EXPEDITION PLANNER: Jay Cooke State Park, MN
Drive Time: Jay Cooke State Park is about 140 miles (2½ hours) north of Minneapolis-St. Paul, and 15 miles (20 minutes) southwest of Duluth.
The Way: Take I-35 north from Minneapolis-St. Paul to exit 235, then go east on MN 210 for 5 miles to the park. From Duluth, take I-35 south to the Thompson exit, then follow signs on County Highway 1 to the park.
Trails: Jay Cooke has 50 miles of marked trails; in winter, 32 miles of groomed cross-country skiing trails are available. Pack-in campsites are on the south side of the river, which is also the best area for wildflowers from May to mid-July. The overlook from the bluff at the end of the High Trail is 12 miles from the trailhead, or 7 miles from the Lost Lake pack-in camping site.
Elevation: Trail elevation varies only slightly, from about 650 feet by the river to a bit over 900 feet on the ridges. However, many of the trails bearing north or south of the river involve substantial up-and-down hiking.
Can’t Miss: A scenic detour along the river gorge, proceeding west on Carlton Trail from the south side of the Swinging Bridge.
Crowd Control: Dayhikers flock to the park on summer weekends and during peak fall weeks. The longer trails and backcountry sites are almost always quiet, however. Reservations are recommended on weekends.
Guides: Hiking Minnesota, by Mike Link and Kathleen Crowley (Human Kinetics, 800-747-4457; $19.95). Wildflowers of Minnesota Field Guide, by Stan Tekiela (BowTie Press, 888-738-2665; $16.95). Both books are available at www.backpacker.com/bookstore. A trail map is available at the Visitor Center and downloadable at the park’s Web site (see Contact below).
Walk Softly: Stay on designated trails to minimize impact. Use latrines at pack-in sites.
Contact: Jay Cooke State Park, (218) 384-4610; www.dnr.state.mn.us.