JAY COOKE STATE PARK HIKING CLUB TRAIL | A MUDDY MESS AND UNFORGETTABLE SIGHTS
Along the North Shore has some of the most iconic State Parks. Jay Cooke is right up there next to the likes of Gooseberry Falls for its fun sights. This park is home to some epic waterfalls. However, the only way to get to the waterfalls is by crossing a Swinging bridge adding another element to its popularity for visitors heading north. Most people stop their journey here. I, on the other hand, decided to conquer the Jay Cook State Park Hiking Club Trail.
For those of you unfamiliar with the Minnesota State Parks Hiking Club, its a series of designated trails at each state park providing guests with the most scenic views of the park. I’ve been on a mission to do them all as I track the passwords at each one.
The swinging bridge overlooking the Upper River Gorge is a fun way to start Jay Cooke State Park Hiking Club Trail. Floodwaters destroyed the bridge during the summer of 2012. It just reopened up in 2017. Walking over it today, it’s hard to imagine how the waters could get that high. Mother Nature is just crazy. But this bridge is back to its old grandeur. The new design no longer allows visitors to look through the grated floor, calming the fears of people like my mom. But it still maintains is swing and bounce as you walk across.
A Muddy Mess
After the bridge, the real hike begins. The only portion that maintains its rocky climbing is directly after the bridge and near the Falls a few feet ahead. It is an easy hike with little in the way of hills and different grades. The challenge with this hike was in the wet conditions of early summer. Every quarter mile we faced a new mud pile to traverse. Thankfully, this hike is one that many others have done, several times, they had already bushwhacked a path around the muddy mess.
We opted to take the trail clockwise, leaving our favorite part for the end, the waterfalls. The waterfalls at Jay Cooke State Park are just on the other side of the Swinging bridge. But what makes these fun, is that it’s almost impossible to view them directly. The only way would be to get ground level with the fall below the swinging bridge. Even then you may end up with just rapids. The real falls require a little boulder climbing, then peering over an edge at the waterfalls. The falls come from every direction.
To learn more about Jay Cooke State Park, see the full story and photo gallery from Day Tripper, you can visit
Jen spends her spare time exploring the midwest and blogs about her adventures. Thank you Jen for sharing with the Northern Minnesota Chamber.