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Itasca State Park is famous as the headwaters of the mighty Mississippi River, which starts as shallow, 18-inch deep stream out of Lake Itasca and flows 2,400 miles to the Gulf of Mexico. Visitors can't resist the opportunity to wade in the cold, knee-length water or take a photo on the rock dam or sign post marking the start of the river. The state park is Minnesota's oldest, established in 1891 and in addition to Lake Itasca, features 100 lakes and 32,000 acres of preserved forest and wildlife habitat. It also has several hiking trails criss-crossing the park.
The paved hike-and-bike trail is 5.8 miles long, and starts at the Mary Gibbs Mississippi Headwaters Center, where you can learn all about the history and geography of the park and river. It then winds down to Douglas Lodge, built at the turn of the century to provide accommodation to park visitors. Most of the trail is rolling hills, with some moderate to challenging steep sections. There are multiple picnic areas as well as beach access to the east branch of the lake, and the water provides welcome relief after the hilly ride.
Parking is available on the northern end of the trail at the Mary Gibbs Mississippi Headwaters Center, near the north entrance of the park (2 MN-200, Shevlin, MN).Visitors may also enter through the east entrance and park at Douglas Lodge, then ride up to the headwaters. Please see the trail map for detailed driving directions. A fee is charged per car to enter the park.
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