point I reached an outcropping of nothing but rocks with no trail in sight. Thank you Avenza for keeping my sanity.
The entire time I was hoping to find some type of trail marker with nothing to be found. Thankfully there were no random spur trails. If you go the same way I did, it’s on the left.
Aside from the brief river location, this was the most scenic section of the trail as you can get some good views of the forest.
Something that always freaked me out hiking on the Superior Hiking Trail is the rebar rods they use to hold in steps and prevent erosion on the trail.
I was haunted after seeing a picture of someone on Facebook fall on one and having to be medically evacuated. This trail is littered with them and they come out of nowhere.
I spent most of my time looking down trying to avoid them.
Other things to do at George H Crosby Manitou State Park?
Benson like is 329 acres. What makes this lake unique is that no motorized boats can be on it. Visitors can take their personal watercraft and fish in the waters.
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.
The Manitou Overlook is on the West Manitou River Trail. The overlook gives hikers a stunning view of the entire river valley.
The rolling hills are thick with forests, with a few breaks where the river winds its way through. I highly recommend stopping there.
Bike at the park
The park does not have any paved bike trails within the park, but it does have the C.J. Ramsey North Shore State Trail along the northernmost section of the park.
The trailhead is located 2 miles north of Finland on County Road 7. The trail runs 146 miles from Duluth to Grand Marais.
C.J. Ramstad/North Shore State Trail
Snowmobilers call it the Trail of Dreams. It stretches over 146 miles from Duluth to Grand Marais through some of Minnesota’s best backcountry areas.
It winds its way through the forest and ridgeline overlooking Lake Superior. The trailhead is located 2 miles north of Finland, on County Road 7.
You can’t win them all
The Northshore is known for unpredictable weather. My weekend up there I spend dodging sun-showers. After just getting rained on, I decided to make a break for it for George H Crosby Manitou State Park.
I pulled into the parking lot to blue skies with white puffy clouds, my favorite hiking weather. Grabbing a raincoat for extra warmth.
I made it a half-mile in before the rain started up again. Normally a few drops aren’t a big deal, but it stayed the whole hike. With the rain comes the humidity and bugs. That was until the last half mile and the clouds parted and it was gorgeous again. I can’t win them all.
How much does it cost to visit George H Crosby Manitou 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 George H Crosby Manitou State Park?
Complex question. I think it would have been a great experience if I wasn’t wet. I loved getting to do a solo hike. One thing that made it even better was I only saw one other couple on the trail.
Literally, the place was deserted. I liked the idea of their secluded campsites near Benson Lake. If I did do it, I’d make sure to reserve a space further away from the hiking club trial for a little more privacy. Even though the hike was over four miles, it was a great break from camp life.