Okay...I've been to Itasca so many times it's hard to say I don't live there. This is the Hilton of state parks and
is VERY busy during the summer. That being said, I've driven up there during the week without a reservation and have gotten
a campsite (can't speak for electric site availability since I don't need that). I always camp in the Poplar Loop since those
are the most secluded. If you're thinking the walk-in sites in the Bear Paw Campground might be private...think again. They
are basically just hanging out on the edge of the campground up on a hill. Raccoons and skunks are a problem so remember
to put all food and trash in an animal-proof area. Each walk-in site has a food locker.
I've gone on many of the trails here and would recommend the Brower Lake, Nicollet, Deer Park (though it gets a bit tiresome
by the end), Schoolcraft & Mary Lake Trails. The Brower Trail can continue onto the bike trail all the way to the headwaters.
The highlights of the park are the Aiton Heights firetower, Peace Pipe Vista, Preachers Grove, Headwaters and Wilderness Drive.
I've biked the Wilderness loop and it went pretty quickly considering how out of shape I was. I'll admit to walking the
bike at times up some of the hills. The headwaters are always busy. If you're looking to get a pic of them without any people...arrive
early in the morning. I've tried to get a summer pic and there's always been someone there loitering till the sun goes down.
If only they'd implement some sort of thing where they'd clear the area for five minutes every hour so people could get a
photo without the hoards of tourists in it. The Wilderness Drive also shares the road with bikers so this may be a slow drive
due to the narrow road making it difficult to pass them. This has more of an issue obviously on weekends. I would recommend
bringing water shoes if going swimming in the lake as the bottom is rocky. Lady Slippers are mostly found down by the docks
near the Douglas Lodge. Please remember not to pick them or any other wildflower.
This park is a must see for all Minnesotans and for anyone wanting to see one of the prettiest areas in the state.