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 was our second visit to Itasca State Park. We have camped in both the tent campsites and the electric ones. We again rented a pontoon boat and drove around the lake which is very beautiful. They offer dog friendly rentals which is right up our alley. They also have a wonderful gift shop at the visitor center with lots of great finds. The headwaters, although usually somewhat crowded, are always fun to visit and just a short walk from the parking lot. This is a very popular state park so book a year in advance whenever possible.
What a great place to bring the family. Large campground, lots of paved and unpaved trails with a rental place right on Lake Itasca where you can rent all types of bikes for all ages, they also have boats and pontoons available for fishing and recreational use. You have miles of trails and some historical sites to explore. This place has you covered for activities. Well kept and easy access.
We hiked in and found a site that we wanted, but it was occupied, so while we didn't get to stay there, we would have enjoyed doing so. Seemed a bit more remote than the general campground. Would have been fun to stay. They also have a lodge, but I've never stayed there.
The overall cleanliness of the park and it's trails and facilities was fantastic. But camping was to cramped and it seemed like I could never find a spot away from everyone. Still a very fun and cool campground full of lots of history and recreation.
Beautiful state park! Three separate drive-in style campgrounds. Here you can wade across the very beginning of the Mississippi River.
Itasca State Park offers campgrounds that will give the full outdoor wilderness experience, away from the sounds of cities and cars. It's a wonderful place for hiking,biking, and water activities. Equipment you need for such activities can be rented within the park (canoes, kayaks, paddle boats, bikes). We've been to Itasca State Park multiple times, and it is wonderful for camping from late spring through early fall.
There seems to be an endless amount of hiking trails to choose from, which bring you to into the woods and to various lakes and ponds.
Camp sites are affordable (as low as $15), and you have options from modern sites (e.g., with electrical outlets and shower access) to remote hike-in sites. Standard sites come with fire pits and picnic tables.
Lake Itasca is the headwaters of the entire Mississippi River. Here the river is shallow and narrow enough that you can simply wade across it.
We go every year. Would give 5 stars if didn't have to reserve so far in advance for bear paw. The other camp grounds are ok but bear paw is far superior
Had a great time at this campsite. There is a bike trail that goes around half the lake. Saw some deer, ducks, eagles and lots of loons on the lake. The restrooms were spotless. There is a shack that rents out kayaks, canoes, bikes and fishing gear. We took out a canoe and caught a few panfish.