A&E explores: A fall semester guide to nearby Minnesota State Parks

Leave the classroom behind and explore these parks — all within an hour from campus

by Samir Ferdowsi

Only in Minnesota will you find a place to make a candle holder … out of ice.

Or maybe making snowshoes and using them to explore glacial potholes is more your speed?

Whatever trail you choose, Minnesota State Parks have forged a jam-packed schedule of fall outdoor adventures that are all within one hour of campus. Take a break from the classrooms, pack your boots and get out to these four commute-friendly state parks.

Fort Snelling State Park

Located 20 minutes down the Mississippi River, Fort Snelling is the perfect destination for an afternoon outing. Take a hammock down to the banks of the river and get some R&R with your crew after a long week of trudging around campus and chasing campus connectors. Sitting right below Historic Fort Snelling, the wilderness-oasis will be hosting formalized activities throughout the semester: geocaching, animal tracking and fall color walks!

Afton State Park

35 minutes from campus lie the hills of Afton. This heavily hilled, wooded area hosts superb ski and snowboard slopes in the winter. But for these autumn days, Afton is the place to be for anyone looking to do some forest bathing. Located smack-dab on the St. Croix, the park even has a campground for those really looking to reconnect with the simple things in life and not drive four hours to do it. 

Interstate State Park

By far the most rustic of these fuel-conscious expeditions, Interstate will take around an hour to reach, driving along the St. Croix River. Roosted on a basalt cliff perch overlooking the Wisconsin Interstate State Park, which is obviously inferior, the campground and canoe/kayak rental combo gives Interstate everything a weathered city slicker would need to decompress. Hiking atop the cliffs illuminated with the red hue of fall will inspire adventure in anyone. Dig through other activities that the park and all others will put on this fall on their website.

Brown’s Creek Trail

Not so much a park, but rather a state trail, Brown’s Creek is a six-mile long promenade an hour from campus made to get you moving. Hike, bike or ride a horse; yes, literally, through this broadleaf jungle. The creek, overflowing with trout and other wildlife, is on one side, and the National Scenic Riverway is over the other shoulder. Lace up and check out some events exclusive to this unique spot.