QUICK TAKE: Wild River State Park, MN
DRIVE TIME: Wild River State Park is about 55 miles (1 hour) from St. Paul and Minneapolis.
THE WAY: Follow I-35 north from Minneapolis and St. Paul. Take exit 147 onto MN 95 east to Almelund. Turn north on County Road 12 and continue 3 miles to the park entrance.
TRAILS: The park has 35 miles of trail, all of which are groomed for diagonal track skiing. Snowshoers can walk alongside trails or bushwhack.
ELEVATION: This is prairie, so the highest point is less than 200 feet above the river. Riverside bluffs yield good views, but don’t expect alpine vistas or oxygen-debt climbs.
CAN’T MISS: Keep an eye out for river otters, black bears, bald eagles, marsh hawks, trumpeter swans, and foxes.
CROWD CONTROL: In winter, crowds are generally thin and competition for the eight backpacking campsites is light. On summer weekends, campsites fill fast.
PIT STOP: Chisago House at 361 Bench Street in Taylors Falls serves American fare like burgers and pancakes, and there’s a Friday night fish fry. For last-minute groceries and supplies, stop by Rod’s Country Corner just after the turnoff onto County Road 12 in Almelund, about 3 miles from the park gate.
WALK SOFTLY: In summer, the many meadows may invite bushwhacking, but stay on trails to protect sensitive prairie plants. Do not disturb fenced areas, which are part of an experiment to monitor effects of animal foraging.
MAPS AND GUIDES: The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources distributes a free Wild River State Park map by mail, at the address below, and via its web site.
MORE INFORMATION: Wild River State Park, 39755 Park Trail, Center City, MN 55012; (651) 583-2125. Or Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Information Center, 500 Lafayette Rd., St. Paul, MN 55155-4040; (651) 296-6157; http://www.dnr.state.mn.us.