Hiking at the Louisville Swamp – Who Knew A Swamp Looked Like That
When my sister told me to go hiking at the Louisville Swamp, I was like who on earth would want to hike in a swamp? Aren’t they buggy, wet icky places? I had no idea that a swamp, especially in springtime can be so beautiful. The Louisville Swamp is part of the Minnesota River Vally National Wildlife Refuge.
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Where is the Louisville Swamp Trailhead?
The Louisville Swamp trailhead was probably the easiest I’ve ever navigated to a hiking trail.
Following the big brown signs off HWY169, you take the same exit as the Minnesota Renaissance Festival and Severs Corn Maze.
The parking lot for the Louisville Swamp area is just past the primary entrance to the MN Renaissance Festival. They have a large parking lot for visitors.
What are the Hiking Trails like at the Louisville Swamp?
There are multiple hiking trails to choose from in the Louisville Swamp Unit. There is the MN State Corridor Trail that follows along the Minnesota River.
For swamp views, you need to be on the Mazomani Trail. It does a full loop around the swamp. Then there is Flood’s Road which intersects the Mazomani and MN State Corridor Trail.
The problem is during the Springtime, is that the swamp floods the Mazomani Trail, limiting your ability to do the full hike.
I didn’t have a problem with this, because there are good loops along this side of the trail area. This side of the river also had the Ehmiller Site. On the other side of the river, only accessible during low water levels is Jabs Farm Site and Glacial Erratic Boulder.
Pro Tip: During winter or early make sure you have a good pair of Ice Cleats. Everything get’s icy, especially near the river crossing! I wear a sturdy but basic set you can find here.
Navigating the Trails
Avenza Maps is the best map and GPS navigation for the trails. Untortunelty the map for this unit doesn’t accurately show where you are on the trail.
There are a few different hiking paths that wander in and out of the savanna, woods, and swamp. There is very little in the way of markers to guide your way.
Because there is little in the way of trail signs and ‘You are here’ maps, I relied mostly on All Trails to navigate the trail system. The maps loaded into the app are a good representation of the actual trails.
I recommend having both the official Louisville Swamp Trail Map and the app on your phone until you are more familiar with the area.
For those that want to wing it without the map and want to a short loop, from the parking lot, start on the trail behind the Louisville Swamp trailhead signs.
Then swing right whenever possible along the Mazomani Trail. It will send you on the full loop back to the parking lot. Don’t forget once you get to the bottom of the hill to do a quick detour to the “swamp”.
If you are looking for a much longer hike, and water levels are down, do the full Mazomani Trail. It’s about a 5.5 mile hike, but absolutely stunning.
Jabs Farm Site
The Jabs Farm Site is most accessible during low-water seasons. On the Mazomani Trail, you’ll see the ruins of three buildings. They are so much fun to explore and are in great condition.
The farm got its start after the Riedel family bought the site in 1860 and constructed the farm buildings over the next 20 years.
The walls are a foot wide, constructed from local limestone slathered in thick mortar. In 1905 the farm was sold to the Jabs Family who continued to use and maintain the land until it was sold to the US Fish and Wildlife Service.
The farm site is located right next to a river crossing. it’s not marked on the official map because it’s closed and gets flooded during higher water levels. The crossings are nothing more than a grate over some rapids. It’s wabbly and terrifying. I’m just glad my dog didn’t chicken out because I’m not sure if I could have stayed dry trying to carry her.
Glacial Erratic Boulder
Another popular stop on the trail is Glacial Erratic Boulder. Best accessible by a hike on the Mazomani Trail, it is also reachable by road.
According to a popular climbing site, you’ll follow directions like; take a right and follow the road into a dude’s yard where a sign reads “No parking beyond this point.”.
After hiking it, I know why they use this shortcut with all their gear. It’s still a great find in Shakopee.
What is the best time to visit the Louisville Swamp?
The best time to go Hiking at the Louisville Swamp is first thing in the morning. I’m talking right after rolling out of bed, get over there. The morning dew is fresh, the sunlight is amazing, and you had the place to yourself.
But my favorite thing is how active the wildlife was. We saw a family of deer crossing the path, frogs hopping around, and birds everywhere.
So many birds, I actually saw a couple on the way out specifically there to birdwatch. Up until 9:30, they were the only other people there. By 11, there were lines of cars making their way over there.
Tip: Don’t forget to check out the other Fun Things to do in Shakopee MN: You Won’t Believe Everything There
If you ware wondering if there is a better time of year to visit the Louisville Swamp, you are in luck. I’ve been there during all four seasons and can tell you they all have their charm.
Spring and Summer is great for visiting and seeing the fresh blooms, but you may experience flooding trying to get to the farm.
Winter is Icey, you’ll need a good pair of cleat, but you’ll have the place to yourself. Fall can be tricky. Its gorgeous, popular and a hunting location. So make sure you have blaze orange.
Can you camp at the Louisville Swamp?
Yes, camping is allowed at the Louisville Swamp. There is a designated campsites available for backpacking and horse camping in the northern section of the Louisville Swamp Unit. This site is available on a first-come, first-served basis and require a valid permit, which can be obtained from the visitor center.
Are there any hours of operation for the Louisville Swamp?
Similar to other MN State Parks, this park is open form 8 a.m – 10 p.m daily.
Are there any fees for permits required to visit the Louisville Swamp?
No other fees or passes are required to use the trail.
Would I go back to Hike at Louisville Swamp in Shakopee Again?
Yes, I actually made a return visit a second time to see the Jabs Farmstead and Glacial Erratic.
I found this side of the trail to be so much quieter with only my thoughts and the lingering concern that I broke the cardinal rule during hiking in November.
With gunshots off in the distance, I never checked to see if hunting was gone on in the area and I forgot my blaze orange. Thankfully there were no problems, but I was on alert the whole time.
While this is part of the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge and MN State Park System, no parking permits are required. Feel free to stop in.
And of course, as long as we aren’t still trapped in our house, check out some of the other great things to do in Shakopee or drive a few more miles south and get some sweet treats from Minnesota’s Largest Candy Store | Come for the candy; stay for the art.