Trip to Scenic State Park near Bigfork, MN

We headed to Scenic State Park on Sun., July 1, for a 3-day stay. It’s about 225 miles from our house and takes around 4 1/2 hours to get there, so it’s a bit of a drive. We’d never been to Scenic before, so it was a good opportunity to explore a new park.

Lay of the land

Scenic covers about 3,300 acres and includes several lakes.  There are a total of 93 campsites, 23 of which have electricity (although see below re. power issues). A really nice feature at Scenic are the pull-through sites, an inexplicably rare feature in state campgrounds in Minnesota. After a 4 1/2 hour drive, the ease of getting set up in a pull-through site was a welcome feature.

Shower and bathroom facilities were basic but fine.

Interesting features and things to see

Two of the lakes in the park, Coon and Sandwick, have stands of virgin pines along their shores — a rare sight in Minnesota. Because those lakes are entirely encompassed within the park, they feature undeveloped shorelines — also a rare sight in Minnesota. It was a welcome aesthetic break from the typical blight of most lakes, with their overbuilt cabins, oversized docks and overly busy open water. The peace and quiet, and unbroken scenery, were really enjoyable.

There are a number of hiking trails in the park. Chase Point trail runs along the top of a ridge that rises 60-70 feet between Coon and Sandwick lakes. The ridge is actually an esker, a unique geologic feature formed by an ice tunnel in a glacier. It’s pretty cool: see photos in the slideshow.

There’s also a nice swimming beach, and boats (without motors) and canoes can be rented. We rented a boat for part of a day and tried some fishing, but we got skunked. I’ll blame it on the weather, because it was really hot with highs in the mid-90s and dew points in the 60s.

The good

  • Beautiful scenery
  • Pull-through campsites
  • Variety of activities available

The bad

  • Power went out at about 4:00 in the afternoon every day we were there due, they said, to the high demand. It was restored after an hour or so, but c’mon, folks: you need to get that figured out. A trailer without power is an oven.
  • Water temperature in the showers couldn’t be adjusted and it was too damn hot. Why is this the case in so many state campgrounds in Minnesota? You’d think it would be a potential liability.
  • Deer flies and horse flies were pretty intense. Due to the hot weather and other factors they may have been at a peak, but they were incredibly annoying.

Tips and recommendations

If you’re driving up from the south, Google Maps will likely recommend taking Hwy. 38 north out of Grand Rapids. I would consider taking Hwy. 6 north out of Deer River (west of Grand Rapids). While Hwy. 38 is very scenic, if you’re pulling a trailer it’s a bumpy, twisty, slow and poorly maintained stretch of road. Hwy. 6 is much smoother.

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