Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Great day hiking trails perfect for exploring Dalles of the St. Croix in east Minnesota

Minnesota Interstate State Park trail map
The southernmost section of Minnesota Interstate State Park offers a number of great day hiking trails to explore the Dalles of the St. Croix.

To reach the area, from U.S. Hwy. 8 turn east onto Milltown Road. A parking lot is at the end of the entry road. Along the parking lot’s northwest side are three trailheads.

The Sandstone Bluff Trail heads northwest under Hwy. 8 to a nice vista of the valley and river gorge below A 1-mile lollipop trail, it’s spectacular in autumn with a mix of colors from the orange maples, red sumac and brilliant yellow oaks.

The trail can be extended by taking the 1.5-mile Railroad Trail, which parallels Hwy. 8 into downtown Taylors Falls, where it passes a historic train depot, and ends at the park’s northernmost section, also known as the Pothole Area. Combining the Sandstone and Railroad trails would be a four-mile hike from the Milltown Road parking lots.

A second trailhead from those parking lots is the River Trail. It runs 1.25 miles along the St. Croix River. The route first passes a campground (a connector trail links the campsites to the trail) and then hugs the shoreline where Folsom Island sits in the river. Three overlooks are on the trail, which ends at the park’s northern side.

A third trailhead is the Picnic Area Loop. Handicapped accessible, it makes a square that takes users past the boat ramp and briefly alongside the river.

Read more about day hiking Interstate State Park in my guidebook Hittin' the Trail.