6 Exciting Things to do at Scenic State Park
There are tons of things to do at Scenic State Park you will want to plan a weekend there. Scenic State Park was never on my radar. I feel bad for saying so.
The generic name makes visitors wonder, why is this park of all MN State Parks more deserving of the Scenic title. The park may not have elements of the north shore, but it does have one of the best forests I’ve had the privilege of staying at.
Day Eight of our Northern Loop Adventure had us at Scenic State Park. This would be our new base camp for some of these north central parks. When trying to decide on a location, we were on the fence about Scenic or McCarthy Beach. Each having its own set of rave reviews, we settled on Scenic for the simple fact that it had an eclectic site open. It ended up being an excellent choice.
This summer has been a mixed bag for the weather. First is the drought. It led to crunchier conditions everywhere. Aside from the biting ants at Lake Bronson, it also caused the water levels to decrease in the lakes. It also played a factor in the fires all over the state.
Those pesky Canadian fires that produced smokey conditions in Red River State Recreation Area, caught up with us again. I love finding beauty in any weather condition, I couldn’t help but enjoy the constant haze upon the campground it produced.
It also limited some of our activity a little as we didn’t want to be doing as much heavy hiking in it.
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The Scenic State Park Beginnings
Scenic State Park started off as Sandwick State park in 1921, to protect the virgin pines around the lakes. Three weeks later they decided a better description is Scenic State Park. Today it is one of my favorite state park, next to the untouched beauty of Itasca State Park.
The Scenic State Park Hiking Club State Trail
Miles: 2.9 miles
Difficulty: Easy with hills
Total Miles Hiked: 136.7 miles
There are plenty of great opportunities to hike in Scenic State Park. The fire tower trail and chase point trail are the highest recommended taking. If you are doing the MN State Parks Hiking Club Trail, you’ll also do a quick jaunt on the Tell Lake Trail. This portion of the hiking trail loops around 1.5 miles through a boardwalk, and wetlands.
Stopping into the visitor center is a great way to get insider information when hiking. They have so many great recommendations. Thankfully the Hiking Club Trail was one they recommended!
Have you joined the Minnesota State Parks Hiking Club yet? It’s a great program to get you to more state parks, plus you’ll earn free nights of camping and patches along the way. Check out all the program details as well as info on their hikes here: 75 reasons to join the MN State Parks Passport and MN Hiking Club
Chase Point Trail
Chase Point is the most recognizable site in the park. The point is a unique landmass that just out separates Coon Lake and Sandwick Lake. It almost seems unnatural that something like that can exist.
The trail starts off on a short gravel road as you make your way out of the peninsula. Then you traverse the trail with beautiful views on either side. It ends with an overlook at the point and a view of Loge Campground.
As I was hiking through the trail, I kept feeling like I’d been there before. It wasn’t that I had been there, but I found the place that I had been staring at all summer long.
As the navigator on our journeys, aka passenger, I spend much of my time staring out at the window and catching glimpses of the State Park Sticker on my dashboard. Looking at the trees, I knew instantly I was in the exact woods pictured.
My enjoyment of the moment was diminished slightly by the number of bugs. Normally I don’t mention the bug because, with precautions, it’s not a big deal.
Different times of the day or different atmospheric conditions can lead to no activity. In this case, they only congregated near the beginning of the trail. As soon as we got deeper into the point, they dissipated.
Pro Tip: Never get lost on the hiking trail again, or wonder how much further. I always download the map before I leave my Avena App. It’s a great GPS map that doesn’t require the internet. The Science State Park Map can be downloaded for free by clicking here.
Where to park?
There are a couple of parking options. First is walking from your campsite if you are staying at the Chase Point Campground. Otherwise, you can park at the boat launch too and walk up to the start of Tell Trail. If you are looking to do just Chase Point, there is a small parking lot near the start, with enough space to hold 5-6 cars. On a weekend, it will easily be filled, so get there early.
Other Things to Do At Scenic State Park
Camping at Scenic State Park
Two Campgrounds to choose from, Chase Point and Lodge Campground. These campgrounds are miles apart in distance and feel. Chase Point Campground is where eighty percent of the campers stayed.
I made my reservations a little late in the game and had little choice. There was one spot left at either campground. On a whim, we decided to stay at Lodge Campground.
This is where all the tenters and those without electricity were staying. There were only 2 sites with electric hookups there. That didn’t stop those campers from staying there, but it left things a little quieter.
For those that have longer Riggs, some of the sites had sharp turns and could be difficult to back into. The campground loop was relatively small. The remoteness had had no bear warnings.
The campground had a small dock leading to the water and a stunning view of Chase Point. There were a few trails leading out, along with a trail to the fire tower. The report from the park ranger was that it’s an excellent hike, but the fire tower has been closed for years.
Chase Point Campground
Chase Point campground is the complete opposite of the Loge campground. Sites were cozy, to say the least with people buzzing around. Sites had trees between them, but they provided little as far as growth between them to hide you from your neighbors.
It was designed for bigger RVs and campers to get in and out with even some pull-through spots. Because of the number of people, bears have become a problem at this end of the park.
All dump stations were bear-proof. A mile down the road at the Lodge Campground, there were no precautions or warnings.
The feature I absolutely loved at Chase Point was the dock in front of the lake. The campground sites inferno of the Chase Point peninsula. Looking out from the shore, you’d think it was the edge of the lake.
But there is a great boardwalk running along the shore, with places to tie up your boat. This is a beautiful area to explore. If you aren’t staying in the campground, can you park by the boat launch and get access.
This is one of five canoe-in or boat-in sites. This particular canoe-in site is surrounded by red pine, and is one of the most popular of all our water access sites.
Not feeling the camp life? There are some great hotels just minutes away from the park in Grand Rapids. My favorite is the Hotel Rapids. Click here to book a room.
There is a small swimming beach near the Historic Lodge. The lodge was built by the civilian conservation corps and is considered a historic site.
Near the log is there is a lot of open space to picnic and enjoy your own part of the lake. The swimming area has a small sand section for entry.
Not enough to layout or build sandcastles at, but just enough to have a soft area to enter the water. The lake is crystal clear.
Scenic State Park is a great spot to fish because of the limits on the wake and speed for motored boats. There are two different boat launches, one at each end of the park and watercraft rentals too. There are additional opportunities to fish from shore. I highly recommend it if you get the chance.
Never been fishing before? Or forgot your tackle box? Scenic State Park has fishing kits ready to borrow at the park office.
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.
Scenic State Park is one of only a handful of Minnesota State Parks that has a fire tower. Unfortunately, ours is currently closed due to safety concerns.
Looking to climb a fire tower? There are two MN State Parks that have fire towers to climb, Big Bog and St Croix State Park. There is a bonus fire Tower to climb just outside of Whitewater State Park too.
Things to do at Big Bog State Recreation Area: A Northern MN Must See
Things to Do at St Croix State Park
How much does it cost to visit Scenic 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 Scenic State Park?
I really enjoyed Scenic State Park. There are plenty of hiking trails that haven’t been explored.
I wouldn’t even mind staying at some of their more remote campsites on the other side of the lake or even the watercraft sites. The park is a little ways away from Schoolcraft State Park, Hill Annex, and McCarthy Beach.
If you are in the area, I also recommend checking out Judy Garland Home and Museum in Grand Rapids. You’ll find plenty of things to do at Scenic State Park to have a great time.