Though there are a great number of places to enjoy outdoor recreation in the Duluth area, there’s no doubt that one of our favorite places to visit is Jay Cooke State Park. The park, which is located just 10 miles outside of Duluth, is one of the most popular Minnesota State Parks. The history of the park itself is fascinating, but it’s also filled with beautiful geographical features, and plenty of opportunities for recreation.
Though State Parks like this one, and much of Duluth and the state of Minnesota, are closed down right now, we think it’s healthy to plan for future adventures and to have something to look forward to. This summer or fall, when the threat of this pandemic is behind us, plan ane escape to Duluth, and spend some quality time in the outdoors while visiting wonderful places like Jay Cooke State Park. Book your room at our Duluth Bed and Breakfast today!
10 Things to do at Jay Cooke State Park
The Duluth area was a thriving area during the French Fur Trade era, and Jay Cooke State Park was at the heart of it all. Within what is now designated as parkland lies the St. Louis River trade route, which was used by the Dakota Indians and the French for the fur trade. It served as a vital connection between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi waterways.
The St. Louis River was an important connection, but crossing the St. Louis River was difficult. The steep and rocky gorge was bypassed by the Grand Portage of the St. Louis River, which is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It took an average of 3-5 days for a crew to complete the Grand Portage during these times and was used until 1870 when a new railroad was complete.
Today, Jay Cooke State Park encompasses 8,125 acres of land. It’s best characterized as rugged, with its water-eroded gorge, steep valleys, and massive rock formations, all surrounded by a beautiful hardwood forest. It’s a beautiful place to visit in all seasons and should be at the top of your list for things to do in Duluth.
Here are our 10 favorite things to do at Jay Cooke State Park:
- Hiking the historic Grand Portage of the St. Louis River, a historic trail that traces the footsteps of Native Americans and French Settlers during the Fur Trade.
- Walk across the swinging bridge, and admire the dramatic rocky gorge of the St. Louis River below. The first bridge was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s. It has been rebuilt several times, but most recently it was replaced after being destroyed in a 2012 storm. It stands at a dramatic 126 feet above the river and is one of two suspension bridges in the Minnesota State Park system.
- Visit the historic sites within the park, including the pioneer’s cemetery and the stone structures that date back to the 1930s, when the Civilian Conservation Corps established itself at the park.
- Hike through the 50 beautiful miles of forests, and take in some of the best vistas offered in the Duluth area.
- Enjoy the 8 miles of paved biking trails, or the 13 miles of rugged mountain biking trails throughout the park. Jay Cooke State Park also connects up to the Willard Munger State Trail, providing even more miles for biking, hiking, and exploring.
- Visit the historic Thomson Dam. It was built in 1907 and is still operational today.
- Hike to Oldenburg Overlook, where you’ll enjoy stunning views of the St. Louis River Valley.
- Enjoy a quiet afternoon of birdwatching in the park. The habitats here are protected with ample sources of food. There are more than 170 species of birds that nest and feed in the park, including the pileated woodpecker, marsh hawk and the great blue heron.
- Spend a day paddling on the quiet waters of the Thomson Reservoir in Jay Cooke State Park. More adventurous travelers can kayak down the rapids of the St. Louis River.
- Enjoy a scenic drive through the park, as you follow the Minnesota State Highway 210. 9 miles of this route between Carlton and Highway 23 are considered to be the Rushing Rapids Parkway, a state scenic byway.
The Best Duluth Bed and Breakfast
As you can see, Jay Cooke State Park is a truly incredible place, filled with biological and geological diversity, stunning scenery, and activities that will keep you busy for days. Just like Duluth, Jay Cooke State Park is equal parts rugged and beautiful.
Come experience the best of the North Shore by staying at our Duluth Bed and Breakfast. With luxury guest rooms, sensational breakfasts, and exceptional hospitality, you won’t find a better lodging experience. Book your room at our Bed and Breakfast in Duluth today!