Things to do at Zippel Bay State Park in Northern MN
There are so many things to do at Zipppel Bay State Park, it’s a wonder more people don’t make it up to this part of the state. There is a romance to sanding on the sandy shore and seeing in the distance Canada. Sure the fishermen have known about this spot for some time, but you don’t have to be a fisherman to fall in love.
The seventh State Park in our Northern Loop Adventure. Zippel Bay State Park always intrigued me. At the top of Minnesota, next to the border crossing into Canadian. I feel like the border is the taboo thing ever since they stopped all recreational international travel with Covid. It doesn’t help that I let my passport expire. It’s forbidden.
With all the resorts and fishing, they have a store dedicated just to groceries and recognizable stores like a Caribou. Oh, how I miss a Caribou coffee in the morning. I don’t even drink it that often while I’m at home, but when I’m on vacation, it’s all I want.
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The Beginning of Zippel Bay State Park
People have been visiting Zippel Bay long before it was a State Park or even called “Lake of the Woods”. Archeological digs showed evidence of prehistoric people living there. In 1972 French explorer Pierre Gaultier de la Verendrye set up a fort and helped establish the fur trade. In 1959 the first European settler Wilhelm Zippel took up permanent residence starting a small village. Today, much of the area is visited for its fishing.
Things to do at Zippel Bay State Park
Zippel Bay State Park Hiking Club Trail
Miles: 1.5 miles
Total Miles Hiked: 132.5 miles
Pulling up to Zippel Bay, I started to wonder if we’d be the only one at the park. Outside they had the stamps for Zippel Bay State Park, Franz Jevne State Park, and Garden Island State Recreation Area. Garden Island was the one place I still haven’t figured out a way to get to. You either have to go in Winter by the groomed snowmobile trail or bring your boat during the summer. If you don’t have a boat, you can charter one or rent one from an outfitter.
I personally struggled with the idea of chartering a boat for a trip to the island, just to say “I’ve been there”. For now, I’ll just have to look out into the water and envision it hiding over the horizon.
The hiking club trail starts off on the sandy beach. It follows the main road, making it easy to find. The trail was more like a stroll along the beach than a traditional hike. It was very relaxing. Depending on your shoe preference, I recommend going in Hiking sandals.
Before the shores turn, there is a small pathway back toward the woods. It’s not well marked and even with the Avenza app, it’s hard to notice. If you follow the beach, you’ll bypass the password completely. This part of the hike took away the romance of a beach walk, with a mix of sand, dirt, and a few more bugs than the waterfront. At the end of the hike, don’t forget to check out the lighthouse. Officially it’s a coastguard light beacon, but who really wants to get that technical?
**I heard the hiking club trail moved. I’m not sure if it’s a temporary or terminate change, but more of it is in the woods now.
Always download the most current version of the Avenza Map before you leave just to make sure you are headed the correct way. This free Zippel Bay State Park Map is super easy to use!
Other Things to do a Zippel Bay State Park
The Swimming Beach
Zippel Bay’s coastline is perfect for a swim. Along with all the sand, you could probably jump in for a swim almost anywhere. The official swimming area is right next to the parking lot. There is plenty of places to picnic nearby.
Fishing at Zippel Bay State Park
Lake of the Woods is known as the Walleye Capital of the World. We wanted to check out the fishing situation so we decided to take the long road down to the marina. It’s a long slow drive through the woods of Northern Minnesota. At the end of the road is a beautiful marina to park your boat in or boat ramp.
We came more to see the spectacular view of the bay. There is also a fishing dock for those without a boat. It was undergoing repairs while we were there but looks promising.
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.
Traveling all the way up to Northern Minnesota, Zippel Bay State Park is a great place to camp. We ended up base camping at Big Bog. Zippel Bay would have been another great option as they have a lot you can do nearby. The campground is wooded with plenty of room to move around if you have a bigger camper.
If camping isn’t your thing, I totally get it. Sometimes on these long trips with lots of hiking, it’s easier to stay in a hotel. Consider staying at the Zippel Bay Resort and get the best of both worlds.
A gravel road ends at a carry-in access for canoeists and kayakers who wish to paddle Lake of the Woods. A picnic table, parking lot, and fire ring can also be found at this secluded local favorite.
Rock Jetties – Channel
Zippel Bay State Park is situated on something called Lake of the Woods. Apparently, this is one of the biggest lakes in the world, haha. Maybe not the largest but standing next to it you could easily mistake it for Lake Superior. The mood around the lake is always changing – from huge storms that bring five-foot waves crashing down, to eerie periods of total stillness, broken only by the faint calls of gulls. There’s a stone jetty that provides access to the channel between Zippel Bay and Lake of the Woods.
Time to break out the picnic basket! Zippel Bay is the perfect spot to enjoy a scenic view while indulging in some tasty snacks. There are picnic tables set near the water and on an adjacent rock outcrop, so you can choose your perfect spot. While you’re enjoying the view, keep an eye out for bald eagles, pelicans, bitterns, waterfowl, beavers, otters, muskrats, and several species of gulls and terns. It’s the perfect way to spend a relaxing day in nature!
Picking fruits and mushrooms
Forage the grounds for fresh editable. They are only for personal use only. Not sure what is safe to eat? PIck up a foraging book and keep it in your car or backpack. This way if you stumble upon something, you know its good! I’m a fan of Foraging in Minnesota by William K Foreman.
How much does it cost to visit Zippel Bay 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 Zippel Bay State Park?
I would love to go back to Zippel Bay and spend some more time there. It’s probably the only chance I’ll get to get out to Garden Island Recreation Area. The park was beautiful.