Best of 2022-Minnesota

This past year, my cousin and I hiked 36 Minnesota State Parks and 30 different Parks and Trails. Whether it was raining, snowing, or the sun was shining…we hiked. Our hiking adventures accumulated to a total of 348 miles in 2022!

Minnehaha Falls-Minneapolis

Crow-Hassan Park Reserve-Rogers

Cottage Grove Ravine Regional Park-Cottage Grove

St. Croix State Park-Hinckley

Elba Fire Tower-Elba

Great River Bluffs State Park-Winona

Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park-Preston

Myre-Big Island State Park-Albert Lea

Blue Mounds State Park-Luverne

Broken Down Dam Park-Fergus Falls

Lake Shetek State Park-Currie

Upper Sioux Agency State Park-Granite Falls

Big Stone Lake State Park-Ortonville

Glacial Lakes State Park-Starbuck

Sibley State Park-New London

Flandrau State Park-New Ulm

Charles A. Lindbergh State Park-Little Falls

Crow Wing State Park-Brainerd

Quarry Park and Nature Preserve-Waite Park

Banning State Park-Sandstone

Salem Hills Park-Inver Grove Heights

Theodore Wirth Regional Park-Golden Valley

Louisville Swamp-Shakopee

Happy New Year! Cheers to more adventures in 2023!

Banning State Park-Sandstone-Minnesota

Today’s hiking adventure began at Banning State Park.

The weather was a cool 34 degrees as we started our hike. Mother Nature’s glitter coated the forest floor.

We hiked on the freshly fallen leaves towards Wolf Creek Trail.

Rocks jetted out from the forest floor along the trail.

Large boulders intermixed with the trees.

We arrived at Wolf Creek Falls.

Our adventure continued on a trail that was not labeled. Fall color popped everywhere we looked.

The green moss covering the rocks was so vibrant.

Large cliffs loomed above us. At times, we may have been on a deer trail, however, we continued on the small path before us.

We reached the Kettle River. What a sight!

We reached a dead end at a giant boulder along the river. We thought about getting into the river and wading around the boulder but due to the cold weather we decided that was a bad idea.

We backed up a bit and climbed up the cliffs. After catching our breath, we continued along a trail we found. After a few minutes on the cliff trail we looked below and saw another trail closer to the river. The trail looked too adventurous to pass up. So, down the cliffs we went.

The trail led us under giant boulders.

We found these cool potholes. Not sure if they were made by the flowing river or if they were man-made.

Hell’s Gate Trail was the name of the trail we were on. It was an absolute blast and hard as hell.

Today’s hiking adventure was 4.7 miles.

Myre-Big Island State Park-Albert Lea-Minnesota

We hiked Myre-Big Island State Park on July 14, 2022.

Our hiking adventure started on the Big Island Trail which looped around the island.

Big Island’s plant life was a vibrant green. Surrounding the island was the cool water of Albert Lea Lake.

We crossed the causeway to the mainland where we hiked the Bur Oak Trail to the Great Marsh Trail.

A beautiful black swallowtail graced us with its presence.

We made our way to the Blazing Star Prairie Trail. This trail was HOT! The July summer sun beat down on us. The view though made the heat worth it.

The wildflowers were loving the sun!

Briefly, we hiked the White Fox Trail to the Plum Trail until we reached the causeway again.

A curious deer greeted us when we returned to Big Island.

Mushrooms were beginning to take over a tall tree stump which created an intriguing sight.

Our hiking adventure was 8 miles.

Sakatah Lake State Park-Waterville-Minnesota

We hiked Sakatah Lake State Park on July 14th, 2022.

Our hiking adventure began early on a Thursday morning. The sun was brightly shining and the birds were singing. We started our hike on the Sumac Trail.

The Sumac Trail led us to the Oak Tree Trail.

We crossed over a little creek. It appeared to be more of a puddle than a creek though.

Briefly, we hiked the Sakatah Singing Hills State Trail. We found a small frog on the paved trail. To keep it safe, we moved it to the side of the trail so it wasn’t squished by the many bikers that passed by.

The Wahpekute Trail allowed us to hike alongside Sakatah Lake.

We could tell we were the first people of the day to hike the trail. Hundreds (ok maybe not that many but it felt like it) of thin single strand spider webs crossed the trail which made for an itchy hike.

Looping back onto the Oak Tree Trail we found several beautiful mushrooms.

Our hiking adventure was 3.3 miles.

Maplewood State Park-Pelican Rapids-Minnesota

We hiked Maplewood State Park on Aug 13th, 2022.

Minnesota is home to over 10,000 lakes. The trail we hiked took us past four different lakes however, the 9,250-acre park has 8 major lakes, 7 small lakes, and many ponds. A pelican statue greeted us as we began the trail.

The winding trail led us through the forest.

At times the forest was so quiet. The air was still, the birds were silent, and the small critters were absent. With heavy dark clouds covering the sky, the forest became a bewildering and mysterious place. The lake views echoed this energy.

Scattered throughout the forest were the most amazing mushrooms.

Fall colors were beginning to pop on some of the leaves.

The final stretch of the trail led to an open prairie. Several horses shared the trail with us.

Our hiking adventure was 7.4 miles.

Rice Lake State Park-Owatonna-Minnesota

We hiked Rice Lake State Park on June 26th, 2022.

Our adventure began on the trail by the shoreline of Rice Lake.

The trail led us through the lush forest.

We found an open burl on a tree that became more fascinating the closer we looked. Unique spirals on the bark of the tree burl intrigued us. It almost looked like the sky from The Starry Night painting by Vincent Van Gogh.

The trees on the trail continued to display their individuality.

The forest landscape dissipated and a large vibrant green prairie appeared before us.

The final stretch of the trail led us back through the forest and by a boat launch for Rice Lake.

Our hiking adventure was 2.8 miles.

Lake Louise State Park-Le Roy-Minnesota

We hiked Lake Louise State Park June 26th, 2022.

Our hiking adventure began and ended on the Wildwood Loop Trail.

We hiked alongside the Little Iowa River and Lake Louise.

The forest was so lush and green.

Our hiking adventure was 1.2 miles. As we were heading back to our car a beautiful bright blue butterfly landed at our feet.

Never underestimate a short hiking adventure. Sometimes, it leads to the best eye candy.

Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park-Preston-Minnesota

We hiked Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park on June 25th, 2022.

After a morning of rain, the sun began to shine as we started our hike. We hiked the Maple Ridge Trail Loop and part of the Big Spring Trail.

Forestville Creek and South Bend Root River ran parallel with the trail at times.

The Hackberry Emperor butterflies were in season and they were everywhere! They are very social butterflies. Several hitched a ride on us for over a mile.

Hundreds of the Hackberry Emperor butterflies covered the ground near the creek.

A beautiful Tiger Swallowtail joined in the fun as well.

And let’s not forget our mushroom friends. Pretty sure they were enjoying the humid weather.

Our hiking adventure was 3.7 miles.

Our next stop…the Mystery Cave.

We opted for the hour-long scenic tour of the cave. The Minnesota DNR Officer who led the tour did an excellent job explaining the caves ecosystem. We enjoyed learning about the Minnesota DNR’s thoughts on the Mystery Cave which is conservation over exploration.

This is a brief explanation of the following photos. Stalactites form from water dripping from the ceiling. Stalagmites form from the ground upwards. When the stalactites and stalagmites meet, it is called a pillar or column. Flowstone is when water drips down the walls of the cave.

A fossil on the wall of the cave.

The tour ends at a breathtaking turquoise lake.

Check out the Mystery Cave if you are ever in Preston Minnesota.

Beaver Creek Valley State Park-Caledonia-Minnesota

We hiked Beaver Creek Valley State Park on June 25th, 2022.

Our hiking adventure began on the Beaver Creek Valley Trail. The trail followed the winding Beaver Creek. This allowed us to cross over the creek several times on our hike. The creek is well known amongst people who fish for its brown and native brook trout.

The air was as thick as the fog that clung closely to the top of the creek. A mysterious, almost eerie scene was cast before our eyes.

The wide, well maintained trail led us to a large open prairie that was surrounded by a dense forest.

Our hiking adventure was 3.7 miles.

Great River Bluffs-Winona-Minnesota

We hiked Great River Bluffs State Park on June 25, 2022.

The rain poured as we began our hiking adventure. We followed the King’s Bluff Trailhead to the King’s Bluff Overlook.

The light fog and rain created a mystical environment. We felt like we were walking into an enchanted forest.

The ground was a bit muddy at times. Thankfully, Mother Earth provided natural traction as we hiked up the hills.

The plants and flowers were soaking up the rain.

Fog gently danced around the top of the trees.

The overlook was breathtaking! The Mississippi River can be seen in the distance.

Our hiking adventure was 2.6 miles.

John A. Latsch State Park-Winona County-Minnesota

We hiked John A. Latsch on June 24th, 2022.

The Riverview Trail has a rating of difficult due to the 592 steps one needs to take straight up the bluff to Mount Charity Overlook.

On a hot, sunny and humid summer day we took our time climbing up those stairs. We saw glimpses of what the top of the bluff might offer the higher we climbed.

We made it to the top of the bluff! The overlook was worth the climb. The view of the mighty Mississippi River was magnificent.

Lock and Dam #5 can be seen in the distance.

What goes up must come down.

Our hiking adventure was 592 steps straight up the bluff.

Whitewater State Park-Altura-Minnesota

We hiked Whitewater State Park June 24th, 2022.

Our hike began on the Coyote Point Trail. The trail is rated difficult which we soon learned why. As soon as we crossed over the Middle Branch Whitewater River the trail went straight up the bluffs.

The trail began to level off the higher we went. First we reached an open prairie, then took a quick hike through the woods, and finally reached a gorgeous view from the bluffs.

We hiked down the Dakota Trail. This offered an amazing view of the giant stone bluffs from a different angle.

The Dakota Trail ended by the Nature Store. We stopped in for a refill of cold water and began the Meadow Trail. We crossed back over the Whitewater River. Colorful wildflowers popped out among the vast amount of greenery.