Jay Cooke State Park: A Complete Guide to the One of the Minnesota’s Most Visited Parks

Oct 18, 2020 09:00 PM

Photo by Paul Domsten from Flickr

Tripboba.com - Located about 10 miles (16 km) southwest of Duluth, Jay Cooke State Park is one of the ten most-visited state parks in Minnesota.

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Jay Cooke State Park MN

Protecting the lower reaches of the Saint Louis River, the western half of the park contains part of a rocky, 13-mile (21 km) gorge. Aside from the gorge, the scenic Minnesota State Highway 210 runs through the park. The park is named for Pennsylvania financier Jay Cooke, who had developed a nearby power plant, which is still in use.

Peer over the swinging bridge at the dramatic rocky river gorge below or pause for a moment in the pioneer cemetery. The beautiful forests, vistas, and extensive trail systems attract both hikers and skiers alike.

The park offers a variety of naturalist activities and programming year-round including guided hikes, phenology, and historical presentations. There’s also a variety of camping options for your night, including tent campsites with tent pads, RV campsites, and five camper cabins.

Find out more about this mesmerizing Minnesota state park with our complete guide on visiting the site!

Jay Cooke State Park hiking

Photo by Eric Vermilyea from Flickr

In the park, stretches 50 miles of hiking, 8 miles biking, 6 miles of horse trails as well as 34 miles of mostly intermediate cross-country ski and 8 mi snowmobile trails that connect with the Willard Munger State Trail.

From the River Inn Visitors Center at the park's headquarters, start your hiking by a head over to the Jay Cooke State Park swinging bridge, the 220-foot pedestrian bridge with a 126-foot main suspension span crosses the St. Louis River.

Veer off to the right where you will access the West Ridge loop and Carlton trail—a two-mile, one-way, out-and-back trail—which winds through a beautiful hardwood and evergreen mixed forest.

You can venture further by continuing over a small wooden bridge that leads you to the Munger State Trail, a paved bike path that runs along the northern boundary of the park. Take the Forbay Trail to go back to the Visitors Center parking lot. As a bonus, hike the Thompson Trail loop before heading back.

Jay Cooke State Park camping

Photo by The Jer from Flickr

Don’t miss out on the excitement of camping at Jay Cooke State Park campground. The park offers a variety of camping options including tent campsites with tent pads, RV campsites, and five camper cabins. Here are some available campsites you can choose from along with the amenities:

  • Drive-in Sites (79 Sites). Most are wooded sites. In winter, 12 sites are kept available for winter camping. Of these, five are electric sites.
  • Pull-Through Sites (One Site)
  • Electric Sites (21 Sites). The majority of sites are 20 and 30 amps, some 50 amp.
  • RV Length Limit (Variable by site up to 60 Feet). Length is measured from front of the tow vehicle to rear of the vehicle being towed.
  • Wheelchair Accessible Sites (3 Sites). Located near drinking water. Two sites are electric, one is non-electric.
  • Backpack Sites (4 Sites). Each site has a picnic table, fire ring, latrine, and bear box. Campers must haul water or treat water on site. Gathering of dead and downed firewood near the backpack sites is allowed.
  • Walk-in Sites (4 Sites). Sites are located 50 to 150 feet from the parking area.
  • Group Camp (2 Sites; each accommodates up to 25 people). Remote, wooded camp with walk-in sites approximately 150' from parking area (limited parking). Carts are provided to carry in camping gear. Water spigot and vault toilets available. Tents only.

For the lodging, there are 5 Jay Cooke State Park cabins available to rent. All camper cabins have a screened porch.

Camper cabins have bunk beds, electricity and heat, table with benches, screened porch and outdoor picnic table, and campfire ring. Agate and Basalt cabins are ADA accessible and sleep 5. Slate, Gabbro, and Shale Cabins sleep, 6 people. Pets not allowed in cabins.

For a closer look of the campground and the site, here’s the Jay Cooke State Park map:

Photo by files.dnr.state.mn.us

Jay Cooke State Park Amenities

Photo by Tony Webster from Flickr

Here’s a list of the amenities provided at the park:

  • Showers (wheelchair accessible; seasonal). Located in the campground.
  • Flush Toilets (wheelchair accessible). Flush toilets in the park headquarters and River Inn Interpretive Center remain open year-round during regular office hours. Facilities are wheelchair accessible.
  • Vault Toilets (throughout the park). Available year-round.
  • Dump Station (Seasonal).


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