Social Distancing in Minnesota | Duluth, Jay Cooke State Park & Banning State Park

It’s been seven weeks since Minnesota offices, businesses and restaurants shut down to comply with the governor’s Stay At Home order. Seven weeks of spending 99% of my day in a 1-bedroom apartment with my boyfriend, dog and cat. Don’t get me wrong, we’ve been faring really well! We are healthy and our jobs allow us to work from home. We have walking-distance access to a local grocery co-op, butcher, bakery and ice cream store. This pandemic may have shrunk the size of our everyday world but it’s been a fairly painless transition and I know we are very lucky for that.

We walk around our neighborhood and a nearby lake almost every day and now that the weather is warming up, more and more people are doing the same. This past weekend, we decided escape the city and the “new normal” for a day and use the perfect weekend weather to do something that is completely “old normal” for us. Visit State Parks.

Jay Cooke State Park

Jay Cooke State Park is located in Carlton, Minnesota about a 2-hour drive north of Minneapolis and just outside of Duluth. It is one of the most visited State Parks in Minnesota and for good reason, it is also one of the most unique and beautiful parks I’ve seen!



Campgrounds across the state are still closed so we were only able to spend the day exploring. We started our hike by crossing the iconic swinging bridge to the Carlton Trail which follows the St Louis river for 3.3 miles.

It was a hiking enthusiast’s dream. The path was pretty strenuous and wasn’t smooth or over-groomed like most State Park trails. It provided spectacular views of the river from high above and as well as access to the river bank. It was quite challenging with lots of rocks, tree roots and small creeks to leap over along the way. Audi, our 10-year-old, 50-lb dog, did really well on the trail but at one point we did have to pick her up and lower her down a large and narrow drop.


The trail ended near the Thomson Damn and we crossed the river to hike back on the other side. We passed through an old pioneer cemetery that was actually pretty eerie and afterwards I couldn’t find much information on its inhabitants which made it even more creepy.

Duluth, MN

After letting Audi dunk in the river one last time, we left Jay Cooke State Park and continued north to Duluth. Most people have probably heard of Duluth. It’s a major port city on Lake Superior at the Minnesota-Wisconsin border and the start of the St. Louis River. Before moving to Minnesota, I always thought Duluth was one of the northern most towns in the state but it’s actually closer to the middle of the state. You have to continue on another 150 miles up the coast of Superior to reach Canada!


We made it to Duluth in the late afternoon and drove straight to the Downtown Waterfront to order delicious salmon sandwiches from Northern Waters Smokehaus (to-go of course).

We walked to the Lake Walk, crossed the 1905 Lift Bridge and out onto the piers. We also took a drive down the Park Point Sandbar and stopped at the beach so I could put my feet in Lake Superior for the first time. It might’ve been the coldest thing I’ve ever touched!


Banning State Park

It was time to head home but as we began our drive south we decided to get in one last State Park stop before dark. Banning State Parkis right off of highway 35 and directly on the way home.

We stopped at the main park area and did a short walk up the Kettle River but then continued down the road to a separate area of the park to check out Big Spring Falls. The sun was setting and there were only a few stragglers hanging around so we were able to enjoy the peacefulness of the falls. We walked right up to the waterfall and took care on the slippery rocks to touch the rushing water that was slightly warmer than Lake Superior but a welcome relief to our tired feet.


In the past, this is where I would say “back to reality” but that’s not really what this is. I’m not convinced that there is any going “back”. I type these words from the kitchen table in my 1-bedroom apartment for the 8th week in a row and I have to think that life is now just a permanent mix of old and new normals. Everyone’s mix looks a little different. Mine is State Parks, masks to the grocery store, graphic design, hand soap, grilling out, dog walks, home office, running the dishwasher and lots of FaceTime.

If you could sum up your mix of “normals” into one list, what would it contain? Leave me a comment – I would love to hear how you’re doing.

Be safe my friends!



8 thoughts on “Social Distancing in Minnesota | Duluth, Jay Cooke State Park & Banning State Park

  1. Really enjoyed the beauty pictures and videos. Listening to water flow never gets old.

  2. Your blog was wonderful. Really enjoy and save them all. It is a wonderful way to see what you’re doing. I am fine. Everyone keeps warning me I am old and to be careful. I don’t go in anywhere. Just drive through and us Shipt for groceries. Love you and miss you Grandma G

    1. Thank you Grandma! Your encouragement is one of the main reasons I continue to write down my travels. I’m glad you are staying safe! Minnesota hasn’t been hit as hard as Michigan so hopefully we will all be able to get together this summer. Love and miss you too!

  3. What a beautiful place to escape the madness of the world. Our lockdown has been extended for another two weeks and that’s nearly two months living in isolation without seeing anyone. Can’t wait to see the nature and be outside again, it’s vital for my mental health. Thanks for sharing. National parks in your part of the world are simply stunning. Aiva 😊

    1. Thanks for stopping by! This situation does feel never-ending at times and having access to nature to clear our minds and reduce stress is going to be so important. Hang in there! Your site is SO lovely and I can’t wait to start reading about your adventures

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