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Interstate State Park

Park Info

Interstate State Park is a unique place with so many beautiful sights to see and activities to do. It runs along the St. Croix River in both Minnesota and Wisconsin and is made up of floodplains, as well as maple, oak, and pine forests. It is one of the smaller parks, but it is said to be a refuge for rare and endangered animals. Since the habitat here is so diverse, it is home to white-tailed deer, skunks, raccoons, squirrels, reptiles, amphibians, over 200 different species of birds, and several types of fish and mussel species.

Activities available here include hiking, snowshoeing, exploring geology and cliffs (glacial potholes, anyone?), canoeing and kayaking, boat excursions, and rock climbing. There are a few different types of hiking trails, ranging from wheelchair accessible to rugged with lots of steps. Rentals are available for boating equipment through a private business, so make sure to call for information—the phone number is listed on the website under Amenities.

Rock climbing

If you’re looking to rock climb, permits are required. At the time of writing, the website says that permits are free for both individual and commercial and need to be renewed annually. The park also offers a picnic area, picnic shelter (both open and enclosed, reservations required), and volleyball—equipment available to check out at the park office. The park also offers a visitor center, an interpretive exhibit, a historic site, and a gift shop.

Camping

If you’re looking to camp, there are a few options. There are 37 drive-in sites available from April 1 through the third weekend in October, some of which are along the river and non-electric. That being said, there are RV sites with electricity, which is where I typically tent. Here, there are accessible showers and flush toilets. Group camp is also an option, but those sites are walk-in access only. The sites here have a water spigot, fire rings, tables, and vaulted toilets. No showers are available at group sites.   

All of this info came from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources website, so credit where credit is due. Click here to view the original source.

Accessibility of Facility

Parking at the visitor is a paved lot. It is narrow and a bit tight, which made me nervous, but it is doable. There are handicapped spots available if needed.  

Bathrooms are located in the park office. I didn’t use them, but I would think they are modern as they are in other parks.

Getting to the trail we did was fairly simple. There were a couple of color-coded maps with symbols to indicate sites to see.

Trail Info

The Saint Croix River Lookout trail has a variety of surfaces and terrain. It starts out just off the parking lot as paved and changes from there, depending on where you explore. Other terrains you will encounter are a boardwalk, rocks, rock stairs, and regular stairs. We did half of the outlook trail, which just so happened to be the most difficult part. You can see from the pictures that there was a lot to maneuver over and around.

I would have liked to do the rest of the trail to see the other things I was looking for, like the lily pond and the stone fireplace, but I was too hot and tired from lack of sleep and shortness of breath to do more.

Both my hiking buddy and I would rate this trail as hard, so I am not sure why it is classified as easy. At first, I thought we took a wrong turn, which is not unheard of for me, but AllTrails said we were still on course. This is an extremely popular area, so there will be a lot of people and dogs. If you are looking for solitude, this is not the place…well, this trail anyway.

The sites are cool and were one of the things I was looking forward to the most, so it was worth it to deal with the crowd for me and my buddy. This wasn’t the original trail I intended on doing (The Glacial Potholes and Ice Age Trail in Wisconsin was), but I am glad we did.

While here, we also did a river boat tour, which will be coming later in this series, so keep a look out. It was my favorite part of this park, for sure.

Camping Experience

We camped here for the entirety of this adventure. The site was large and made up of a gravel pad, like the others. It was an electric site that had a picnic table, fire pit with grate, and a campground host. There was tree coverage, but just enough to hang a hammock, rain fly, or clothesline. Two of those things could be done at once, but not all three. There is little to no separation between sites, and they are close together, so you will see and hear your neighbors.

This is a very popular park, so there were a lot of families and dogs, so keep that in mind when considering staying here. Things were definitely not as quiet as I was hoping. Street noise can also be heard here, but it isn’t horrible and didn’t keep me up at night. It is also not very well lit at night, so make sure to bring a headlamp/flashlight/lantern to get yourself around in the dark.

Bathrooms

The bathrooms and showers were modern and literally across the road from my site. There is a sidewalk that leads up to it from the paved road. It is in good shape, but does have an incline. The facilities were accessible, however, there were no door buttons. In the bathroom, there was one accessible stall with grab bars and a slightly higher toilet. The other stalls were small and had lower toilets.

One of the sinks did have a push button on the head of the faucet to turn on water, which could be useful for those who have issues gripping and twisting. The water did get hot quickly, so something to keep in mind. The soap dispensers and hand dryer are higher, so they could be difficult to reach if one is in a lower chair or have trouble reaching.

I did not utilize the showers here, so I can’t speak to them, but I would assume they are set up in a similar way to the bathrooms and the showers at other parks. As a heads up, the bathroom had quite a bit of spiderwebs and bugs, both dead and alive. This was surprising as they are closed for cleaning everyday.

Other camping thoughts

Firewood and ice are sold at the visitor center. The firewood was somewhere around $8/bundle and were smaller than other places I stayed in. We were good with three bundles and cooked a few meals over the fire. Ice was around $4 per bag, which is also more than if we would have gotten it elsewhere, but it all goes for a good cause, so I don’t mind all that much.

The bugs here weren’t horrible, but there were definitely flies, mosquitoes, and a few bees. We used bug spray and my Thermacell and were fine at the campsite. When we went to the river to try and see the meteor shower (we didn’t see much because of the clouds and my loss of patience), the mosquitoes were trying said patience. There were a few red squirrels and a chipmunk, but they left us alone (thank goodness).

There was some cell service, but it typically averaged one to three bars, so be sure to download anything you need/want before you leave Wi-Fi land.


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