As part of a Lake Superior North Shore vacation, the many sites along the Brule River are well worth the trip.
Judge Magney State Park is in the northern Minnesota arrowhead, about 15 miles north of Grand Marais on paved Route 61. (About 125 miles north of Duluth) The North Shore is a fairly high end tourist area for outdoor recreation with hiking, bicycling and boating opportunities. There are many shopping opportunities for those who like arts and crafts. (Grand Marais supports a natural arts school)
The park itself is for those who are looking for a semi-primitive camping experience. There are 27 campsites with a self-pay station, although a ranger comes through a couple of times a day. Sites are primitive with a fire ring and picnic table. Vehicles up to 45 feet can be accommodated. Some of the sites may be reserved. There is a showerhouse, piped water, and also a couple of latrines.
There is a picnic area for day use.
The main attraction of the park is the Brule River. The Superior Hiking Trail / North Country Trail is found on both sides of the river. The most famous feature is known as Devil’s Kettle. This is best seen with about a 20 minute walk up the north side of the river. There is a footbridge to safely cross from the campground. To see the Kettle there is a long stairway to go down, and of course back up to return to the campground. The kettle is formed by an oddity in the river where it splits. One side goes over a waterfall that can be seen from the south side of the river. The other side pours down into a rocky bowl– the kettle– and supposedly is never seen again. In the spring when the water is high, all of these features are very spectacular.
There are 9 miles of hiking trails in the park, but one can continue north or south for days on the SHT/ NCT, which is clearly signed within the park. There is a trail shelter within the park for “remote” backpacking. It’s only about a mile from the main campground though. If someone wanted just a bit longer backpacking trek it would be possible to base at the park, and hike out to the next SHT campsite north, called Hazel Creek. That is a 9-mile walk. Hazel Creek isn’t a particularly great campsite. However, if one went south on the SHT there are campsites on the Little Brule River in about 7 miles, or on to the next SHT site to the south at Kadunce River (a 10 mile walk from Judge Magney), a nice 2-day, 1-night backpacking trip is possible. SHT sites are primitive with a fire ring, open latrine, and sometimes a bear cable to hang your food.
Long distance hikers are allowed to leave vehicles which have proper state park stickers there for extended hikes, but one should contact the DNR for permission, and so they know where such vehicles should be parked.
Although Lake Superior is just across Rt 61, this park does not have any real beach access. The river is supposed to be good for trout, steelhead, and salmon, but I don’t have any personal experience with that.
The pictures show the water falling into the kettle in May, and a long view of the Brule River, from about a mile past there on the trail going north.
Camping only Memorial Day through Labor Day, may be open for day use April 1- October 31 depending on the weather.