Willard Munger Trail Towns Events & Points of Interest

Carlton has all kinds of lodging options, a half-dozen restaurants, unique gift shops, old buildings, new buildings, hiking trails and other recreational opportunities.

And no where else in the state can you enjoy the thrills of whitewater during the day and casino gambling at night.

While there is no tourist information center, nearly every business in the area will be happy to give you the latest information on what’s going on and directions on how to get there. That’s the friendliness of a small town.

•Jay Cooke State Park is about three miles from Carlton and can be accessed by bike from the trail near M12.

The park features hardwoods and spectacular views of the St. Louis River, which thunders over rocks when the water level is high. Don’t miss walking the swinging bridge that crosses the river.

An interpretive center offers programs and hands-on learning experiences.

There are 50 miles of hiking trails and 12 miles of off-road mountain biking to add to the touring experience. Tent camping is available.

•Carlton Daze at the end of July includes a 5K run/walk and ultra marathon, softball and golf tournaments, games, crafts, food and a parade.

•Carlton hosts the National Whitewater championships usually at the end of August. But you need not be just a spectator. If you’d like to give the sport of whitewater rafting a try, check with local businesses on how to find an outfitter.

•Duluth is well-known for its tourist attractions, including: the maritime museum next to the signature-attraction, the lift bridge; the railroad museum downtown next to the art gallery; the warehouse district with all the touristy spot; Skyline Drive that offers a panoramic view over Duluth, as well as one of the best places to watch the annual migrations of many raptors, in season; and the fascinating shipping ports on Lake Superior that gives the whole area an ocean-like feel.

•The North Shore and several state parks that feature hiking trails, waterfalls and gorges are just up Hwy. 61 from Duluth. Fall weekends when the trees are in their most picturesque splendor are popular times, even if things get a bit congested.

Hinckley is well-known by many travelers who’ve driven I-35 between the Twin Cities and Duluth-North Shore, but there are many things to see and do in Hinckley besides take a rest stop, including enjoying the Willard Munger Trail.

Not only does the Willard Munger Trail begin in Hinckley (and go all the way to Duluth), but other attractions make a multi-day, multi-activity trip worth exploring.

Hinckley is home to a nearby state park, a museum that describes the devastating Hinckley fire, a casino that draws people day and night and a variety of lodging and eating establishments.

And all along the trail are little towns that have established their own identity.

Here’s a sampling of some of the major points of interest:

•The Hinckley Fire Museum
just south of the trail’s beginning offers a glimpse into the old logging days and the life of a depot agent, as well as the infamous fire. A caboose and covered picnic area are also on the grounds.

•The Hinckley Fire Monument , a sobering reminder of the death toll from the infamous fire, is east of Hinckley and 1-35 in the Lutheran Memorial Cemetery, just south of four long trenches where 248 bodies are buried en masse.

•Hinckley is the gateway to St. Croix State Park
, 16 miles to the east on Hwy. 48. It’s the largest state park with 33,000 acres of forests, meadows, marshes and streams. Both the Kettle and St. Croix rivers are accessible from the park.

The park hosts a daily schedule of demonstrations, talks, films and slide shows, most with an interpretive naturalist.

And, if you’d like more biking, the park has six miles of surfaced trails, besides the 127 miles of foot trails.

•Hinckley hosts the “Corn and Clover Carnival” the first weekend after the 4th of July with a full schedule of activities for those looking for a small-town celebration.

Grand Casino Hinckley If gambling is a part of your recreational calendar, the Grand Casino Hinckley is open non-stop.

Sandstone is accessible from the Munger Trail via a short spur; another nice town worth exploring.

•The Kettle River , the first to be designated a Wild and Scenic River, runs through the town.

•Robinson Park
is located on the river; it’s the site of an old sandstone quarry operated around the turn of the century. The remnants of an old wagon bridge can easily be seen.

•Banning State Park is also accessible east of Sandstone, complete with falls, cave, campsites, hiking trails and the usual state park amenities.

•The Banning Quarry self -guided trail
in Banning State Park includes unique rock formations that are in contrast to the trail’s landscape, and also offers an informative look at the old days of quarrying.

•The Kettle River has a statewide reputation for whitewater canoeing and kayaking due to its “kettles” and large holes that cause turbulent currents.

There is a series of five rapids, the toughest being Hell’s Gate, that’ll challenge the most experienced.

•Outhouse races during Quarry Days at Sandstone
usually the 2nd weekend of August, or bed races the 4th of July weekend in Finlayson.

Finlayson most popular in the state and has produced record walleyes.

•Finlayson is a quiet little town with just enough shops and restaurants to make a stay worthwhile. Besides, you’ll probably get off your bike to use the rest stop along the trail that includes an old depot, a few feet of old railroad track to walk across and and outside toilet. A walk around town will be a welcome respite.

•Finlayson hosts a 4th of July celebration
that includes a volleyball tournament, old-fashioned barn dance and bed races.

•Rutledge is the half-way point between Finlayson and Willow River.

Willow River Days held the last weekend in July.

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