If you haven’t had the chance to head north and visit Itasca State Park in northwestern Minnesota, then you need to put this incredible park at the top of your bucket list this summer. Founded in 1891, Itasca is Minnesota’s oldest state park, and it’s visited by people from all over the world. Though the park is truly a beautiful part of Minnesota, with 32,000 acres of untouched wilderness within its borders, the real reason people come here is to see the birthplace of the Mighty Mississippi River.
If you’ve never had the chance to walk across the gentle headwaters here, witnessing the start of one of the most significant rivers in the entire world, then we certainly hope you make it a priority this summer. And, as you explore Itasca State Park, make sure you enjoy the rest of northwestern Minnesota, an area marked by some of the largest lakes in the state, excellent fishing, great biking trails and plenty to offer travelers from all around the world.
And, of course, make sure to choose one of our Minnesota Bed and Breakfasts as your home away from home. With welcoming hospitality and insider tips for how to make the most of your getaway in Minnesota, there’s no better place to stay. Browse through our collection of Inns, and once you’ve settled on a destination, book your vacation!
Top Things to do at Itasca State Park
Without a doubt, the most popular attraction at Itasca State Park is to walk across the headwaters of the Mississippi River. Standing there next to the pine log, carved with yellow lettering to mark the start of the river’s journey, you can’t help but be impressed at just how far the water rushing beneath your feet will travel. From Lake Itasca south, the waters of the Mighty Mississippi travel a total distance of 2, 552 miles to the Gulf of Mexico, supporting a variety of economic industries and communities along the way.
Not only is the waters’ journey a fascinating thing to ponder as you stand at these headwaters, but it’s also said that those who walk across the river’s beginnings will live a long and happy life. I’d say it’s worth a few steps across the water to find out, wouldn’t you? And, on hot summer days, these cool waters offer a welcome respite for hikers who’ve been out exploring the trails in the area, too.
Here are a few other things worth doing while you’re at Itasca State Park this summer:
- Visit the Mary Gibbs Visitor Center, where you’ll learn about the vital economic and cultural role the Mississippi River has played in American and Native lives throughout history. You’ll also learn fun facts like this one: Did you know that there are more miles of the Mississippi River in Minnesota than in any other state? A great way to impress your friends once you’re home from vacation!
- Nature enthusiasts will want to make a stop at the Brower Visitor’s Center, which focuses on the abundant wildlife in the area.
- Enjoy the 10-mile scenic drive on Wildnerness Drive, which circles the park and offers you an excellent glimpse into the inner beauty of this area.
- Hike up Aiton Heights Observation Tower. It’s 110 feet tall and offers those willing to make the journey to the top a truly unique view of Itasca State Park.
- Take a guided boat tour of Lake Itasca, or get out on the lake for a little paddling of your own.
- Visit the Itasca Wilderness Sanctuary. It’s a great area for bird and wildlife watching and just the general appreciation of Minnesota’s wild beauty.
- Visit Douglas Lodge, a lodge built in the National Park style that was popular in the early 1900s. It’s a great place to pop in for lunch.
To extend your trip along the Mississippi River, we recommend driving the Lake Country Scenic Byway. This incredible roadway lies about 3.5 hours north of Minneapolis/St. Paul, and offers an unparalleled glimpse into parts of northern Minnesota. The byway also includes a segment of Minnesota’s Pine to Prairie Birding Trail and is an exceptional area for birdwatching.
Where to Stay Near Itasca State Park
Itasca State Park is located in the northwestern corner of Minnesota, near Leech Lake and the city of Bemidji. While you’re in the area, we recommend settling in at one of our three Bed and Breakfasts in the area, where you’ll be free to enjoy the quiet and tranquil sights and sounds of the area. Take a boat out on Leech Lake for some fishing – the lake is known to have the best walleye and muskie fishing in the state – or hop on a bike and explore the Heartland State Trail or the Paul Bunyon Trail.
Whatever it is you do, relax, unwind, and let us show you a good time. Visiting Itasca State Park might be what get’s you here, but our welcoming hospitality and exceptional service will be what convince you to stay. Book a room at one of our Minnesota Bed and Breakfasts today!