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Itasca State Park

Updated: Sep 9, 2022

Great park for a half day, full day or several day visit!

Itasca State Park
Trail near the headwaters of the Mississippi

We were up at our cabin in Longville for the July 4th week and we decided to venture to Itasca State Park which was a little over an hour away. We went a couple years ago and they were giving people butterfly chrysalis to take home and release the butterflies when they came out which was super cool!

The biggest draw to this park is walking across the Mississippi at the headwaters. This is pretty impressive when you think of how far the Mississippi travels (2,552 miles to the Gulf of Mexico) and this is where it all begins.

Itasca State Park
Walk across the rocks at the headwaters of the Mississippi

There is so much to do here you could easily spend a couple days. They have very nice visitor centers to look through with awesome interpretive displays. The gift shops are very reasonably priced as well.

Itasca State Park
Brower Visitor Center

You can do geocaching, camping, swimming, hiking, canoeing, fishing, picnicking and more. Itasca is Minnesota’s oldest state park (1891) and is more than 32,000 acres and has more than 100 lakes. There is a lot of wildlife in the park like red squirrels and a variety of birds and bugs.

There is a wilderness drive past a 2,000 acre Wilderness Sanctuary (have to do this on my next trip out there) which might be a good choice if it’s rainy, really hot or too buggy when you visit.

Itasca State Park
A lot to see if you look closely

We went to the visitor center first and then headed to the headwaters before it got too busy. Before you get to the headwaters there is a bridge with stairs leading into the river.

Itasca State Park
Walk down the stairs into the Mississippi River

Once you get to the headwaters, there are rocks as well as a big log bridge that you can walk across.

Itasca State Park
Walk across the Mississippi on this log bridge

My boys and I walked down the river a bit too which is fun. I would recommend bringing a swimsuit or an extra set of clothes because you will get wet if you walk down the river.

Also recommended are water shoes as the bottom has coarse sand and I wouldn’t want my kids or myself to step on anything sharp like rocks and such especially if they are running.

Itasca State Park
Walking (or running) down the Mississippi River

There is a lot of poison ivy just off the trail so stay on the trail and definitely bring bug spray as the mosquitoes and horse and deer flies are plentiful at certain times of the year.

We tried to do a little hiking after walking in the river but the boys were tired and the bugs were terrible so we packed up and headed back to the cabin.

It’s a fun park to go for a couple hours or stay for a couple days. We had a picnic the first time we went and chose to eat at our cabin the second time but there is a cafeteria there.

As the boys rinsed off their sandy shoes, we hiked around to check out all the flowers. It was so awesome to see not one but several lady slippers! They were beautiful and I rarely if ever see them around.

Itasca State Park
Pink Lady Slippers (the state flower)

We also found an ox-eye daisy that had blue tips on the white petals and we were not sure what the cause was. Can’t seem to find out anything so if you know why this would be, let me know! We thought maybe there was something in the soil that made those particular ones blue.

Itasca State Park
Ox-eye daisy with blue tips on the petals

I would recommend this park as a great getaway by yourself, as a couple or family.


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