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The 3 Best State Parks and Forests Near Pine City

Posted at Thu, Oct 11, 2018 12:00 AM

If you feel like escaping from the hustle and bustle of city life, there are beautiful state parks and forests nearby Pine City that you can visit. Here are three of the must-see attractions in the area.

  1. St. Croix State Park

St. Croix State Park, situated in Pine County, is the largest state park in Minnesota. The parkland follows the shore of the St. Croix River for 21 miles and also stretches along the last 7 miles of the Kettle River. The forest consists of a mix of pines, black spruce, sugar maple, and basswood, and wetlands are also supported by the many lakes and marshes in the park. Large mammals that you may spot here include white-tailed deer, coyotes, black bears, and timber wolves.

There are many different hiking trails available in the park, as well as paved bike trails and mountain bike areas. You can also go canoeing or kayaking in the waters of the two rivers, enjoy a horse ride, or in winter go skiing along the easy trails. If you only have a short while to spend in the park, take the mile-long hike from the River’s Edge Trail to the River Bluff Trail, or enjoy a scenic drive to the fire tower. If you wish to spend the night, however, there are camping sites, cabins, and guesthouses available.

  1. Solana State Forest

The Solana State Forest is located in both Aitkin and Pine counties. It consists mostly of flat terrain, of which about 50 percent is comprised of wetlands, and also features open water areas such as Porcupine Lake and Split Rock Lake. The forest offers roughly 75 miles of wooded trails that stretch over rolling hills and swampy sections, including two ATV trails, and an off-highway motorcycle trail.

Popular recreational activities in the forest include canoeing, kayaking, snowmobiling, and hunting. Although there are no camping sites available, dispersed camping is allowed.

  1. Banning State Park

Banning State Park lies in a shallow, narrow valley in Pine County that stretches along 10 miles of the Kettle River. This park features numerous glacial potholes, formed at the end of the Wisconsin glaciation when an ever-expanding river caused debris to swirl around, creating huge shafts in the stream bed. The original Norway and eastern white pine forest has suffered from extensive deforestation over the years, so today the forest consists mainly of birch and aspen. Over 184 bird species have been spotted here, and mammals that you might see include the fox, black bear, coyote, and raccoon.

The nearly 1.5 miles of churning rapids in this park are a major attraction for canoeists and kayakers. If you prefer to be on land though, you can hike along trails that feature dramatic sandstone formations, Wolf Creek Falls, and the remains of a historic quarry. If you want to overnight, there is a campground available that offers electrical points and showers. There are also four canoe campsites situated along the river.

So, if you need to relax and catch your breath in beautiful, natural surroundings, put on your hiking boots and take a short drive to one of these amazing sites.