INTERSTATE STATE PARK
TAYLORS FALLS, MN
My children are not the kind of children who will pleasantly stroll for miles with smiles on their faces. They are not the kind of kids who don’t complain about the heat and bugs and sun in their eyes or sand in their shoes. They are city kids who rely far too heavily on air conditioning and public transportation. Self-admittedly, they get this from their mama. But, every summer we appease dad and spend many weekend days hiking at various parks throughout Minnesota. And, the ironic part of it always ends up being: WE LOVE IT. Recently, we spent a Sunday morning hiking in Taylors Falls, a short 45-minute drive from the Twin Cities, at Interstate State Park. We climbed rocks, walked into deep, glacial potholes, and squeezed through tiny stone tunnels. End the adventure with root beer, burgers and a local bakery cookie? Even a city kid will get a kick out of that kind of hiking!
What is it?
Interstate State Park is a beautiful park that sits alongside the St. Croix River. If you’re looking for a day trip and decide on Taylors Falls, don’t bypass this geological adventure. You can hike, climb, canoe, kayak and camp for a couple hours or a couple days. The State Park lies directly along the city’s main street, but once you are two minutes in, you’ll feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere, and the views will blow you away! The rocks you climb will give you a frighteningly high view of the river, and you can crawl down into some of the lava and glacier potholes. Tons of photo opportunities at this park, and it’s only 45 minutes from the metro.
Fit for what ages?
Truth be told, our two-year old thought she was a lot bigger than she is at this park. She was climbing rocks, chasing her brother, and venturing a liiiiiiiitle too close to the cliff edges for my taste. For age preference, I’d say three and up, for this reason alone: you are HIGH above the river and guardrails aren’t a guarantee at every nook and cranny that lines the river. If you have children who don’t stop when you say stop or stay close to you when asked, save yourself some grey hairs and hit up mini golf instead. The river hike is two miles and the bluff hike is only one mile, so it is all possible for families, but can be slightly dangerous for young, uncoordinated legs. You could certainly stick to the paths, which is much safer, but if you have energetic rock climbers, make sure they wear tennis shoes and hold your hands. They’ll love the views from the top, but please be careful.
How much are we talkin?
A day pass for your vehicle at any state park in Minnesota is $5/day. Interstate State Park accepts cash and credit card. The small office by the parking lot sells clothes, hiking and camping goods, drinks, maps, and of course passes and permits. Do you frequent state parks? Save money by purchasing a $25 annual pass and come as often as your heart desires. Vehicle permit rate information can be found here. Interested in other activities within the park? Visit the MN DNR website to find prices for horseback riding, camping, lodging, and golfing. The gas to get there counts for something, as does the money you may spend on a fun lunch spot or ice cream, but the hiking alone is minimal.
Want some tips?
Interstate State Park has convenient bathrooms in the visitor center at the beginning of the trail. Need a map? A drink? Some firewood? All are available at the visitor center as well. The trail splits off into “river” and “bluff” almost immediately. You can’t go wrong with either, but you really DO need to explore the Glacial Potholes before you leave. These are huge nature-made craters in the rock, and you can walk down into one (using stairs). My son thought this was awesome, and we used it as an opportunity to explain some geology to him (my husband…not me). Plus, it echoed in there, which was pretty groovy. The paths are lined well with guardrails so you can’t wander off of them. There are a number of rock climbing opportunities, and the views are incredible, but do be careful with little ones.
Pack bug spray. Wear tennis shoes. Bring a picnic. The Picnic Area hike (1/2 mile) is wheelchair accessible, but the Bluff and River hike are both pretty rugged and filled with steps. Know yourself and your children well before jumping into this adventure. But, man, what a beautiful way to experience nature. Bonus: Cell service is spotty (is that a good thing?)
This park offers some kid programs that sound really fun and educational, as well as being free! Check out the full list of Interstate State Park programs here.
And while you’re here, you may as well enjoy a little more of Taylors Falls. It’s a super quaint little city with a jam-packed main street and some cool entertainment options for families. 99% of the time we hit up the Drive-In for burgers and outdoor dining. It’s nummy and there is a mini golf course right next door that my five-year old loves! The cash-only bakery at the end of the street makes a mean cookie, and there is an ice cream and pizza place called Schoony’s that is also delicious. Tangled Up in Blue has the best reviews, but doesn’t seem too terribly kid-friendly, so have never been. We ate at Romaynes Pub last time because of its outdoor dining, but I voted it non-returnable. They did, however, serve beer (and root beer).
Other fun options in the Taylors Falls area (that I am not expanding on in hopes to write separate blogs specifically for them) are: Wild Mountain Waterpark (alpine slides and go karts too!), Fawn Doh Rosa Wildlife Park, Fraconia Sculpture Garden, and the Scenic Boat Tours.
Hours and Location
307 Milltown Road | Taylors Falls, MN 55084
You will want to park in the main lot by the visitors center, at the stoplight corner of Hwys 8 and 95 in Taylors Falls. Buy your vehicle pass here and let the hiking commence!
Get a good idea of what the park is all about, plus office hours and a direct link to the DNR’s site, on their Facebook profile page.