Home to tranquil lakes, lush forested areas, and some of the oldest rocks on Earth, Minnesota is a state full of nature’s bounty. Among its best features is the Minneopa State Park, a place that got its name from the two waterfalls that run through Minneopa Creek.
To help you explore, we’ve created a handy Visitor’s Guide so you can be sure to see the must-see attractions and enjoy available activities in the park.
In the Dakota language, Minneopa literally means “water of two falls.” The park is home to tallgrass prairie land, savannas, forests, and river valleys. When visiting this park, hike through the beautiful trails dotted with ancient limestone stairways, enjoy the scintillating view of the Minnesota River Valley, and take in the abundant flora and fauna indigenous to Minneopa.
How to Get to Minneopa State Park
The Minneopa State Park is made up of two sections that are divided by railways and roadways. One part of the park includes the Minneopa Falls while the other features its most popular attraction, the bison range. You can enter both parts with a vehicle.
The park is 5 miles away from Mankato, off US Highway 169 and State Highway 68. The Minneopa State Park Visitor’s Guide recommends referring to the park website to see current visiting hours.
When’s the Best Time to Visit?
Each season brings a myriad of natural wonders to behold. The Minneopa State Park is open year-round, from 8 am to 10 pm. The Minneopa State Park Visitor’s Guide recommends multiple visits to appreciate the park during different seasons.
In the summer, you get to enjoy the forest, trails, and sandstone paths flanked with rich vegetation and tall grass. The creeks are bubbling with life along with the two Minneopa falls.
The late winter might mean that the trail areas are closed, but you can still take advantage of the chilly weather by snowshoeing! Even though there is a lack of groomed ski trails, one can still ski through the oak savanna in the cold.
Where to Stay at Minneopa State Park
One of the novelties of the Minneopa State Park is you can camp and lodge in the park itself. With wheelchair accessibility, showers, and flush toilets built into their cozy and rustic camper cabins, it has the ingredients for the perfect forest retreat. The cabins can accommodate 5 to 6 people and have heat, electricity, and grills for outdoor cooking.
Not too shabby, right? Especially with the calming sounds of the falls in the background.
Even though there are nice hotels and inns nearby, the Minneopa State Park Visitor’s Guide suggests lodging in the cozy camper cabins to get the full experience this park has to offer.
Additional Details (Timings, Vehicle Permit, Year Pass, Etc.)
The Minneopa State Park is open year-round from 8 am to 10 pm. At the park office, you can find detailed maps and more information about visiting hours and schedules as well as Minneopa State Park visitor guides.
You can drive your vehicle right into their parking slots and access the trails that are close by.
The state of Minnesota also issues a $35 round vehicle permit which lets you access all 75 parks in the area for the entire year. This is great value for money if you’re a nature enthusiast!
Things to See and Do at Minneopa State Park
North of Minneopa State Park is flat prairie lands and the Minnesota River. To the south, the waterfalls tumble over Minneopa Creek. Amid these natural wonders, you can find exotic wildlife, indigenous plants and shrubbery, and stunning trails for you to trek.
Let’s take a look at some of the most popular attractions the Minneopa State Park Visitor’s Guide recommends:
Did you know that bison is one of North America’s largest mammals?
If you want to witness them up close, this beautiful park houses a 331-acre bison enclosure. A bison road lets you go on an amazing bison drive from the comfort of your vehicle. It traverses the length of the enclosure, letting you spot grazing herds and baby bison. Enjoy the foliage around the bison range under the blue skies. The bison range is closed on Wednesdays for maintenance but is accessible from Thursdays to Tuesdays.
Minneopa State Park has a herd of 20 happy and healthy bison for viewing within the enclosure. The Minneopa State Park Visitor’s Guide suggests driving your vehicle on the bison drive road that leads to the bison enclosure so you can see these beautiful creatures up close.
Built in the late 1800s by Louis Seppmann, this ancient mill is a beautiful structure where farmers used to bring corn for grinding and processing into flour. Its charming German architecture and stonewall masonry let you appreciate the charm of simpler times. You can walk up to the mill to see preserved mill pieces and signs. The area around the Seppmann Mill is grassy, a perfect spot for resting and enjoying a good book.
The Minneopa State Park also allows group camping. Campsites are located close to the parking area for easy access (about 300 to 600 feet away). The park also has provisions for toilets, picnic tables, fire rings, and water. You can pitch your tent after walking into the campsite. Make sure to pack enough bug spray!
Over the Minneopa Creek is a footbridge that stretches across a stream with a walking trail nearby. The creek flows 6 feet above the upper falls before plunging into a 39-foot drop and meeting the lower falls. The Minneopa State Park Visitor’s Guide highly recommends making a trip in the summer to see the falls in all their glory.
Surrounded by densely forested areas, the creek has a cooler temperature, making it the perfect place to calm your nerves and enjoy the serenity.
In the summers, you may be tempted to take a dip in the creek’s cold water, however, it isn’t advised by The Minneopa State Park Visitor’s Guide because of the high levels of bacterial chloroform.
The two waterfalls that the Minneopa State Park is named after are popular tourist attractions. Located south of the park, the Minneopa Falls cut through the park. The nature trails are designed to circle the water so you can see its splendor. You can access the limestone pathways that lead into the valley below for a breathtaking view of the gorge.
Here’s an interesting tidbit from the Minneopa State Park Visitor’s Guide: Minneopa State Park is flatter because of the soft sandstone and rock erosion caused by the larger waterfalls.
As the pristine waterfalls give way to the rocky gorge below, you can see the precipitous sandstone cliffs and ancient rocks that are endemic to the area. If you’re lucky, you might even spot a beaver colony or two!
With many picnic areas to choose from, the Minneopa State Park is the perfect spot for your next picnic adventure. Not only does the park have multiple spots for a picnic shelter, but they’re also wheelchair accessible. So, pack your favorite picnic lunch and get ready to unwind in the large picnic area of the park.
With 4.5 miles of hiking trails and many points of attraction to cover, Minneopa State Park is perfect for hiking enthusiasts. You can trek along the Seppmann Mill, hike over to the oak savanna, or use the footbridge to cross the creek and walk along the gorge overlooking the deep valley. The trail also offers a view of the 30-foot Minneopa Falls.
The park has bike trails that encompass other parts of the Minneopa Trail and North Mankato that you can reach after leaving the picnic grounds.
Other Things to Do
The Minneopa State Park Visitor’s Guide recommends different activities you can enjoy alone or as a group. Here are some must-see attractions.
The large picnic ground comes equipped with picnic tables, water, and fire rings for all your picnic needs. You can lay down mats and sit on the ground for a more immersive feel of the park and its surrounding beauty. Choose your view and indulge in delicious food as you take in the fresh air and vistas of the Minneopa State Park.
During midsummer, you can go on the Minneopa State Park Visitor Guide’s highly recommended organized wildflower hike along the flat prairie land. You’ll weave through the restored paths running across the park and learn more about the ecosystems and habitats in the area.
In the deep prairies, you can find woodland and prairie flowers like butterfly milkweed, prairie smoke, prairie cinquefoil, wild bergamot, bloodroot, columbine, and many, many more!
Minneopa’s wildlife includes mammals like beavers, American badgers, woodchucks, white-tailed deer, and minks. Every summer, migratory songbirds make their homes in the thickets of forested land in the park. You can hear the calls of the red-winged blackbird or the pileated woodpecker. The belted kingfisher, turkey vulture, and blue-winged teal are also regulars at the park.
Peruse the events calendar for updated programs, hikes, and group activities you can be part of. The park has monthly events like archery, group picnics, wildflower hiking, and walks where you can look for signs of animals and their tracks. The Minneopa State Park Visitor’s Guide highly recommends going on guided tours to better understand the culture and ecosystem at Minneopa Park and Mankato.
Wrapping Up the Minneopa State Park Visitor’s Guide
Steeped in natural beauty, Minneopa State Park has large boulders, old rock formations, glacial rivers, valley views, and scenic waterfalls that spill over its creeks. It’s the perfect choice for campers, hikers, and anyone who loves the outdoors.
Take a step back from the hustle and bustle of modern life and be one with nature. We hope this Minneopa State Park Visitor’s Guide helps you fully enjoy and take in all that the park has to offer. And while you’re visiting the area, check out these 13 Best Vacation Lakes in Minnesota.