By Jim Umhoefer
Wright County. About 23 miles south of St. Cloud. From I-94 take the Silver Creek/Hasty (Maple Lake) exit and follow the signs to the park.
Highway map index: H-15.
Part of Lake Maria (pronounced "Mariah") State Park's appeal to some is that it doesn't appeal to everybody. The 1,580-acre park is one of the few state parks where backpacking is the only camping allowed. George H. Crosby-Manitou and Afton state parks are the others.
Lake Maria is on the northern edge of the Big Woods. This region, about 100 miles long from north to south and 40 miles wide at its southern end, was a dense hardwood forest. The trees were so thick in places that sunlight couldn't penetrate to the forest floor. Early French explorers called this forest the "Bois Grand"; settlers anglicized it to Big Woods. Read more: