Hike Nerstrand-Big Woods State Park

Minnesota Hidden Falls Trailhead

Added by

Hike through remnant Big Woods taking in a variety of over 50 types of wildflowers and a limestone waterfall 1/2 mile from trailhead.

Curious about what Minnesota looked like in pre-settlement times?

Then spend the day hiking through Nerstrand-Big Woods State Park, a botanical reserve for the temperate hardwood forest that once covered much of central Minnesota. Located 45 miles south of Minneapolis, the park offers the opportunity to hike along 11 miles of trails running through one of the last remnants of Big Woods vegetation left in the state.

For an easy 5-mile loop that highlights some of the park’s best features, start at the visitor center located near the main entrance along County Highway 29. Purchase a vehicle pass ($5 daily, $25 annual) and park in the main lot. Cut through the picnic area and pick up the Hidden Falls Trail. Walk a half-mile north to the trail’s namesake attraction. Hidden Falls gives you a rare glimpse of the Platteville Limestone that forms the foundation of the park. Elsewhere, it’s covered by a thick layer of glacier drift.

Leave the crowd at the falls and follow the Fawn Trail, which loops through 1.5 miles of Big Woods. You’ll see over 50 varieties of wildflowers in the spring, including a remnant population of the Dwarf Trout Lily, an endangered plant found only in the park. Head southwest on Beaver Trail for 1 mile until you reach the Oak Bridge. Cross the bridge and trudge up the fairly sizable hill which leads directly into the smaller of the park’s two campgrounds. There are 4 beautiful walk-in sites, 3 spacious group sites and 2 convenient pit toilets. Wave to the friendly campers and continue east on White Oak Trail to return to your car at the park’s main entrance. It will take roughly two hours to complete this route, depending on how often you stop to admire the scenery and how many new friends you make passing through the campground.

The main campground, located on the park’s eastern side near Hidden Falls, has 51 drive-in sites, some with electrical hook-ups. For additional information regarding camping and reservations, check out the park's website.

Pack List

  • Daypack with water/light snack
  • Cash/credit card for permit
  • Comfortable footwear (sneakers, adventure sandals, hiking shoes, etc.)
  • Camera
Read More

Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More

Share

Activities:

Camping, Hiking, Photography, Running

Skill Level:

Beginner

Season:

Year Round

Trail Type:

Out-and-Back

Distance:

11 Miles

Rating:

Features:

Bathrooms
Dog Friendly
Easy Parking
Family Friendly
Forest
Picnic Area
Scenic
Waterfall
Wildflowers

Are we missing something?

Suggest an edit

How to Get There

Recommend!

Beautiful scenery but muddy trails. If you're looking for a nice leisurely hike through the woods this is the right place! My boyfriend and I hiked about 6 miles in 2 hours. Would recommend this for anyone looking for a beginner level hike with some uphill climbs. We did the suggested 5 mile loop and added in Hope Trail, connected later with Basswood Trail and then took Fox Trail back to the visitors center.

19 days ago

about 2 months ago

Very Small

Not worth it

about 2 months ago

4 months ago

Quite & Serene

I took my dog on the suggested 5 mile loop on a beautiful, winter day in February. Hidden Falls was completely frozen over but still cool to see. The trails were quiet and I enjoyed the serenity of the walk through the woods. I can only imagine how beautiful the trails are in the summer when there are leaves and flowers. The majority of the trail overlooks the water.

4 months ago

over 1 year ago

Beautiful trail - fun to hike in the fall. Hidden Falls is a good highlight!

over 1 year ago

Added by Robin Pfeifer

An endlessly curious travel writer who simply cannot sit still.

More Adventures Nearby

Hike to the top of Mount Josephine

Minnesota / Mount Josephine Trailhead

To get to the trailhead coming from Grand Marais, drive northeast on highway 61 until you come to Grand Portage Village.

Allison Herreid
2 Saves

Climb Mt. Charity at John A. Latsch State Park

Minnesota / Riverview Trailhead

John A. Latsh State Park is directly off of Hwy. 61 a few miles north of Winona. Begin your hike at the parking lot, following the signs for the Riverview Trail.

Joe Whitson
2 Saves

Catch a Sunrise at Canal Park

Minnesota / Duluth Aerial Lift Bridge

Quick and easy parking right on the north side of the northern break wall. It could be a few hundred foot walk if you want to walk out the entirety of the break wall.  

Andrew Jaeger
4 Saves