This Extremely Overlooked State Park Honestly Might Be The Best In Minnesota

In 2010, Bear Head Lake State Park won a major contest to decide "America's Favorite Park." As presented by Coca-Cola and noted by Twin Cities Pioneer Press, the odds were stacked against this Minnesota park, which receives only around 102,000 visitors per year, while other parks in the contest, like Great Smoky Mountains National Park, see visitors in the millions. But for fans of the park and its wildlife, there was no debate: Bear Head Lake Park is simply the best. If you are looking for a chance to privately explore Minnesota's forests and lakes, there's a chance Bear Head Lake State Park might just be your favorite, too.

Hiking through the remote Northwoods, taking a canoe out on the water, tracking down hidden geocaches, skiing, snowshoeing, and stargazing from one of the park's campgrounds are just some of the ways visitors connect with nature in their own way. The fact that the park has fewer visitors than many other beloved state parks in the United States means that those who make the journey there have the chance to experience the natural world without battling crowds.

What to do in Bear Head Lake State Park

True to its name, some of the best things to do in Bear Head Lake State Park are on the water. In the warm weather, there is plenty of space along the water's edge if you want to take a dip or even just sit by the lake and look out at the landscape. If you'd rather go out on the lake, feel free to bring your boat or simply rent kayaks and motorboats in the park. Minnesota gets very cold, but like in other Minnesota state parks, you can still enjoy the great outdoors in the winter by cross-country skiing. Year-round, there are miles of hiking trails for visitors to explore, from the easy Norberg Lake Short Loop Trail to the rockier Blueberry Lake Trail.

For those looking to spot some of the many birds that make Bear Head Lake their home, like red-breasted nuthatches, red crossbills, and even bald eagles, the park offers birding kits. In the spring and early summer, you may be able to spot beautiful little ruby-throated hummingbirds flitting around the park, looking for mates and nesting. While in the woods, visitors may see larger creatures, including timber wolves, moose, and black bears. In fact, one of the main reasons people around the world love Bear Head Lake is because of a bear named Lily, whose fans watched her in her den via livestream all winter in 2009, including the exhilarating moment when she gave birth to a healthy cub.

Where to stay in the park

There are several options for those wishing to stay in the park overnight and wake up to the beauty of the Minnesota Northwoods. The cheapest option offered by the state park is the Bear Head Lake campground, with prices as low as $23 per night, depending on the campsite. For those who want the experience of staying in the park without sleeping in a tent, there are simple camper cabins for $90 per night, and even a three-bedroom guesthouse with heat, electricity, bathrooms, and a fully functioning kitchen for $175 per night.

For anyone rugged enough to brave the cold and explore the park on skis or snowshoes, some campgrounds and cabins are even open year-round. So, if your main goal in visiting the park is to see wildlife, this may be the perfect option, as it's easiest to see animals in the park during winter, with fewer human visitors to scare them away.