We had beautiful weather in Minnesota this past week. 74 degrees on November 8th!? It doesn’t get much better than that. (It’s a blizzard outside as I write this but we’ll just ignore that.) We took advantage of this brief warm spell and headed out of the cities to do some hiking.
St. Croix State Park is 1 hour and 45 minutes north of Minneapolis and is the largest state park in Minnesota (33,000 acres!) and as you could probably guess it’s located along the St. Croix River. It hugs the St. Croix for 21 miles as well as the last 7 miles of Kettle River. We’ve actually visited Kettle River before at Banning State Park.
There are 127 miles of hiking trails and 211 campsites in this massive state park. It took us a good 15-20 minutes just to reach the interior of the park from the entrance.
Our first mission was to climb the 100 ft fire tower. Towers are sometimes closed due to weather conditions but we got lucky and it was only a slightly breezy day.
Late autumn is super underrated when it comes to hiking. Sure, the colors aren’t beautiful and the water levels are low but the temperatures are cooler and there aren’t any bugs.
We parked at the Kettle River Highbanks overlook and hiked 2.6 miles along it’s shore to the point where the Kettle meets the St. Croix. It was so picturesque and one of my favorite hikes we’ve done in Minnesota. The water levels may also look a little low because I think my dog Audi drank half of the river.
From there, we continued north along the St. Croix for 2.1 miles. There are a number of watercraft campsites along the river because it is also a part of the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway within the National Parks System.
Since the sun starts setting around 3:00 p.m. up here these days, we had to start heading back to the car pretty early and it was another 2.5 miles to loop back around.
My legs were so tired by the time we got back but I was feeling very accomplished. We had planned on checking out a few other parks in the area but St. Croix was so massive that it took up most of the day and we only explored a small percentage of it. This is definitely a park that takes a couple days to see all of and I would really like to come back to camp and take out our canoe next summer!