Grand Rapids is a destination for people who want to get outdoors and get into the wilderness. It’s one of the best places to see in Minnesota to explore, to camp, to get a little wild.
The Grand Rapids area is home to the Itasca County park system, two Minnesota state parks, numerous state forests, a national forest, and thousands of miles of trails and waterways. It’s easy to get out and enjoy the wilderness; the tough part is choosing what direction to go.
A Good Place to Start
Head north on Minnesota Highway 38, a National Scenic Byway, and you’re on your way to the Chippewa National Forest. Pine forests and tamarack bogs surround the quiet passageway, taking travelers further into the north woods.
The Chippewa National Forest, known for wildlife viewing and eagle sightings, is perfect for both back country adventurers and for those seeking a day hike. The Suomi Hills Recreation Area provides hiking trails with easy access from the highway and is a short distance from downtown Grand Rapids. Trails follow rolling hills through basswood and maple forests and offer bird calls, animal tracks, and scenic lakeshore vistas.
Wilderness & Wetlands
For many adventurers it’s the cry of the loon or the chatter of a red squirrel that lets them know they’re in the wilderness. Wildlife viewing opportunities are plentiful in the wild areas surrounding Grand Rapids. One of the best places to learn more about north woods creatures and their habitat is at the Edge of the Wilderness Discovery Center.
Tucked away in the quiet town of Marcell, the Edge of the Wilderness Discovery Center offers free naturalist-led programs throughout the year. Curious about wetland critters? Wildflowers or wildfires? There’s a great chance you can learn all about it with a stop at this beautiful Discovery Center.
State Parks near Grand Rapids
Two Minnesota state parks are close to Grand Rapids. Scenic State Park, with gorgeous lake views and stately red pines, is to the north. Schoolcraft State Park, featuring trails along the Mississippi River, is to the west. State forests, including George Washington State Forest, Bowstring, and Golden Anniversary, have thousands of acres of public land with trails, campsites and lakes. They are managed forests and a testament to Minnesota’s sustainable forestry initiatives that recreation and forestry operations can co- exist.
Travel any direction around Grand Rapids, Minnesota and you’ll find the wilderness around you and the wild within you.