Edit ModuleShow Tags

Day Trip: Hiking at Interstate State Park


Published:

It was my older brother’s idea to get the entire family together, pack a picnic lunch, and spend an afternoon exploring Interstate State Park in St. Croix Falls, Wis.

“I used to go rock climbing there,” he said. “And cliff jumping, back in high school.”

“You were crazy,” I told him matter-of-factly. (Not so much for the rock climbing, but definitely for the cliff diving.)

 As it turns out, cliff jumping/diving is no longer allowed (it’s extremely dangerous — you can get a hefty fine if caught), but the park is more popular than ever for bouldering/climbing.

For us, the main attraction was the family-friendly hiking trails. (And geocaching, which didn't work out that time but I vow to try it one of these days!) The park is also a hotspot for river sports: fishing, canoeing, kayaking, and excursion boating. It’s close enough to home to make it an easy escape, yet “out there” enough that it feels like you’re truly getting away from city life.

Because the park straddles the St. Croix River, you can explore in both Minnesota and Wisconsin. No offense to the North Star State, but we opted for the Wisconsin side—Wisconsin’s first state park, as a matter of fact—because we had promised our 6-year-old that he could go mini golfing, and St. Croix Mini Golf and Go Karts is conveniently located off Highway 8 in St. Croix Falls. We went mini golfing, rode the go-karts, and checked out a flea market before driving to the state park, where we paid a $10 non-resident fee for a day pass. (Worth every penny.)

After following a line of cars down into the park, we parked in a space facing the river, not too far from a picnic shelter and within a short walk of easy hiking trails. It was a beautiful day, and plenty of people were taking advantage of it by fishing on the riverbanks, grilling at group sites, and dropping their kayaks in the water. After enjoying our picnic lunch, we walked a short way to the bluffs (aka the Dalles of the St. Croix, if you want to be technical about it) for an easy family hike. My youngest son is only 4, and my dad is 64, and together with my 6-year-old, husband, mom, brother, and sister-in-law, we all navigated the terrain just fine. (It definitely helped that the trails were well-maintained, we had plenty of water and bug spray, we were all wearing practical shoes, and we never walked too fast.)

And oh, man, when you get to the top of the bluffs, what a view it is. We all stopped, awe-struck at their courage, strength, and determination, as rock climbers on the Minnesota side climbed up steep cliffs and waved at passengers on the big riverboats below. (Just be sure to hold onto little hands and keep a safe distance from the edge. The sheer drop down to the river is terrifying.) We saw an eagle. We took photos of the scenery. It was one of those "we're glad to be alive and together and have the opportunity to appreciate the beauty of Mother Nature" kind of days, when you forget about your house in the city and focus on the landscape, the fresh air, the blue sky, the ground underfoot, the people you're happy to be with.

We hiked for under an hour before returning to our cars. We didn’t have to retrace our route, either—we entered on a slight incline and returned on flat ground. The adults could have hiked longer, but it was the perfect distance for the kids (one who promptly fell asleep once he was buckled into his car seat). Personally, if we return without the kiddos, I'd love to do the longer hike that takes you past impressive glacial potholes. I'd also love to rent a canoe or kayak some time and paddle down a stretch of the St. Croix.

Being less than an hour from home, and costing only gas and a $10 day pass fee, I have a feeling we'll be back in the very near future for another adventure.

 TIPS:

• If you want to stay for more than a day, you can reserve a campground site for a really reasonable rate. Sites can be reserved up to one year in advance. The secluded, wooded campgrounds have bathrooms and showers.

• The park offers excellent biking trails and a swimming beach at the small Lake of the Dalles lake (no lifeguards on duty). *Whatever you do, don’t attempt to swim in the river, especially now—it’s running high, fast, and cold.

You can rent canoes and kayaks at Taylors Falls Canoe and Kayak Rental or Eric's Canoe Rental in St. Croix Falls.

• Dogs are allowed at the campground, but they must be kept on a leash no longer than 6 feet.

• There’s an interpretive center for those interested in seeing educational exhibits about the park and rock formations, a 20-minute movie, or visiting the gift shop. The Ice Age Interpretive Center is open daily from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

• If you want to stop for a cold drink or hot meal on your way to or from the park, downtown St. Croix Falls and Taylors Falls are both fun little river towns.

The park is open year-round from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.

 

Edit ModuleShow Tags

About This Blog

Whether you are a seasoned Twin Cities traveler or planning your first trip to Minnesota, this blog will introduce you to many new adventures to add to your itinerary. From day trips and scenic discoveries to luxurious girls weekends, travel tips, and insider scoops, our editors will give you all the information you need to enjoy your stay Up North.

Learn about the contributing writers.

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Travel Blog

Plan a Trip to Roanoke, Virginia

This East Coast visit comes with history, a burgeoning craft beer scene, the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Appalachian Trail, and more

Cannon Falls Wine & Art Fest

Taste Minnesota wines and ciders, browse through local art vendors, and eat delicious food at Cannon Falls Wine & Art Fest, July 21-22

Day Trip to Taylors Falls

A Taylors Falls day trip made up of beautiful river views and a classic malt shop.

Record Store on Wheels

Like a food truck, but for music—and debuting this Sunday at Open Streets Minneapolis

Green Thumb Gardens

The 2018 Hennepin County Master Gardener Learning Garden Tour flaunts its foliage July 14

Best Caves of Minnesota

Explore Minnesota’s man-made and natural curiosities this summer

Amble Over to Afton

While you’re in Afton for Selma’s, stay a while and check out the state parks, historic buildings, quaint downtown, and more

Take a Trip for (Frozen) Treats

Grab a scoop from the state’s oldest ice cream shop in Afton: Selma’s Ice Cream Parlour

Journeys: A Minnesotan’s Happy Place

Time wasted at the lake is time well spent

Journeys: The Start of Adventure

To prep for wilderness canoe trips, Les Voyageurs brings campers out on the Mississippi River

Top 5 Instagram Spots Along the Mississippi River

Bluffs, hiking trails, and waterfalls make for beautiful summer photos

Summer Sunburn Solutions

Six ways to beat the burn

Brews and Views at the Hopped Up Caribou Festival

There's no better place to tie the knot than at a craft beer festival, and if you're not into that, you can cliff climb, too

A Day Trip to Hudson

St. Croix River views, hiking trails at Willow River State Park, and quaint downtown eats await in Hudson
Edit ModuleEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags