9 of Minnesota’s Best State Parks to Take a Day Trip To [Pictures]

Updated March 10, 2022
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It’s no secret that St. Paul and Minneapolis are home to some incredible local parks. But sometimes, you just want to get out of the city and get as much fresh air as possible. Luckily, Minnesota is home to over 75 amazing state parks and recreation areas that are perfect for exploring.

These nine Minnesota state parks make for an ideal day trip outside of the Twin Cities if you’re willing to go on a short road trip. You might be surprised at all Minnesota has to offer— waterfalls, bison herds, and beautiful tree-lined trails. Add these nine Minnesota state parks to your summer or fall road trip bucket list!

1) Interstate State Park

Only about an hour’s drive from downtown Minneapolis, Interstate State Park is one of the closest state parks to the Twin Cities. The stunning St. Croix River rushes through this park. Enjoy the numerous hiking trails that vary based on skill level. You’ll love viewing the scenic cliffs that cut into the St. Croix River. If you’re a fan of canoeing and kayaking, Interstate is the place to go for some of the best views in the region.

rocks and greenery in interstate state park one of the best minnesota state parks

Source: TripAdvisor.com

2) Father Hennepin State Park

Father Hennepin State Park is located on the southern shore of Minnesota’s third-largest lake: Lake Mille Lacs. Not only are the hiking trails beautiful, but even the drive along the shoreline is incredibly picturesque. While this park is on the smaller side, it has no shortage of beautiful hardwood forests or access to Lake Mille Lacs. In fact, there is a large natural sand beach that offers one of the few swimming areas along the lake.

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father hennepin minnesota state park in fall

Source: Exploreminnesota.com

3) Lake Maria State Park

Located in Monticello, which is less than an hour’s drive from downtown Minneapolis, Lake Maria State Park is a popular destination for hikers in summer and cross country skiers in winter. You can even go horseback riding through the trails lined with a maple, oak, and basswood forest. If you keep your eyes peeled, you may even see a Blanding’s turtle— just look for the bright yellow spots on its shell.

Active female hiker walking and exploring minnesota state parks

4) Tettegouche State Park

Tettegouche State Park is a breathtaking location in Silver Bay, MN. Hikers love walking along the lakeside cliffs to the end of the famous Shovel Point. When you arrive at Shovel Point, you’ll be met with awe-inspiring panoramic views of Lake Superior.

Tettegouche is a rock climber’s paradise, as there are plenty of exciting lakeside cliffs to scale. Camping is available year-round, so you never have to miss out on the excitement.

waterfalls at Tettegouche one of Minnesota State Parks

Source: Dnr.state.mn.us

5) Split Rock Lighthouse State Park

Split Rock Lighthouse State Park, like Tettegouche, is another state park located on Minnesota’s magnificent North Shore. Explore hiking trails that lead you to the rocky shoreline of Lake Superior. Admire Ellingsen Island and take some photos of the lighthouse.

If you want to visit the Split Rock Lighthouse on-site, keep in mind that it is managed by the Minnesota Historical Society, not the park. There is a separate tour fee and parking pass required to enter the lighthouse.

Split rock Lighthouse during sunset

6) Lake Vermilion-Soudan Underground Mine State Park

If you’re looking for something a little different, check out Minnesota’s newest state park, Lake Vermilion-Soudan Underground Mine State Park. It’s a mouthful to say, but this history-focused state park is home to a fascinating 1.5 hour guided tour of the Soudan Underground Mine. You’ll be able to learn about the miners who worked in the area from 1892 to 1962. The park offers three different educational tours, and all tours are ADA accessible.

Additionally, the park offers 33 campsites, bike trails, picnic areas, and fishing access.

Lake Vermilion-Soudan minnesota state park

Source: MnTrails.com

7) Buffalo River State Park

One of Minnesota’s largest remaining native tallgrass prairies can be found at Buffalo River State Park. Visiting this park is one of the best ways to really see what Minnesota looked like before colonization when the indigenous population cultivated the land.

Buffalo River State Park is located about 15 miles east of Fargo-Moorhead, and it features 12 miles of winding prairie trails. This spot is especially popular for bird watchers who love to view unique species like:

  • Prairie chickens
  • Bobolinks
  • Marbled godwits
  • Upland sandpipers

close up of blue heron at one of minnesota state parks

8) Minneopa State Park

Southern Minnesota’s largest waterfall is located in Minneopa State Park, just 5 miles west of Mankato. You can walk the trail that circles the falls and head down a limestone stairway into the valley below. When you head up the stairs on the opposite side, you’ll get a breathtaking panoramic view of the entire valley and waterfall.

Minneopa State Park has a little bit of everything. In addition to the beautiful falls, you can:

  • Hike through native grasslands
  • Explore tree-lined trails
  • Visit Seppmann Mill— a wind-driven, German-style grist mill
  • View a herd of bison while driving along Bison Drive Road

minneopa falls in autumn

9) Zippel Bay State Park

If you love fishing, Zippel Bay State Park is the place for you. Zippel Bay State Park is located on Lake of the Woods, which is second in size only to Lake Superior. Lake of the Woods is infamously known as “the walleye capital of the world,” and walleye happens to be Minnesota’s state fish. You can take a boat out to fish for walleye, perch, northern pike, and more. Or, cast your line from the long wooden fishing pier that extends into Zippel Bay.

If you’re not a big fisher, you can check out the swimming beach, lakeside picnic area, or 6 miles of hiking trails. Birding is also excellent at this location, as you can keep your eyes peeled for piping plovers and sandhill cranes. Even in winter, Zippel Bay State Park remains bustling with cross-country skiing, ice fishing, and snowmobiling.

Zippel Bay State Parks

Source: Roverpass.com

Explore All Minnesota Has to Offer

These nine state parks only begin to touch on all the amazing things that make Minnesota a great place to live. Whether you’re looking to stay connected to nature or live right in the heart of the city, Bigos Management has the perfect apartment building for you to call home.

Check out our available properties, and contact us today to set up a showing!

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