Red Wing & Frontenac State Park | Day Trip from the Twin Cities

I’m not going to lie to you, this is going to be one of those unnecessarily long blog intros. I need to let it out because working from home has been a real grind lately. Don’t get me wrong, I feel very fortunate and appreciate my job right now but it’s just that I’ve finally realize what people who have worked from home for years have been saying about the lack of separation and how you end up working so many extra hours because your work is staring you in the face every time you walk by your office…or in my case, our kitchen table in a 1-bedroom apartment. For the past few weeks it’s been hard to plan weekend activities. 1. Because of the global pandemic that seems never-ending. And 2. Because I’m just mentally exhausted from staring at my computer all day.

We gave ourselves a few weeks off from road trips and enjoyed quiet weekends in Minneapolis filled with naps. The kind of naps where you sleep so long that you finally just give up and go to bed.

Until last Saturday, when my boyfriend Glenn and I woke up once again with zero plans. He asked me if I’d like to take our canoe out at a nearby lake that day. I said, “No, let’s see someplace new.”

A quick search of the Minnesota DNR’s website showed me that most campgrounds were completely booked but that wasn’t going to stop me. We loaded up the Jeep with everything we might need anyway and took off with absolutely no plan, hoping to find something to do along the way.

Our original destination was Red Wing, Minnesota. You may have heard of Red Wing because it’s the home of the manufactuer of Red Wing Shoes. It sits on the Mississippi River and is a little over an hour drive from Minneapolis. It was the perfect distance away that we could always come back home if camping was a bust.

As we arrived in Red Wing the first thing I saw was a giant bluff looming over the town. I immediately knew I had to climb it. We found the trailhead and began our ascent up Barn Bluff. Most of the trails we ran into were closed for repairs but we somehow found our way to the top (only ignoring a few do-not-cross signs along the way).

On the way down, we took the trail on the river side of the bluff and it was surprisingly challenging because of the very steep hillside and we had a 10-year-old dog who still likes to pull on the leash. It a miracle we all didn’t end up in the Mississippi.

After the hike, we wanted to see what was going on on the Wisconsin side of the bridge. We crossed and discovered… really wasn’t much. But we did hit the jackpot with some broasted chicken at Hager Heights Drive In. Broasted chicken was on the menu everywhere we went that day and it was pretty bomb.

At this point we decided to head down the Mississippi River a little further but on our way out of Red Wing we stopped at Memorial Park, which is on top of a big hill and has an awesome view of Red Wing and Barn Bluff.

As we were driving south, we saw signs for Frontenac State Park and if you’ve been a reader of this blog for a while, you know that Minnesota State Parks are kind of our thing.

Our first stop in the park was to the overlooks of Lake Pepin and Old Frontenac. Lake Pepin is the largest lake on the Mississippi River. It’s 21 miles long a nearly 2 miles wide and is apparently the birthplace of waterskiing. Who new? On its shore is Old Frontenac, a historic town that was founded in the 1830s before Minnesota was even designated a State.

From there we drove to the other end of the park to take a short hike to the In-Yan-Teopa rock.

And finally, we headed to the Sand Point Trailhead which is located outside of the actual State Park. It is a 0.7 mile hike to get to Long Point Beach which is only accessible by foot or boat. And boy were there a lot of big boats there! We arrived after 5pm and it was still bumping with people partying on yachts.

At this point it was around dinner time so we headed south down the Mississippi even further to Lake City. We ordered pizza (as we are known to do) and checked out the harbor. The municipal campground was closed for the year due to the COVID-19 pandemic but I gave the local trailer park/campground a call and though they don’t usually get tent campers, our boy Smitty hooked us up with a site.

We pitched our tiny 2-person tent among the giant hooked-up RVs, got a fire going and toasted to a day full of adventures without any of the planning.


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