Minnesota's largest state park St. Croix State Park fire tower

Hinckley, Minnesota is a great halfway point when heading to the North Shore from the Twin Cities. We love Tobies Restaurant & Bakery. You must try their cinnamon rolls! And it’s a great place to fuel up after exploring Minnesota’s largest state park nearby. St. Croix State Park in Hinckley, Minnesota covers nearly 34,000 acres. For comparison, Central Park in New York City is only 842.6 acres.

Rich in history from Ojibwe trade routes to fur trading to logging, St. Croix State Park in Minnesota offers a scenic destination for water and nature lovers. Explore the two scenic rivers, the forests, meadows, wildflowers, and marshes.

See my related Minnesota state park series.


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Top things to do at St. Croix State Park in Hinckley, MN

Minnesota's largest state park St. Croix State Park hiking trail in the fall along the river

Here are the top 10 things to do at St. Croix State Park in Hinckley, Minnesota.

  1. Climb the 100-ft fire tower for spectacular treetop views.
  2. Kayak, canoe, or paddle the scenic St. Croix River or Kettle River.  
  3. Take your pick of nearly 130 miles of hiking trails through the woods and along the rivers.
  4. Go horseback riding on 75 miles of designated equestrian trails.
  5. Camp at one of the more than 200 traditional campsites or walk-ins, backpacking sites, canoe sites, group camps, horse camp, cabins, or guest houses.
  6. Grab a fishing pole and fish in and along the Kettle or St. Croix rivers.  
  7. Explore the visitor center’s exhibits and learn more about this historic area and the Mille Lacs Band of the Ojibwe.
  8. Watch for wildlife including deer, black bears, beavers, coyotes, bobcats, timber wolves, and a large variety of birds.
  9. Not up for hiking? You can enjoy a scenic drive through St. Croix State Park.
  10. In the winter, enjoy 11 miles of cross-country skiing trails, 80 miles of snowmobile trails, winter hiking and snowshoeing.

Frequently asked questions about St. Croix State Park in Hinckley, Minnesota

Minnesota's largest state park St. Croix State Park hiking trail in the fall along the river

Where is St. Croix State Park located? What is the address for St. Croix State Park?

St. Croix State Park is located at 30065 St. Croix Park Road, Hinckley, MN 53037. Take special note that St. Croix State Park is actually about 20 miles east of Hinckley. With 34,000 acres, it does require some space.

When is St. Croix State Park open?

St. Croix State Park is open year-round, 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day.

Is St. Croix State Park free? How much is the admission fee at St. Croix State Park?

Admission to St. Croix only costs $7 per vehicle per day ($5 per motorcycle). That includes unlimited visits to all Minnesota state parks on the same day.

However, I highly recommend an annual pass, which gives you entrance to all Minnesota state parks throughout the year. See the Minnesota DNR website for more information. And it’s highly recommended to pay online ahead of time. Minnesota state parks are no longer accepting cash self-payment envelopes on site.

You can also visit other Minnesota state parks for free four days each year. See my related post for this year’s free state park days. Admission to every Minnesota state park is free for all Minnesota state tribal members throughout the year.

Can you climb the fire tower at St. Croix State Park? How tall is the fire tower at St. Croix State Park?

Yes. You can climb the 100-ft. fire tower at St. Croix State Park when open. The season typically runs end of May through early October.

Make sure you check for seasonal updates at St. Croix State Park as sometimes the fire tower is closed (wildlife or weather). Or recently, the road leading to the fire tower was closed due to poor road conditions and logging activities.

Which Minnesota state parks have fire towers? Where can I climb fire towers in Minnesota?

You can climb several fire towers in Minnesota for the best views. Minnesota state parks and recreation areas featuring fire towers include:

Additional fire and lookout observational towers you can climb in Minnesota include:

  • Elba Fire Tower; Elba, MN
  • Faunce Lookout Tower; Faunce, MN
  • Forest History Center; Grand Rapids, MN
  • Paul M. Thiede Fire Tower Park; Pequot Lakes, MN
  • Sand Dunes Lookout Tower; Big Lake, MN

While not as tall or as challenging as the fire and lookout towers, you can also climb the 80-foot Enger Tower in Duluth, Minnesota. Additionally, you can climb a spiral staircase to the base of the 102-foot Herman Monument in New Ulm, MN.

Does St. Croix State Park have a lake, river, or waterfall?

Minnesota's largest state park St. Croix State Park river view

Yes. St. Croix State Park is well-known and popular for its waterways. A National Scenic Riverway, 21 miles of the St. Croix River creates the eastern boundary of St. Croix State Park. Minnesota’s Wild and Scenic River, Kettle River, joins the St. Croix to create the western boundary of the park.

St. Croix State Park also features Lake Clayton and several streams. No waterfalls in St. Croix State Park, but you will find rapids on the rivers.

Can you fish at St. Croix State Park in Minnesota?

Yes. Many anglers fish in and on the riverbanks of the St. Croix River and Kettle River. Fish include smallmouth bass, walleye, catfish, redhorse, sturgeon, and more.  

Does St. Croix State Park have a swimming beach?

Yes. Lake Clayton at St. Croix State Park features a swimming beach.

Can you boat at St. Croix State Park? Does St. Croix State Park offer a boat ramp?

Yes. St. Croix State Park is very popular with paddlers for canoeing and kayaking. You can rent canoes at St. Croix State Park or carry-in your own. And you’ll find several boat access areas as well as boat launches throughout the park along the rivers.

Does St. Croix State Park have a campground? Can you camp at St. Croix State Park?

Yes. St. Croix offers a variety of camping experiences year-round including three campgrounds near the rivers with more than 200 campsites, camper cabins, and guest houses. Campground features include:

  • 211 drive-in campsites with 71 electric sites
  • RV parking length: up to 60 feet
  • 2 backpack campsites (5-mile hike)
  • 4 walk-in sites
  • 10 canoe sites accessible by water only (St. Croix and Kettle rivers)
  • 40 campsites at the Horse Camp (with 19 electric sites)
  • 8 carry-in group camps (each accommodates up to 25 people)
  • 3 seasonal group centers with bunkhouses, dining hall, commercial kitchen
  • 6 camper one-room cabins (sleeps two people)
  • 2 guest houses with full bathrooms and kitchens (accommodate up to 15 and 12 people)

SUV camping at the best Minnesota state parks

See my related post: SUV camping 101: Guide for beginners with FAQs

How big is St. Croix State Park in Minnesota?

St. Croix State Park largest state park in Minnesota scenic drive

St. Croix State Park in Minnesota covers nearly 34,000 acres. If you’re not up to hiking all 127 miles, you can take a scenic drive through the park.

Is St. Croix State Park buggy? Mosquitos? Ticks?

Not one of the buggiest parks. But you can expect mosquitos and ticks at St. Croix State Park. I always apply and recommend picaridin and Aunt Fanny’s DEET-free mosquito wipes when hiking in Minnesota state parks.

How long and how difficult are the hiking trails at St. Croix State Park?

Minnesota's largest state park St. Croix State Park hiking trail in the woods

If you’re a hiker looking for fairly easy but scenic trails, then you will love St. Croix State Park. Here you can hike up to 127 miles of trails and loops throughout the park.

The five-mile Two Rivers Trail loop starts at the beautiful Kettle River Overlook where you can hike to the confluence of the Kettle River and St. Croix River. Then you can loop back along the St. Croix River.

For a more remote experience, hike three miles (one-way) on the Kettle River Highbanks Trail along Minnesota’s Wild and Scenic Kettle River. And with over 100 miles of trails, the hiking experiences are limitless.

Are hiking poles needed on the trails at St. Croix State Park?

Most trails are easy so I did not use my hiking poles at St. Croix State Park. However, I always keep my poles in my vehicle just in case.

In the winter, you may want to wear crampons or metal spikes on your hiking boots as the stairs and trails can get pretty icy. And in the spring, make sure your hiking boots or shoes are waterproof as the trails get wet and muddy.

Also, I recommend bringing lots of water especially in the summer. Here’s my favorite water bottle for hiking.

Snowshoeing or cross-country skiing trails at St. Croix State Park?

Yes. You can snowshoe throughout St. Croix State Park in the winter. Just stay off the groomed cross-country skiing trails.

Additionally, you can cross-country ski on 11 miles of groomed trails at St. Croix State Park.

Can you snowmobile at St. Croix State Park? Which state parks offer snowmobile trails?

Yes. You can snowmobile at St. Croix State Park with 80 miles of trails. .

What are the best views at St. Croix State Park?

Minnesota's largest state park St. Croix State Park view from the top of the fire tower

St. Croix State Park offers several scenic views. My favorite view is from the top of the 100-foot fire tower. Climb up above the treetops for a canopy of green in the spring and summer and warm foliage colors in the fall.

You’ll find a number of designated overlooks throughout St. Croix State Park on the hiking trails.

See related post: Top 12 breathtaking views in Minnesota.

Are there bike trails at St. Croix State Park?

Yes. St. Croix State Park offers a paved 5.5-mile bike trail. Additionally, you can mountain bike for 21 miles on the Matthew Lourey State Trail within the park.

Does St. Croix State Park feature equestrian trails?

Yes. St. Croix State Park features 75 miles of seasonal horseback trails.

Can you rock climb at St. Croix State Park? Which Minnesota state parks offer rock climbing? Where can I rock climb on the North Shore in Minnesota?

No. St. Croix State Park does not offer rock climbing.

Here is a list of all the state parks in Minnesota where you can rock climb:


Does St. Croix State Park have a visitor center? Modern restrooms?

Yes. St. Croix State Park offers an interpretative visitor center. You can learn the history of the area as well as the Ojibwe Native Americans. The historic building features modern restrooms year-round as well as a public shelter with fireplace. The Nature Store gift shop is open seasonally mid-May to late September. At the park office, rent canoes, kayaks, and snowshoes.

You’ll also find modern restrooms in the campground year-round. Vault toilets are also available year-round throughout the park.

Is St. Croix State Park dog-friendly?

Yes. Leashed dogs and pets are welcome on St. Croix State Park hiking trails. All Minnesota state parks welcome dogs except inside buildings and cabins (service dogs, of course, are allowed). Leashes must be six feet or less.

Are there bears and moose at St. Croix State Park? Other wildlife?

As the state’s largest state park, you can expect lots of wildlife at St. Croix State Park. While I haven’t heard of moose wandering at St. Croix, I wouldn’t rule it out. Watch for other wildlife such as black bears, beavers, deer, coyotes, and possibly timber wolves. Lots of birdwatching opportunities at St. Croix State Park also.

Is firewood available at St. Croix State Park?

Yes. Firewood is available for sale at St. Croix State Park when the visitor office is open or via the Yodel app. You can also purchase approved firewood at nearby stores or gas stations that sell certified wood.

To protect Minnesota trees, you can only burn certified wood on MN DNR land. Collection is not allowed in state parks and you may not bring firewood from home. This helps prevent spreading harmful insects and diseases.

How far is St. Croix State Park from the Twin Cities – Minneapolis and St. Paul (MSP) airport?

St. Croix State Park is located 104 miles from the Minneapolis – St. Paul (MSP) International Airport. It’s a perfect day trip from the Twin Cities.

What’s near St. Croix State Park? Top things to do near St. Croix State Park?

The Great Hinckley Fire Monument in Hinckley, Minnesota

Here are the top things to do near St. Croix State Park in Minnesota.

  • St. Croix State Park is worth the side trip as you make your way to Duluth and the North Shore. Here’s a list of all my favorite stops on Minnesota’s scenic North Shore.
  • The Great Hinckley Fire Monument (pictured) memorializes the 411 people who died in 1894. This destructive forest fire destroyed 200,000 acres. This monument is located right off I-35 on the way to St. Croix State Park (about 20 miles).
  • Also stop in at the Hinckley Fire Museum, open seasonally mid-May to mid-October. It’s located at 106 Old Highway 61 South in Hinckley.
  • Plan to hike all 66 Minnesota state parks? Then I also recommend exploring Banning State Park (28 miles north),  Moose Lake State Park (48 miles north of St. Croix State Park).
  • If you’re feeling lucky, stop by Hinckley’s Grand Casino located about 20 miles from St. Croix State Park.
  • And fuel up at Tobies Restaurant and Bakery, a family-friendly restaurant established in 1948. This popular dining establishment is located at 404 Fire Monument Road in Hinckley.

When was St. Croix State Park in Minnesota established?

St. Croix State Park was established in 1943.

How did St. Croix State Park get its name?

St. Croix State Park is named after the river that borders the park for 21 miles. It’s believed the St. Croix River was named after a French fur trader.

Does St. Croix State Park host deer hunts? Is St. Croix State Park closed during deer season?

Yes. St. Croix State Park hosts a deer hunt a few times each year and closes the park to the public. Typically, these deer hunts are scheduled the end of October, late November, and early December.

For a complete list of which Minnesota state parks are closed or limited to non-hunters during deer season, see this related post: Hiker safety: MN state parks that host deer hunts.

Hiking safety tip during deer season: Wear bright orange when hiking during deer season. I typically avoid hiking at all even if the state park is partially open to non-hunters.

A list of the best Minnesota state parks

St. Croix State Park largest state park in Minnesota river view

All Minnesota state parks are the best in my opinion. You can read reviews of each one to create your own list of top-ranked Minnesota state parks: Take the Minnesota state park challenge


 

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Explore, hike, and paddle Minnesota's largest state park. St. Croix State Park in Hinckley, MN offers 34,000 acres of woods and waterways and a 100-ft. fire tower you can climb.

Explore, hike, and paddle Minnesota's largest state park. St. Croix State Park in Hinckley, MN offers 34,000 acres of woods and waterways and a 100-ft. fire tower you can climb.

Author

Twin Cities-based blogger sharing memorable emptynester, solo, family and girlfriend-getaway adventures, as well as my day hiking adventures (including all 66 Minnesota state parks), latest book reviews, and updates on my quest for the best adult mac and cheese. Also two WIPs: historical fiction and psychological thriller

18 comments

  1. St. Croix State Park looks like a dream! Love all of the trails and trees…your photos are magical. I have a cousin who lives in Minnesota and I think it’s high time I visit her and have her take me to some of these gems!

  2. Looks like there are so many cool things to do at St. Croix State Park! Íd love to experience Kayaking or paddling the scenic St. Croix River (or Kettle River)! Thanks for sharing the details

    1. Yes…so many wonderful state parks in Minnesota. And St. Croix is perfect for kayaking. And love climbing the fire tower…great cardio and views!

  3. St. Croix State Park looks so tranquil and peaceful. I would love to hike and enjoy the beautiful views there.

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