Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Hike down little known St. Croix bluff trail

St. Croix Bluffs Regional Park. Photo courtesy
Washington County Parks.
Day hikers can scramble down a bluff to a St. Croix River beach on a forested trail at St. Croix Bluffs Regional Park north of Hastings, Minn.

Few people other than locals know about the 579-acre county park, which includes prairie, ravines and shoreline. The four miles of trails in the park have no official names, but for convenience sake, we’ve christened this the St. Croix Bluffs Trail, named for the geographical feature the 1-mile round trip follows.

Autumn marks a perfect time to hike the trail; it’s aglow with golds and reds as leaves change their color. Day use permits are required for vehicles to enter the park.

To reach the trail, from U.S. Hwy 10, go north on Minn. Hwy. 21 (aka as St. Croix Trail South). Turn right/east on 102nd Street South then turn right/south onto 102nd Street Lane South, parking in the first lot on the right.

The trail heads from the lot into the woodline. The path meanders about, generally heading east to the river as roughly paralleling the park road.

In about a quarter mile, you’ll reach the first trail junction; go right/southeast. The trail remains in the woodline and continues to parallel the park road.

From there, the trail drops steeply in elevation – about 250 feet – as you descend the bluff to the river. The parking lot was at about 850 feet elevation while the blue river below hits the shoreline around 698 feet.

About 0.37 miles into the hike, you’ll pass through a parking lot, virtually the only unshaded portion of the walk. Then at 0.5 miles the trail reaches the boat landing. Cross it to the beach and cool your dawgs in the St. Croix.

After resting, head back the way you came to your vehicle.

Read more about day hiking the scenic riverway in my guidebook Hittin’ the Trail: Day Hiking the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway.