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St. Louis River rapids in Carlton, Minnesota during the colorful Autumn season at Jay Cooke State Park

Located just a 20 minute drive from the city of Duluth, Jay Cooke State Park is one of Minnesota’s most popular state parks.

Spanning a distance of 8,000 acres, it is known for its scenic beauty, which includes the picturesque St. Louis River and the historic Swinging Bridge.

Renowned for being a terrific spot for hiking, the pet-friendly park incorporates a diverse range of habitats like forests, rivers, and wetlands. Throughout its 30 miles of trails, it also accommodates many wildlife and bird species.

On the picturesque river, boating and fishing are also huge drawcards. While there are plenty of scenic photography and picnicking opportunities for visitors to enjoy as well.

When the snow of winter comes, Jay Cooke becomes an excellent destination for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and sledding. Throughout the year it offers an impressive selection of camping options for visitors with all tastes and budgets.

Activities

Visitors to Jay Cooke State Park can immerse themselves within its beautiful surroundings in a plethora of different ways.

Showcased below is a synopsis of some of the most prominent recreational activities you can do while at this Minnesota state park.

Boating and paddling at Jay Cooke State Park

The St. Louis River provides very good conditions for boating, canoeing and kayaking.

Whilst at the park, there is a boat launch available, which provides you with easy access to the water.

When on it, you are encouraged to follow boating regulations. This includes having a life jacket for each person on board and being aware of changing river conditions.

Waterfall at Jay Cooke State Park

Fishing at Jay Cooke State Park

If you are into fishing you will be pleased with what the park has to offer.

The St. Louis River is known for its strong runs of salmon and steelhead, and the park’s smaller streams offer opportunities to catch brook trout. Some popular fishing spots in the park include the St. Louis River, the Thomson Reservoir, and several small streams.

To fish at the park, you will need to purchase a valid Minnesota fishing license. You will also need to be aware of the size and catch limits for each species of fish that reside there. (The main office can give you a full rundown of this).

Hiking at Jay Cooke State Park

With over 30 miles of trails snaking through the park, Jay Cooke State Park is a favored destination for hiking.

These trails range from easy to strenuous. They also vary in terms of length and the time it takes to complete them. In the winter, when the snow hits, these trails become perfect for cross-country skiing, sledding or snowshoeing.

Before undertaking them, it is worth picking up a trail map at the park’s office or visitor center to plan your route and get an idea of trail conditions. You should also wear sturdy, comfortable hiking shoes or boots to protect your feet and get good traction whilst on the trails.

Temperatures can vary on the trails at different times of the year, even within the course of one day. So you would be well advised to dress in layers. Also be sure to bring water and snacks with you to stay hydrated and keep your energy levels up during your hike.

Whilst on the trails be sure to stick to the designated route to protect the park’s natural resources and also avoid getting lost.

hiking bridge over the river at Jay Cooke State Park

Picnicking at Jay Cooke State Park

Offering scenic views of the St. Louis River and the surrounding forest, Jay Cooke State Park is a much loved spot for picnicking.

Throughout the park there are several picnic areas with tables and grills for visitors to use. These are located close to restrooms and other amenities as well.

Whilst picnicking, please be respectful to other park visitors. Also be aware that the consumption of alcohol is strictly not permitted.

Birding at Jay Cooke State Park

Home to over 200 species, Jay Cooke State Park is considered a fabulous destination for birdwatching.

Depending on when you visit the park you are likely to spot several varieties of songbirds, waterfowl, and raptors.

Spring and fall are particularly good times to see migratory birds, but all year round you should see different types of breeds.

To give yourself the best chance of doing so, be sure to bring your binoculars with you to the park and minimize the amount of noise you make whilst you are there.

Pets

Pets are allowed in Jay Cooke State Park, but must be leashed at all times.

They are also not permitted in park buildings, designated swimming areas, or on the cross-country ski trails. Owners are also responsible for cleaning up after their pets.

If you intend to bring your dog with you to the park it is worth contacting the main office for a full rundown of its pet policy.

Camping

Jay Cooke State Park offers several options for overnight camping. These include drive-in, backpack and group campsites.

The drive-in campsites are accessible by car and have parking areas nearby. Some campsites have electrical hookups and there are also shower facilities available.

By contrast the backpack campsites are situated in remote areas of the park and can only be hiked to. These sites provide a more primitive camping experience and have little in the way of amenities.

In addition to these options, there are also campsites available for organized groups. These are situated in a separate area of the park and offer picnic tables, fire rings, and tent pads.
Reservations are recommended, especially during the peak visitor season.

Park Location

Jay Cooke State Park
780 MN-210
Carlton, MN 55718
Phone: 218.673.7000

Park Website
Reservations

Map

Video

Here is a short YouTube video showcasing several attractions at Jay Cooke State Park: