Hiking the Frozen Tundra of Nerstrand Big Woods State Park
Hiking Minnesota State Park, I learn a little more about hiking and the how a slight change in the weather can make for something completely different. Winter at Nerstrand State Park Hiking Club Trail is no different. With more than just snow on the ground, having a Waterfall on this hike would make this trip more of an adventure compared to some other winter hikes I’ve been doing.
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Nerstrand Big Woods State Park Highlights
Nerstrand Big Woods State Park is about an hour south of Minneapolis, making it a favorite location for day hikers. The park is in Faribault MN and includes a small stream running through it with a waterfall, making the park a favorite of many residents.
Nerstrand Big Woods Hiking Club State Trail
Since starting my State Park Hiking Club challenge, Nerstrand was one park I wanted to hit up in Winter most. I had already done the park once in the summer on National Get Outdoors Day and enjoyed the Waterfalls. But during winter, it would be a whole other experience.
Miles: 2.2 miles
Difficulty: Some Steep Terrain
Total Hiking Club Miles Hiked: 14.5 miles
Hidden Falls Waterfall
The best part about the hiking club trail is that it stops at the Hidden Falls Waterfall. This waterfall is massive and a fast-moving system. During the summer, you can get up close and touch the water as it’s falling.
But in the winter, the falls freezes with ice dripping from above the rocks. Be cautious when getting close because it’s almost impossible to tell where the ground sits underneath the falls.
The Waterfall is close to the Parking lot making it a popular spot of the more casual hiker. But in winter, you’ll probably be one of only a handful of people visiting during the day. Above the falls, is a stepping stone bridge to get to the other side of the hiking club trail.
During the summer, this is entertaining. In winter, the thrill factor increases with the concern that if you slip, you will be cold! As nervous as I was crossing, it was nothing to keep anyone from going.
Once you get across the falls, the next challenge is making it to the top of the valley. It’s not that dramatic in the scheme of things, but it’s one hill where I kept thinking we were getting to the top, only to find it kept going.
Once at the top, you’ll get a view of the entire park. This is exceptionally true in winter and spring when the leaves haven’t filled in the space. Out there, you truly feel alone.
Added Winter Hiking Challenges
Hiking the park during winter was a little more challenging than I expected. It was in the lower twenties when we got there, and the ground was frozen solid. Normally a frozen ground isn’t a big deal. But every single footprint from everyone hike when things were soft, we not solid.
Good thing we wore our ice cleats. This made the ground harder to traverse and had us working a little harder than I intended. As much as it made for a challenge, the hike was fun. Winter hiking is a lot of fun, check out some for these tips for Winter Hiking.
Other Things to Do at Nerstrand Big Woods State Park
A lot of people choose to spend that night at this park. They have ample camping for their guest in a mix of wooded and open spots. Half of the spots are electric making it fun for RV campers as well as tenters.
Like some other Minnesota State Parks, Nerstrand Big Woods also has Geo Catching units you can pick up in the office. GeoCaching is a fun activity I first did during my stay at Myre’s Big Island State Park. And is a great way to get the younger kids on the treasure hunting experience. From my experience hiking, I would probably stick to the warmer months for this type of adventure.
If you only have an hour
If you are limited on time, take the shorter walk to Hidden Falls Waterfall. It’s a quicker walk, on a well-defined path and can easily complete in a short time. Nerstrand Big Woods State Park is a short way from the Twin Cities making it a great day trip. Don’t forget to stop in and get your Passport Stamped.