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Crosby Manitou SP | Finland, MN

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  • Crosby Manitou SP | Finland, MN

    Does anyone have winter experience in Crosby Manitou SP on the North Shore near Finland? I’ve helped lead cabin-camping trips at the hike-in cabins in nearby Tettegouche SP a few times, so I’m familiar with the general area, but have never been to CMSP and am looking to take a hot tent trip there this season. I’m shooting for 1.0-1.5 miles max from the trailhead whilst avoiding the steeper grades in the park. Based on recommendations from a few folks I’ve connected with up there, I’m specifically wondering about Site 3 off Middle Trail and Site 7 on the Yellow Birch Trail. Thanks in advance for any help!
    Last edited by 4estTrekker; 01-09-2021, 01:14 PM.

  • #2
    If you are hauling in gear on a sled, it is a rocky and steep path down to the river from where you start. In the winter, they only plow out upto the kiosk/check-in station. So you have to park there and start hiking from that point. I remember during the summer backpacking through there that it was a bit of a climb from the river up to the parking lot.

    When I stayed there a couple years ago, I brought my snowtrekker in on a sled and set up at site 21 next to Benson Lake. Ended up catching a small splake as well. Had good views out over the lake and had the whole park to myself.


    • #3
      Thanks much for the info! Do you know how far the winter lot adds to the mileage? Looks like at least 1/2 mile. And do you know if both Sites 3 and 7 are down the steep river bottom decline? I couldn’t gather definitely from my map studies and online searches. If so, looks like the lake is the best choice. Would sure be lovely to have that out the front door at any rate.
      Last edited by 4estTrekker; 01-09-2021, 08:49 PM.


      • #4
        Can't say for certain how much extra mileage the winter lot adds, but 1/2 miles feels about right. And from the winter lot up to the summer parking lot it is a gentle but constant incline. Kinda a fun sled ride down back to your vehicle.
        I can't remember if 3 and 7 are down the decline, but I do remember having to do a decline before finding any of the campsites along the river. How far down the slope those sites are at I can't recall. I remember coming upto site 4 and staying there a night when I was hiking the SHT one spring from east to west. That was an elevation change for sure.


        • #5
          Well, I’ve scrounged enough info together from bits and pieces of videos on YouTube, trip reports, and various maps to realize anything beyond the sites on Benson Lake is beyond my comfort level with a fully loaded toboggan. I’d gotten the recommendation for this park/sites 7-9 from a fella who does a lot of winter camping up there with a small pulk, but he’s got more go than I do, apparently! I wanna take it easy-ish on this trip. Plus, most potential sites generally look pretty terrain locked and down in the colder river valley floor.

          A contact also suggested the Finland Rec Center north to Egge or south to Leskinen on the SHT, but we like to venture off on day hikes and don’t wanna end up on private property. Does anyone have any recommendations for other good spots along the North Shore and/or about an hour to hour-and-a-half from Duluth that allow gathering wood and have fairly open spaces to roam on snowshoes? Perhaps in a dispersed camping area in Superior NF?

          Thanks much in advance for helping us wayward Nebraskans.
          Last edited by 4estTrekker; 01-16-2021, 04:27 PM.


          • #6
            The biggest problem you might encounter is that a lot of places won't be plowed out for parking. You might have to park along a road.
            And another thing that might be a problem is that a lot of the state and national forest campgrounds are currently closed because of Covid.
            Dispersed camping is allowed at the State Forests, but I don't have any recommendations for a spot because I just haven't done any of that.

            I just did a hot tent camp at Split Rock Lighthouse State Park along the north shore with my wife over Christmas. We were the only ones there. We stayed at site 17 and it was wonderful. The campsite was about a half mile to 3/4 in from where we parked the vehicle. The biggest problem is that you can't harvest any wood from the area. But, that is true for all the State parks. A work around is that all the Holiday Gas Stations within the area sell wood in bundles. I found that 4 bundles of wood per day/night was more then fine. Please note, we do not run the stove overnight.

            If I were you, and coming all the was up from Nebraska, I would make a reservation for a State Park along the north shore. Grab some firewood when you get close to the park, and make two sled runs from your vehicle to your campsite, the first with your gear and the second with firewood. This plan will assure you that you will have a spot to camp, a place to park, and firewood that is accessible. Plus, the park has lots of trails for snowshoeing or going off trail if you want. And the views are astounding. Reservations can be made through their website.


            • #7
              Can't thank ya enough for the insight and suggestions, Minnesotian. That's a solid plan for sure. We had discussed maybe picking up some local firewood to stash in the vehicle just in case anyway, so thanks for that tip. It probably seems crazy to drive all the way from Nebraska to almost-Canada just to find cold and snow, but we love it. (We always make a night or two in Duluth part of the trip, too, with the obligatory stops at Frost River and Duluth Pack.) We rarely get the right stuff all at once to have a proper Minnesotan winter wander here in western Nebraska, so thanks for helping us outta-staters out down here.


              • #8
                No problem, and I understand seeking out snow and cold. I have been known to drive west just to seek out mountains.

                When Covid is not a problem anymore, start looking at State and National Forest campgrounds around here. Specifically, I would look at Ninemile Lake Campground just outside of Finland, MN and Sawbill Lake Campground just up the road from Tofte, MN.
                I have stayed at both during the winter. Ninemile isn't completely plowed out, but just enough for parking the vehicle. Then you can sled in. They still restrict firewood gathering though. But, one of my favorite spots to get food during the winter is just up the road, called the Trestle Inn. Highly recommend it.
                Sawbill is right on an entry point lake for the BWCA. Great place to camp or to prep going into the BWCA for a bit. And of course, you can gather wood in the BWCA.

                Have a great time!


                • #9
                  I might be too late to the party, but thought I'd chime in.
                  I have camped at Crosby-Manitou many times, since the 80's, but only once in the winter. It's one of my favorite places on the planet. I did a solo trip there one year in March, camped next to the river at either site 4-5, but I was cold tenting, with a backpack, no sled. It would be difficult hauling a sled, to any site near the river, as you basically have to go down into and back out of, a steep valley, then back down to the Manitou river. It's awesome in winter, I was the only person there, and I heard wolves howling each night (a bit unnerving when solo). Had a great trip, but there was relatively little snow, so it wasn't a slog. Personally, I wouldn't hot tent there by the river, but I would at sites by the lake, and do day trips down to the river.

                  If you're going that far, maybe go a little further to the Gunflint trail? Lots of great BWCAW/Superior National Forest options, and here is a great resource for winter access/parking on the Gunflint Trail:

                  If you already went, let us know where, and share some pictures! Good luck,


                  • #10
                    Thanks, for the information, Jason! We did indeed end up at Crosby Mantiou SP, camped along/above the lake (Site 21), stayed warm in consecutive -24F nights, and enjoyed it thoroughly. We had hoped to here wolves, but settled for listening to the ice on the lake, which made for a solid substitute. Video coming soon.


                    • #11
                      Glad you got up to that park. It's a good one!