Last Saturday, Glenn and I took a day trip from Minneapolis down US Route 61 along the Mississippi River. We had planned on visiting John A. Latsch State Park and Great River Bluffs State Park but as we were driving we realized there were actually four parks in the area. Obviously, as the state park junkies that we are, we had to check out all of them.
John A. Latsch State Park
First up was John A. Latsch State Park a small park previously used as a scenic wayside stop along Route 61 and is unique for not requiring a state parks pass to enter. There is a picnic area and just one hiking trail that’s only a half mile long. The catch is that you have to climb 300+ stairs in that half mile. It was definitely a challenge and my lungs and legs were burning but the reward was amazing views of the Mississippi River and other bluffs.
After our steep hike, we headed down to Winona for lunch. You may have heard of Winona from this year’s super bowl commercial. Winona Ryder is from Winona. We grabbed sandwiches from Beno’s Deli and ate them down by the river.
On our way out of town we drove up to Garvin Heights Overlook to get a view of the area. Winona is such a cute town. As you can see below, Winona gets its nickname “The Island City” because it has the Mississippi River on one side and Lake Winona on the other.
Great River Bluffs State Park
Most of what you need to know about Great River Bluffs State Park is in it’s name. Lots of bluffs around the river and they’re pretty great. We did a couple short hikes to four different outlooks but didn’t have time for King’s Bluff trail because we wanted to get to the next two parks before dark.
Whitewater State Park and Carley State Park
I’m so glad we made it to Whitewater State Park. It’s a large park with a lot of campsites and the Whitewater River winding through it. We hiked to Chimney Rock before sunset(yay for MORE stairs) and the views were stunning! I’ll let the photos speak for themselves:
Our final stop of the day was Carley State Park, a tiny park with camping and hiking. It’s known for the bluebell flowers that bloom in the spring but we just hiked to the river and enjoyed the quiet after a long day on nature’s stairmaster.