It’s nearly impossible to narrow down a list of Minnesota’s best parks. This state is home to some of the best parks and green space in the country, and every lush, preserved piece of our landscape deserves a mention. There are parks that are best for camping, for fishing, for hiking, for a hand-in-hand stroll with a loved one, for bird watching, horseback riding and other family events, but they all have one thing in common: they are incredible. You can’t understand how gorgeous this state is until you’ve gotten lost in the miles of forests and trails, lakes and rivers, grasslands and prairies. This list is just a sampling of the various Minnesota parks, representing the diversity, the unique offerings and the sheer beauty that they have to offer.
4801 S. Minnehaha Park Drive
Minneapolis, MN 55417
One of the oldest parks in the state is also one of the most picturesque. The waterfall crashes into the basin below in an awe-inspiring display of natural power. Amazing trails take you past limestone bluffs and towering trees and offer the best views of the Mississippi River. You can spend an entire day enjoying all that this park has to offer. There is a wading pool for the young ones, fields for Frisbee and football games, dining at the popular and delicious Sea Salt Eatery and a visitor center to learn more about the area. You can bring your dog to run free at the off-leash dog park, or rent a bike and roll around the beautiful scenery. All of this is only a short distance from busy streets and bustling downtown.
Blue Mounds State Park
1410 161st St.
Luverne, MN 56156
The resident buffalo herd and incredible bird sightings, as well as dancing fields of flowers and prairie grasses, make this Minnesota’s version of the Serengeti. You can even watch the blooming of prickly pear cacti in the summer. The sprawling park located in Luverne is perfect for a getaway from the Twin Cities, as the peaceful landscape really is a natural sanctuary. Plus, there are great places to camp and hike, and a beautiful lake. Swimming across clear waters while bison graze nearby and birds fly gracefully overhead? Who says modern society has taken over everything? Leave your smartphone and your laptop behind and immerse yourself in Blue Mounds State Park. Come back whenever you’re ready, the world will still be here.
Sibley State Park
800 Sibley Park Road N.E.
New London, MN 56273
Named after the state’s first governor, Henry Sibley, this state park offers just about everything you could want in a natural setting. Mount Tom offers amazing views of the surrounding lands, and Lake Andrew is ideal for swimming, boating and all manners of water fun. You can go horseback riding or learn about the area and all of its plants and wildlife at the enormous Interpretive Center. For the hikers, follow one of the many trails (there is also a Trail Center) and get lost in the encompassing majesty of this Minnesota gem. After you’ve tired yourself out, put up your tent in one of the many campsites or relax in one of the cabins available for rent.
Upper Sioux Agency State Park
5908 Highway 67
Granite Falls, MN 56241
Minnesota history is alive and well at this state park. Featured prominently in the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862, the park stands as a tribute to both the history and how far we’ve come. Not only can you enjoy the tranquility of the prairie here, but you can hike incredible trails up the bluffs and see for miles and miles. The park is just as much fun in the winter when those same trails are available for snowmobiling and skiing. For the young, and the young at heart, the hills offer some of the best sledding you’ll find anywhere. You can also spend the night in an authentic tipi. Yep, this is one of the coolest and most culturally important parks in the state.
1225 Estabrook Drive
St. Paul, MN 55103
This park in St. Paul has it all: a beautiful lake that offers paddle boats and almost two miles of path for bikers, joggers, walkers and more, headed by a pavilion that features music and theater throughout the summer as well as full service restaurant. An amazing (and free) zoo and conservatory are available along with miles of hiking trails in serene green space. Kids can also run wild at the amusement park with rides of all types. And there’s an 18-hole golf course for adults as well. There are also baseball diamonds, open fields for lawn games, bonfire pits and a huge playground. Visit for yourself and see what all the hype is about.
Related: Best Playgrounds In Minnesota
Adrian Schramm is a resident Saint Paul writer with a passion for all things local. Through his work with Saint Paul Almanac and Minneapolis Examiner at Examiner.com, as well as in the kitchens of bars and restaurants around town, he has discovered what truly makes the Twin Cities tick.