One of the least visited state parks in the MN State park system. There are fun things to do at Schoolcraft State Park. The park is also one of the smallest in the group. It’s known for its virgin pine forest and hiking trail.
I found Schoolcraft State Park to be one of those rare finds. It is like walking through a wilderness all to yourself. With our base camp at Scenic State Park, we did a quick trip over to the Schoolcraft to see what it was all about. With little expectation, we found the park to be a lot of fun.
The Beginnings of Schoolcraft State Park
The park is named after Henry Schoolcraft, one of the individuals who charted the headwaters of the Mississippi River with Anishinabe guide Ozawindib. The southern end of the park is the location of Torrey Township.
It was where early travelers and lumberjacks rested. Many relics from their town have been found. The Park wasn’t established until 1959.
The Schoolcraft State Park Hiking Club State Trail
Miles: 1.8 miles
Total Miles Hiked: 138.5 miles
The hiking club trail at Schoolcraft State Park takes visitors through the entire park. Along the way, you’ll see interpretive signs pointing out some of the biggest points of interest.
The trail also passes next to the confluence of the Mississippi River and the Vermillion Rivers. During the logging days, they used to have wannigans, or floating cooking shacks tied to the river to feed the lumberjacks.
300 Year Old Pine
The 300-year-old pine splits into three trunks and grows tall along the banks of the Mississippi River. Left behind during logging times because its trunk was not deemed straight enough for lumber, this tree has grown into a large and beautiful landmark of Schoolcraft State Park.
At the trailhead, you’ll also see a 300-year-old pine tree. In my excitement for adventure, I missed it completely. That and mom mode kicked in worrying about who had the dog, did they have water bottles, and other things.
Pro Tip: Never get lost on the hiking trail again. Download a free Schoolcraft State Park Map on Avenza before you leave. Using GPS Coordinates on your phone, it tracks your position on the state-issued park map.
One of the most entertaining parts of the hike was walking as quietly as we could as to not scare the deer. It wasn’t just one deer, but an entire family.
With the park being so small, we encircled them the entire way. I felt bad like we were corralling them. They must be used to it.
The proximity to water and the recent rainfall made it the perfect storm for bugs on our visit. Needless to say, I’m so glad we packed our new set of bug nets.
They helped make the hike so much more enjoyable. If you don’t have a set of these in your hiking gear, you need to pick some up. They don’t cost a lot of money, weigh next to nothing, and make a world of difference.
Other Things to Do At Schoolcraft State Park
Camping at Schoolcraft State Park
Camping at Schoolcraft State Park is considered rustic. The park has 28 campsites in it, with no electricity. There is no dump station and vaulted toilets for those staying on-site.
They don’t discourage RVs, but limit them to 40ft max. The hiking club trail briefly went through the campground and we got a glimpse of the setup. They seemed like nice spots with a mix of foliage in the sites.
Canoeing is another activity you can participate in at Schoolcraft State Park. They do not offer any rentals, but the river is a great canoeing river. The Mississippi River is still small this far north.
There is one canoe campsite on the river. The Vermilion River is another river to explore.
At the time we were there, with the drought it was barely distinguishable, and covered in reeds and wild rice. The park’s boat launch is along the Mississippi River.
Water grasses grow in the shallow water of the Vermillion River, which is banked on both sides by forest. Henry Rowe Schoolcraft, the park’s namesake, was said to have camped in this area on his quest to find the headwaters of the Mississippi River.
The Vermillion River flows calmly eastward through fields until it converges with the Mississippi River in the southeast corner of the park. During the logging days, wannigans—or floating cooking shacks—were tied up along this bank to feed the lumberjacks who floated logs down the 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.
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 Schoolcraft State Park?
This park was a fun stop on our Northern MN Loop. I can’t say it was one that I sought out before our trip but I’m glad we made it there. If you are looking for a remote experience and solitude, I’d go back. I think the next time I visit, will probably be on a canoe if I ever make it on my Mississippi Headwaters trip I’m dreaming of.