Deep in the heart of winter, I found myself researching Minnesota’s best state parks and planning out my summer and fall calendar. I came across Minneopa State Park, saw bison and waterfalls, and immediately booked a camping trip some seven months in advance. In fact, I booked three camping trips that snowy February night as a way to mentally endure the unrelenting cold of winter and its short, dark days.
Having not spent another minute thinking about it, the late September weekend arrived and we drove the 1.5-hours south of the Cities to Minneopa State Park. As per usual, we rolled up to the Visitors Center and enlisted the help of a professional to plan our time.
The ranger handed us a map and explained everything there is to know about the park within five minutes. Realizing immediately we’d have a very leisurely weekend, we decided not to do anything that night and take our time setting up camp and making dinner over the fire.
As it turns out, there’s not much to do at Minneopa State Park. We did pretty much everything in a short afternoon the following day. There’s a section on the map that says, “If you only have an hour,” and it pretty much hits on everything. I’m not saying you shouldn’t spend more time here, but if that’s all you had, you’d be totally fine.
Minneopa State Park Waterfalls
There are two awesome waterfalls at Minneopa State Park. The “trail” is .3-miles roundtrip from the parking lot. You basically park, walk across a bridge over the upper falls, and climb down stairs to the base of the lower falls. The falls are incredible, and you can get right next to/practically underneath the bigger waterfall down at the bottom. We spent some time taking photos and watching eager dogs swim.
The other main attraction at Minneopa State Park is its bison enclosure, which you can drive through or walk around. The trail is 5 miles roundtrip. We opted to drive, and we did it twice—hoping the bison might be closer to the road the second time. It takes about 15 minutes. We saw 20 or so bison about 100 feet from the road. Without a proper zoom lens, we didn’t get great photos, but it was fun watching them graze for a little while.
Minneopa State Park Campground
We booked spot A22 in the park’s Red Fox Campground. It gets a thumbs up. It’s on a cliff overlooking railroad tracks and the Minnesota River, which you had to squint to see through the trees. A few trains came and went throughout the weekend, which was cool.
Minneopa State Park might not have much going on, but it’s a good option for a low-key camping trip. Usually I’m fairly anxious to see all the sights, do a kickass hike, get lots of pics, etc., so it was actually a nice change to be able to relax, sleep in, take time cooking, and enjoy the hammock, which I don’t always make time for anymore.
Click here for more park info.