Summer vacation is upon us, which means we will most likely hear the words “I’m bored” far too many times for our liking. While usually my response is “then fold that laundry sitting next to you,” sometimes it can be heard as a wake-up call that it’s time we get out of the house. To nature we go!
My kids enjoy the occasional hike and definitely love getting dirty so one of our favorite go-tos is definitely Theodore Wirth’s Quaking Bog. We slip on our oldest sneakers, pack up a lunch and head out to enjoy FUN nature (as my kids call it). This bog – and actually Theodore Wirth Park in general – IS really a great way to enjoy the fun side of nature…even for urbanites like me.
What is it?
The Quaking Bog is a five-acre natural phenomenon that has been voted the Best Nature in the City time and time again. It is a short hike atop a floating boardwalk that sits on soggy mosses and the occasional frog and is a fantastic way to introduce your kids to up-close-and-personal species of insects, plants and even a little history. It is a rare ecosystem tucked in the woods of Theodore Wirth Park, just south of Hwy 55 and east of Hwy 100, so yes, you are literally being hugged by the big city, but you’d never know it!
Simply follow the park signs to the parking lot, hop out of your car, and you’re on the trail. Kids love running along the shimmying boardwalk and jumping to make the muddy water squish through the tiny holes – sometimes soaking their feet and making (what my kids eloquently call) “fart noises.” (We are a classy bunch.) The bridge over the bog is so unique in that you’re walking on top of the wetland without actually disturbing it at all. A great way to teach kids about the makings of a marshland and an even better way to escape the chainstore-slash-rush hour vibe surrounding us. City Pages called it “a must-see for any day-tripper” …and I would like to add “or any suburban kid.”
The entirety of Theodore Wirth is nearly 800 acres – all quite beautiful – and it hosts a swimming beach, playground, golf course, Eloise Butler Wildflower Sanctuary, cross country skiing, snow tubing, tons of trails for biking and hiking and more. No matter the season, this is a park worth considering for a short, kid-friendly outing.
Fit for what ages?
When hiking the Quaking Bog, you should stay on the path to avoiding disturbing the species growing there. But basically, if your kid can walk a straight line and/or is old enough to realize mud-sucking marshland may not be the easiest way to travel, they can handle a walk across the bog. We brought our one-year old and he tended to veer off-path far more than I would’ve liked, but overall he did great and learned (after he lost one shoe) that the boardwalk is the way to go. I also kept him in the backpack for a majority of the walk which made it a lot more peaceful.
More than age, I’d say if you have a child who isn’t a fan of getting dirty, maybe try another path. The Quaking Bog hike is basically a semi-unstable walkway that floats above a wetland, so depending on recent rainfall and other natural elements, you can’t predict the level of “dirty” they’re going to get. Just know that they’ll get dirty.
But seriously, if your child likes nature, mud, frogs, hiking, bugs or “fart noises,” definitely have them experience this place.
How much are we talkin’?
Ah, nature. Thank you for understanding the true parenting price preference: FREE. Hiking Theodore Wirth is cheap entertainment. For some reason, the Quaking Bog parking lot actually charges $.75/hour to park and only has coin meters, so bring quarters. We usually only make it about an hour so, unless you have ambitious hikers, it shouldn’t break the bank.
If you have plans of frequenting the Minneapolis regional park system (which you should), consider purchasing an annual parking permit for $35. The permit purchasing webpage is a little confusing, so your guess is as good as mine here, but it looks like it’d be a nice option to save money if you’re an avid hiking/outdoorsy family.
Want some tips?
Here are my 15 quick-n-dirty tips for enjoying the Quaking Bog with kiddos:
- Wear old clothes and (close-toed) old shoes (or boots could be fun).
- Bring an extra set of clothes and probably extra shoes and socks to leave in the car for post-hike changing. And don’t forget your camera!
- There is a porta potty near the parking lot but no other options so consider that before venturing out. In other words, pee before you go.
- Bring quarters for the coin meters in the lot. Cost to park next to the bog is $.75/hour.
- The Quaking Bog is standing water soooooo…use bug spray. And lots of it.
- Lock your car and don’t leave any valuables inside.
- Make a day of it and pack snacks or a lunch. Enjoy eating on the trail or head down to the beach area and let the kids climb at the fantastic play area.
- Parking at the beach/play area is free and it’s just a short drive down the street. It’s just so fun! Sandy, sandy fun. And remember…sunscreen.
- Bring drinking water on hot days. If you plan on really hiking a ways or taking some of the extreme trails, you’ll want to hydrate. Also, snacks. You can’t go wrong with snacks.
- It’s a gorgeous park during all seasons, but rain will make the bog a whole lot muddier than usual. Summer and fall are stunning seasons to enjoy the Quaking Bog and all its beauty, but spring is good for the “squishiest” experience.
- No. Strollers. Just don’t even try it.
- Park in the lot and head up on foot to the trail. The Quaking Bog is located just a short distance from the lot. Stay to the right and look for the bridge. That’s the coolest part, I think. You definitely want to walk over the bridge!
- We brought Dollar Store binoculars on our last visit. While you are discouraged from touching the marshland creatures, using binoculars to see them even closer was definitely pretty rad.
- The Theodore Wirth playground and beach are fun and FREE ways to spend some more time at this awesome park. From the bog, take Glenwood Ave. slightly east of Theodore Wirth Parkway. It’s sandy and can get hot on really warm days, but if you come prepared, it’s a great way to cool off or burn off energy.
- Kids didn’t get their fill of nature from the Quaking Bog? Take them to walk around the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden. A serene hike with steps, unique flowers, potential “wildlife” (we saw a turtle), and a wrought iron gate welcome you to the path, this hike will bring you peace and keep your shoes clean.
Hours and location
Theodore Wirth Parkway | Minneapolis, MN 55411
The bog is open 7:30am and closes at 10pm. I advise taking kids during daylight hours to see the true beauty and for the sake of safety.
To find the Quaking Bog, you’ll want to head down Theodore Wirth Parkway. The bog is located between Hwy 394 and Glenwood Ave. There are signs so it’s hard to miss and the parking lot is generous enough in size to hold the amount of folks who simultaneously visit. Remember, it’s a coin meter lot so quarters are crucial because park security is on top of things.