You must be signed in to save park lists.
Your Park Lists
add New List
Add Photo
You must be signed in to add photos.
state route ranger badge

Minnesota State Parks

responsive menu icon
USA Parks
Arrowhead Region
Isabella Lake State Forest
Common Loon ©
Campfire and Hotdogs ©
Roasting hot dogs over an open fire.
Availability Search
Isabella Lake State Forest, located in northeastern Minnesota, is a scenic wilderness area characterized by the serene beauty of Isabella Lake and its surrounding lush forest. The abundant wildlife, including moose, deer, and a variety of bird species, contributes to the forest's rich biodiversity. Visitors can immerse themselves in the tranquility of the area by camping, hiking, and fishing in Isabella Lake, known for its pristine waters and plentiful fish population. With its picturesque landscapes, Isabella Lake State Forest offers a tranquil retreat for nature enthusiasts seeking solace in the heart of Minnesota's wilderness.
History of the Area
Isabella Lake State Forest, located in northeastern Minnesota, has a rich history that stretches back centuries. The forest is named after Isabella Lake, a pristine lake situated within the state forest boundaries. Here is a brief overview of the historical significance of Isabella Lake State Forest:

Native American Heritage:
The region surrounding Isabella Lake has been historically inhabited by Native American tribes, primarily the Ojibwe (also known as Chippewa) people. These indigenous communities relied on the vast resources provided by the forest and lake ecosystems for sustenance and as part of their cultural practices.

Logging Era:
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the region experienced significant commercial logging activities. The pristine forests surrounding Isabella Lake were heavily exploited for their timber resources, attracting logging companies, sawmills, and shantytowns. Logging operations included felling massive white and red pines, which were floated down the rivers to reach the sawmills.

Conservation Efforts:
The exploitation of the land's resources during the logging era led to the establishment of conservation movements in the early 20th century. Concerns about the depletion of forest resources prompted the state and federal governments to establish forest reserves and create forest management plans to promote sustainable logging practices.

Creation of Isabella Lake State Forest:
In 1963, Isabella Lake State Forest was officially established. The land was acquired by the state government and set aside for conservation purposes, ensuring that the remaining forest and its natural beauty would be protected. The state forest encompasses approximately 48,000 acres of land, including Isabella Lake and its surrounding ecosystems.

Recreational Opportunities:
Isabella Lake State Forest offers a wide range of recreational opportunities to visitors. The forest is home to numerous hiking trails, fishing spots, wildlife viewing areas, and camping facilities. Outdoor enthusiasts can enjoy activities such as hunting, birdwatching, canoeing, kayaking, and snowmobiling, depending on the season.

Isabella Lake State Forest is a fascinating natural area with a rich history, from its Indigenous heritage to the logging era and subsequent conservation efforts. It stands as a testament to the importance of preserving our natural resources and allows visitors to connect with the land's history and enjoy its beauty.
Nearby Vacation Rentals
Search for a vacation rental

Isabella Lake State Forest is

1. Lost Lake Trail: This 2-mile loop trail offers a moderate hike with beautiful views of the lake and surrounding forest. The terrain is varied, including some steep sections but mostly flat areas.

2. Pine Island Trail: A longer route at around 5 miles long, this trail takes hikers through dense pine forests to an island on Isabella Lake that's perfect for picnicking or camping overnight.

3. Stony River Pathway: An easy-to-moderate hiking path stretching about three miles along the scenic Stony River which features several waterfalls and rapids making it ideal for nature photography enthusiasts.

4. Bald Eagle Lookout Loop: As its name suggests, this short yet challenging one mile uphill trek leads you to a lookout point where bald eagles are often spotted soaring above Isabella Lake State Forest's lush canopy.

5. Copper Creek Circuit: This approximately four-mile circuit winds alongside Copper Creek before looping back towards the start point via mixed hardwoods offering diverse flora and fauna sightings throughout your journey.

6. Island View Ridge Route: A six-and-a-half mile round trip, this strenuous climb rewards hikers with panoramic vistas over multiple islands dotting sparkling blue waters of Isabelle lake from atop ridge line.

7. Wildflower Way: a gentle two-mile stroll especially popular in spring when wildflowers carpeting woodland floor burst into bloom creating vibrant spectacle against backdrop of towering pines.

8. Bear Paw Passage: this five-mile outback track traverses variety terrains ranging from marshlands, meadows, bogs, and old growth coniferous woods providing ample opportunities spot local wildlife like deer, minks etc.

9. Sunset Shoreline Saunter: situated near campgrounds, a leisurely walk down this half- mile paved pathway during sunset hours affords breathtaking view as sun dips below horizon casting golden hue across tranquil surface Of IsabelLake.

10. Northern Lights Night Hike: not exactly marked trail but rather an experience, on clear nights hikers can venture out into open areas of the forest to witness mesmerizing display of Aurora Borealis or Northern Lights dancing across night sky.

Visitor Comments, Memories and Reviews
write a review
Share On

1. Start by heading north on Highway 61 from Duluth.
2. Continue driving for approximately 80 miles until you reach the town of Silver Bay.
3. In Silver Bay, turn left onto County Road 5 (also known as Penn Boulevard).
4. Follow County Road 5 for about half a mile and then take a right onto Outer Drive/County Road 110.
5. Stay on this road for around two miles before turning left to merge onto MN:1 North towards Finland/Ely/Crane Lake.
6. Keep following MN:1 North for roughly another six miles until you come across an intersection with Wanless Road/MN-169 South; make sure to stay on MN-1 at this point by continuing straight ahead.
7. Continue along MN:1 North through the towns of Finland and Isabella, staying on the same highway throughout your journey within those areas.
8. After passing through Isabella, drive approximately five more minutes or three additional miles beyond that town's limits while still remaining onMN:North.

state route ranger badge

Minnesota State Parks