Pets allowed
Allowed with Restrictions
Guided tours
Backcountry camping
Please respect the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.

McCarthy Beach State Park is known for its large sandy beach on the east side of Sturgeon Lake near the town of Side Lake, Minnesota. The 2471-acre park has a northern boreal forest habitat with rolling hills and lakes and a mix of deciduous trees and conifers including birch, aspen, pines, and spruce. 

Many recreational activities such as fishing, swimming, and water sports are centered around Sturgeon Lake, Side Lake, and other smaller lakes in the park. The beach has a large area of knee-deep water and is considered one of the best beaches in Minnesota. The park has two boat launches, one on Side Lake and one on Sturgeon Lake. There are five connected lakes in the Sturgeon chain that can be explored. Gamefish commonly caught in the Sturgeon chain of lakes include bass, walleye, northern pike, and panfish. There are trout in Pickerel Lake. There is a fishing dock on Side Lake and a fish cleaning station nearby. Boats, canoes, kayaks and paddleboards are available for rent at the park office.

In addition to lake activities, visitors have access to 18 miles of hiking trails, 17 miles of mountain biking trails and 16 miles of trails for horseback riding. Mountain bikers and horseback riders can explore beyond the park via the Taconite State Trail. There is a picnic area with fire rings near the beach as well as a playground.

Winter activities include ice fishing and snowmobiling. There are 12 miles of snowmobile trails in the park that connect to the Taconite State Trail and the Tim Corey Trail.

The park has two drive-in campgrounds (one by Side Lake, the other by Beatrice Lake) with a total of 86 sites, 21 of the sites have electric hook ups. In addition to the drive-in campground, there is one group site and there is a horse camp in the nearby George Washington State Forest.

A fee is required for the park. A Minnesota state park day use or annual permit can be purchased at the Park Office or the entrance kiosk. Dogs are allowed in all areas of the park, except for in buildings and at beaches. Dogs must when kept on a leash 6 feet long or shorter. A link to the Minnesota DNR website for McCarthy Beach State Park can be found here.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)




Parking Pass

State Park Day-Use Fee

Open Year-round



Large sandy beach.


Bugs can be annoying.


ADA accessible
Vault toilet
Family friendly
Flushing toilets
Rental facilities
Dump stations
Picnic tables
Near lake or river
Horseback riding
Potable water
Covered picnic areas



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