Visiting St Paul’s Hidden Falls Regional Park in Winter
Hidden Falls Regional Park, in the City of St. Paul, shines best in Winter. I got the opportunity to visit this park once before in the fall. I never fully got the hype surrounding it.
That was until I visited Hidden Falls Regional Park in Winter. I hadn’t even considered going again if it wasn’t for the Regional Parks Scavenger Hunt I was doing.
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Things to do at Hidden Falls Regional Park in Winter
Hidden Falls in Winter
The park has two entrances causing confusion for those wanting to visit the waterfall. The talk online makes it seem like it’s hard to get to, but in winter, they take away the confusion. The south entrance is closed! I always come to the park from the north, so my GPS never seers me wrong.
With a name like Hidden Falls, you expect it to be a challenge to find. In Winter, finding a path is a little like walking into the unknown. You have no way of knowing if you are walking on an established trail, paved road, or randomly through the woods.
I am glad we took this adventure a few days after we last received any snow. This way, the locals were able to mark the trail for us. From the parking lot, stay right of the shelters. In our case, it was the most traveled section of footprints.
The walk to hidden falls is very quick through the woods. Once you enter, you will see the familiar limestone brick wall created by the CCC. In summer, you’ll see the riverbed.
In winter with it frozen over, it blends into the background. After two minutes of walking in the woods, if that, you’ll see Hidden Falls. During the summertime, it is lackluster.
But in winter, it transforms into a frozen fall like nothing you’ve seen. Many people will venture over to its big brother, the Minnehaha Falls. The smallness of this waterfall makes it more intimate.
Next to the falls is a beautiful staircase to nowhere. Ok, I’m elaborating a bit here. The main entrance of the park has a nice parking lot. But there is a limit to the number of cars.
Atop the staircase is another parking lot that leads to some more hiking trails. These trails are more of a sidewalk along the Mississippi River Blvd. They are probably something locals would use.
ANother great hiking location nearby is the Slot Canyon in Crosby Farm Regioanl Park. Find out where to find it: Unbelievable Hidden Slot Canyon in St Paul at Crosby Farm Regional Park
Winter Hiking Trails
The park has a few hiking & snowshoe trails to take advantage of. The most popular one is the loop through the woods from the parking North Parking lot. It goes over Hidden Falls Creek, to the edge of the park’s boundaries, and over the Mississippi River before turning back.
There is another trail connecting the North Parking Lot to the Southern Park entrance. Most visitors use this opportunity to walk along the Mississippi River.
Lock and Dam No 1
Before going to Hidden Falls Park, I urge you to check out the view of Lock and Dam 1 from above. It is a 5-minute drive from the park. The 30-foot high dam provided the water depth necessary to maintain a 9 1/2-foot channel from St. Paul to Minneapolis.
It is considered one of the steps in the ‘Stairway of water’ on the Mississippi River, allowing water travel from St. Anthony Falls to the Gulf of Mexico. The National Parks site has an observation platform open seasonally. In winter it’s closed, but you can still get up close to it.
From the park, you get a second view of the Lock and Dam. Along the hiking trail loop, you can walk along the Mississippi River and get a better look at the dam and falls.
If there is one thing I’ve learned about Minnesotan’s, we love to hike! There is plenty of great places to hike that no one knows about. Check them out: 21 Best Hikes Near Minneapolis and St Paul
Waterskiing on the Mississippi
Yep, you read that right, Waterskiing on the Mississippi River. At the north entrance, just south of the waterfall is an alternative parking lot with boat access to the river. I’m not kidding when I say, on January 1st, 2021, we witnessed a group of people waterskiing on the river.
They spend most of their time going back and forth from the boat launch to the dam. Most Minnesotans probably use the river access for more traditional recreational opportunities, like fishing. To each their own!
The trails used for hiking are also designed fat biking trails. Trails run along shady, wooded bottomlands next to the Mississippi River, past scenic picnic areas, and connect to the Mississippi River Boulevard parkway. It’s mostly flat but has some spectacular views.
This park is heavy traffic. When you get to the park, the first thing you’ll see is a sign saying all dogs must be leashed. They even mention it on their website too.
The visitors of this park consider this more of a suggestion, instead of an enforceable rule. I say this because all but one dog I came across was off-leash. If the park was more remote, I may not care. But this was a city park.
There were kids walking around, people with new puppies on their first adventure, still scared of the outdoors.
The simple fact is, you may think you have control of your dog, and that they are very friendly, but you never know about other people. And we ran into 6 dogs off-leash.
Everyone, please keep your dogs on a leash. There are plenty of dog parks around to go off-leash with.
How much does it cost?
St Paul Regional Parks offer free admission to all of its parks. As of 2021, there is no fee for parking either.
Would I go back to Hidden Falls Regional Park in Winter again?
Yes, the park was beautiful. I enjoyed it more in winter than in the fall. The only thing I’d do differently is arrive earlier in the day. People were all over the falls. I’d also leave the puppy at home this time. For more great waterfalls in the cities, check out: 8 Stunning Waterfalls Near Minneapolis