Located along the banks of the St. Croix River and featuring multiple recreational opportunities and RV friendly camping amenities, Governor Knowles State Forest is a must see for Wisconsin travelers. The forest was originally established in 1970 and the 4,000 acres main parcel of land was donated by the Northern States Power Company. The forest was previously known as the St. Croix River State Forest but in 1981 it was renamed to Governor Knowles State Forest to recognize former Governor Warren P. Knowles for his administration’s progress in conservation.
The forest is simply huge. It is 55 miles long and up to two miles wide, with a total area encompassing 32,500 acres. Conservation is very prominent within the park and includes an extended resource protection zone for the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway and a designated wilderness zone that buffers the Riverway throughout the length of the state forest. There are also six designated state natural areas within the forest that are in place to preserve the unique biotic communities
Due to the large size of the forest there are many different recreational opportunities for visitors. There are 40 miles of hiking trails, 32 miles of winter ATV and snowmobile trails and eight miles of skate and cross country ski trails. Guests also have access to canoeing and kayaking on St. Croix River, hunting and fishing.
Camping at Governor Knowles State Forest is available in three different sections of the park (one camp ground only has group camping options) with a total of 70 RV-friendly sites (some with electrical hookups) that are available for you to enjoy throughout the year. Governor Knowles State Forest is open year round.
RV Rentals in Governor Knowles State Forest
Transportation in Governor Knowles State Forest
Governor Knowles State Forest is located right on the border of Wisconsin and Minnesota with only the St. Croix River separating the two states. The forest is in an easy to access location that is close to the towns of Grantsburg (around five miles away), Trade Lake (around 14 miles away) and Siren (around 20 miles away). The closes major city to Governor Knowles State Forest is Minneapolis and is around 73 miles to the south.
Since the forest is so large there are many different access points. Where you should access the forest depends on where you want to go. The main campground (St. Croix Campground) has one entry and exit that is found to the south of WI-70. This is the furthest southern road in the forest and if you want to head north you can take Gravel Pit Road that is the main road that runs through the forest.
Accessing the forest should be no issue as the roads are well maintained and there are no obstacles that would hinder your travel. During the winter time however the park does get a lot of snow. Be aware that there might not be access if there has been a lot of snowfall, so call through to the office to make sure that you will still be able to get access.
There is plenty of parking available at Governor Knowles State Forest.
Unfortunately there are no public transport options that will take you to Governor Knowles State Forest.
Campgrounds and parking in Governor Knowles State Forest
Campsites in Governor Knowles State Forest
Trade River Equestrian Campground
Trade River Equestrian Campground is the largest of the two RV friendly campgrounds that are available for visitors to Governor Knowles State Forest. There are 40 sites for you to choose from that are well spaced out from one another and quite large. All sites come with a 30 amp electrical connection option and there are seven different water collection points for you to use. Other amenities in Trade River Equestrian Campground include vault toilets, a dump station and surrounding equestrian trails.
Since this is an equestrian campground you will have campers around you with horses. If you don't like this idea then we recommend that you choose to camp at St. Croix Family Campground. The campground is open year round, however due to heavy snowfall some amenities may not be open during the winter time. Reservations for Trade River Equestrian Campground can be made online or by calling the office.
St. Croix Family Campground
St. Croix Family Campground is the smaller of the two RV friendly campgrounds that are available for visitors to Governor Knowles State Forest. There are 30 sites for you to choose from that are well spaced out from one another and quite large. All sites come with a 30 amp electrical connection option and there are three different water collection points for you to use. Other amenities in St. Croix Family Campground include vault toilets, a dump station, parking overflow areas and access to hiking trails.
St. Croix Family Campground is recommended to those who want to be close to the main facilities in the park. It is located right near the St. Croix River and the office for the forest is also found at the entrance to the campground. The campground is open year round, however due to heavy snowfall some amenities may not be open during the winter time. Reservations for St. Croix Family Campground can be made online or by calling the office.
Seasonal activities in Governor Knowles State Forest
Kayaking and Canoeing
Thousands of water enthusiasts flock to the St. Croix River each and every year to take advantage of the beauty and resources of the river. Kayaking and Canoeing is a very popular activity with the river system varying from swift and rocky whitewater to placid flowages. A typical day of canoeing can take you around 20 miles. If you plan on going for a long paddle make sure to take plenty of water with you and let the office know of your plans.
Love to fish? St. Croix River is a premier fishing destination that offers a variety of fishing experiences due to the different locations and underwater terrain that is found along the western side of Governor Knowles State Forest. The water quality is of excellent standard and there is a very diverse number of species. Some of the fish caught include walleye, muskie, sauger and smallmouth bass. Wisconsin state fishing regulations apply, so check their website to make sure you have the relevant license to fish with at the park.
One of the great things about Governor Knowles State Forest is that the trails in the forest are multi-purpose. This means that the trails are a very popular destination for bike riders of all ages. Bicycles are allowed on all trails, except those that are signed closed. The trails are non-paved, off road and vary in difficulty. If you are looking for even more riding opportunities the northern hiking trails are open for bicycle use as well.
During the specific season hunting is allowed in the forest in some areas. The deer seasons in Governor Knowles State Forest range from archery & crossbow, youth deer hunt, gun, statewide antlerless hunt and antlers-only holiday hunt. Some of the popular species that can be found throughout the forest include whitetail deer, turkey, black bear, squirrel, ruffed grouse, elk and woodcock. Protected species include badger, jackrabbit, moose and flying squirrel. For more information on hunting rules and regulations visit the Governor Knowles State Forest website.
Governor Knowles State Forest is an amazing hiking destination for people of all skill levels. The forest has a total of 40 miles of hiking trails that stretch through the wild and scenic St. Croix River Valley. The trail system is split into two segments: the north segment (which is 23 miles long) and the south segment (17 miles long). Each trail will take you along the bluffs overlooking the St. Croix River and will occasionally swings down onto the scenic wilderness area along banks of the river. We recommend the Brandt Pines Trail System if you only have a few hours to go hiking.
When the snow starts to fall in Governor Knowles State Forest the area turns into a real life winter wonderland. There are many different winter recreational activities that you can partake in during your stay, including cross country skiing, winter ATV and snowmobiling and snowshoeing. We recommend the the rolling hills and river valleys of the Brandt Pines Recreational Trail System that offer nine miles of groomed and tracked trials for both traditional and skate skiing.