St. Croix State Park Fire Tower in Minnesota

Minnesota is home to 17.6 million acres of forested land. About a third of Minnesota is covered in trees. Back in the day, fire towers were vital to observe and prevent forest fires from spreading and causing deaths and destruction. With technology like satellites and drones, most fire towers are no longer needed to keep a protective eye out on our natural resources.

However, several fire towers and lookouts still stand in Minnesota state parks. And they are open seasonally so visitors can climb for some breathtaking views. Here is a list of the Minnesota state park fire towers you can climb. With a bonus list of a few other fire towers in Minnesota.

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

Elba Fire Tower near Whitewater State Park 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:

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

Big Bog State Recreation Area Fire Tower

Big Bog State Recreation Area Fire Tower in Minnesota

For a panoramic view of Minnesota’s largest freshwater lake, climb the fire tower at Big Bog State Recreation Area. Big Bog State Park borders Red Lake and is also home to the largest peat bog in the lower 48 states. Red Lake, the 16th largest in the U.S., covers 444 square miles. While the peat bog covers 500 square miles. How big is 500 square miles? To compare, Los Angeles is about 469 square miles.

You can find the 100-foot fire tower at Big Bog State Recreation Tower directly behind the visitor center. The address is 55556-MN 72, Waskish, MN, 56685.

If you’re unable to climb the fire tower, you can enjoy the views from the fire tower webcam.

Big Bog State Recreation Area observation fire tower is open during regular visitor center hours. The visitor center is open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday through Saturday, and 12 to 3 p.m. on Sundays.

How much does it cost to climb the Big Bog Fire Tower?

Daily passes to any Minnesota state park or recreation area is $7 per vehicle. Or you can purchase an annual pass to nearly 75 parks and recreation areas for only $35. There is no extra charge to climb the fire towers in Minnesota state parks.

Is there a limit on how many people can climb the fire tower at the same time?

Most fire towers limit the number of people who can climb the fire tower safely at the same time. Please read and heed the safety signage. If people are climbing up or down, it’s a good idea to wait as the stairs are pretty narrow and steep. Make sure to wear sensible shoes.

What’s nearby Big Bog State Recreation Area Fire Tower?

Big Bog State Recreation Area may seem like it’s in the middle of nowhere. That’s because it kinda is. It’s known as one of the last wilderness areas in Minnesota. This recreation area covers 9,000 acres. And with the peat bog covering 500 square miles, that’s a lot of wilderness. Moose like to hang out here. Make sure to enjoy a walk along the accessible one-mile boardwalk through the peat bog.

Minnesota’s largest freshwater lake, Red Lake, is also nearby, as is the Tamarac River.

Itasca State Park Fire Tower / Aiton Heights Fire Tower

Itasca State Park Fire Tower in Minnesota

Itasca State Park features the 100-foot Aiton Heights Fire Tower. Itasca State Park is located at 16879-16855 County Highway 122, Shevlin, MN 56676.

This fire tower is a little shakier than some of the other fire towers I’ve climbed. But it’s still safe. Note that it does get pretty narrow at the top. For your safety, only six people are allowed on the fire tower at the same time. But the views are worth the wait and the climb.

It does not cost extra to climb the Aiton Heights Fire Tower at Itasca State Park as it’s included in the park entrance fee. Most state park fire towers are open during park office hours and seasonally. Typically, Minnesota fire towers are open from May to late September or October.

What’s nearby Itasca State Park Fire Tower?

You’ll find lots to do at one of the largest state parks in Minnesota. One of the draws is the Mississippi River headwaters. This is where the longest river in the U.S. starts. And it’s so shallow, you can actually wade across the Mississippi River.

Read my full review of the top things to do at Itasca State Park in Minnesota.

Mille Lacs Kathio State Park Fire Tower

Woman climbing the Fire tower observation deck at Mille Lacs Kathio State Park in Minnesota

For another cardio workout, climb the 100-foot fire tower at Mille Lacs Kathio State Park. Mille Lacs Kathio State Park is located at 15066 Kathio State Park Road, Onamia, MN 56359. Like other state parks, the fire tower is typically open seasonally during park hours. And there is no extra cost to climb the Mille Lacs Kathio State Park Fire Tower.

Other things to do at Mille Lacs Kathio State Park

Minnesota’s fourth largest park features 9,000 years of history, 35 miles of hiking trails, 27 miles of horse trails, and more. Read my full review on the top things to do at Mille Lacs Kathio State Park in Minnesota.

St. Croix State Park Fire Tower

My first adventure climbing a fire tower was with my husband and son at St. Croix State Park. Minnesota’s largest state park features another 100-foot fire tower. It’s one of the sturdier fire towers in Minnesota. I felt very safe climbing this fire tower. St. Croix State Park is located at 30065 St. Croix Park Road, Hinckley, MN 53037.

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

What other things are there to do at St. Croix State Park?

With 34,000 acres of woods and waterways, the outdoor activities are endless. Additionally, you’ll want to head into nearby town of Hinckley, Minnesota. You can learn more about the Great Hinckley fire at the Hinckley Fire Museum. And also visit the Great Hinckley Fire Monument. A tragic forest fire in 1894 destroyed 200,000 acres and 411 people died.

The museum is open from mid-May to mid-October and located at 106 Old Highway 61 South in Hinckley. You can find the monument right off I-35 as you head toward or from St. Croix State Park.

Read my full review of the top things to do at St. Croix State Park. Additionally, it’s one of the best stops before heading to the North Shore along Lake Superior.

Whitewater State Park Fire Tower / Historic Elba Fire Tower

Elba Fire Tower near Whitewater State Park in Minnesota

Technically, the historic Elba Fire Tower is located a couple of miles from Whitewater State Park. The Elba Fire Tower address is 1100 East Center Street in St. Charles, Minnesota.  

If you love cardio hikes, then this is your kind of place. Expect to climb several hundred steps to reach the base of the Elba Fire Tower. And then it’s another 150 or so steps to the top of the Elba Fire Tower. The rewarding views from the Elba Fire Tower are breathtaking.

While I did not use hiking poles, I do always keep a pair or two in my vehicle just in case.

What else is there to do near the Elba Fire Tower?

Check out my blog post on the top things to do at Whitewater State Park.

Other Minnesota fire towers you can climb

Faunce Lookout Tower

Faunce Lookout Fire Tower in Minnesota

Faunce Lookout Tower is located near Baudette, Minnesota. Its GPS address is H2VW+J7, Faunce, MN 56686.

Forest History Center Fire Tower

Forest History Center Fire Tower in Grand Rapids, MN

If you’re a tree lover, then you must visit the Forest History Center in Grand Rapids, Minnesota. Such a fascinating area with a logging camp, horse-drawn trolley, paddling, hiking trails, and, of course, a fire tower to climb. On a clear day, you can see as far as 12 miles away at the top of the 100-foot fire tower. The fire tower is open June through October and is included in the price of admission

What to do nearby? Since you’re in the neighborhood, stop by the Judy Garland Museum and her childhood home.

Paul M. Thiede Fire Tower

One fire tower still on my list to climb is Paul M. Thiede Fire Tower. Located in Paul M. Thiede Fire Tower Park, the address is 5320 County Road 11, Pequot Lakes, MN.  

More stair climbing opportunities in Minnesota

If you love to climb stairs for great views, you will also love the following cardio activities and adventures.

Enger Tower, Duluth, Minnesota

View from Enger Tower of Lake Superior in Duluth, Minn.

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. Enger Tower is located in Enger Park at 1601 Enger Tower Drive, Duluth, MN. You’ll catch beautiful views of Lake Superior. This park also features an American-Japanese Peace Bell and small Japanese garden.

Herman the German Monument, New Ulm, Minnesota

Herman the German Monument in New Ulm, MN

Additionally, you can climb a spiral staircase to the base of the 102-foot Herman the German Monument in New Ulm, MN. Note that the last few of the 99 steps is actually a ladder that leads you through a trap door.

View from the top of Herman the German Monument in New Ulm, MN

Here you can take in sweeping views of the German community. Located at 10 Monument Street in New Ulm, MN, admission is $3 per person. Herman the German monument is open weekends in May and September and daily Memorial Day through Labor Day. 

John A. Latsch State Park, Minnesota City, Minnesota

View of Mississippi River and green foliage

John A. Latsch is one of my favorite Minnesota state parks. The trail is only one-half mile. But it is all stairs. Around 600 of them lead you up Mount Charity. This challenging hike offers rewarding views of the Mississippi River below as well as lots of tree canopies. Beautiful scenery in every season. John A. Latsch State Park is located at Channel View Road and Highway 61 in Minnesota City, Minnesota.

Garvin Heights, Winona, Minnesota

Bluff overlooking lakes and city with a road

Another nearby stair-climbing cardio hike is Garvin Heights in Winona, Minnesota. You can drive to the top of the bluff at Garvin Heights Park. But the views seem much more rewarding when you hike up nearly 400 stairs.

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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


  1. Climbing the Itasca State Park fire tower every year growing up is such a fond childhood memory for me, didn’t realize there were more to climb!

  2. I always enjoy hiking up to fire towers for the views of the surrounding landscape. Will save this for our next Minnesota visit.

  3. I love the idea that there are so many spot in Minnesota where we could climb a fire tower. The views from above are awesome. And particularly would be beautiful in the Fall colours. If I lived closer to Minnesota I would definitely have an annual park pass.

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