Hike Nerstrand-Big Woods State Park

11 miles  - Out-and-Back Trail

Added by Robin Pfeifer

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.

Read More

Tags

Camping
Photography
Running
Hiking
Bathrooms
Dog Friendly
Easy Parking
Family Friendly
Forest
Picnic Area
Scenic
Waterfall
Wildflowers

Reviews

Leave a Review

Overall rating: 

Enjoyable Hike

We took the dog here for a bit of a walk on a day trip. Easy little hike to the falls on a well maintained & posted trail. The falls themselves were pretty. The chance to play in the lazy water below them on a hot day was nice & our dog loved it.

My favorite MN waterfall!

I LOVED this waterfall. There is sand under the waterfall so you can walk in it freely without having to worry about rough rocks. Lots of dogs and good people. Hike was really quick, too!

Easy day hike

Went with a friend and this was a nice little hike. Not very grueling. Most of it was on a boardwalk. The falls were pretty to look at but not super exciting. If you're looking for a quick easy day hike this is a good one, if you're looking for a little more of a challenge, bypass this one.

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.

Very Small

Not worth it

Stay Nearby

Jordan, Minnesota

Minneapolis Southwest Koa

Saint Paul, Minnesota

Trade River Retreat Center

Tranquil, quiet and exceedingly private getaway right on the banks of a protected river, only 1.5 hours from the Twin Cities! Even the beautiful drive there is relaxing. Enter a world of peace and ...

From $140/night

Rochester, Minnesota

Rochester / Marion Koa

Hayward, Minnesota

Albert Lea / Austin Koa

Nearby Adventures

  • Bike the Cannon Valley Trail

    There are multiple entry points to the Cannon Valley Trail along the 19.7 miles of paved path that connect the towns of Cannon Falls and Red Wing. Because the trail requires a $4 daily pass, pick your entry point next to a Wheel Pass station. The ...

    19.7 miles -115 ft gain

  • Paddle the Cannon River

    If you want a quiet, secluded paddle, this may not be the adventure for you. The Cannon River is a very popular destination in the summer months for groups of canoers, kayakers and tubers. Drinking on the river is not discouraged.Book a reservatio...

  • Walk to Vermillion Falls

    Begin in the Old Mills parking lot located on 18th Street E. Head south along the paved trail running parallel to the railroad tracks. This trail is part of a 10-mile loop that leads out of the park and past the banks of the Mississippi. In approx...

    2 miles

  • Hike the Grey Cloud Dunes Scientific and Natural Area Loop

    Grey Cloud Dunes Scientific and Natural Area, the largest intact prairie system located within the Twin Cities, is home to a number of rare plants and animals. The SNA has no marked or maintained trails, but there are a few well-worn footpaths tha...

    3 miles 110 ft gain