Judge CR Magney State Park top of Devils Kettle

Judge C.R. Magney State Park: Things to Do, Hiking Trails, Maps & More

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Located where the Brule River drains into Lake Superior in Minnesota’s northeast corner, Judge C.R. Magney State Park is a terrific spot to spend the day.  There are a few hikes to do in the park that are amazing and the fishing is great.  It’s also an ideal spot to use as a home base when visiting nearby Isle Royale National Park or Grand Portage National Monument to the north.

There are quite a few state parks in Minnesota located on the coast of Lake Superior.  They can all get to be pretty busy during the summer as vacationers scramble to find a spot to relax during the few warm months in the year.  However, most don’t come up this far north, making Judge C.R. Magney State Park a bit less crowded than others to the south.

We’ll cover all you need to know about visiting this great spot in Minnesota, including the best things to do, information about hiking trails, where to stay, what to do in the area and more!  Of course, email us if you have any questions as you plan your trip!

JUDGE C.R. MAGNEY STATE PARK HISTORY

The area currently contained inside of Judge C.R. Magney State Park has a long cultural history similar to the rest of the northern parts of Minnesota.  It was used for lumber, and much of the park’s land was logged in the early 1900’s. 

Entrepreneurs opened up an exclusive resort in mid-1929 called the Naniboujou Club Lodge.  The stock market crash of 1929 dashed any hopes of this resort expanding into what was envisioned, and instead the area became a haven for homeless men and families struggling to make ends meet during the Depression.  The Works Progress Administration (WPA) moved in to help, and in 1936 a camp was established to provide work to locals.  Buildings were erected, including a sawmill, barracks and other services.  The camp was abandoned in 1938, but remnants still exist.

In 1957, Brule River State Park was established in the grounds.  In 1965, the park was then renamed in honor of Judge C.R. Magney, who was instrumental in creating 11 other state parks in Minnesota. 

Today the park encompasses 4543 acres and is managed by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

FUN FACTS ABOUT JUDGE C.R. MAGNEY STATE PARK

  • For most of modern history, it’s been unknown where the “disappearing” water at Devil’s Kettle Waterfall went. Only in the last few years was a study done, and they found that it re-emerges just downstream in the river.
  • Glaciers shaped the nearby area during the ice age, creating the rugged and harsh terrain, waterfalls, gorges and incredible rock formations. Water continues to shape the landscape.

THINGS TO DO IN JUDGE C.R. MAGNEY STATE PARK

Judge CR Magney State Park map

Judge C.R. Magney State Park map, courtesy of Minnesota Department of Natural Resources

Whether you plan on staying here for only a few hours or relaxing and spending a few days, you’ll find plenty to do in the park!  Our recommendations for the best things to do in Judge C.R. Magney State Park include:

Hiking

If you come to Judge C.R. Magney State Park, we highly recommend checking out some of the trails in the park.  In particular, making the trek to the Devil’s Kettle is especially worth it-we’d consider it to be a “must-do.”  We cover all the hikes in the park in detail in the next section.

Hiker Overlooking Brule River in Judge CR Magney State Park

Fishing

Fishing in the park is very popular.  You can find trout along the Brule River.  One of the most popular spots to fish is at the area where the Brule River heads out into Lake Superior.

In the area you can find trout, steelhead and even salmon!  Be sure to get a Minnesota State Fishing license ahead of putting a line in the water.  You can get a Minnesota State Fishing license online.

Fly fisherman at Judge CR Magney State Park

Birding

Over 180 species of birds have been recorded inside of Judge C.R. Magney State Park, making this spot incredible for spotting birds.  The best times of the year to come for birding are in the spring and fall when songbirds and raptors alike find their way through the park.  The most common bird to see is one of the 21 species of warblers.  In the spring keep your eye out for common loons and horned and red-necked grebes.  In the fall, it’s common to see waterfowl like scoters, mergansers and long-tailed ducks.

If you are into birding, be sure to get this Judge C.R. Magney State Park Birding Checklist to keep track of what birds you spot!

Picnicking

There are a couple of great options for picnicking in the park.  The first, and most simple option, is to park in the parking area at the end of the park entrance road.  Nearby there are picnic tables that offer shade and a great spot to hang out for a bit. 

The second option to head right across the bridge and picnic right near the Brule River on the east side of the bank.  Here you’ll find additional picnic tables.

Finally, the other option is to pack a lunch and head out on a hike.  While hiking you can enjoy a picnic right along the gorge overlooking the river.  This is our preferred option, as you’ll likely be able to find a spot on your own!

HIKING TRAILS IN JUDGE C.R. MAGNEY STATE PARK

As mentioned earlier, hiking is our favorite activity to do in Judge C.R. Magney State Park.  There aren’t a ton of trails to choose from, but there is a good variety as well as some spectacular scenery.  Some great options that we recommend include:

Devil's Kettle Trail

  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Distance (round-trip): 2.0 miles
  • Elevation gain: 397 feet
  • Hiking time (approximate): 1.5 hours
  • Trail type: Out-and-back
  • Potential hazards: Bugs, falls from slippery rocks if you get too close to the gorge
  • Restrooms: Flush toilets located on the trailhead.
  • Recommended footwear: Hiking shoes or hiking boots.
  • Pets: Allowed, but must be kept on a leash at all times.
Devils Kettle Trail map in Judge CR Magney State Park

 

Devil’s Kettle Trail map, courtesy of Minnesota Department of Natural Resources

Trail Description

The trail starts by leaving the parking area and walking to the east.  After crossing the Brule River on the hikers’ bridge, the trail turns to the left (north) and stays flat for the first 0.1 mile before starting to climb steadily (but not steeply) along the east side of the river.

Sign for the Devil's Kettle Trail in Judge CR Magney State Park

Along the way, the trail is a mixture of packed dirt and wooden steps / stairs to help you ascend the rest of the nearly 400 feet of elevation gain.  Along the way you’ll have great views into the gorge.  As you approach the Upper Falls, the trail descends slightly to head down to the river via stairs. 

Stairs down to Devils Kettle in Judge CR Magney State Park

Just past the Upper Falls is the Devils Kettle, which is a curious feature where water seems to disappear into a hole before draining into the Beule River just downstream.  This is a great spot to look around, and we recommend heading to just upstream of the Devils Kettle.  Be very cautious while exploring, as the rocks are wet and a fall here could be deadly.

Upper Falls at Judge CR Magney State Park
Hiker on Top of Devils Kettle Trail in Judge CR Magney State Park

The return trip goes fast as most of it is downhill after you climb back up the stairs.

This trail can get crowded at times, so we recommend coming here early in the morning, or hiking toward the end of the day when it can be a bit quieter.

Trailhead Directions

The trailhead starts from the parking area at the end of the entrance road into Judge C.R. Magney State Park.

 

Timberdoodle Trail

  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Distance (round-trip): 1.0 mile
  • Elevation gain: 70 feet
  • Hiking time (approximate): 20 to 30 minutes
  • Trail type: Loop
  • Potential hazards: Bugs
  • Restrooms: Flush toilets located on the trailhead
  • Recommended footwear: Closed-toed-shoes
  • Pets: Allowed, but must be kept on a leash at all times.

 

Timberdoodle Trail map in Judge CR Magney State Park

Timberdoodle Trail map, courtesy of Minnesota Department of Natural Resources

Trail Description

The Timberdoodle Trail is a relatively flat and easy loop trail.  The hike includes a deciduous forest with interpretive signs.  While this won’t have the stunning waterfall views that you have on the Devil’s Kettle Trail, it is worth doing if you have the time or have hikers that aren’t up for the climb.

Trailhead Directions

The trailhead starts on the north side of the parking area at the end of the entrance road into Judge C.R. Magney State Park.

 

Gauthier Trail

  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Distance (round-trip): 2.0 miles
  • Elevation gain: 250 feet
  • Hiking time (approximate): 1 hour
  • Trail type: Out-and-back
  • Potential hazards: Bugs
  • Restrooms: Flush toilets located on the trailhead
  • Recommended footwear: Closed-toed-shoes
  • Pets: Allowed, but must be kept on a leash at all times.

 

Gauthier Trail map in Judge CR Magney State Park

Gauthier Trail map, courtesy of Minnesota Department of Natural Resources

Trail Description

The Gauthier Trail heads north from the parking area through the woods.  Along the way you’ll likely see wildflowers.  This is a good trail to take right from the campground, and you can even hike just part of the trail for a good evening walk.

Trailhead Directions

The trailhead starts on the north side of the parking area at the end of the entrance road into Judge C.R. Magney State Park.  It can also be accessed in between campsites 7 and 8.

THINGS TO DO NEAR JUDGE C.R. MAGNEY STATE PARK

The northern shore of Minnesota is full of great things to do, and most are not too far away!  A few great choices include the following:

  • Only a few miles to the north, you can pickup a boat over to Isle Royale National Park. The least visited national park in the continental United States, this park is totally worth the 3 hour boat ride to get to.  At the park you’ll likely encounter moose, and serenity like you’ve never experienced before.  Just be sure to plan ahead, as boat reservations fill up fast.
  • About 20 miles to the north (along the coast) is Grand Portage National Monument. This is a super-well done historical site that is worth checking out.  You can spend a half-day here, an hour or a couple days if you are up for hiking the Portage Trail!  Whatever you have time for, we highly recommend the trip.
  • Also near the Canadian Border is Grand Portage State Park, home to the tallest waterfall in Minnesota.

HOW TO GET TO JUDGE C.R. MAGNEY STATE PARK AND OTHER TRAVEL INFORMATION

Judge C.R. Magney is not difficult to get to at all.  It’s located right on Highway 61 just north of Grand Marais, MN.  The park is on the west side of the highway, and signs direct you to the entrance station.

hiker on the Devils Kettle Trail on the rocks in Judge CR Magney State Park

ENTRANCE FEES FOR JUDGE C.R. MAGNEY STATE PARK

A Minnesota State Park vehicle permit is required.  You can purchase a day pass or an annual pass, and both are reasonably priced.  You can get the permit online through the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. The permits are not specific to a given park, so if you have a day pass you can enter into multiple state parks in Minnesota without having to pay more.

JUDGE C.R. MAGNEY STATE PARK CAMPING

There is a 27-site campground inside of Judge C.R. Magney State Park.  Advanced reservations are required.  You can read all about the campground and its amenities in our article on Camping in Judge C.R. Magney State Park.

Turtleback Trailer and 4Runner camping at Judge CR Magney State Park

BEST TIME TO VISIT JUDGE C.R. MAGNEY STATE PARK

Summertime is the most popular time of year to visit Judge C.R. Magney State Park.  The days are warm but not hot, and evenings are cool but manageable.  Fall is also beautiful, but the park is only staffed Memorial Day through Labor Day and hiking trails can be a bit treacherous with the large amount of leaves on the rocks and steep climbs. 

While summertime is the most popular, be advised that if you head here in the early summer that the bugs may be unbearable.  Minnesota is famous for its mosquitoes, and they are out in force in June and the early part of July.

Judge CR Magney State Park average temperatures
Average High and Low Temperatures in Judge C.R. Magney State Park

ARE PETS ALLOWED IN JUDGE C.R. MAGNEY STATE PARK?          

Pets are allowed in the park, but must be kept on a leash at all times.  They are not allowed in any buildings.

RELATED INFORMATION ON JUDGE C.R. MAGNEY STATE PARK AND THE SURROUNDING AREA FROM JUST GO TRAVEL STUDIOS

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About Just Go Travel Studios

We are Amy & Pete Brahan. Very simply, we are passionate about our National Parks and Public Lands and explore them with our three kids whenever we can.

As much as we enjoy traveling, we also love sharing our knowledge and helping others create everlasting memories through our custom-made travel posters, downloadable travel itineraries and detailed blog articles.

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