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5 Must-Visit State Parks in Minnesota

June 14th, 2023 by

Living and working in Southern Minnesota has so many advantages! Being able to raise our three children here means safe neighborhoods, plenty of family-friendly activities, and more. This can include visiting our area’s wonderful state parks, too.

Here are some area favorites, so you can enjoy the bounty Minnesota has to offer all summer long:

1. Minneopa State Park

Why not start with one close to home? Minneopa State Park is located just west of Mankato. Its amazing Bison Preserves make it a must-visit park to add to your list. The kids will be in awe of the live, conservation herd which occupies the lands. 

Hikes through this park can also include views of the 32-foot tall flour mill (called Seppmann’s Mill built in 1862), countless waterfalls, and beautiful picnicking spots. There is a little bit of something for everyone here, perfect for animal-lovers, nature-lovers, and activity-lovers. They can all find something worth viewing at Minneopa.

2. Mille Lacs Kathio State Park

Just a short trip north of Minneapolis, and those seeking some state park fun will find Mille Lacs Kathio State Park. Marked by the massive Mille Lacs Lake, this park boasts spots to swim (an actual beach) in addition to a 100-foot fire tower! Climb up for amazing scenic views. 

You might even spot a few bears in your travels, too, so keep your eyes peeled.

3. Myre-Big Island State Park

Those looking for a variety of activities might love a stop at Myre-Big Island State Park, just off I-35. With all-season camping, canoeing, and hiking trails, Myre-Big is also known as a hotspot for those seeking to do some birdwatching. 

With fall and spring migration patterns, a glacial esker, and a great marsh, this park is ideal for those hoping to sneak a peek of unique feathered friends.

4. Great River Bluffs State Park

Great River Bluffs State Park might sound like a stop along the Oregon Trail video game, but it is also a beautifully scenic space overlooking the Mississippi River Valley. Show the kids what a “goat prairie” is as you explore unusual landscapes all within the same park – just watch out for lizards and rattlesnakes! 

This spot is great for inexperienced hikers with loops that rank “easy” for all ages (try the 2.6-mile loop Kings Bluff Trail) that keep even children’s attention with plenty to see on mild terrain.

5. Glacial Lakes State Park

On the western side of Minnesota, and another easy drive from Mankato, is Glacial Lakes State Park. Here, visitors can not only hike and camp, but also enjoy fishing spots (did you know state residents can fish for free in most state parks?), as well as horseback riding trails. 

With native prairie grounds, there are beautiful, untouched lands to see while you take in the fun with varied activities. 

Minnesota State Parks

For a full map of the state’s parks and recreational areas, visit the Department of Natural Resources site here or call (651) 296-6157. Summer is a wonderful opportunity to get some fresh air and enjoy some quality family time. What better space to do that in than the 66 beautiful state parks of Minnesota?

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