Minnesota’s school trust lands are largely open to the public for responsible recreational activities including boating, camping, hiking, hunting, mountain biking, off-highway vehicle (OHV) use, rock hounding, skiing and snowmobiling.
Public access, however, may be restricted when school trust lands are under a contract to generate revenue for K-12 public education. Common examples that limit access include mineral exploration and active mining, timber sales, grazing contracts, communication towers, and aggregate development.
Because school trust lands are reserved to support the state’s education system, restrictions may result in alteration of public access routes and removal of recreation infrastructure to allow for economic development. They may also necessitate temporary or permanent closure of certain lands to the public.
There are countless outdoor recreation opportunities on Minnesota’s school trust lands.
- Hit the Cuyuna Country SRA single-track mountain bike trails situated on stockpiled school trust iron ore—the remnants of past iron mining activities on the Cuyuna Iron Range.
- Explore the horseback riding trails at the Togo Equestrian Camp.
- Scale the hills on your ATV at the Iron Range OHV Park in Gilbert (a portion of which is on an original school trust section 16 granted to the state in 1858).
- Learn about the state’s mining history at Hill Annex State Park where visitors can tour the historic Hill Iron Mine. In 1911, State Auditor Iverson stated that the Permanent School Fund “will receive more money from one section of school land at the Hill Iron Mine… than the states of Michigan, Wisconsin and Iowa combined will ever receive from all the lands granted to them by Congress.”
Whether you’re looking for a rustic campsite or a more developed campground with cleared sites, vault toilets, fire rings and picnic tables there are 24 options available on school trust lands. Most are located within Minnesota State Forests and are available on a first-come, first-served basis.
Thousands of miles of cross-country skiing, all-terrain vehicle (ATV), off-road vehicle (OHV), off-highway motorcycle (OHM) and snowmobile trails traverse Minnesota school trust lands. Local partners and clubs maintain many of the snowmobile trails under a cost-sharing program dating back to 1973 while the Great Minnesota Ski Pass program provides funding to maintain cross-country ski trails. ATV, OHV, OHM and snowmobile trial users provide revenue to the trust for the lands the grant-in-aid trails cross.
Nearly all 2.5 million acres of school trust lands are open to public hunting in Minnesota’s State Forest system mainly in the NE quadrant of the state and in designated Wildlife Management Areas in the NW quadrant.
Public Water Access Sites
School trust lands host 170 public water access sites. These sites provide Minnesotans with excellent access to lakes, rivers and streams throughout the state. They range in amenities from the fully developed Lake Superior safe harbor marina at Knife River to a rustic carry-in canoe launch on the Crow Wing River in Wadena.
Please continue to recreate on school trust lands while remembering that recreational activities provide essential revenue for Minnesota’s public school system.