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About a 25 minute drive west of Grand Rapids, MN, Schoolcraft State Park is a less-often visited park that makes up for its lack of hiking trails and in-park amenities with cozy, quiet charm.
The park does not have a visitor center, but it does have a small shelter near the entrance of the park which houses a box with maps and self-registration envelopes. It also has bundles of wood for $6.
We are visiting during Labor Day weekend and there are still sites available. I think next time we visit this park we will skip the $7 online registration fee and just take whatever site is available because this campground just doesn’t fill up.
There is one hiking loop around the entirety of the park that very easy, but it is a beautiful walk through peaceful red pine forest.
The campsites are semi-wooded and private with fire pits equipped with grates and picnic tables.
Overall, the park is quiet and peaceful. Just right for a camper who likes to relax at camp.
We love our Boundary Waters Canoe Area to the north of us, and the North shore of Lake Superior to the east, both of which offer some of the best wilderness camping in northern Minnesota. However, they are both a good three hour drive from our home in north central Minnesota. Itasca State Park, between Park Rapids and Bemidji, is our go-to special place when we want to take to the woods for a weekend but only have to drive about a half hour to get there. Most campers at Itasca head for the main campgrounds for standard tent and RV camping…but for a near Wilderness experience, there are 11 remote backpacker campsites which are between 1 and 6 miles trek into the roadless wilderness area of the park south of the parks main loop drive. The Iron Corner Lake remote campsite is one such campsite off on its own in the backcountry, actually by the nexus of the Ozawindib Trail and the North Country National Scenic trail that runs through this part of the park. It is an easy trek in from a small parking area near Josephine Lake, or from a larger parking area at the south entrance of the park. Either trail in goes up and over the Itasca Moraine, so there is some good elevation change along the traild, but not too rugged, and it is really just over a mile that you need to pack in to this campsite. The campsite comes with fire ring and benches, beautiful bed of pine needles for a tent pad, access to a gorgeous crystal clear lake, and a clean three-sided outhouse with a scenic view toward the lake. (No need for a door—its the wilderness! ) You can camp here as a base camp, and then have the chance to hike miles of trails in every direction to dozens of other wilderness lakes in the area. The trails in are both wide, soft, and well maintained so you could easily bring in a kayak ir canoe if you dont mind portaging the distance. Quiet, rustic, pristine, and dark skies at night! Check this page for a description of the MN state park remote campsites with a link to reserve one: https://www.dnr.state.mn.us/state_parks/remote_camping.html and check this link for info on the Itasca State Park overall https://www.dnr.state.mn.us/state_parks/park.html?id=spk00181#homepage
Dyrt Ranger Review of Grubstick cooking gear at Hungry Man Lake
Campground Review: Hungry Man Lake has a state forest campground just south of Itasca State Park. There are 14 primitive campsites, a boat launch, small beach with dock, and picnic area. You can also hike on several trails around the lake. The campsites are large and shaded by beautiful tall pines and spaced far apart. They each have a nice fire grill and picnic table. Great for tent camping! RVs and campers can fit in many of the sites, but note that there are no hookups of any kind. Facilities include outhouse and water pump. Site 11 is not officially a handicapped site but it is flat and has hard packed ground around the picnic table and has easy access to the outhouse which has a wide door and seems to be accessible. The sites were only half taken by families and quiet fisherman, so pretty pleasant! We stayed at site 14 which was nicely set back from the other sites, but further from the lake. Supposedly it has great fishing but we didnt try. The beach area is hardpacked white sand with crystal clear water, great for swimming! A good place to camp if you want to be near Itasca State Park but not camping among the crowds.
Product review: As a Dyrt Ranger, I sometimes have the chance to try new camping products and review them on The Dyrt. While at Hungry Man Lake, we tried out the new Grubstick cooking utensils which have telescoping steel handles with rubber grips and a variety of screw-on attachments such as hotdog grilling forks, sandwich and burger baskets, bacon roaster and pastry baker. We tried them all! See product listing here: https://grubstick.com/products/deluxe-kit
Pros: The hotdog griller is generous and holds three at a time, we tried a brat, a hotdog and a corndog. They didnt fall off the fork and grilled nicely. The sandwich basket makes great grilled cheese, and the burger basket did a great job grilling a hefty bacon burger. The separate bacon attachment worked ok, but only cooks one piece at a time; cooking bacon in a grill basket might work better for multiple pieces. I really loved the pastry cylinder: you wrap dough around the steel cylinder and turn over the coals, of course it bakes on the outside, but the cylinder also heats up and cooks the dough from the inside as well—no more dough boys with baked crust and raw insides! The baked pastry cup then sludes easily off the cylinder and you can fill it with all kinds of fillings, and eat it like an ice cream cone! Doesnt leak! Tastes great! We filled ours with yogurt, berries and nuts. All the attachments worked great, the handles are long and safe over the fire by the handles dont get hot and they telescope down to a small size, and everything fits in a nice canvas bag. Comes with silicon hot pads and implements to use while cooking with the utensils, and everything cleans up like a breeze. Well made and sturdy. We look forward to using them again!
Cons: the only minor problem was that the sandwich and burger baskets clip shut with a clip that could pop open if you dont close the basket clips firmly before use. We lost one burger when flipping the basket the first time, but did a better job pressing on the clip after that. Some kind of locking clasp on the clip might be a good addition. Otherwise, everything worked great!
Campground Review: The Stumphges Rapids Canoe Landing is a stop on the Mississippi Headwaters Water Trail. It has a primitive dispersed campsite that lies with the river buffer zone that is part of the Mississippi Headwaters State Forest, but the DNR is no longer maintaining it as a full scale Water Trail canoe campsite, eg there is no water pump, latrine or Adirondack shelters such as at Coffee Pot Landing or Wanagon upstream or Pine Point downstream. Although on a bluff overlooking one of the more pristine sections of the Headwaters, the campsite itself has seen better days. There is a clearing for tents and parking, a fire ring with stump seats, and a beautiful bench overlooking the sandy but steep trail to the canoe landing. Be prepared to bring your own water, and to Leave No Trace when you visit the woods for an al fresco potty stop. For those who appreciate a very rustic campsite in a secluded state forest location, you might choose this spot to either drive in or paddle in, but it is not as nice as Coffee Pot or Fox Trap, which are your next closest full canoe campsites on the Water Trail. Whether driving or paddling, the site is not really accessible during the winter season although you probably could ski or snowmobile in for winter camping. I give the river location itself a full five points, but the campsite itself just a 3 at best
Brochure and map for the Mississippi Headwaters State Forest: http://files.dnr.state.mn.us/maps/state_forests/sft00034.pdf
Map of the first hundred miles of the Headwaters Water Trail: https://files.dnr.state.mn.us/maps/canoe_routes/mississippi1.pdf
Directions to the Stumpghes Rapids Landing and adjacent dispersed campsite are at this link: https://www.dnr.state.mn.us/water_access/site.html?id=WAS00636
Product Review of Eclipse Sunwear protective clothing:
As a Ranger for the Dyrt, I sometimes have the chance to try new products and review them for the Dyrt camping community. The Eclipse Sunwear shirts are a relatively new brand of sun protective clothing, and I tried both the hooded shirt in mint green and the electric yellow shirt. You can see an example of them here: https://eclipseglove.com/collections/cover-ups/products/equinox-hoodie-beach-cover-up PROS:For health reasons, I have been advised to be cautious about sun exposure, which is a challenge as I do a lot of outdoor recreation and I also work outdoors. The Eclipse Sunwear is pretty awesome at protecting from sunburn and minimizing sun exposure without use of sunscreen lotion, as the fabric screens out UV light. The shirts are made of a lightweight stretchy fabric that is really cool and comfortable to wear doing anything from kayaking to carrying gear for field work. You can wear them swimming and they dry quickly. The hooded shirts are sleek and comfy and have extra pockets, one dedicated to holding your cell phone and keys which is real handy. There are a variety of nice colors, you can choose to “blend in” with natural outdoor colors, or for safety you can choose their fluorescent colors to be seen when biking or hiking or working alongside roads. CONS: The only con is that the sleeves have open vents on the undersides. These may be meant to keep you cool with airflow in a spot that isn’t exposed to the sun, which may be great at the beach or on the water, but it gives access to mosquitos when you are in the woods. I am thinking about sewing up the vents in mine for that reason.
This was my favorite place to camp as a kid, each year we would have a large family reunion/camp out. There are several sites available along the south side of the island otherwise it is privately owned cabins all around the rest of the island. You do need a boat to get over to it. There are no showers/water/garbage cans or electricity and one vault toilet. So plan to pack in and pack out everything. There are a few trails on the island and one that leads to the lake within the island. There are a couple hike to camping spots inside next to the lake. There is also a swim beach for the inner lake on the north side of the island that is only a few feet walking distance. (From campground it’s a good mile walk through the island to get to it) This place does become busy on the weekends and is well known hangout spot for lake goers in the area but still a great quiet spot to camp 😊 There is a rest area you can park at to launch your boat or there is a nice marina that has a parking area and garbages for star islanders.
We stayed last year at their campground (tent area) and had a wonderful time and returned again this year this time renting a cabin. The tent area is limited they do have electricity and close to bathrooms (with showers) They have many RV spots, cabins and tent grounds. There is a restaurant, beach/playground, indoor pool, game room and boat launch/marina where you can rent boats/pontoons and peddle boats. Our family has had a great time each time and is where we will always return to in the future.
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.