7 Reasons St.Croix State Park is BAE! (Camping and Hiking Included)

St. Croix State Park 1
Discover camping & hiking joys at St.Croix State Park! Our top 7 reasons will show why it's a must-visit outdoor haven.

Strap on your hiking boots and pitch your tent—St. Croix State Park is the ultimate getaway! Right at the Minnesota-Wisconsin border, this sprawling 34,000-acre wonderland invites you to explore its scenic trails and rich wildlife.

Here, each path leads to new discoveries, from hidden glades to breathtaking river views. Watch for deer darting through the trees, eagles soaring overhead, and keep an eye out for the elusive bobcat.

Whether you’re here for the adrenaline rush, the serene beauty, or a cozy campfire under the stars, St. Croix has it all. So, are you ready for an unforgettable outdoor adventure?

Location and Overview

A 100 miles away from bustling Minneapolis, St. Croix State Park stretches its arms across a vast expanse of 34,000 acres. 

This mesmerizing landscape, shaped by the forces of time and nature, offers a serene escape from the modern world. 

It stands as a testament to nature’s timeless beauty, perched on the banks of the storied St. Croix River which doubles as a tranquil boundary between Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Why Visit St. Croix State Park?

Step into St. Croix State Park and you’re immediately greeted by nature’s grandeur. Towering sandstone cliffs overlook expansive woodlands, each path hinting at a new adventure. 

The vibrant St. Croix River tempts with kayaking opportunities or a simple refreshing dip. Listen closely, and you’ll hear a chorus of birds, making it a haven for birdwatchers. 

With a perfect balance of relaxation and adventure, St. Croix stands out as a premier destination for nature lovers.

St. Croix State Park

History of St. Croix State Park

St. Croix State Park, with its sprawling landscapes, has stories etched into every corner. The narrative starts in the early 1900s when Minnesota staked its claim on this piece of nature’s art. 

The park truly came alive in 1933, thanks to the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). They paved roads, blazed trails, and built structures that stand as testaments to time.

World War II, however, reshaped the park’s calm demeanor. The military used its grounds for training, and buildings echoed with military drills. 

But as wars end, St. Croix found peace and returned to Minnesota’s care. 

By 1945, it earned its rightful state park status. Since then, continuous enhancements have transformed it into one of Minnesota’s crown jewels.

Wildlife at St. Croix State Park

St. Croix State Park, a verdant gem in Minnesota, is more than just breathtaking views and adventurous trails. 

It’s a vibrant ecosystem teeming with a myriad of wildlife species, each adding its unique touch to the park’s rich biodiversity.

In the park’s vast wilderness areas, like the Norway Pines Sanctuary, white-tailed deer often make an appearance. 

Early mornings and late evenings are the best times to spot them grazing in clearings or darting through the more dense sections of woods. 

The Pine Ridge Trail, with its intertwining paths through both meadows and woodlands, is a hotspot for deer sightings.

Black bears, while more elusive, have been reported in the more remote sections of the park. 

Areas away from the primary camping sites, especially around the Bear Creek Trail, offer the best chances of spotting these magnificent creatures.

St. Croix State Park

In addition to these larger mammals, the park is also home to many smaller animals, including raccoons, skunks, opossums, and chipmunks. The park is also a popular spot for birdwatchers, with over 200 species of birds recorded in the area.

One of the best places to observe wildlife at St. Croix State Park is the Chengwatana State Forest, which is located adjacent to the park. The Chengwatana State Forest is home to a large population of black bears, and visitors to the park often have the opportunity to see them in their natural habitat.

Maintain a safe distance and practice bear-safe techniques when camping or hiking in their territory.

For bobcat enthusiasts, the challenging terrain of the River Bluff Trail offers the best opportunity. 

These stealthy cats are often seen during twilight hours, prowling the undergrowth or resting on rocky outcroppings.

Birdwatchers are in for a treat at St. Croix. The bald eagle, America’s emblematic bird, frequently soars over the St. Croix River, especially near the river outlook on the Kettle River Hiking Trail. 

Their majestic wingspan against the backdrop of the flowing river is an unforgettable sight. Apart from eagles, the wetlands adjoining the Two Rivers Trail are perfect for spotting a variety of waterfowl. 

Herons, egrets, and ducks often grace these waters with their presence, offering plenty of opportunities for keen-eyed birders.

The boardwalks on the Marshland Trail are ideal spots for amphibian and reptile enthusiasts. Here, frogs provide a symphony at dusk, and if you’re lucky, you might spot turtles basking on logs or rocks near the water’s edge.

St. Croix State Park is more than just scenic views; it’s a dynamic ecosystem waiting to be explored. 

Whether you’re a seasoned wildlife spotter or just someone looking to immerse in nature, knowing the park’s hotspots ensures a memorable visit filled with delightful encounters.

One of the best places to observe wildlife at St. Croix State Park is the Chengwatana State Forest, which is located adjacent to the park. 

The Chengwatana State Forest is home to a large population of black bears, and visitors to the park often have the opportunity to see them in their natural habitat.

Hiking Trails at St. Croix State Park

St. Croix State Park beckons hikers, nature lovers, and adventure seekers with an intricate network of trails. 

Each trail boasts of its own allure, offers experiences ranging from serene forest walks to challenging treks up rugged terrains. 

St. Croix State Park

Here’s an overview of the hiking wonders of this park.

Best Places Trails in St. Croix State Park

Pine Ridge Trail

Covering a moderate 5.5 miles, this loop is a hiker’s dream. It takes you through a mix of meadows and dense forests, and if you’re lucky, a white-tailed deer might cross your path. 

The sights of old pine trees reaching for the skies and the gentle hum of the forest around make this trail a favorite among many.

Bear Creek Trail

Ideal for those seeking solitude and a touch of adventure. This 3.5-mile trail delves into some of the park’s more remote areas. 

Black bears are known to wander these parts, and while sightings are rare, the thrill is ever-present. This trail, being less frequented, offers a sense of undisturbed nature.

River Bluff Trail

A challenging 8-mile route, this trail offers breathtaking views of the St. Croix River. 

As you hike, you’ll be treated to panoramic vistas of the water below, with occasional spots perfect for a quiet riverside picnic. 

This trail is particularly stunning during the fall when the foliage turns fiery with autumn colors.

Two Rivers Trail

Spanning 2.5 miles, this trail is aptly named as it follows the course of both the St. Croix and Kettle Rivers. 

It’s a haven for birdwatchers, with waterfowl often seen splashing in the rivers.

Marshland Trail

This 1.5-mile boardwalk trail offers a close encounter with the wetlands of St. Croix. Expect to hear frogs’ symphonies and spot turtles basking in the sun. 

The beauty of the marshes and their rich biodiversity make this trail a unique experience.

Kettle River Hiking Trail

For those looking to immerse themselves in a more rugged hiking experience, this 6-mile trail runs alongside the scenic Kettle River. 

The sights and sounds of the river rapids are a constant companion as you navigate through dense woods and open clearings.

Sumac Trail

A shorter 1.2-mile loop, this trail is perfect for a quick yet fulfilling hike. 

The path meanders through a sumac forest, providing vibrant color displays during the fall season. 

It’s an ideal choice for families and those looking for a less demanding hike.

Longest Trail in St. Croix State Park

The River Bluff Trail, stretching a robust 8 miles, holds the title of the longest trail in St. Croix State Park. Not only is it the longest, but it’s also one of the most scenic. 

The trail’s elevation offers panoramic views of the St. Croix River below. Though the distance might be challenging for some, the rewards in terms of vistas and diverse terrains make it well worth the effort. 

Many hikers take breaks along the way, utilizing the numerous overlooks to rest and soak in the beauty.

Trail with the Most Elevation Gain

For those seeking a physical challenge coupled with unparalleled scenic beauty, the Kettle River Hiking Trail is a must. 

Though not the longest, this 6-mile trail has the most elevation gain in the park. As you ascend and descend the varied terrains, you’ll feel the burn in your calves and thighs. 

But with that effort comes the reward: stunning views of the Kettle River, especially at higher vantage points. 

The sound of gushing rapids below, combined with the tranquil ambiance of the surrounding woods, creates a fulfilling hiking experience.

St. Croix State Park’s trails offer a diverse range of experiences for hikers of all levels. 

Whether you’re looking for a leisurely stroll amidst nature, a challenging trek to test your endurance, or something in between, St. Croix has it all. 

Each trail, with its unique charm, awaits your exploration, ensuring that every visit brings with it a new adventure.

Camping at St. Croix State Park

The real essence of this park is felt when one camps under its expansive starlit sky, surrounded by nature’s profound serenity. If you’re thinking about a camping expedition, here is an overview of our favorite spots. 


St. Croix Campground:

Located in the heart of the park, St. Croix Campground is surrounded by dense woods that provide both shade and privacy. 

The rustling leaves and the occasional calls of the park’s wildlife provide a calming backdrop.

It’s the park’s largest campground, boasting over 120 sites available for both tent and RV campers. If you’re in an RV, sites can accommodate vehicles up to 60 feet.

This campground is not just for rest; it’s a hub for adventure. 

Directly accessible are the Pine Ridge Trail, a 1.8-mile journey through diverse woodland, and the Two Rivers Trail, a loop offering river views and a taste of the park’s rich flora.

To enhance your camping experience, each site comes fitted with a picnic table and fire ring. 

Modern restroom facilities complete with showers are a short walk away, and for those in RVs, a sanitation station is available.

Riverside Campground:

As the evening sun reflects off the St. Croix River, the Riverside Campground provides campers with a front-row seat to nature’s mesmerizing show. 

This campground’s 50 sites are steps away from the river, making it a favorite for water enthusiasts.

For those who like their mornings with a side of adventure, the River Bluff Trail is your go-to. 

Starting from this campground, it showcases the park’s impressive elevation changes and panoramic river views.

Every site here provides campers with a picnic table and fire ring, allowing for memorable meals amidst nature. 

Basic restroom facilities are in place, but it’s worth noting that there are no shower facilities in this locale.

Group Campgrounds

Tailored for group events or large gatherings, these campgrounds are spaciously laid out to cater to communal activities, ensuring everyone remains connected yet has enough space for themselves.

Four distinct sites are at the disposal of campers, each accommodating between 30 to 100 individuals. 

This makes it perfect for events, from family reunions to scout outings.

Just around the bend is the Bear Creek Trail. 

It winds through some less-traveled parts of the park, promising a day of exploration and discovery.

These sites focus on communal living, featuring large fire rings for group bonfires and spacious picnic areas for shared meals. 

Restroom facilities are in proximity, but showers might be limited, necessitating a short walk or drive to another campground.

On-Site Facilities & Services for Campers

All campgrounds in St. Croix State Park offer drinking water and dump stations. 

In addition, the park’s nature store, located near the main entrance, offers essential camping supplies, firewood, and some snacks. 

Rangers often organize evening programs at the amphitheater, which are both entertaining and informative for campers. 

For families with kids, playgrounds are available in certain campgrounds.

Is St. Croix State Park Dog-Friendly?

Absolutely! St. Croix State Park welcomes furry companions with open arms, but with some rules in place for everyone’s comfort. 

Dogs must always be kept on a leash no longer than six feet. When at the campsite, they should never be left unattended. 

While trails are open for dogs, it’s essential to clean up after them. 

There are designated areas in the campgrounds for pets, and water stations are available at various points.

Campground Duration and Restrictions

St. Croix State Park has a maximum stay policy of 14 consecutive days for campers. Reservations can be made up to 120 days in advance for individual sites and up to a year in advance for group sites. 

It’s essential to note that quiet hours are enforced from 10 pm to 6 am, ensuring everyone has a peaceful experience. 

In terms of firewood, to protect the park from invasive species, only approved firewood can be used. 

You can purchase this at the park’s nature store or from local vendors.

Fishing at St. Croix State Park

The St. Croix River is one of the most popular destinations for anglers in the Midwest, and St. Croix State Park is no exception. 

Unwind and connect with nature while you experience some of the best fishing Minnesota has to offer at St. Croix State Park. 

Its pristine waterways provide a backdrop to a captivating fishing expedition that’s bound to leave you with tales of remarkable catches and maybe a few that got away.

St. Croix State Park fihsing

Prime Fishing Locations:

St. Croix River: This majestic river is an angler’s dream, populated with an array of fish species. 

From spirited walleyes to agile northern pikes and the ever-elusive sturgeon, there’s always a challenge and a reward awaiting.

Kettle River: This serene tributary offers a more intimate setting. 

Its cool waters and varied terrains are perfect for trout fishing, especially for those who relish the thrill of fly fishing.

Key Fish Species and Techniques:

Walleye: Most active during early spring and fall, they’re often found in deeper waters of the St. Croix River. Live bait, like minnows or leeches, can be particularly effective.

Smallmouth Bass: Preferring rocky terrains, casting near submerged structures in the warmer months can yield a rewarding catch.

Trout: Fly fishing in the currents and pools of the Kettle River with nymphs or dry flies promises an engaging experience.

Sturgeon: These deep-water dwellers in the St. Croix River are a prize catch. Patience, sturdy tackle, and cut bait are your best allies.

Amenities for Anglers:

Boat Access: Launch your vessel smoothly with the park’s well-constructed boat ramps.

Equipment Rentals: Those new to fishing or without their gear can rent equipment from the park’s visitor center.

Bait & Tackle Shop: Situated near the park’s entrance, it stocks an array of fishing essentials.

Fishing Piers: These piers, dotting the St. Croix River shoreline, provide a tranquil setting for those keen on shore fishing.

Fishing Protocols:

To ensure the conservation of aquatic life and provide everyone with a fair opportunity, certain fishing regulations are in place. 

Ensure you’re familiar with the latest rules and obtain the necessary licenses, available online or at the visitor center.

The blend of tranquil surroundings and the anticipation of the next catch make every moment here special. So, grab your rod, cast your line, and let the adventures begin!

Boating and Kayaking at St. Croix State Park

For adventure seekers, the St. Croix State Park is an adrenaline-fueled paradise. The park offers several heart-racing activities like kayaking, canoeing, and tubing, which are sure to get your blood pumping.

Boating and Kayaking at St. Croix State Park

Whether you’re an adrenaline junkie or someone seeking tranquility, this park presents a myriad of opportunities to embrace the rhythm of the water.

St. Croix River: The Paddler’s Playground

Dubbed one of the Midwest’s crown jewels for water sports, the St. Croix River tantalizingly combines stretches of serene water with adrenaline-pumping rapids. 

Novices and experts alike will find a section of the river tailored to their skill level.

Imagine yourself gliding between towering cliffs, each stroke of your paddle echoing nature’s whispers, only to be interrupted by the thrill of rapids that challenge your prowess. 

t’s not just about the ride, but the exhilarating fusion of skill, nature, and adventure.

A Serene Drift Among Nature’s Canvas

For those who find solace in the gentler embrace of the river, select stretches offer a more peaceful experience. 

Here, the river broadens and slows, inviting paddlers to drift leisurely. 

Absorb the ambiance – the undisturbed reflection of verdant trees on the water, the distant call of a bird, and the occasional splash of a playful otter.

Tubing: A Relaxing Float with Nature

Seeking a more laid-back interaction with the river? Tubing is your answer. Secure a tube from local outfitters and allow the gentle currents of the river to chart your course. 

It’s not just a float; it’s an immersive experience, where the cool embrace of the water complements the visual treat of the park’s scenery.

Ready, Set, Launch!

Several access points within the park make embarking on your water journey a breeze. Don’t have gear? No problem! 

Local outfitters are well-stocked with kayaks, canoes, and tubes, ensuring you’re ready for your aquatic escapade.

First Timer or Need a Refresher?

For newcomers or those keen on enhancing their water skills, guided tours are a golden opportunity. 

Not only do they ensure safety, but they also enrich your journey with insights into the park’s rich history, diverse ecology, and fascinating geology.

Nature’s Marvels Unveiled

As your vessel cruises the water, anticipate a visual spectacle. 

From the imposing cliffs and lush forests to the chance encounters with wildlife like beavers, otters, and the majestic bald eagle, every moment at St. Croix State Park promises to etch a lasting memory.

The Fire Tower 

Perched prominently within St. Croix State Park stands a historic monument that has withstood the test of time – the Fire Tower. 

Rising a staggering 100 feet, this sentinel of the park once served as a crucial vantage point for early forest fire detection.

One of the most unique features of St. Croix State Park is the Fire Tower.

Location & Historical Significance

Located on the northeastern end of the park, the tower is ensconced amid dense foliage, making it a thrilling find. 

The path leading to the tower is marked but invites a feeling of delightful discovery. Built in the 1930s, this tower was an instrumental tool in forest conservation. 

Rangers would vigilantly scan the horizon for smoke plumes, ensuring early fire detection and rapid response.

An Exhilarating Climb

The ascent to the tower’s top is via a series of metal staircases and platforms. 

While the climb can be moderately challenging, taking approximately 20-30 minutes for the average hiker, the panoramic views awaiting atop make every step worth it. 

From the peak, visitors are treated to an uninterrupted 360-degree view of the park’s expansive beauty. 

The Kettle River’s gleam, dense forests, and meandering trails stretch out in a verdant sea.

Why Make the Climb?

Besides the historical allure, the Fire Tower offers a unique perspective of St. Croix State Park’s topography. 

Understanding the park’s vastness and biodiversity becomes tangible from this bird’s-eye view. 

Moreover, for photography enthusiasts, the tower offers unmatched angles and vistas, especially during sunrise or sunset when the landscape bathes in a golden hue.

Visitor Tips

Given the tower’s height and the open metal framework, it’s advisable for visitors with vertigo or a fear of heights to exercise caution. 

Wear sturdy footwear, carry a water bottle, and don’t forget your camera. 

Informational placards about the tower’s history and significance are displayed at its base, enriching the visitor experience.

Additional Recreation and Attractions at St. Croix State Park

St. Croix State Park is a vibrant hub of outdoor activities, merging nature’s serenity with adrenaline-pumping adventures. 

From gentle riverside strolls to invigorating water sports, this Minnesota gem promises diverse experiences for every enthusiast.

Water Activities: Safety and Scenic Beauty

St. Croix State Park, cradled by the St. Croix and Kettle rivers, offers various water-based recreational activities. 

Swimming in the St. Croix River is popular, but it’s essential to be aware of the river’s currents and occasionally submerged rocks. 

Designated swimming areas, marked by buoys, ensure safety and are regularly monitored for water quality. 

While the park doesn’t boast grand waterfalls, there are numerous smaller cascades and rapids along the river that offer scenic beauty and a soothing soundtrack to your visit.

Seasonal Events and Attractions

Throughout the year, St. Croix State Park comes alive with a range of events catering to its diverse visitor base. 

Summer months often see ranger-led hikes and wildlife spotting excursions. 

Autumn, with its brilliant foliage, hosts leaf-peeping events and guided photography walks. 

Winter doesn’t slow down the park’s pace; snowshoeing events, cross-country skiing races, and snowmobiling are common seasonal attractions. 

It’s advisable to check the park’s official calendar or contact the visitor center for detailed event schedules during your visit.

Visitor’s Information and Amenities

To enhance the visitor experience, St. Croix State Park offers a range of amenities. A well-stocked visitor center provides maps, guides, and souvenirs. 

Clean restroom facilities, equipped with showers in specific areas, are scattered throughout the park. 

Picnic areas, complete with tables and fire rings, offer idyllic spots to relax and enjoy a meal. 

For those looking to learn more about the park’s history and ecology, interpretive displays and occasional ranger talks offer a wealth of knowledge.

What’s Nearby

Just beyond the boundaries of St. Croix State Park, visitors can discover a treasure trove of attractions. 

The Chengwatana State Forest is a nearby haven for those keen on more hiking and bird-watching. 

Its sprawling woodland offers a peaceful alternative to the bustling state park, especially during peak season. 

Another must-visit spot is the St. Croix River Valley, renowned for its stunning vistas and opportunities for canoeing or kayaking. 

If history piques your interest, the Pine County Historical Museum provides an in-depth look at the region’s rich past, complete with artifacts and interactive exhibits.

After a long day of exploration, satisfy your hunger at one of the local dining establishments. 

Riverside Café serves hearty American classics, while Croix’s Bistro offers a more gourmet experience with a view of the river. 

For those looking to extend their stay outside the park, The Pine Lodge provides cozy accommodations with modern amenities. 

Alternatively, River Inn Bed & Breakfast offers a quaint, homey atmosphere, ensuring a restful night after your St. Croix adventures.


St. Croix State Park is a beautiful and diverse destination that offers something for everyone. Whether you’re a hiker, angler, boater, or simply looking for a peaceful retreat in nature, St. Croix State Park is sure to please.

The park is one of the largest and most diverse state parks in Minnesota. Visitors can explore the park’s many hiking trails, observe wildlife in their natural habitat, camp in one of the park’s many campsites, or simply relax and enjoy the peaceful surroundings.

If you’re looking for a truly unique and unforgettable experience, plan a visit to St. Croix State Park today.

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