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Minnesota State Parks

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USA Parks
Heartland Region
Pillsbury State Forest
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Pillsbury State Forest Birches © Nancy Bauer
Pillsbury State Forest Beaver lodge © Nancy Bauer
Pillsbury State Forest Herons © Nancy Bauer
Pillsbury State Forest Rock Lake © Nancy Bauer
Pillsbury State Forest Beaver © Nancy Bauer
Pillsbury State Forest Mallards on April ice, Rock Lake © Nancy Bauer
Pillsbury State Forest Frog © Nancy Bauer
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Pillsbury State Forest, located in central Minnesota, is a serene and picturesque natural haven that embodies the beauty of this region. Stretching across rolling hills, scenic lakes, and dense forests, the forest offers abundant opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts. Hiking and biking trails wind through the landscape, unveiling stunning views, while the sparkling lakes beckon visitors to enjoy fishing, swimming, and boating. The forest's diverse wildlife, including deer, birds, and small mammals, adds to the enchanting atmosphere, creating a sanctuary where one can connect with nature and relax in its tranquil embrace.
History of the Area
Pillsbury State Forest, located in central Minnesota, has a rich history that dates back to the early 20th century. Here is a brief overview:

1. Government Acquisition: In the late 1930s and early 1940s, the state of Minnesota acquired the land that now makes up Pillsbury State Forest. The acquisition was part of the movement to preserve natural resources and create recreational opportunities for the public.

2. Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC): During the Great Depression, the Civilian Conservation Corps played a crucial role in developing the forest. CCC workers constructed roads, trails, campsites, and recreational facilities, which laid the foundation for the forest's recreational activities.

3. Logging Era: Before the state acquired the land, the area around Pillsbury State Forest was mainly used for logging. Logging operations were significant, and the forest was subjected to extensive logging throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The acquisition of the land by the state helped protect it from further exploitation.

4. Fire Suppression: Forest fires have historically been a significant concern in northern Minnesota. After the state acquired Pillsbury State Forest, efforts were made to prevent and suppress fires. Fire observation towers were constructed to detect early signs of fire, and forest management practices were implemented to reduce the wildfire risk.

5. Recreational Development: Over the years, Pillsbury State Forest has become a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts. The forest offers various recreational opportunities, including camping, hiking, fishing, hunting, and wildlife observation. Several campgrounds, picnic areas, and trails were established to accommodate visitors.

6. Natural Resource Management: Today, Pillsbury State Forest is managed by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR). The DNR focuses on sustainable forestry practices to ensure the long-term health of the forest ecosystem. Timber harvesting is part of the management strategy, balancing economic and ecological needs.
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Pillsbury State Forest is located near Brainerd

1. Pillsbury State Forest Loop: This is a 5-mile loop trail that offers moderate difficulty levels, suitable for both hiking and mountain biking. The path winds through dense forests of pine trees with occasional clearings offering beautiful views.

2. Driftmound Trail: A short yet challenging route stretching over two miles, this trail features hilly terrains covered in hardwoods and pines making it perfect for those seeking an intense workout amidst nature's beauty.

3. Pine Tree Hill Trail: Approximately three miles long, the Pine Tree Hill Trail takes you on a scenic journey up to one of the highest points within the forest where panoramic views await at every turn.

4. Lake Adney Pathway: This easy-to-moderate level pathway stretches around four miles along picturesque Lake Adney providing stunning water vistas throughout your hike or bike ride.

5. Sundew Pond Nature Walk: An ideal choice if you're looking forward to birdwatching or observing wildlife as it circles Sundew Pond covering approximately 1 mile distance only but rich in biodiversity.

6. Wildflower Meadow Track: As its name suggests, this track will take you across meadows filled with wildflowers during springtime spanning about two-and-a-half kilometers lengthwise presenting ample photo opportunities.

7. Boulder Ridge Route: Known for large boulders scattered alongside, the Boulder Ridge Route spans roughly five kilometres featuring steep inclinations adding more thrill into your adventure.

8. Red Maple Swamp Circuit: This circuitous route covers nearly six kilometeres taking visitors deep inside swampy areas dominated by red maple trees, a unique ecosystem worth exploring.

9. Hemlock Ravine Way: Around seven kilometre-long, Hemlock Ravine way traverses through ravines densely populated by hemlocks giving off serene vibes.

10. Crow Wing River Viewpoint Hike: An approximate eight-kilometre trek leading towards Crow Wing river viewpoint which rewards trekkers with breathtaking views of the river and surrounding landscapes.

11. Sugar Maple Grove Trail: This trail is a 3-mile loop that takes you through an enchanting grove of sugar maples, especially beautiful in autumn when leaves turn vibrant colors.

12. Oak Savannah Pathway: A four mile long pathway taking hikers across oak savannahs, a unique ecosystem within Pillsbury State Forest offering distinct flora and fauna sightings.

13. White Pine Way: Stretching over six miles, this way offers peaceful hiking experience amidst towering white pines providing ample shade throughout your journey.

14. Basswood Boulevard: This boulevard-like path covers around seven kilometers featuring basswoods on both sides creating picturesque scenes particularly during fall season.

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Area Campgrounds
Crow Wing Lake Campground
10 miles S. of Brainerd or hwy 271
Brainerd, MN

1. Start by heading northwest on MN:5 W towards I-494.
2. Merge onto I:494 N and continue for about 9 miles.
3. Take exit 23B to merge onto US:10 W toward St Cloud/Anoka (follow signs for Elk River).
4. Stay on US:10 W for approximately 60 miles until you reach Little Falls.
5. In Little Falls, take the ramp to County Road 76/Bowlus/Downtown/Lindbergh Drive NW.
6. Continue straight through two roundabouts and stay on Lindbergh Drive NW/County Rd.
7. Turn left onto Haven Road/W Broadway Avenue after crossing Mississippi river bridge.
8. Follow this road as it becomes Nature View Dr/Sylvan Shores Dr SW/Country Club Dr S: keep driving westward along Sylvan Lake.
9. After passing Sylvan Township Hall turn right into Pillsbury State Forest entrance.

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Minnesota State Parks