9 Best Minnesota Nature Parks for Kids

Minnesota has an embarrassment of riches when it comes to nature recreation, with a fantastic state park system that includes widely varying terrain. The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness is one of the crown jewels in the national park system, and even around the Twin Cities, there are high numbers of green spaces. Here are some of the best:

Near-Metro Nature

Fort Snelling State Park

  1. Fort Snelling State Park The swimming beach, river walks, and tons of wildlife at the confluence of the Minnesota and Mississippi rivers make this one of the best truly urban parks in the country.
  2. Crosby Farm Park Just across the river in St. Paul, this park has some of the prettiest walking trails in town, which lead right up to the river. Also, there are beavers.
  3. Wood Lake Nature Center Located in Richfield, Wood Lake is smaller than other parks, but the interpretive center is kid-friendly, with programs, walking trails, and skiing/snowshoeing in the winter.
  4. Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge Adjacent to Fort Snelling State Park, this refuge contains a huge heron rookery and enough bird life to keep you busy for hours.


Statewide Scenery


  1. Whitewater State Park One of the most popular for good reason: the old-school swimming hole, the lookout, the wildlife set in the rolling hills of the driftless area.
  2. Camden State Park Features a great swimming hole, playground, and extensive trails.
  3. Split Rock State Park For an expansive view of Lake Superior, climb to the top of Day Hill, or take a side trip to Split Rock Lighthouse.

Mille Lacs Kathio State Park

  1. Mille Lacs Kathio State Park There’s a interpretive center for kids, a great playground, and an old fire tower to climb for a view of Lake Mille Lacs.
  2. Sawbill Lake Campground This site sits on the edge of the Boundary Waters, and Sawbill Canoe Outfitters rents all the necessary equipment and supplies to get out in the wild.