McCarthy Beach State Park

Minnesota has 66 state parks and this one has the best beach. If you know of a better Minnesota beach, feel free to mention it in the comments. McCarthy Beach is spacious and sandy. The water is clear and remains thigh-deep for a long way as you walk out toward the bouys that mark the edge of the swimming area. Out in the deepest parts it is deeper than I am tall and so I tread water and have great conversations with my family as they do the same. Others are playing water games or floating on various types of colorful rafts. There is plenty of space for all of us.

This photo was taken on a rainy day. Usually there are many people.

My hikes here were all early morning hikes before the rest of my family was awake. 18 miles of trails can be found in a separate section of the park to the north of the beach. Long ago I enjoyed starting my hikes from the campground, but the park sold a plot of land some years ago. Now the same walk involves a quarter mile on the edge of McCarthy Beach Road, a narrow highway with very little shoulder space. Driving to the parking area at the end of Pickerel Lake Road is probably the better option. Beware: There are no public restrooms anywhere on these 18 miles of trails. No pit toilets, nothing. Backpacking rules apply.

Map of McCarthy Beach State Park
The orange highlighted route is a little more than 4 miles. (6.5 km)

Walking all the way around Lake Pickerel is not allowed because of the private property, but the east shore still has a state park trail and is covered in blueberries! It took me 40 minutes to walk 1 km because I stopped to check for ripe berries. Usually by early July the berry harvest is ready, not so this year. They had an unusually cool spring and early summer. I found about 20 ripe berries in a half mile of trail. Still, it is fun to look.

Grassy path and two tall trees and lots of undergrowth
The trail closest to Lake Pickerel is narrow and overgrown in spots.
Drawing of blueberries
I didn’t get a good photo of blueberries, but here is a drawing.
Sunny trees on the other side of the lake. Foreground plants in shadow
Early morning sun hitting the opposite shore.
path in the woods with a state park sign
Pickerel Lake Trail
There are many lakes in Minnesota named Pickerel. I was surprised when I looked up how many!

Next I explored a trail called “Big Hole Trail”. It follows a ridge next to a giant indent in the earth. Maybe it used to be a lake, maybe it was carved by glaciers eons ago, or maybe it was a mine. Hibbing Taconite Company is nearby and mining is the main industry of this area historically.

sunny path in the woods with birch trees
Big Hole Trail and Red Top trail are nice and wide. In the winter they are cross country ski trails.

“Red Top Trail” took me further north. This is where I saw raspberries and wild strawberries. Also spiderwebs. It is not uncommon when hiking in the morning to feel a single strand of a web that some acrobatic spider cast the night before. That doesn’t bother me. However…on this trail I must have been daydreaming because I walked right into a massive web. Ick. I made sure I brushed it all off and checked to make sure the architect of that web was not joining me on the rest of my hike. A few minutes later I noticed another massive web stretching across the path. Luckily I saw it in time and was able to step around it. Its owner was camped out in the center. Fascinating creature. After looking at pictures of a few Minnesota spiders, I think it was probably a black Argiope. https://extension.umn.edu/insect-relatives/spiders#web-building-spiders-52360

sunny path in the woods.
Red Top Trail
raspberry
Raspberries!
two ruts in the woods that make a road
The last quarter-mile back to the car. It is allowed to drive on this to another parking area, but I choose not to. I did not see any vehicles on this road.
water and roots and ground
This is another part of the park. Side Lake. The water in all the lakes here is so clear!
water, trees, two deer
Saw a couple deer during my kayak time in Side Lake.
Lily pads
The south end of Side Lake connects to Sturgeon River. Not part of McCarthy Beach State Park, so these last few photos are just for fun.
Lily pads and a purple iris
A lone Iris.
water, trees, lily pads
I love the shape of that tree on the left. Norway Pine? I think so.
Norway Pine is the Minnesota State Tree.

Hey, thanks for sticking with this post all the way to the end! Let me know which parts were interesting to you. If you want to see more of my art, choose “art by T. Nara” in the menu or go to my shop on FineArtAmerica.

Enjoy your day!

Make Time for what is Important!

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