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Top 10 highlights at Itasca State Park in June & July

From lady's slippers to old-growth Norway pines, these are the Top 10 things to see and do at the park in June and July.

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Minnesota's showy lady slipper is one of the top 10 attractions at Itasca State Park in June.
Enterprise file photo
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Itasca State Park – Minnesota's oldest state park – was established on April 20, 1891 to preserve the old growth pine trees that were in danger of being logged.

More than half a million people visit Itasca State Park every year to see the giant pines and wade across the headwaters of the Mississippi River State Water Trail.

Park Rapids is the undisputed "Gateway to Itasca State Park" and the south entrance is a 22-mile drive from Park Rapids north on Hwy. 71.

Check out these highlights during June and July at Itasca State Park.

  • View the showy lady’s slipper in bloom. Minnesota's state flower can be spotted along the start of the Dr. Roberts Trail along the boardwalk in mid to late June.
  • Swim at the beach. Itasca State Park has a sandy swimming beach located in the picnic grounds with views of the Mississippi Headwaters. This beach and changing house was developed by members of the Civilian Conservation Corps in the late 1930s.
  • Hike to the 100-foot tall Aiton Heights Fire Tower. Climb to the top for stunning views of the forest and park lakes. Look for trumpeter swans on Kasey and Allen Lakes, visible from the tower. You can access the tower by driving around Wilderness Drive and hiking 1/2 mile to the tower, or by following the Ozawindib and Aiton Heights Trails (3 miles round trip) from the Douglas Lodge area.
    PinesPathItascaStatePark.jpg
    The Norway pines at Preacher’s Grove are over 300 years old.<br/>
    Enterprise file photo
  • Check out the 70- to 100-foot tall red pines at Preacher’s Grove. This stand of old growth trees is over 300 years old.  The red pine is Minnesota’s state tree.
  • Walk out to the Old Timers Cabin. This curious, little cabin has walls that are only four massive logs high. Built in the early 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps, the cabin is located at the end of the boardwalk on the Dr. Roberts Trail.
  • Explore six miles of paved bike trail that winds through pine, paper birch, maple and basswood. Watch for wildlife and birds. Or enjoy stops at Preacher's Grove, Peace Pipe Vista, historic spots in the picnic grounds and access to the Headwaters of the Mississippi River. Parking and access is available at several points along the trail, including the Douglas Lodge area, Jacob V. Brower Visitor Center, picnic grounds or the Mary Gibbs Mississippi Headwaters Center.
    ItascaStateParkFishing.jpg
    Lake Itasca has a variety of fish to entice anglers.
    Park Rapids Enterprise file photo
  • Fish one of Itasca’s lakes. Lake Itasca has a variety of fish, including northern pike, large-mouth bass, sunfish, crappies, perch and walleye, or try fishing for muskie on Elk Lake. The smaller Lake Ozawindib is a popular bass lake and Mary Lake has crappies and sunfish. Both Lake Itasca and Lake Ozawindib have fishing piers. Check Minnesota fishing regulations for state park lakes.
    ItascaStateParkCabinsatBearPaw.jpg
    The log-constructed cabins at Itasca State Park, built in the 1930s, rangefrom cozy cabins for two to four people to larger cabins that hold up to 10 people.
    Enterprise file photo
  • Rent a cabin in the park. Itasca has many options for indoor lodging in the park including several log-constructed cabins built in the 1930s ranging from cozy cabins for two to four people to larger cabins that hold up to 10 people. Other group lodging options are also available. 
  • Enjoy a day on the water.  Try kayaking, canoeing or stand-up paddle boarding.  Bring your own equipment or rent equipment from Itasca Sports located in the park. Lake Itasca Tours also offers excursions of the Chester Charles tour boat.  
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    The headwaters of the Mississippi River is the main attraction at Itasca State Park.
    Park Rapids Enterprise file photo
  • Visit the Mississippi River headwaters. A trip to Itasca wouldn’t be complete without a stop to see the start of the mighty Mississippi River. Walk across the river on the rocks or take a hike on the adjoining trails.

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