Have you been to one of Minnesota’s 66 different state parks?
If the answer is no, or even if it is a yes, I’m here to tell you why you need to start planning visits to as many as possible right now.
No matter where you live in the state of Minnesota, there is likely a state park located not too far from you. In the Twin Cities area alone, there are at least three parks located within a half an hour you can drive to: Fort Snelling, Afton, and William O’Brien. The map provided below shows that these three particular parks are located in the deciduous forest section of the state, which means that the trees in these areas lose their leaves every year (hello fall!). There are also prairie and coniferous forest sections, which are breathtaking in the spring and winter months respectively.
But what awaits you at a state park? Why are they better than a free local park?
I want to start with a fact you may already find convincing due to the global pandemic: These parks are quiet. I don’t just mean quiet in the sense of seeing fewer people due to the entry fee – the reality is they accumulatively get over 9 million visitors a year – I mean quiet in the sense that a small herd of deer will cross your path without even blinking; quiet as in you can hear the trickling of waterfalls and the wind as it winds its way through the trees. It’s a stillness that can be found even in the more metropolitan areas of the state due to the large acreage each park has managed to secure.
If that’s still not enough to convince you, let’s talk amenities. Many if not all of these state parks have paved and non-paved trails for hiking, interpretive trails for informational walks, picnic shelters, and water access since we are the state with over 10,000 lakes.
The parks also have varying degrees of camping available: Backpack campsites, drive-in sites, RV sites and camper cabins are all available to reserve between the months of May and November. Every park has restrooms, some have both portable toilets and restrooms with plumbing, and a few even have showers for their reserved guests.
These parks also have many rentals available to guests, from kayaks to snowshoes, but the COVID-19 pandemic has put these rentals on hold.
And let’s not forget to mention that these parks possess spectacular views and work to protect parts of Minnesota’s native wildlife that you may not be able to find outside of the park limits.
Within the boundaries of the various parks located across the state, the DNR reports that there are 205 different species of flora and 84 different species of fauna considered state endangered or threatened. These parks serve as not only a place of solace for these threatened and endangered species, but also as an environment that can be utilized to foster the species’ growth.
Each park can be found to possess a plethora of information on the specific species they are focusing on. For example, Lake Maria State Park focuses efforts on revitalizing the presence of the Blanding’s Turtle; one of Minnesota’s most threatened species. Likewise, Wild River State Park is working simultaneously on prairie restoration and the bolstering of white pines within the park limits.
At this point, you’ve likely decided you are in fact going to head out to a state park sometime soon. While you begin planning your trip to one of these beautiful Midwestern utopias, take my advice and buy yourself a year-round state park vehicle permit pass.
The cost of a year-round vehicle pass is only $35 and the profits from the sale go towards helping these parks maintain and improve the natural resources, facilities, and education and outreach programs that exist within them. Essentially that means that just by buying the pass, you’re helping save endangered species that are native to your home state. And, considering your other option is to buy a $7 daily pass each time you visit a park, it really only takes five visits a year to get your money’s worth.
So, which park are you going to visit first? Share your favorite Minnesota State Park in comments below!