Minneopa State Park Hiking Club Trail: Caution BISON
Minnesota State Park in southern Minnesota has so much to look at and do; we needed to go back for a second time to complete the Minneopa State Park Hiking Club Trail. Thankfully, when my daughter needed to be dropped off for a Girl Scout event near Mankato, I jumped at the opportunity to visit this park in the Autumn. Not only would the weather be gorgeous, but it also gave me an excuse to revisit the falls and maybe even say “HI” to the Buffalo again. Little did I know, the Bison herd is more stubborn than goats.
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The Bison Drive
Seeing as though this is a continuation of the previous adventure we had a Minneopa State Park, I won’t bore you with too many details about the rest of the park. But we figured we would check on our old friends before we hiked. Mostly because we wanted to gauge where the herd was and if we might catch a glimpse when we hit the hiking trail.
There was little hunting involved because the American Bison was right in the middle of the road. This is probably a great time to mention that bison really don’t care what you want to do. They will continue to meander blocking the road for as long as they see fit. They really don’t care if there is a line of 10 cars on either side of the wanting to get through. I think it’s a way for the Buffalo to entertain themselves. Instead of walking around cars waiting patiently on the road, they were intimidating one truck to back up, so they could continue to graze. Even one of the park rangers tried to get them to move along, with absolutely no luck.
After waiting about 30 minutes to get through, we gave up and turned around. But we had a lot of fun getting up close and personal with them. I think we may have been closer to them here than we were in Custer State Park.
Minneopa State Park Hiking Club Trail: Minnesota River Bluff Trail
Miles: 2.7 Miles Round Trip
Difficulty: Easy, with very little hills
Total Hiking Club Miles Hiked: 10.3 Miles
Most of the Minnesota State Parks Hiking Club Trails takes you through some of the most scenic and best of the state park. But this one was like Gooseberry Falls hike in that it got you off the beaten path and into some places that you don’t normally go to. The majority of the visitors all congregate near the Waterfall or the Seppmann Windmill. Both of which are amazing but easily accessible via car. The Minneopa State park Hiking Trails are an escape.
After our failed attempt to reach the Mill, we decided it was time to hike. Unlike most of the other Minneopa State Park Hiking Club Trails, this one is away from most of the popular attractions. The trail in question is part of the Minnesota River Bluff Trail, but only on the north side. It takes hikers along the edge of the bison enclosure. If you continue on with the trail, you could go a full loop around it and the Oak Savanna. The trail is about 1.6 miles long.
It’s very flat and an easy hike for most people. The one surprising thing I found was that the hike took you into the wetlands, prairie, and forest. We were out on a fall day and could enjoy the changing colors with fresh leaves that had fallen. It also overlooked the Minnesota River Valley.
Because we checked out the bison before we ventured out, we had a good idea we probably wouldn’t see any on this hike. But that didn’t hurt our fun. Normally around the Falls area, and even the Mill there are tons of people clambering to get their pictures. This hike was quiet. It’s probably what I love about the Lake Carlos State Park Hiking Club Trail too, being secluded.
Just because we didn’t see many hierks or Bison, doesn’t mean that we were alone. There were blue jays all over the park and woodpeckers flying about. They were very vocal and did not appreciate us coming into their forest. You can even catch a glimpse of Bald Eagles soaring over the Minnesota River Valley.
The Rest of Minneopa State Park
It’s incredibly hard to visit a park like this and only do the hike. After we finished up we headed over to the waterfalls. Just like last time, it was a madhouse. Photographers were there setting up their family photos and season’s greetings cards. I’m not sure what is busier, Minneopa Falls or Minnehaha Falls in Minneapolis. We ended up escaping to the upper falls and enjoying the river. This side of the park is also where you’ll find the park office.
With a little bit of time left before needing to pick up my daughter, we checked on the bison again. This time they had congregated next to a watering hole at the west side of the enclosure. I guess after their long day of walking they needed to relax.
Would I Go Back?
The Minneopa State Park Hiking Club Trail is great to do if you are looking for a nice easy hike. It has just the perfect mix of seclusion, varying landscape, and wildlife to make this perfect for those just starting out on their search for the Hiking Club Challenge. Minneopa State Park Hiking Trails are perfect!