George Washington State Forest
Guide

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Introduction

Head out to explore northeast Minnesota’s breathtaking wilderness at George Washington State Forest. Established in 1931, this area outside Cook, Minnesota, is named after the first United States president on his 200th birthday. Come in your RV to camp at this vast 360,000-acre state forest in the Gopher State. You’ll find many ways to explore George Washington State Forest among the northern coniferous forest like hiking the popular Taconite State Trail either by foot or on a snowmobile. This state forest has much to offer no matter the season from summer and winter sports. Enjoy camping in your motorhome at one of the eight campgrounds that are first-come, first-served for visitors. Most sites are primitive and provide a lakeside view with outhouses, potable water, picnic tables, and fire rings. Hookups and showers are not available at different campgrounds. Get out on the 60 miles of hiking trails either by foot or on horseback as you explore the abundant Minnesota wildlife. Are you looking for a little adventure? This state forest has a Class I and II ATV trail to explore. Don’t worry about the winter months; there are nearly 200 miles for visitors to use for cross-country skiing or out on your snowmobile. For a last-minute quiet getaway or an extended rustic RV vacation, this secluded state forest is away from the busy pace of the city.

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Transportation in George Washington State Forest

Driving

What are you waiting for, head out to your next RV camping adventure in northern Minnesota today. You’ll find the George Washington State Forest next to the Chippewa National Forest and west of McCarthy Beach State Park. Located in Itasca County, this state forest is easy to access. Around a three-hour drive from St. Cloud, less than a two-hour drive from Duluth, and less than an hour from Grand Rapids, Minnesota, this state forest provides an excellent primitive RV experience. With easy access from Highway 65, follow directional signage until you access the Thistledew Ranger Station. Be on the lookout for horses, ATVs, and snowmobiles as this state forest are accessible for all adventure seekers.

Parking

Due to the size of the George Washington State Forest, be prepared to drive to different aspects of the park as campgrounds nestled near the different lakes. Open year-round, this state forest makes for a great camping experience. When you arrive at the state forest, visit the forest office to meet the rangers and pick up a trail map before heading out to explore the many trails. Most camping sites accommodate back-in parking.

Public Transport

Campgrounds and parking in George Washington State Forest

Campsites in George Washington State Forest

Reservations camping

First-come first-served

Thistledew Campground

C’mon out in your RV for a unique camping experience at George Washington State Forest. Nestled next to Thistledew Lake, this area is excellent for those seeking a little adventure on the water or anglers ready to catch their next meal. Near the ATV trail, bring your four-wheeler for a bit of off-roading. Equipped with 23 RV sites, you are allowed to build a campfire at this campground. Toilets, picnic tables, and potable are available, as well as a boat ramp.

Button Box Lake Campground

You’ll want to take a dip as soon as you arrive at Button Box Lake Campground. With 25 first-come, first-served RV sites, this area is an excellent location for those who love the water. Pet-friendly, there are toilets, picnic tables and potable water for visitors to enjoy during their camping adventure. From fishing for panfish and bass or exploring the area in your kayak, you’ll feel right at home at this cozy campground.

Bear Lake Campground

Head towards this campground for a unique camping experience at George Washington State Forest. This large campground with 54 RV sites is near the bog-filled area of the state forest but is dry and spacious, giving you that extra perk of privacy from others. A primitive campground, this area is first-come, first-served. Make plans to enjoy a swim in Bear Lake or read a book out on the beach. Fresh fish of walleye and crappie are available for dinner - you have to catch it first.

Owen Lake Campground

Are you ready for some excellent lake view RV camping? This family-friendly area is nestled along the western region of Owen Lake and provides 20 large, spacious sites under the area’s red pines. Close to the water, this camping spot is excellent for lakeshore fishing or your next paddling trip on a kayak. Also, an excellent area for swimming, pack your beach towel to catch some sun on the quiet beach.

Alternate camping

Seasonal activities in George Washington State Forest

In-Season

Hike the George Washington State Forest

Looking to escape the noise of the city? Then head to George Washington State Forest in your camper to find an area untouched by modern advancement. Travel the peaceful 60 miles to see the diverse beauty and wildlife that Minnesota has to offer on foot or by horse. You’ll fall in love with this northwest area of Minnesota! Come and visit where nature abounds. Plan on packing study hiking boots, sunscreen and a trail map - there’s so much to see!

Get out On The Water

Have some great moments out on the several lakes and rivers at George Washington State Forest. From being out in your boat to fish or spending some time in your kayak or canoe, feel your cares melt away as you catch your breath and spend a few moments out on the water. Paddle through the beautiful lake or down the river as you surround yourself with the calming of nature.

Fish

Grab your favorite ride and bait as you head out from your RV camping site to enjoy this favorite outdoor pastime during any time of day. With the many lakeshores, George Washington State Forest is an angler's paradise full of freshwater fish like crappie, bass, and panfish. From fishing from your boat or along the lakeshore, you’ll want to bring your camera to capture your biggest catch -and meal- yet!

Off-Season

Horseback Ride at George Washington State Forest

Spend time on your vacation from a different perspective as you ride horseback over 60 miles of trails among the white, jack, and aspen pines. With two horse campgrounds - Togo and Stony Brook - these primitive campgrounds provide pull-through parking for RVs. A great place to ride in all seasons, you’ll love riding the trails and exploring George Washington State Forest during your next motorhome camping trip.

Get out in the Snow

Don’t let the winter blues get you down. Instead, head out to George Washington State Forest to explore the scenic area’s 200 miles designated for cross-country skiing and snowmobiling. The Thistledew Ski Trail, a 25-mile system that has loops in both the north and south of the state forest traveling near Togo Horse Camp. Before heading out for your next adventure, make sure you have the proper registration for your snowmobile.

Ride Your ATV at George Washington State Forest

If adventure is your game, the ATV trails are calling your name at this Minnesota state forest. Class I and II all-terrain vehicles are available for campers except on the snowmobile trails beginning in November until April. You will need to avoid the area of the state forest where the Red Lake Wildlife Management Area begins. Also, ATVs are not allowed on frozen water, so keep your thrill-seeking on the ground.

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