Established in 1891 as an effort to preserve the headwaters of the Mississippi River and its surrounding woodland, Itasca is Minnesota’s oldest state park. Located 100 miles north of Alexandria, and covering an area of more than 32,000 acres, this mixed woodland is dotted with more than 100 lakes, in what is known as “knob and kettle” terrain, formed by glacial deposits and depressions. Within the park, Lake Itasca has a long history of Native American occupation, with many artifacts and burial mounds having been discovered in the area. Today, Itasca State Park gives visitors an opportunity to learn about much of this natural and cultural history, as well as enjoy an abundance of outdoor recreation, including camping, hiking, fishing, boating and more.
Itasca State Park offers two campgrounds with more than 220 sites: Bear Paw and Pine Ridge. Both are located in the northeast section of the park, on the east side of Lake Itasca. These locations can accommodate RVs up to 60 feet, and most sites have electrical hookups. There is a limited number of ADA accessible sites in both campgrounds, and Bear Paw has 11 cart-in campsites. Amenities in the campgrounds include drinking water, vault and flush restrooms, showers, and recycling stations; a dump station is available at the entrance to Bear Paw. If you want to get away from the crowds to enjoy the wild side of the park, there are several backpacking camp areas on some of the smaller lakes. Services within the park include a visitor center, interpretive exhibits, boat and bike rentals, gift shop, groceries and a restaurant. Campsite rates range from $15–$31/night.
There is no shortage of outdoor fun to be had in the park. Start with a boat tour on Lake Itasca to the headwaters of the Mississippi, on the same route used by Henry Schoolcraft in 1832. There are also seasonal interpretive programs and naturalist tours that highlight the diverse flora, fauna and geology within the park, as well as ample wildlife watching opportunities. If you’re up for some hiking or biking, you’ll find nearly 50 miles of hiking trails, 16 miles of paved bike paths, and a few barrier-free paths to satisfy your wandering whim. A portion of the North Country Trail runs right through the park. There are fishing piers at Lake Itasca and Ozawindib, a swimming beach at Lake Itasca, and boating is permitted at several of the larger lakes. Additional points of interest include the Pioneer Cemetery and Mary Gibbs Mississippi Headwaters Center.
This is a very large park that is super interesting to visit and the campground was a very nice place to spend a few nights while we were in the area. The bathrooms were clean and the campsite was in a nice location right across from the shower house/bathrooms.
Albeit it wasn’t the easiest place to navigate at times, it’s an amazing location. Great hiking, swimming, lots to do & see. Nice clean park. 10/10 would recommend.
Decent car camping location. Offers large hiking area and fishing opportunitys. Can check out the beginning of the Mississippi river which is pretty cool. Campsites are right on top of each other. Good for a night or two.
- This is the headwaters of the Mississippi, which is a neat experience.
- Itasca Rentals is here. This is a great option for pontoon, kayak, canoe, SUP, bike, and child/ pet carrier rentals.
- TONS of hiking throughout the massive park.
- The wilderness drive is very scenic.
- Some k the best hiking included: preacher’s grove and the fire tower
- This would be a great location to host an event such as a family reunion, because there is something for everyone.
- Very nice playgrounds for the kids.
Great place to see and visit! Lots of opportunities to photograph! Enjoyed geocaching as well.
We had a wonderful time. The park has everything! Even rented a pontoon for the day and cruises all around the lake. Only problem - closest grocery store is 20 minutes away. There is a small convenience store nearby - they were life savers!!
The state park that houses the headwaters of the Mississippi River. Miles of great biking and hiking trails, good fishing opportunities. Good sites and clean shower facilities.
Just got back from Itasca State Park and I am very impressed. Stayed at the Pine Ridge campground in the Poplar Circle. This area is more private than the camp circles before and less populated usually. Restroom area was up to date and very clean. Camp sites were nice and clean as well. The next three nights we went backcountry camping to BC #2, 3 and 9 and were very impressed. BC sites 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11 we all passed on our trek and all were spacious, beautiful and clean. Highly recommended and will be coming back soon with my kayak, rollerblades and bike!
We started the 2019 camping season early and spent the first weekend in May exploring Itasca State Park. We parked at the trailhead near Lake Josephine and took the Red Pine Trail about three miles to our site. We were happy to find BP5 as quiet and secluded as it appeared on the map, and not nearly as close to other sites as some of the other remote options.
The best part about the site is easily the stunning view of Mckay Lake, where we saw a beautiful sunset and sunrise. We also appreciated the bench, vault toilet, and rope left to hang our bear bag. The clearing fit our two tents easily. Overall, a great site if you're craving some distance from the grind for a while.
Campground is not private. Shower houses close by. We had raccoon visitors both nights. Took advantage of the bike trail as a means of travel. Lots of opportunity for foraging.