Looking for outdoor activities in Minnesota? Consider checking out Jay Cooke State Park for camping, hiking, biking, or even visiting the iconic swinging bridge. As one of the larger state parks in the area, there’s plenty to explore and enjoy.
When I looked up camping near Duluth, I discovered Jay Cooke State Park. When I realized there were mountain biking and hiking trails, I knew we had to book a site.
Jay Cooke Campground
The campground at Jay Cooke has 85 campsites, including four walk-in sites, two group sites, and twenty electrical sites. The campground is open year-round, although the shower building and dump station are only available in summer.
Each campsite comes with a picnic table and a fire ring. Collecting of firewood is prohibited, but approved wood can be purchased at the park office. Ice is also available for purchase.
Once again, we had to use our leveling blocks as the back of our camper sat high. We have learned that this is how Minnesota is. At least there were far fewer bugs at this park than in the Boundary Waters.
MN DNR replaced the Jay Cooke State Park shower house in 2018. It follows the new standard for Minnesota State Parks, with women’s and men’s bathrooms with toilet stalls and sinks, two accessible full bathrooms, and four individual shower rooms. The shower water pressure was excellent, and the temperature was consistently hot.
Trash dumpsters and recycling bins are available. There was suspected bear activity while we were there, so campers are asked to keep their campsites tidy and bear-ready.
Glamp at Jay Cooke State Park
There are five camper cabins in the campground. These cabins sleep six people and come with electricity and heat. These are popular with cross-country skiers in the winter but are available year around.
Each cabin has a screen porch. There is a picnic table and a fire ring outside of each cabin.
We did not see the inside of the cabin, but the outside is so cute!
The CCC built the River Inn Interpretive Center and the Swinging Bridge, the most popular attractions at the park. Both are accessible.
The suspension bridge is fun to cross. Carefully crawl out on the rocks and see the waterfalls and views of the Swinging Bridge. The St. Louis River is beautiful to watch flow by.
The bridge is suspended among Thomson Formation rocks. They are neat to climb out on but can be dangerous. Be careful of your steps, particularly when the rocks are wet or icy.
Jay Cooke State Park Trails
The park is home to 50 miles of trails for summer and winter use. The paved Willard Munger State Trail runs along the park’s north side. You can access the paved Forbay Trail from the visitor center and campground area.
In the summer, there are three types of trails; hiking only, hiking and mountain biking, and hiking and mountain biking plus horseback riding. We rode down the state trails to the trestle bridge and then to the Triangle Trails and Greely Creek Trail. Triangle Trail is a nice double-track trail, also open to horses, and Greely is more of a wide single-track trail.
The Superior Hiking Trail and the North County Trail run concurrently through the park.
In the winter, the trails host cross-country skiing and snow-shoeing.
Jay Cooke is a popular park. Out-of-state visitors like the proximity to Duluth and the North Shore. Like us, they will use this as a launching or landing point to the Lake Superior coastline. Local campers like the tranquility of the campground and trails.
Reservations are strongly recommended, especially for the few electrical sites or in the summer. When I made ours, when the 120-day reservation window opened, only two electric sites were open. I quickly snagged one.
Cancellations do occur, so keep your eye out for a campsite. There are usually a few midweek non-electric sites open during the high season. Cabins fill quickly when the snow is good for Nordic skiing.
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