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Sure, I could lie and say I did the entire hike in one trip. After all, it’s only 4 miles, we should be able to do it. But when it comes down to it, do the best you do.
It doesn’t matter how long it takes you to get the hike done, as long as you get it done, that is all that matters. I have no shame in saying that it took us two trips to complete the MN River Valley State Recreation Area Hiking Club Trail.
If we pushed it, we could have done it in one day. But we have more fun, doing it in a smaller section, with less whining from our little hiker companions. Thankfully the MN River Valley State Recreation Area seemed built for it.
The MN River Valley State Recreation Area Hiking Club Trail
Miles: 4 miles
Total Miles Hiked: 44.9 miles
The MN River Valley State Recreation Area is the closest hiking club trail to us, located in Jordan. But because of its proximity to the river, it often gets flooded in the spring and summer.
Even after the water recedes, you don’t want to visit right away, making timing challenging. This spring, after a couple of years of trying, we finally got the opportunity.
Finding the Hiking Club Trail
The MN River Valley State Recreation Area stretches from Shakopee to Jordan. The hiking club part is in the Lawrence Unit. It is a small subset of the map.
It’s positioned between the Renaissance Festival/Severs Corn Maze exit and MN Largest Candy Store. Because the park is broken into different units, and other government factors the area is not a State Park, but a recreation area.
To get there, head south from Minneapolis on 169. Take a right, on Quaker Ave, and the second left on 190th Street. A couple of miles down the road, you’ll see the park entrance sign and the Strait House.
You can park off the side of the road near the hiking club trail entrance, or continue on 1.5 miles to the trailhead.
Part One… River Route
Park at the trail center. The actual trail center was closed due to Covid, but there was a map box on the building with a Stamp. #17 done! The trail is just to the left of the building, easily identifiable by the hiking club sign.
There is also a secondary trail to the left of the hiking club trail that takes people along the river. You’ll find out why this is important in a minute.
With the last couple of seasons flood, it wasn’t long before we came up to the stream. It looks like the river but is the overflow waters, and a lot murkier.
The landscape was completely changed into a grey murky mud-filled trail. You could see the impact of the flood on the forest and how it transformed the landscape. It was almost eerie like you were walking into something horrific.
The trail follows along the stream most of the way. A mile in without a hiking club trail sign, we started questioning if we were in the right spot.
The map shows one path following a river and one following a stream. Without knowledge of the other path, we started to question everything.
After a little persuading, and the promise of coming back and tackling the trail from the other side, we turned back. That is when we found the old abandoned Quarry Campground.
Abandoned Quarry Campground in Jordan
Have you ever wondered what would happen if everyone let a campground return back to nature? On an offshoot from the MN River Valley State Hiking Club Trail, we found a small path to the Quarry Campground.
We posted old signposting in the woods while the kids were chilling on a bench on the Hiking Club Trail. Then it became clear what we had found. An old campground.
The fire grates were buried in the ground. Parking spots that were once covered in gravel had almost disappeared. The trees were starting to reclaim the road.
The posts marking the sites had fallen over. Park benches are all piled up and left for repurposing.
I tried to find some more information about the campground and why it closed, but couldn’t find anything. I was able to find a few posts dated 2015 showing it is still open.
There were also some pictures before it was closed. The only thing I can think of is the flooding that caused it to shut down. It ended up being the most interesting thing I’ve come across in my hikes.
People enjoying the trails
After exploring the abandoned campground, we made it back onto the hiking club trail. It was filled with hikers and families enjoying the weekend and escaping the lockdown from COVID19.
About 80% were practicing social distancing on the trail, while the others continued on like normal. This is a common theme among other hikers in MN State Parks.
The parking lot was overflowing. For those looking to have an enjoyable hiking experience, get there before 9 am.
Part Two of the MN River Valley State Recreation Hiking Club Trail
Scoping out the parking spots the day before, we found some roadside parking that crosses the hiking club trail path. Just a little west of the S. B. Strait House.
This part of the hiking club trail is a complete 180 from the first half of the trail. Doing a loop into the woods and through the prairie.
Knowing about the floods from previous seasons, I came prepared with waterproof hiking boots. And they were needed.
There was a good amount of mud, but thankfully it was the thicker stuff that you didn’t sink in.
We started off in the wooded section and looped back around through the prairie. Being there early in the morning, we had the park to ourselves.
It was really enjoyable back there with limited distractions. The only problem we had was the lack of Hiking Club signs. It seems to be a trend, but that is because there were no intersecting trails.
I’ve come to find out if you don’t see one, it is usually because there is no need for an additional sign.
The S. B. Strait House
Take some time to visit the S. B. Strait house. The house is the only thing that remains of the Paper Town. It was the first house built in the complex.
They created plans to build out the town, but they either were not completed. The plan was abandoned. Today, all that is left is the house.
The house is currently maintained by the Minnesota Valley State Recreation Area. It was restored and turned into a museum for visitors. Even if the house is not open, take a peek in the window.
The area is filled with gardener snakes. Keep your eye out for them. We saw them on the trail and up by the Strait House.
The ground is uneven with exposed roots and debris by the river, and lumpy in the prairie. There was little in way of hills.
The password sign was easy to find. I won’t tell you what day we found it or it would give it away.
In love with the MN Valley State Recreation Area
I fell in love hiking along with the MN River Valley State Recreation Area. It is so gorgeous. I would even recommend visiting at dusk. If you are looking for a good place to hike in the Twin Cities, this should be on your list!