Twin Cities Mom Collective

8 State Parks within 1 Hour of the Twin Cities

It’s no secret that we are surrounded by natural beauty in Minnesota and the Minnesota State Parks offer the perfect opportunity to enjoy that beauty. Living in an urban area offers tons of benefits, but being able to easily escape to nature (without having to drive too far) is a true treasure!

State Parks are fun to explore with kids of all ages. From picnics and easy hikes to swimming on sandy beaches – or just looking at the natural beauty of a waterfall or an expansive vista. Go for a day or purchase an annual pass: a $35 year-round vehicle permit provides unlimited visits to all 75 Minnesota state parks and recreation areas for a full year from the month of purchase.

The state parks offer a great chance to get out and explore and we are fortunate to have 8 within about an hour’s drive of the Twin Cities (all times are measured from Downtown Minneapolis so actual times may vary)!


101 Snelling Lake Road – St. Paul, MN (approx. 20 minutes from downtown Minneapolis)

Park Highlights

  • Fishing
  • Historic site
  • Dakota memorial
  • Interpretive exhibits
  • Bike trails and connections
  • Cross-country skiing

Things to Do

Explore the loop around Snelling Lake (it takes about an hour) or choose from a one-, two- or three-mile loop around Pike Island with views of both the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers. The park’s centrally located bike trails connect to the 53-mile long Grand Rounds Scenic Bikeway at Minnehaha Falls in Minneapolis and the Dakota County Big Rivers Regional Trail.

Fort Snelling State Park


6959 Peller Avenue South – Hastings, MN (approx 45 minutes from Minneapolis)

Park Highlights

  • Backpack camping
  • Fishing
  • Swimming
  • Prairie landscape
  • Hiking
  • Cross-country skiing

Things to Do

Check out the visitor center and then walk south on the paved trail behind the building for a 0.4-mile self-guided interpretive trail through the restored prairie. Hike to one of several scenic overlooks to view the river valley. Walk to the beach and enjoy a picnic at the lower picnic area.

Afton State Park


11411 Clementa Avenue Northwest – Monticello, MN (approx 50 minutes from Minneapolis)

Park Highlights

  • Secluded Backpack Campsites
  • Endangered Blandings Turtle
  • Hiking/Spring Wildflowers/Fall Colors
  • Nesting Osprey and Eagles
  • Remote Ski-in/Walk-in Camper Cabins
  • Cross-Country Skiing

Things to Do

Park at the trail center and enjoy a beautiful hike on the Bjorkland Trail. Watch for local species at the wildlife observation area.

Lake Maria State Park


16821 O’Brien Trail North – Marine on St. Croix, MN (approx 50 minutes from Minneapolis)

Park Highlights

  • Camping
  • Canoeing and fishing on the St. Croix River
  • Cross-country skiing
  • Naturalist programs
  • Bird watching
  • Oak savanna restoration

Things to Do

William O’Brien State Park

Walk 1.6 miles on the Riverside Trail. This self-guided, accessible trail winds by the St. Croix River, Lake Alice, and majestic 100-year-old pine trees. Explore the visitor center as you investigate the animals and plants that call the park home.


307 Milltown Road – Taylors Falls, MN (approx 1 hour from Minneapolis)

Park Highlights

  • Scenic river views
  • Canoeing
  • Camping
  • Fishing
  • Rock climbing
  • Potholes – not what you think!

Things to Do

Park by the visitor center and head to the Glacial Potholes Area, an experience not to be missed. Peer into the world’s deepest explored pothole, find potholes of all sizes and enjoy scenic views of the river gorge.

Interstate State Park


39797 Park Trail – Center City, MN (approx 1 hour from Minneapolis)

Park Highlights

  • Camping
  • Canoeing
  • Cross-country skiing
  • Hiking trails
  • Nevers Dam Overlook
  • Wildlife and wildflowers

Things to Do

The Nevers Dam Overlook is located where the historic Nevers Dam once was, approximately half a mile down a trail from the Picnic Grounds. You’ll enjoy a great view of the river from here, as well as some interpretive displays.

Wild River State Park


9700 170th Street East – Nerstrand, MN (approx 1 hour from Minneapolis)

Park Highlights

  • “Big Woods” Landscape
  • Spectacular Spring Wildflowers
  • Fabulous Fall Color
  • Visitor Center
  • Self-guided Interpretive Trail
  • Hidden Falls Waterfall

Things to Do

Be sure that you check out the Hidden Falls Waterfall and hike the self-guided interpretive trail.

Nerstand Big Wood State Park


29223 County 28 Boulevard – Frontenac, MN (approx 75 minutes from Minneapolis)

Park Highlights

  • Camping
  • Fall colors
  • Excellent bird watching
  • Wildflowers from spring through fall
  • Winter sliding hill
  • Great hiking and skiing

Things to Do

Hike the many trails that overlook Lake Pepin, meander through restored prairies, or take you to the shores of the Mississippi River.

Frontenac State Park


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