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LENGTH 10 miles
DIFFICULTY Easy with some elevation
DATE October 8, 2017
MAIN FEATURES Glacial Potholes, River Bluffs, St Croix River, Fall Foliage, Climbing
Interstate Park is on the Western terminus of the 1,200 mile long Ice Age Trail. It gets it name from being located on both the shores of WI and MN, joined by the St Croix River. Camping and river access is available on both sides and you’ll need either a WI or MN State park pass to get in (unfortunately, they do not honor the other state’s pass). We have also used our National Park pass to enter the park since it is on the St Croix National Scenic Waterway and has the National Park Badge logo on the Park sign.
The MN side is known for it’s glacial potholes and Hiking Club Trail, and the WI side has longer hiking trails and elevation. We typically prefer the hiking on the WI side, so that’s where we started today.
Interstate Park is near and dear to my heart as it is where we started camping with friends and as a family years ago. It’s the first place both of our kids camped when they were babies.
I’d been cooped up all week, so my sister and I met up and got an early start with no particular distance in mind. About 5 miles in, we knew we were going to want to extend the day as long as we could and ended up hiking 10 miles.
We started at the Ravine Trail across the road from the swimming beach and were immediately greeted by a golden canopy of leaves. The recent rains made the carpet of leaves on the trail even more vibrant and soft on our feet. Fall hiking is the best!
We started out slow because we were so taken aback by the beauty of this Fall’s colors, taking lots of pictures, goofing around, in no hurry. I often forget to take time to truly soak in my surroundings. I need to get better at that. It was impossible to ignore the beauty of the trail and I quickly felt grateful to be out on a perfect fall day.
Turns out we weren’t alone in our sentiments. I bet we ran into 3 or 4 people on the trail that blurted out something like “Wow, isn’t this a great day?” “We have to enjoy these while we still have them!” “Winter is coming…”
Our first trail took us around a loop and then to an out and back trail we’d never hiked before that kind of ended up disappearing. I’m not exactly sure where we went wrong, but I think this wet summer swamped the main trail and caused it to get overgrown. We ended up on a trail with waist high grass, then on a grassy park service road, past a fenced gas pipeline that then popped out on the paved road. We took that to get back instead of walking through the long grass again. Ticks are probably not around much right now, but it kind of grossed us out and we were fine taking the road for a little bit.
Got back to the loop, passed through group camp and up to Eagle Peak! Eagle Peak and Echo Canyon have always been my favorite trails at this park. The hike up to Eagle Peak has just enough elevation to make it interesting and offers a beautiful view of the river valley when the leaves are changing color.
We stopped at the South campground for lunch. Fired up the Fancy Feast Stove for some hot soup and snacks and a little break.
This is where we decided to shoot for a 10 mile day. Over lunch we also talked a bit about our Superior Hiking Trail thru hike next year and how many miles a day we thought we could handle. We are still working on our pack weight, backpack designs and other details of the trip.
We continued to the Lake, through the picnic area and up the hill to the Bluffs of the St Croix and Echo Canyon. These trails are short, easily accessible to parking and were significantly more crowded.
We did a few loops around the scenic overlook trail to make it an even 10 and called it a day.
Have you been to Interstate Park? Which side is your favorite? Hoping for one more trip to the North Shore before the snow flies!