Explore Interstate State Park
Minnesota › Interstate SP Parking Area, MN
Added by Joe Whitson
You can explore this scenic park's hikes in both Minnesota and Wisconsin. You'll see the St. Croix River Gorge from half a dozen towering overlooks. For those interested in more than hiking, you can rock climb the scenic St. Croix River bluffs or kayak over the rapids at Taylor's Falls.
Situated on top of a series of craggy bluffs, Interstate State Park is a small park that offers amazing views of the St. Croix River gorge. With a pine forest ecosystem usually only found a hundred miles north of the park, the lichen encrusted rocks and spring wildflowers offer the Northwoods experience without the long drive.
A 3 mile trail runs from the main park entrance (the point indicated on the map), along the river and bluffs, to the pothole area and Taylor's Falls at the far side of the park. It's a fairly easy trail running through pine forest and rocky terrain. Because the entire park is a narrow stretch of land between the highway and the river, part of the trail is actually on the highway. While this kind of destroys your illusions of wilderness, the highway section does offer some of the best views of the river and the bluffs on the Wisconsin side. If you hike in the spring, keep your eye out for spring ephemera - wildflowers, fiddleheads, and the like - which carpeted the forest floor, soaking in what sunlight they can get through the forest canopy. At the end of the hike, make sure you take time to check out the pothole area and clamber around the cliffs to find the best views of the river before turning around and tracing your steps back to your car.
The park is regionally known by rock climbers as an excellent place for beginners to test their skills on the bluffs and cliffs in and around Taylor's Falls. Not an experienced climber? The park often offers climbing lessons or go with a group from Minneapolis based Vertical Endeavors.
As with most parks in the Minnesota, water is central to the Interstate experience. Rent a canoe at the park and drift down the St. Croix to the nearby William O'Brien State Park, a trip that takes only about three hours. Buses run between the two parks for your convenience. Or challenge yourself by taking a raft or kayak over the series of rapids that gave the town of Taylor's Falls its name. Kayaks can be rented from several local outfitters including Wild Mountain in Taylor's Falls. In addition to the hiking, boating, and climbing at the park, make sure to visit the glacial potholes along the river. Many of the potholes are no bigger than a basketball, but some, like the Devil's Parlor, are much larger and include stairways, natural bridges, and pools.
Wisconsin's Interstate State Park is right across the river and is also worth checking out, especially for hikers. The bluffs are higher in Wisconsin and offer better views of the river. The park also offers a more extensive system of trails to explore, including the beginning of Wisconsin's 1,200 mile Ice Age Trail.
- Hiking Boots
- Rock Climbing Gear
- Climbing Permit
- Kayak or Canoe (or rent at the park)
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Chillin, Hiking, Kayaking, Photography, Rock Climbing
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A Hot Day Trip
A buddy and I headed up to Interstate park on a good ol' hot n' humid Minnesota day (95 degrees). Hiking through the shaded woods and hanging out by the river was an excellent way to spend a day that would otherwise be terrible in the cities. Absolutely loved it. Friendly people, friendly staff, and a gorgeous park.
Joe, you bring up a good point about the trail on the Minnesota side butting up next to the highway. I agree, it takes away from the experience. And you can still hear the highway traffic from most of the trial. And that's why, as much as it pains me to say it being a native Minnesotan, the Wisconsin side of Interstate Park is better than the Minnesota side. Nonetheless, GO VIKINGS!
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