George Crosby Manitou State Park
If you are looking for a state park that’s a bit off the beaten path, with fewer visitors per year than other North Shore state parks, look no further than the George Crosby Manitou State Park, located near the town of Finland.
A State Park Off the Beaten Path
The park is located north of Highway 61, away from Lake Superior. Because of its location, it doesn’t receive as many visitors as the more popular state parks located along Lake Superior. With less human traffic, you are more likely to spot wildlife like deer, bear, moose, hare, red squirrel, beaver, and wolves. Other highlights of this park include enchanting Benson Lake, the Manitou River Cascades, and miles of hiking trails.
Furthermore, George Manitou State Park is less developed and offers fewer amenities than most Minnesota State Parks. There is no Visitor’s Center here. There is a primitive picnic and camping area with vault toilets, but no running water. Water can be collected from the hand pump located near the entrance kiosk. This was done on purpose, in an effort to maintain the natural beauty and wildlife that the area is known for. Because of the effort taken to keep George Manitou State Park as close to its natural state as possible, you get an entirely different experience here than you would going to a more developed and popular park, like Gooseberry or Tettegouche.
Here is our list of top things to do at George Crosby Manitou State Park:
Picnic at Benson Lake:
The walk-in picnic area is about a quarter of a mile walk into the northeast side of Benson Lake. The lake is a picturesque backdrop for your time there.
There are 23 miles of trails within the park, including five miles of the Superior Hiking Trail. There are rugged trails that wrap through old-growth forests, and up and down trails that run along the Manitou River. Though the hikes are challenging, the well-thought-out resting areas and overlooks make the effort worth it.
Go Birding and Look for Wildlife:
Because there are fewer people and less development, George Crosby Manitou Park is a great place to go to spot wildlife. Nestle in at a quiet spot with a pair of binoculars and be patient. It shouldn’t be long before you are joined by wildlife. Be sure to print off the Bird Checklist and bring it with you to help document your discoveries during your visit.
Brown, rainbow, and brook trout are plentiful in Benson Lake. No motors are allowed, so you will be able to enjoy a pleasant fishing trip with the peaceful serenity that is Benson Lake.
Enjoy the Manitou River Cascades:
Watch the Manitou River cascade down a gorge of volcanic rock, framed by strands of fir, spruce, and cedar trees. You can enjoy bird watching from the many outlooks along the river, as well.
Snowshoeing is allowed throughout the park. Try the Benson Lake Trail or Manitou River Cascade Trail during the winter months – they are our favorites for snowshoeing! However, note that the road leading into the park may not be plowed or maintained in the winter months. Plan ahead and know where you can park to access the trails if access to the park is unavailable.
To Get to Crosby Manitou State Park from Silver Bay: Take Highway 61 northeast past Silver Bay. Turn left onto Highway 1. Stay on Highway 1 until you get to the town of Finland. Turn right onto Cramer Road/County Road 7. After about 7.5 miles on Cramer Road turn right onto Benson Lake Road.
To get to Crosby Manitou State Park from Schroeder: Turn right (away from Lake Superior) onto Cramer Road. Follow Cramer Road for approximately 6 miles and continue on to County Road 8. When the road comes to a T, turn left onto Cramer Road. Drive approximately four miles and turn left onto Benson Lake Road.
A state park annual or day pass is required to access the park. Camping fees are required to camp.
Hours and Seasonality:
The park is open year-round but accessing the park in the winter may be a challenge. Roads in the park are not plowed during the winter, so visitors may need to snowshoe in from County Road 7 if the snow is deep. The water pump and vault toilets are available year-round.
Due to its primitive nature, George Crosby Manitou State Park may be harder to manage for those with mobility issues. The campsites are all remote backpack sites and are not handicap accessible.
Camping and Lodging:
There are 21 remote, secluded backpack sites located throughout the park. They range from half a mile to 4.5 miles from the parking area and located mostly along the Manitou River and Benson Lake.
Mobile usage will be unavailable or, at best, spotty at George Crosby Manitou State Park. You should not expect to be able to use your cell phone to make calls during your visit to the park.
There are no charging stations at George Crosby Manitou State Park.
Information on this page is subject to change. For current information, including contact information, current hours of operation, and camping information please visit the official George Crosby Manitou State Park DNR website.