Are you planning a visit to Interstate State Park? This gorgeous park with several unique features is the second oldest State Park in Minnesota. It’s a beautiful place to visit any time of year with wildflowers in spring, lush green foliage in the summer, changing leaves in the fall, and snow-covered cliffs in the winter.
Read on for a complete guide to Interstate State Park and get ready to start exploring.
A Brief History of Interstate State Park
Interstate State Park in Taylor Falls, Minnesota was first established in 1895, making it the second state park after Itasca State Park was established as the first in 1891.
The park was named Interstate State Park because it was the first state park to cover two different states. The adjoining Interstate State Park just across the St. Croix river in Wisconsin was established in 1900.
Late in the 1800s citizens from both states wanted to preserve the area around the St. Croix river from the threat of mining. The states worked together to establish the parks and protect the beautiful natural resources and habitats that exist within the parks. Today the two state parks operate separately and each offers unique sights, hiking trails, and experiences.
Visitor Center and Gift Shop
The visitor center and gift shop are great places to start, especially on your first visit to Interstate State Park. Inside you’ll find all kinds of useful information like trail maps, trail updates and closures, as well as general information about nature and wildlife in the park. There are exhibits to help you learn about the geological history and other unique features of the park.
The visitor center is located at 256 Traprock Street near the glacial potholes area. The Glacial Potholes Trail is a great place to start after you check out the visitor center, it’s an easy half-mile loop with scenic views of both the St. Croix river and the potholes. The trail is somewhat uneven in places but there are handrails and metal walkways to help you through the rougher parts of the trail.
After your day exploring the park, stop back by the visitor center before you leave to visit the nature store gift shop if you’d like to purchase a gift or find a souvenir to take home with you.
Things to See at Interstate State Park
There is no shortage of beautiful sites at Interstate State Park. Here are just a few of the things you can see on your visit.
Glacial potholes are a unique geological phenomenon formed by melting glaciers. They are often formed next to a boulder or other obstruction where quickly flowing glacial melt water once formed a whirlpool, swirling rocks, sand, and water around and carving out the potholes we see today.
Interstate State Park is home to the largest explored glacial pothole in the world. You can see the giant pothole plus several others for yourself on the Glacial Pothole Trail. The potholes range in size from one foot to sixty feet deep.
There are several overlooks to visit at the park on the River Trail and the Sandstone Bluff Trail. The overlooks offer stunning views of the valley and the St. Croix river below. They are well worth a hike up to the viewpoints.
In the 293 acres of the park, there are many plants and trees including pine, maple, and oak forests that are a beautiful sight, especially in summer when the trees are lush and full, and in the fall when the leaves start changing color turning into a beautiful autumn display.
In spring and summer, colorful wildflowers transform the park with beautiful blooms. The wildflower checklist on the park’s website shows you what wildflowers are in bloom each month from April to September.
There are many different animals that make their home in the park including white-tailed deer, raccoons, skunks, frogs, over 200 species of birds, and more.
The St. Croix river that runs along the edge of the Minnesota side of the park is home to a variety of fish and mussels.
Hiking at Interstate State Park
There are four hiking trails to choose from at Interstate State Park. Each offers scenic views of different areas of the park and ranges from half a mile to one and a half miles one way.
The Potholes Trail highlights the park’s glacial potholes, a unique feature of the park that you don’t get to see just anywhere. It’s well worth a visit to check out the ancient potholes.
On the trail, you’ll even get to climb thirty-five feet down into the Bake Oven pothole using a staircase to explore the inside of the pothole. The pothole gets its name because of the way it opens from the side, resembling an old stone oven. The side opening makes the perfect place for guests to walk in and explore.
The River Trail includes several scenic overlooks. It’s a great place to look for birds like great blue heron, turkey vultures, and bald eagles.
Sandstone Bluff Trail
The Sandstone Bluff Trail is the most challenging trail at the park. This one-mile trail includes steep up and downhill sections and over 200 stairs. The trail passes by walls of sandstone and ends at the bluffs overlook with stunning views of the St. Croix Valley below. From the overlook, you can easily see Wisconsin across the St. Croix river
The Railroad Trail follows the former route of the Northern Pacific Railroad and offers views of sandstone cliffs and interesting rock formations.
More Things to Do at Interstate State Park
There are several places for rock climbing in the park including the popular Tourist Rock. Bouldering is also allowed in several areas.
The park strongly encourages clean climbing to preserve the rocks as much as possible. No permanent protection is drilled into the rocks and the use of neutral-colored chalk is recommended if you must use it.
A permit is required for rock climbing at any Minnesota state park and you need a permit for each park you climb in. Permits are free and available at the park office or at the self-serve kiosk near the visitor center.
Fish for sauger, walleye, catfish, smallmouth bass, sturgeon, and more at Interstate State Park.
Fishing is allowed from shore or by boat in the St. Croix river. Osceola landing and the lower campground area are both convenient for shore fishing, there are many other areas in the park to fish from as well.
If you don’t have your own supplies you can borrow fishing equipment from the park office.
Canoeing and Kayaking
In the summer months, you can rent a canoe or kayak to take out on the St. Croix river. There are several places to stop along the river to take a break or enjoy a picnic. It’s a lovely way to enjoy the park, especially on a hot summer day.
A volleyball court is located near the picnic area. Bring your own equipment or you can borrow some from the park office. It’s a great way for kids to work off some energy while adults rest under the covered picnic shelter.
The park offers several ranger-led programs during the year including programs for kids and adults and guided tours of the potholes. Visit the event page on the park’s website to see what events are coming up.
Camping at Interstate State Park
The campground at Interstate State Park runs along a scenic area of the St. Croix River. There are several non-electric campsites right by the river that offer beautiful views. Electric sites are also available a little farther away from the water.
The campground opens for the season on April 1st and stays open until the third week of October. There are thirty-seven campsites in total at the campground, twenty-two of which have electric hookups. Both tent and RV camping is possible. The maximum length for RVs is forty-five feet.
A shower facility and flush toilets are available at the campground.
A dump station is available for use by people staying at the campground.
For larger groups, a separate group camp with four campsites is available. Each can accommodate up to twenty-five people. The group sites are all walk-in.
Group sites one and two are on the river, and sites three and four are set back from the river but still offer views of the river.
At the group camp, there are fire rings and picnic tables, a water spigot, and vault toilets.
If you’d like to stay at the Interstate State Park campground, you can make a reservation online.
Time to Visit Interstate State Park
With so many things to do, Interstate State Park is a great place to visit. What are you looking forward to checking out first? For more state parks to visit check out 18 of the Best State Parks in Minnesota. If you can’t get enough of the great outdoors, keep reading for great outdoor activities suggestions! There you’ll find all kinds of ideas, including more state park guides, fishing tips, where the best mountain biking trails are, waterfalls to visit, and much more.