Enjoy summer through its Labor Day end at a state park or trail

Bring the summer of 2018 to a happy close with a long weekend of fun at a Minnesota state park, according to the Department of Natural Resources. 

Visitors should make camping reservation now. Forty percent of reservations are made within three weeks of arrival. Lots of sites could still be available and cancellations occur all the time. Go to mndnr.gov/reservations for a campground reservation.

Consider northwestern Minnesota where sites are easier to come by. Consider these destinations:

  • Zippel Bay State Park is located on south shore of vast Lake of the Woods, with an ocean-like white sand beach.
  • Lake Bronson State Park has an observation tower that visitors can climb for a bird’s-eye view of woods and wildlife.
  • Plan a route to include visits to other state parks along the way, such as a stop to see (and wade across) the Headwaters of the Mississippi River at Itasca State Park.

Want to try something altogether new? Pitch a tent at a state forest, where no reservations are needed (or taken). Campsites at state forest campgrounds are all first-come, first-served.

In addition to camping, more than 100 naturalist-led programs are scheduled at Minnesota state parks and trails over Labor Day Weekend. For example:

  • Guided tours will take place throughout the weekend at Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park in southeastern Minnesota and at Lake Vermilion-Soudan Underground Mine State Park near Ely in the northeast. Because the cave and mine tours are underground, it won’t matter if it rains. Reservations are recommended. Go to mndnr.gov/reservations for more information, including times and prices.
  • Free guided tours over, under and through the fascinating rock formations known as glacial potholes will be offered Saturday, Sunday and Monday from noon to 1 p.m. at Interstate State Park. No reservations required.
  • Plus, tagging monarch butterflies, a scavenger hunt, voyageur canoe rides, night sky programs, and more. For complete listings, check mndnr.gov/ptcalendar.

There’s lots more. Consider these, for example:

  • Discovery hike. Consider the Women in the Parks: Wildflower Walk at Fort Snelling State Park in St. Paul or along one of the many other scenic trails at Minnesota state parks and recreation areas. For a challenge, join the Hiking Club (kits are on sale at park offices), look for “secret passwords” on signs along specially marked trails and earn rewards.
  • Two-wheel tour. Bike one of Minnesota’s many paved state trails. They’re free and mostly flat, because many of them are former railroad routes, and many of them now have trailside tune-up stations to tighten brakes or pump up tires. Find a trailhead at mndnr.gov/biking.
  • Paddling. There are 35 state water trails, the newest of which is the 20-mile Shell Rock River. Many of the campsites along Minnesota’s rivers are first-come, first-served and free.
  • Bison. Travel into the prairie and possibly within viewing range of the Blue Mounds State Park bison herd in southwestern Minnesota. Tickets must be purchased ahead of time. Or drive through the bison range and see a second herd at Minneopa State Park in Mankato.
  •  Fishing. Minnesota residents don’t need a license and can fish for free at most Minnesota state parks. Many park offices loan free fishing equipment for visitors to use. Or, with a license, wet a line at one of more than 1,600 fishing piers throughout the state. To find a nearby fishing pier, search by lake or county in the A-Z list at mndnr.gov/fishing_piers.
  • Geocaching. Try this popular high-tech treasure hunt. Many parks loan GPS units and offer programs to help visitors get started, such as Geocaching 101: A High Tech Treasure Hunt from 10 to 11:30 a.m. on Sept. 1 at Lake Shetek State Park.

For more information, contact the DNR Information Center at info.dnr@state.mn.us or 888-646-6367 (8 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday through Friday, 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday).