Nerstrand Big Woods State Park
Nerstrand Big Woods State Park, 170th Street East, Nerstrand, MN, USA
8:00 am - 10:00 pm
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Nerstrand Big Woods State Park has spectacular nature to view all year long, from spring wildflowers to fall colors.
This is one place you will come back to each season. Located south of Minneapolis, Nerstrand Big Woods State Park features hiking trails, camping, a visitor's center, picnic areas, restrooms, and educational programs. First, visit the visitor center to find out which hiking trail will best suit your family's needs. The rangers are helpful and knowledgeable about the area. They also have several programs throughout the year, along with geo caching if you are into that.
There are many hiking trails to enjoy from easy to moderate difficulty, with various lengths. With 11 miles of trails, there is something for everyone to enjoy. A favorite trail is the Hidden Falls trail, which is a one-mile loop that takes you to Hidden Falls. On this steep trail you will find wildflowers in the spring and ferns, horsetails, and club moss during the summer. You will descend down to the falls where you will find a boardwalk platform to view the falls. The Big Woods Trail is a two-mile round trip hike to find the park's tallest and straightest Big Woods trees. There are tree identification signs along the way to learn about these magnificent beauties. Do note when it has rained recently that the Prairie Creek cossings near Hidden Falls and on the White Oak trail could be underwater. Do not attempt to cross the creek when the crossings are underwater. During the winter there are four miles of snowmobile trails and snowshoeing trails that are not groomed or roped-off. Download the map from the website or pick up a map from the visitor center. Remember to practice Leave No Trace and pack out all trash and food and dispose of it into designated trash cans.
The state park is also home to a diverse collection of plants including one of the only populations of Dwarf Trout Lily. There is a big effort to preserve the endangered species so respect the designated areas and keep pets close by. Due to climate change the park itself is changing. Low laying areas are now too wet for certain species of trees to survive. About 12% of the park is dying off due to these conditions. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is learning all it can about how to protect and conserve the park. There is an abundance of wildlife you can spot during your visit like red and hoary woodland bats, raccons, fox, deer, and red-bellied snakes, to name a few. This is also a great space for bird watching as you will see some species like scarlet tanagers, rose-breasted grosebeaks, indigo buntings, and seven species of woodpeakers.
There is camping for tent and RV goers alike. There are electric hookups at some sites. For tent campers, there are four walk-in sites as well. Check the website for opening and closing dates for the campground, reservations, and FAQ's on camping in the park.
Nerstrand Big Woods State Park is one you will want to add to your bucket list to visit or visit as a local time and time again. There is something to enjoy here all year long.