No matter what you enjoy doing in the outdoors, you’ll probably find a state park or nature preserve in Minnesota that will more than accommodate you. Visitors can choose to partake in activities such as hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, camping, hunting, fishing, boating, canoeing and kayaking.
1. Bear Head Lake State Park
Bear Head Lake State Park is one of Minnesota’s most popular outdoor recreational areas. It’s got stunning scenic views to take in, not unlike ones you’ll come across in the nearby Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. The most popular visitor activities are hiking, fishing, swimming, and boating on the 5,540-acre property. The park has been voted “America’s Favorite Park” in the past, and rightly so because there is so much there for visitors of all ages to see and do. During the summer, people come from far and wide to take a dip in their sandy swimming beach, but other things you can do also include canoeing, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing.
Address: 9301 Bear Head State Park Road, Ely, MN 55731, Phone: 218-235-2520
2. Blue Mounds State Park
Located near the town of Luverne, Blue Mounds State Park is named after an escarpment of Precambrian Sioux Quartzite bedrock. Though the structure is more pink, it appeared to be blue to early settlers who saw it from a distance. One of the most popular activities in the park is rock climbing; other things you can do also include swimming in the small reservoir or visiting the park’s interpretive center which was once the home of author Frederick Manfred. Another unique aspect of the park is that it protects a herd of American bison, which grazes there on a large prairie remnant.
Address: 1410 161st St, Luverne, MN 56156, Phone: 507-283-6050
3. MN State Parks: Cascade River State Park
Cascade River State Park can be found on the northern shore of Lake Superior; because of its rugged and rocky location, you’ll be sure to come across a diverse variety of flora and fauna while you’re there. Some of the things people like to do during their visit are explore and photograph the scenic areas along the lake and river, go fishing, wet their feet in the waterfalls, or enjoy themselves while hiking or camping. There are seven picnic sites in the park, one of which is under a grove of cedar trees and is one of the most beautiful spots in the entire park.
Address: West, 3481 Minnesota 61, Lutsen, MN 55612, Phone: 218-387-6000
4. Minnesota State Parks: Frontenac State Park
Since 1957 Frontenac State Park has been a popular place for visitors to spend the day outdoors. The park is most recognized for its rich and diverse history as well as an amazing bird watching site since it houses an array of residential and migratory bird species. There are several trails you can hike through, many of them which loop for a perfect exploratory opportunity; the trails are groomed for snowmobiling and cross-country skiing during the winter season. Other recreational activities available there are camping, sledding, swimming, and fishing for channel catfish, northern pike, bluegill, crappie, and other fish in Lake Pepin.
Address: 29223 County 28 Blvd, Frontenac, MN 55026, Phone: 651-345-3401
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5. State Park in Minnesota: Glacial Lakes State Park
Glacial Lakes State Park was founded in 1963 as a means of preserving some of the remaining rolling prairie, which can’t be found a lot these days, but once covered much of the state. The park and the surrounding area contain many glacial landforms because of its location near the Wisconsinan glaciation. Located in the Leaf Mountains, the 2,423-acre park is filled with flora and fauna that reside in the woodlands and prairies. Other than wildlife viewing, you’ll also be able to go boating, fishing, swimming, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, and cross-country skiing. Stargazing is also extremely popular at the park because of its remote location with low light pollution.
Address: 25022 Co Rd 41, Starbuck, MN 56381, Phone: 320-239-2860
6. Best State Parks in Minnesota: Gooseberry Falls State Park
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Gooseberry Falls State Park was established in 1937, through the area around Gooseberry Falls was preserved long before that. To get a really in-depth understanding of the area and its history, be sure to start your visit at the Joseph N. Alexander Visitor Center; inside you will find several interpretive displays and exhibits, a cinema screening room, and a gift shop full of local souvenirs. Afterwards, you can spend your time on either the 18 miles of hiking trails or 8 miles of mountain biking trails - both of which connect to the Superior Hiking Trail. Those who enjoy camping can choose to stay in one of the park’s seventy non-electric camping sites that are available all year long.
Address: 3206 MN-61, Two Harbors, MN 55616, Phone: 218-595-7100
7. MN State Parks: Grand Portage State Park
Established in 1989, Grand Portage State Park is a 278-acre outdoor space that can be found right alongside the Canada - United States border. It is the only U.S. state park that is jointly managed by a state as well as the Grand Portage Indian Reservation. The first destination visitors usually go to when they are in the park is usually either High Falls or Middle Falls; High Falls is a popular option with many because the trail is paved and has a boardwalk which leads directly to the falls, making it accessible by wheelchair. Other activities you can participate in are exploring the monument and the historic gardens, learning all about the Ojibwe, or getting up close and personal with the flora and fauna that can be found there.
Address: 9393 MN-61, Grand Portage, MN 55605, Phone: 218-475-2360
8. Best State Parks in MN: Interstate State Park
The visitor center at Interstate State Park is one of the best places to get started when you decide to spend a day there. It is a beautiful outdoor space but its most popular feature is its Glacial Potholes Area. It is an experience that shouldn’t be missed as you’ll get the opportunity to look into the world’s deepest explored pothole. Pothole viewing is a popular activity there and you’ll often see visitors exploring potholes of all different sizes along the river gorge. Some of the park’s other highlights are canoeing, camping, fishing, rock climbing, and enjoying the scenic river views.
Address: 307 Milltown Ct., Taylors Falls, MN 55084, Phone: 651-465-5711
9. Minnesota State Parks: Itasca State Park
Start your journey into Itasca State Park by stopping by at the Jacob B. Brower Visitor Center, where you’ll get a really good idea about the history and events that have shaped the park over the years. You can also head on over to the Mary Gibbs Mississippi Headwaters Center where you can take in the many outdoor interpretive displays which are housed there. Spend your time at the park hiking, fishing, camping, and exploring the historic sites and unique ecosystems which can be seen there. After an adventurous day, head on over to the cafeteria-style restaurant Headwaters Cafe for refreshing drink or warm meal.
Address: 36750 Main Park Drive, Park Rapids, MN 56470, Phone: 218-699-7251
10. Best State Parks in Minnesota: Jay Cooke State Park
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Jay Cooke State Park has so many interesting and unique features which can’t be experienced elsewhere. For example, one of the first things that you should do once you get to the park is walk across the iconic Swinging Bridge which sways above the St. Louis River. To get a really amazing panoramic view of the St. Louis River and the surrounding valley, hike up to Oldenburg Point. On your way there you’re sure to come across some wonderful historic structures which were built by the Civilian Conservation Corps. Other aspects of the park which shouldn’t be missed are Pioneer Cemetery and Thomson Dam.
Address: 780 Highway 210, Carlton, MN 55718, Phone: 218-673-7000
11. Judge C. R. Magney State Park
With scenic waterfalls and several opportunities to observe the local wildlife, a visit to Judge C. R. Magney State Park is sure to be memorable for visitors of all ages. The park is open to the public all year long, though the campsites are only open seasonally. Popular spots include the Devilfish Lake, McFarland Lake, and the Twin Lakes campgrounds. In addition to seeing the wildlife and camping there overnight, you’ll also be able to enjoy picnicking, hiking, and trout fishing during your visit to the park. Hikers will be glad to know that most of the park’s trails connect to the Superior Hiking Trail.
Address: 4051 MN-61, Grand Marais, MN 55604, Phone: 218-387-6300
12. Lake Vermilion-Soudan Underground Mine State Park
A U.S. National Historic Landmark and listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places, Lake Vermilion-Soudan Underground Mine State Park is one of the state’s most interesting natural spaces. The mine is one of the deepest, oldest, and richest iron mines that has been identified in all of Minnesota. It is now home to the Soudan Underground Laboratory; parts of the laboratory are open to the public for guided tours and there are several open houses held annually which provide further access to the facilities and the experiments which are conducted there. Other than the mine tours and seeing other related historic sites, visitors will also be able to spend their time hiking, bird and wildlife watching, and partaking in recreational opportunities on the lake.
Address: 1302 McKinley Park Rd, Soudan, MN 55782, Phone: 213-300-7000
13. Best State Parks in Minnesota: Maplewood State Park
Maplewood State Park has some extremely interesting and fun things to do for visitors of all ages. You can hike up Hallaway Hills and take in impressive panoramic views of your surroundings from the top. Those who want to enjoy the views but don’t want the strain of a hike will be glad to know that a five-mile scenic road winds through the entirety of the park. Enjoy a picnic lunch at the Josh Hanson Veterans Memorial Picnic Shelter or have a snack along the beach at South Lida Lake. Other activities that are popular with visitors include horseback riding, fishing, and camping.
Address: 39721 Park Entrance Road, Pelican Rapids, MN 56572, Phone: 218-863-8383
14. Best State Parks in Minnesota: Mille Lacs Kathio State Park
Kathio Site, also known as Mille Lacs Kathio State Park, is an amazing outdoor space that is recognized as a U.S. National Historic Landmark District and is listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. The park’s most notable features are the extremely well preserved mound groups and habitation sites which date back to 3000 BC. These are some of the most significant archaeological sites in the state as they document the lives of Ojibwe-Sioux and Sioux Indians. The earliest site shows evidence of copper tool manufacturing and dates back to the Archaic period. In addition to seeing these amazing historic sites, you’ll also be able to do other things in the park such as go swimming, camping, cross-country skiing, or participate in nature programs.
Address: 15066 Kathio State Park Rd, Onamia, MN 56359, Phone: 320-532-3523
15. Mississippi National River and Recreation Area
The Mississippi National River and Recreation Area is one of the most beautiful and largest natural spaces in the state. At 53,775 acres, you’ll come across a number of natural, historical, cultural, scenic, and recreational aspects. Some of the park’s most prominent attractions include Minnehaha Falls, Historic Fort Snelling, and the St. Anthony Falls Historic District which includes the Stone Arch Bridge, the Guthrie Theater, and the Mill City Museum. You’ll find a host of events being held at the park throughout the year; these include interpretive sessions, movies, bike rides, exploratory walks, and several other community activities.
Address: 120 W Kellogg Blvd, St Paul, MN 55102, Phone: 651-293-0200
16. Minnesota State Parks: Myre-Big Island State Park
Myre-Big Island State Park, which is named after former Minnesota State Senator Helmer Myre, is a 1,578-acre natural space that was established in 1947. The main feature of the park is a 117-acre island that is located on Albert Lea Lake; the island is connected to the mainland by a causeway. The island has an old growth hardwood forest which includes red oak, maple, ironwood, and basswood; the mainland has several wetlands as well as oak savanna vegetation you can explore. Recreational opportunities which are available there include canoeing, boating, camping, fishing, hiking, and mountain biking. There is also a guided boat tour of Albert Lea Lake which is informational and fun.
Address: 19499 780th Ave, Albert Lea, MN 56007, Phone: 507-668-7060
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17. MN State Park: Nerstrand Big Woods State Park
Nerstrand Big Woods State Park is a botanical reserve that was established in 1945. It derives its name from the large, forested area which still stands there today - this type of temperate hardwood forest covered much of central Minnesota prior to European settlers arriving. In addition to having extensive cultural significance, the state park has transformed over the years to include an array of recreational facilities and amenities for visitors to enjoy. These include a playground, several picnic areas, individual and group campsites, and trails for hiking. During the winter months you can also partake in snowmobiling, and cross-country skiing.
Address: 9700 170th St E, Nerstrand, MN 55053, Phone: 507-384-6140
18. Pipestone National Monument
Pipestone National Monument is a stunning outdoor space that is listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places and recognized as a U.S. National Monument and U.S. Historic District. Its main feature is the pipestone, or catlinite, which is a sort of ceremonial pipe which was used by Plains Indians during many of their religious practices. The quarries surrounding the monument are still sacred to most of the Native American tribes in North America. To really make the most of your visit, stop by the visitor center which has tons of exhibits on the cultural and natural history of the area.
Address: 36 Reservation Ave, Pipestone, MN 56164, Phone: 507-825-5464
19. Minnesota State Parks: Scenic State Park
Encompassing 3,936 acres, Scenic State Park was established in 1988 and houses two sites which are listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places and as a U.S. Historic District. One is the Rustic Style Service Yard and the other is the Rustic Style Historic Resources District; on these sites you will find buildings and structures that date back to the 1930s such as a Custodian’s Cabin, an Ice and Wood House, a Shelter Pavilion, and a Naturalist’s Cabin. There are several things visitors can do while there such as walk through the historic pines, go hiking, try their luck at fishing, enjoy canoeing, or spend a night camping in one of the park’s many campsites or lodges.
Address: 56956 Scenic Hwy, Bigfork, MN 56628, Phone: 218-743-3362
20. Minnesota State Parks: Split Rock Lighthouse State Park
Split Rock Lighthouse State Park is a 2,200-acre green space that was established in 1945. One of its most renowned features is the picturesque namesake Split Rock Lighthouse; having been stunningly built in 1910 by the United States Lighthouse Service, it is one of the most photographed lighthouses in the entire nation. Another unique aspect of the state park is its cart-in campground which lets you park in the designated area and then carry your equipment on a two-wheeled cart for a short distance to the camping site. That being said, there are some drive-in campsites as well as backpack campsites located alongside the shore. In addition to explore the surroundings and camping, you can also go hiking, cycling, boating, kayaking, fishing, scuba diving, and cross-country skiing.
Address: 3755 Split Rock Lighthouse Road, Two Harbors, MN 55616, Phone: 218-595-7625
21. Superior National Forest
Over a million acres in size, Superior National Forest is a great place to go if you want to enjoy the outdoors while being isolated from other people and the rest of the world. Because of its great size, the national forest has so many different habitats such as rocky shores, deep canyons, rugged cliffs, towering rock formations, and thousands of streams and lakes. There are 12 hiking trails you can explore, over 2,000 designated camping sites for you to stay in, and over 1,200 miles of canoe routes if you prefer spending your time out on the water.
Address: 8901 Grand Avenue Place, Duluth, MN 55808, Phone: 218-626-4300
22. MN State Parks: Tettegouche State Park
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Formerly known as Baptism River State Park, Tettegouche State Park is an amazing outdoor space that is listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. The park, which spans 9,346 acres, is full of natural attractions such as four waterfalls, six inland lakes, a beach, and much more. You can explore the land by hiking through its 22 miles of trails; there are an additional 12 miles of trails dedicated to skiing. Superior Hiking Trail is one of the most popular options and can be used by snowmobiles and all-terrain vehicles; it is the only ATV trail in a state park in the entire nation.
Address: 5702 MN-61, Silver Bay, MN 55614, Phone: 218-353-8800
23. Minnesota State Parks: Voyageurs National Park
An IUCN category II national park, Voyageurs is a 218,000-acre space that was established in 1975. They have nearly 250,000 visitors annually, all of whom travel to the park to partake in a number of different outdoor activities. There are 282 camping sites which are perfect for tent, RV, or houseboat camping depending on what you prefer. Anglers flock to the park to fish for largemouth bass, bluegill, lake trout, and other species of fish; almost all of the lakes in the park are open for fishing. Other activities you can participate in are boating, wildlife viewing, and hiking - there are over 50 miles of trails which go through the park’s backcountry and interior peninsula.
Address: 360 Minnesota 11 East, International Falls, MN 56649, Phone: 218-283-6600
24. MN State Parks: Whitewater State Park
Listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places and recognized as a U.S. Historic District, Whitewater State Park is one of the more unique outdoor spaces to explore while in Minnesota. The park preserves a stretch of whitewater river which is surrounded by scenic rocky bluffs. Other aspects you’ll come across in the 2,700-acre park are the historic facilities which date back to the 1930s which were used for politics/ government, entertainment, and landscape architecture. You can take part in excellent trout fishing throughout the year, see the spectacular wildflowers in the spring, or hike the rugged trails to the scenic bluff land.
Address: 19041 MN-74, Altura, MN 55910, Phone: 507-312-2300
25. MN State Parks: William O'Brien State Park
Since 1947 William O’Brien State Park has been welcoming visitors from all over the nation to enjoy its lush outdoor space and its varied array of activities. The 1,520-acre park is filled with bogs, wooded areas, riparian zones, and glacial moraine. Within this amazingly beautiful space you can take part in picnicking, hiking, birdwatching, canoeing, fishing, camping, cross-country skiing, and many other outdoor recreational activities. There are facilities such as canoe rentals, public boat ramps, drive-in camping grounds, and fishing piers to make your stay more memorable. Visitors can cool off by swimming on the sandy beach on Lake Alice while anglers can head out to the St. Croix riverbank and catch trout, bass, and several other species of fish.
Address: 16821 O'Brien Trail N, Marine on St Croix, MN 55047, Phone: 651-539-4980
What are the 25 Best Minnesota State Parks?
The 25 Best Minnesota State Parks according to local experts are: