We spent Mother’s Day 2017 in Minnesota having brunch with my mom and grandmother. To make the most of the beautiful weekend and out trip to Minnesota, we stopped at Nerstrand-Big Woods State Park to hike the Hiking Club Trail, on the way up to the Twin Cities, so on the way home we thought we would hit up another state park. This one was a bit out of the way and it added some time onto our normally 4 hour drive but it was the one that made the most sense.
Afton State Park is located on the east side of St. Paul on the border between Minnesota and Wisconsin. The Hiking Club trail was the perfect distance-2.5 miles-which is just the right distance for our young family. This was our third Hiking Club Trail we hiked. The state park was relatively busy on this beautiful Sunday. It’s proximity to the Twin Cities makes it a popular state park year round.
The Hiking Club trail starts off from the visitor center and then loops up and around a prairie. There are numerous interpretive signs around the loop. I was thankful that it wasn’t too warm because there was no shade on the part of the trail.
The trail loops back past the visitor center and then takes you down a second loop that parallels the St. Croix River. This popular area has an overlook to allow visitors to enjoy the views of the St. Croix River Valley.
The traill was pretty busy for this portion and as we hiked along, we could see how high the river was and how it was flooded in some sections.
The trail eventually leads to the Lower Picnic Area, which was pretty crowded. At this point you are right at river level and there were people fishing and enjoying the beautiful evening. The picnic area does require a half mile hike from the main parking areas so keep that in mind when planning your picnic. There are other picnic areas closer to the parking lots if you don’t wish to carry everything with you. Also at the Lower Picnic Area is a swimming beach, which I imagine is packed during the summer months. We stopped at this point to enjoy a snack and watch the boats cruise the river.
After leaving the picnic area, we ran into very few people. The trail loops back around towards the visitor center through the hardwood floodplains but it wasn’t the most direct route so nobody else was on the trail. We kept our eyes out for wildflower and the yellow lady’s slipper but we didn’t see any. The trail eventually parallels Afton Alps Ski and Golf Area so and you could see the chair lifts and ski runs from the trail. Around this time, I also felt a migraine coming on and I quickly became cranky and rushed to get back to the vehicle to get my hands on some medicine to try to keep it at bay. Which unfortunately, changed the mood of the hike. All in all though it was a great hike with some scenic views and a great way to end Mother’s Day weekend.
Afton State Park has 20 miles of hiking trails and 4 miles of paved bike trails. There are also 5 miles of horse trails throughout the park. There is no main campground in this park but it offers backpacking sites, canoe sites, a group campsite, and camper cabins and two yurts, which are open year round. In the winter the park offers snowshoe rentals and 12 miles of groomed cross-country ski trails.
- DATE OF TRAVEL: May 14th, 2017
- MILES HIKES: 2.5
- TOTAL HIKING CLUB MILES: 11.0