Bear Head Lake State Park
With the spectacular scenery of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness beckoning, it’s understandable that some people bypass Bear Head Lake State Park (9301 Bear Head State Park Rd., 218/365-7229 or 866/857-2757, www.dnr.state.mn.us, $24 electric site), but its 4,523 wild and rugged acres are definitely worth a visit.
The park touches the shores of nine pine-rimmed lakes, and most visitors head for the water. Anglers seek walleye, bass, crappies, and trout.
The easiest paddling (rental boats and canoes are available) is in the sheltered North Bay of the 674-acre namesake lake, while the more adventurous can portage out to smaller lakes. Boats are allowed on Bear Head, but a 10-mph speed limit is enforced. Bear Head Lake also has a swimming beach.
The 10 miles of hiking trail, each named for the lakes they circle, quickly get you into the wild. The three-mile Norberg Lake Trail is the easiest and most popular hike, while most of the remote campsites lie along the challenging Becky Lake and Blueberry Lake Trails, both of which are rather hilly. Most miles are groomed for cross-country skiing in the winter, and the Taconite State Trail, a popular snowmobile route, links the park with Ely and Grand Rapids.
Although seldom used, the portion through the park makes for a decent warm-weather hike. Bald eagles nest on Bear Head Lake each summer, so if you spend some time here sightings are almost guaranteed.
The camping is excellent too. The 73 (26 electric) sites in the campground are shady and fairly secluded, while you can truly get away from it all at the six backpack and canoe-in campsites scattered along the shores of several lakes. There is also one camper cabin and a fully-appointed three-bedroom guesthouse, both open year-round, for those who don’t want to rough it.
© Tim Bewer from Moon Minnesota, 3rd Edition