Do you ever wake up early and feel the cool summer breeze and think WOW perfect hiking weather? This was one of those mornings. I made a split-second decision, wrangled the troops, and were in the car within 15 minutes of waking up.
We had no idea which direction to head and frankly, I didn’t care. I just wanted to be on the trail. We ended up at Forestville Mystery Cave State Park in Preston Minnesota.
Finding Forestville Mystery Cave State Park
The ‘Main Park’ and the Cave are at two different locations. This was not apparent to me when I put it into GPS for Navigation. The cave is located close by but in the middle of the farmland.
Anyone coming from the north will end up on a series of dirt roads in search of the park, only to find if you are looking to the main park, you could have avoided all of that.
It ended up being not a big deal, as they provide signs as you get close to Main Park. Because of COVID, all MN State Park Tours are closed, so we couldn’t have gone to the cave anyway.
6 Fun Things to do at Forestville Mystery Cave State Park
Miles: 2 miles
Total Miles Hiked: 78.4 miles
Hiking Club Trail
The hiking club trail has one primary parking lot for those not camping on-site. It’s a short walk from the parking to get to the actual trail. It will require visitors to walk the road. Thankfully it’s well-traveled and lets you cross a fun bridge.
Then you’ll lead right up to the trail. Left, swings around to the campground. The right trail takes you to the ranger station. I only say this because I got myself completely turned around. It’s a circle so it didn’t matter.
Make sure to download your free Forestville Mystery Cave State Park Map before you. These GeoPDF maps are amazing because they pinpoint your location at all times using your phone’s GPS. No need for the internet after they’ve been downloaded.
The hiking trail starts off flat in the wooded canopy covering you almost the entire time. After that, it’s straight up a hill. Ok, not straight but it required a few breaks before making it up to the top. The only thing that made the hike a little difficult was the ground cover.
Avoiding Obstacles at Forestville Mystery Cave State Park’s Hiking Club Trail
Normally I don’t mind sharing the hiking trail with horses. But this time, it was a little annoying, to say the least. That’s because of the number of manure left behind. The entire flat section we spent dodging piles.
I honestly didn’t look up for a good 15 minutes for fear I would step into something fresh. This was by far, the worst I’ve ever seen it at any State Park. We actually cut the trail a little short on the way back and used the road just to avoid any more messes.
See Related: Hiking at Fort Ridgely State Park
Having crushed some serious goals already this hiking season, I’d been stockpiling my collection of achievements. This was the first time I got to cash in on not only my voucher for visiting 25 different parks, but I picked up two Hiking Club Patches.
I remember taking 2 years to get the first 25 miles and thinking how hard it was. This summer, it got two more achievements, the 50 and 75-mile patch. Hiking just over 50 miles in one year. It’s shocking.
Did you know that Forestville Mystery Cave State Park also has a Historical Town inside it? Historic Forestville in Preston MN is currently undergoing some renovations, but the grounds are still open.
The town’s buildings date back to 1853, but archeologists determined that people have been living there back to prehistoric times.
The town you see today was active until the MN Southern Railroad came and diverted traffic away. Today you can visit things like the old school, Meighen Store, and family home, as well as the Farm and Mill. When the park is open, they offer tours that run every 45 minutes.
One of the great parts about visiting historical parks during COVID is that they are officially closed. You can still explore the grounds and do a self-guided tour, all for free.
Normally admission is $10 for adults and $8 for kids. It’s run by the Minnesota Historical Society. Don’t get me wrong, I normally support these establishments year-round, but when you can avoid paying $36, I’ll take full advantage of it.
See Related: The Landing in Shakopee
The park has trout streams running through it. There are multiple locations to carve out your own spot.
Fish For Free in Minnesota State Parks
Did you know if you have a Minnesota driver’s License you can fish for free in Minnesota State Parks? The only expectation is if the body of water requires a trout stamp, or if you are in a Recreation Area. To fish for free you must be:
1. Fishing from shore or wading in water within the state park; or
2. Fishing through the ice, from a boat or a float on a designated lake that is completely encompassed within a Minnesota state park.
Click here for the official statue.
Mystery Cave Tours
Mystery Cave is located a few miles west of the state park’s visitors’ center. Mystery Cave is the only Cave in Minnesota that is home to different bat species. There are over 12 miles of passages hidden inside the caves.
Guided tours are offered throughout the year based on your topic of interest. The most common is the Scenic Tour because it hits up the dramatic passageways, cave formations, and pools. It’s ¾ mile long. You can also do lantern tours, geology tours, and wild caving where you squeeze through undeveloped portions.
Mystery Cave Tours have all been canceled for the 2020 season. Niagra Cave is also in the area if you want to do more. They are also closed this season.
Horseback riding is very popular at Forestville Mystery Cave State Park. There are 17 miles of trails for riders to explore, including the hiking club trail doubles. Don’t surprise as you hike through at what you might find.
The southeastern corner of Minnesota is known for its fossil hunting. Starting at the Park Office find out more about what fossils have been found in the area.
Minnesota’s state parks do not allow people to collect rocks, flowers, and fossils. That doesn’t mean you can’t explore and look around.
If you do find a fossil, leave it where it is and let the park office know.
There are no surfaced bike trails in the park. But there is the nearby Root River State Trail located close by.
It’s a 42-mile state trail, that begins in Fountain, and runs through the picturesque communities of Lanesboro, Whalan, Peterson, Rushford, and Houston. The small towns are bike friendly with stops at Ice Cream Shops and pie shops.
Other Questions about Forestville Mystery Cave State Park
Are there Rattlesnakes?
Yes, rattlesnakes do live in southeastern Minnesota, including the Forestville Mystery Cave State Park area. If you do spot one, make sure to let the park office know, as they are a threatened species.
Can you swim at Forestville State Park?
The State Park doesn’t have an official beach, but there is always an opportunity to get into the streams to cool off.
Is Forestville Open?
The state park is open Daily from 8 a.m. until 10 p.m. Camper Cabins are available to those that want to camp in winter. During the fall, there is usually a closure during hunting. Make sure to check their website for updates.
Forestville grounds are open year-round. From October 23 – December 31, 2022, tours are closed but the grounds are open for self-guided exploration.
How much does it cost to visit?
All Minnesota State Parks are free with an annual permit. You can buy them in person or online for $35. If you are planning to visit for the day, expect to pay around $7. Throughout the year, there are a few free days and other discounts you can check out too.
Camping costs anywhere from $25-35 a night.
Pro Tip: Visit any State Park during one of their free days. Check out Minnesota State Park Pass Hacks, Tips, and Free Days to find all the days
Mystery Cave Tours cost a bit more. You’ll need to reserve them in advance.
Would I go back to Forestville Mystery Cave State Park?
Ummm, yes. Even though the hike was a little difficult at Forestville Mystery Cave State Park, I would consider doing it again. I’d love to see the cave. As much as I was annoyed by the hiking trail, it did give me the outdoor refresh I was looking for. The forest was beautiful. The historic town was amazing.