The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources manages state forestlands for all types of outdoor recreation, including camping, mountain biking, off-highway vehicle riding, hunting, fishing, trapping, hiking, horseback riding and picking berries and mushrooms.
The DNR is only one of many landowners in these forested areas. Please be aware of private property boundaries while enjoying the scenic beauty of state forestlands.
Paul Bunyan State Forest
Divided into two units, one north and one south, the Paul Bunyan State Forest offers miles of hiking trails and trails for off-road vehicles, as well as areas for snowmobiling, horseback riding and mountain biking.
Hiking trails include a segment of the North Country Trail, part of the national North Country Scenic Trail, begun in the 1960s to connect the Appalachian and Pacific Crest trails. Through efforts of the Itasca Moraine Chapter of the North Country Trail Association, the trail has been extended from the Chippewa National Forest to Steamboat Pass, near Spur Lake in the Paul Bunyan State Forest, a total of 21.4 miles from state Hwy 64.
The DNR manages two outdoor recreational facilities in Paul Bunyan State Forest.
Mantrap Campground has 38 campsites, a picnic area, swimming beach, playground and boat landing. Mantrap Lake is a designated muskie lake. To reach the campground from Park Rapids, take CSAH 4 north to Emmaville and turn right onto CSAH 24. Travel east 1.5 miles until you reach Co. Rd. 104, turn left and follow the signs. A daily camping fee is required. A one-mile nature trail can be enjoyed at the campground. Contact Itasca State Park at 218-266-2100 for further information.
Gulch Lakes Campground provides camping and picnic sites, a boat launch and hiking trails. Glacial activity thousands of years ago created the gulch lakes area, distinguished by steep hillsides surrounding small lakes. The campground may be reached via the Halverson Forest Road (east from CSAH 4) or on the Gulch Lake Forest Road (west from Highway 64). Contact Lake Bemidji State Park at 218-755-3843 for additional information about this campsite.
Huntersville State Forest
Huntersville State Forest boasts approximately 150 miles of logging trails, which are open for motorized and non-motorized use. The forest is located in northern Wadena County, roughly 12 miles southeast of Park Rapids.
Five campsites are found in Huntersville State Forest. All offer picnic tables, fire rings, firewood, toilets and well water. Most have nice swimming areas adjacent to the campground and canoe landing.
A 22-mile horse trail, featuring two loops and a river crossing, starts at the Shell City Horse Campground.
Two Inlets State Forest
The Two Inlets State Forest is located in Becker County. From Park Rapids, take Highway 71 north 10 miles to CSAH 41. Turn left, travel 1.5 miles and then turn right. The Richard A. Gartner Memorial Hungryman Forest Campground and Day Use Area is one mile north on Co. Rd. 88.
Boat accesses are provided on Hungryman and Cedar lakes. Pack a lunch and head to the Cedar Lake Picnic Area.
The South Two Inlets Forest Road traverses the forest from east to west. It is open to public travel. Two Inlets Lake provides very good fishing for all warm water species.
Chippewa National Forest Trails
The total Chippewa National Forest acreage is 1.6 million acres, with 660,000 acres managed by the Chippewa National Forest. The Chippewa, the first ever National Forest, is over half water and its terrain is a result of the glaciers that blanketed northern Minnesota 10,000 years ago. There are over 700 lakes, 920 miles of streams and 150,000 acres of wetlands. The Forest is home to the largest breeding population of bald eagles in the lower 48 states. It has been inhabited by peoples for thousands of years and is home to logging history and Civilian Conservation Corps sites.
The western portion of the Chippewa National Forest near Walker and Leech Lake adjoins the Byway. Some of this area’s highlights include:
- Stony Point On Leech Lake: The campground is surrounded by old growth forests, some over 200 years old.
- Lake Erin: Includes a picnic area and one-mile interpretive wetland trail around the lake. Adjacent to the North Country Trail.
- Woodtick Auto Tour: Observe natural, interpretive and historic sites on this auto tour though the Chippewa.
- The Leech Lake Reservation inhabits a large part of the Chippewa Forest.
- Shingobee Recreation Area: This section of the Forest has trails and a toboggan slide and sledding area. The Civilian Conservation Corps developed the site in the early 1930s.
- Chippewa National Forest Multi-Use Trails-Walker Area: There are many biking, hiking, interpretive, hunter, walking and auto trails in the Walker District of the Chippewa National Forest. Some are close to the trail and others just a short side trip away. For more information on location and trail conditions, contact the Walker Ranger District: 218-547-1044.
Two Inlets State Forest Trails
Over 26,000 acres set in a landscape that’s gently rolling to hilly, with scattered lowlands. Two Inlets Trail provides over 27 miles of snowmobile trail that connects to other area trails. Two Inlets Lake provides good fishing. This state forest is known for excellent hunting of deer, ruffed grouse and small game. Indian Creek Water Impoundment provides habitat for waterfowl. Located about 10 miles north of Park Rapids west of Highway 71.
Smoky Hills State Forest Trails
Rolling-to-moderately steep slopes characterize this nearly 24,000-acre forest. Smoky Hills offers 30 miles of snowmobile trails and exceptional hunting for deer and grouse. South half of the forest is good for fall foliage viewing. Pick fruit and mushrooms. Located 10 miles west of Park Rapids off Hwy 34.
Huntersville State Forest Trails
This 16,448-acre forest has rolling-to-flat land, famed for its jack and Norway pine mixed with aspen, spruce, tamarack and northern hardwoods and clear streams.
The major attraction is the beauty of the Shell and Crow Wing Rivers that flow through the forest. The excellent boating and canoeing route traverses 80 miles of river. There are two canoe outfitters in the area. Wilderness campsites occur at three-to seven-mile intervals. Located south of Park Rapids, off Hwy 87 on CR 25.
Paul Bunyan State Forest Trails
Over 72,000 acres of terrain that’s rough and hilly, with many tiny ponds and bogs. Paul Bunyan State Forest has 50 miles of groomed snowmobile trails and 15 miles of ungroomed trails. The hiking and cross-country ski trail located near Mantrap Lake is two miles in length. Located just north of Akeley on Hwy. 64.
White Earth State Forest
About 160,502 acres of the forest is rolling hills and lakes, 4/5th of which is variegated forest and 1/5th is lowland brush and marsh. Almost all of this forest is within the boundaries of the White Earth Reservation.
The Shuttlebug Nature Trail is popular for summer hiking. It has 70 miles of marked and groomed snowmobile trails. Here are several routes into the White Earth State Forest: 20 miles north of Park Rapids on Hwy 71, then west on Hwy 113; 14 miles east of Detroit lakes on Hwy 34 then about 15 miles north on Becker 37; six or seven miles east of Waubun on Hwy 113; and 20 miles east of Mahnomen on Hwy 200.
Smoky Hills State Forest
Located 10 miles west of Park Rapids, the Smoky Hills State Forest was established in 1935 to perpetuate forest management and fire protection. Presently there are almost 24,000 acres of land within the boundaries of the state forest.
The southern portion of Smoky Hills offers an excellent opportunity to view fall colors on its rolling, forested slopes.
While there is no designated campground, camping is permitted with some conditions. Contact the DNR for complete rules.
Badoura State Forest
The Badoura State Forest is located 10 miles south of Akeley on Highway 64. It is located around the Badoura State Tree Nursery, the state’s oldest tree nursery, founded in 1931. The location is very visible to travelers, as the Badoura Fire Tower stands tall at the intersection of state Highways 64 and 87. The tower is on the National Registry of Historical Fire Towers.
The forested portion of the State Forest is comprised mostly of conifers, and a large portion of the area contains the Badoura Bog. This is a very unique and historical area.
Chippewa National Forest
Six miles of trails wind through a variety of upland habitats, including mature jack pine, young red pine, cedar swamp and oak-birch forest. Called the Shingobee Recreational Area Trail system, it is located five miles southwest of Walker.
The six-mile trail loops through mixed aspen, birch and pine forest along two small lakes and Shingobee River valley of Chippewa National Forest.
It intersects with the North Country National Scenic Trail, a premier footpath that stretches for about 4,600 miles, which when complete will connect the Appalachian Trail in New York to the Lewis and Clark Trail in North Dakota. Minnesota’s portion provides one of the state’s longest backpacking opportunities.
The North Country National Scenic Trail threads through numerous lakes and wetlands in a pine and hardwood forest. The terrain is relatively level terrain on the eastern portion, while the western end becomes rolling.
The Chippewa National Forest boundary encompasses 1.6 million acres, of the USDA Forest Service manages 666,325 acres. Aspen, birch, pines, balsam fir and maples blanket the uplands. Water is abundant, with over 1,300 lakes, 923 miles of rivers and streams, and 400,000 acres of wetlands.
Visitors will find family campgrounds, located across the forest, offering everything from protected boat harbors to hot showers. Many of the campgrounds have access to hiking or biking trails, fishing piers, scenic byways, and of course, some of the best fishing lakes in the state.
To find a detailed listing of addresses and phone numbers go to mndestinations.com.