National Parks Near Minneapolis St Paul

National Parks Near Minneapolis & St. Paul

As many of you know, our base camp from which we plan all of our national park adventures is the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul.  During the pandemic, we’ve spent more time than ever enjoying #parkchasing close to home. Today we’re sharing a quick list of national parks near Minneapolis & St. Paul, so you can check out the places that helped us endure this difficult year.

Whether you’re a Twin Cities native looking for an afternoon outing with the kids, or vacationing in the Minneapolis-St. Paul Metro we hope it helps you plan a fun outing and check off some parks on your #parkchasing list.

How many national parks are located near Minneapolis-St.Paul, Minnesota? There are 7 great places to visit within 4 hours of Minneapolis, including 2 national monuments and 2 national scenic river ways  There are also 2 national scenic trails nearby. 

Check out the map below for all the national parks near Minneapolis-St. Paul:

National Parks In Minneapolis-St. Paul

National Parks In Minneapolis - St. Paul

There is one unit of the National Park Service that’s located within the Minneapolis & St Paul Metro Area,  Mississippi National River & Recreation Area.

Mississippi National River & Recreation Area

Park Website: https://www.nps.gov/miss/index.htm
Visitor Center:
120 Kellogg Blvd West
Saint Paul, MN 55102

Mississippi National River and Recreation Area was established to preserve and protect the lands and historical structures in and around the Mississippi River between Minneapolis and St. Paul. The National Park Service works with federal, state, and local agencies to co-manage many unique areas. Some of our favorites include Historic Fort Snelling, St. Anthony Falls, and Lilydale Regional Park

National Parks near Minneapolis-St.Paul

National Parks Within 1 Hour of Minneapolis-St. Paul

Just outside the Twin Cities Metro area you’ll find two opportunities for #parkchasing, including another scenic river and a scenic trail.

St. Croix National Scenic Riverway

Park Website: https://www.nps.gov/sacn/index.htm
Park Address:
401 North Hamilton Street
St. Croix Falls, WI 54024

Visitor's Center - St. Croix National Scenic Riverway

Just outside the Twin Cities Metro, about 1-hour drive from downtown Minneapolis, you’ll find St. Croix National Scenic Riverway. The park protects the pristine St. Croix and Namekagon Rivers that form the border between Minnesota and Wisconsin.  While boating, kayaking, and fishing are among the most popular ways to enjoy the park, we’ve spent many weekends camping and hiking the trails along the rivers.  During the pandemic we frequently biked from our home in St. Paul to the St. Croix River to enjoy lunch and the scenery outside the city.

Check out our recap of a weekend camping trip to St. Croix National Scenic Riverway.

Ice Age National Scenic Trail

Park Website: https://www.nps.gov/iatr/index.htm
Park Address: Statewide Trail, Headquarters in Madison, WI

A mere 15,000 years ago during the Ice Age, much of North America lay under a huge glacier. Mammoths, saber tooth cats and cave lions roamed the earth! Some of the best evidence of this glacier is found in Wisconsin such as the state’s many lakes, river valleys, gently rolling hills, and ridges. The nearly 1,200 mile Ice Age National Scenic Trail, established in 1980, traces the glacier’s edge.

https://www.nps.gov/iatr/index.htm

The nearest place to hike the Ice Age National Scenic Trail from Minneapolis is in Interstate State Park, about one hour from the downtown Metro.

National Parks within 3 hours of Minneapolis

National Parks within 3-4 hours of Minneapolis-St. Paul

If you’re looking to drive a bit farther out of the Twin Cities Area, within 3-4 hours drive you’ll find more opportunities for exploring and #parkchasing.

Apostle Islands National Lakeshore

Park Website: https://www.nps.gov/apis/index.htm
Park Address:
415 Washington Avenue
Bayfield, WI 54814

The rugged, iron-red shoreline of northern Wisconsin is famous for unique vertical cliffs, eroded by the waves of Lake Superior. Perfect for kayaking, paddling, and hiking all summer, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore is about 3 hours from the Twin Cities area and a great alternative to the often busy North Shore area of Minnesota.  

Apostle Islands is just a famous for its winter activities as it is for summer fun. As winter begins to freeze the water, the waves splash up and freeze solid on the rock formations. As the cold continues, the surface of Lake Superior also freezes solid forming the floor of the caves. We haven’t had ice caves since the winter of 2014, but we carefully watch each year for the opportunity to see these incredible features.  

Effigy Mounds Sign

Effigy Mounds National Monument

Park Website: https://www.nps.gov/efmo/index.htm
Park Address:
151 Hwy 76
Harpers Ferry , IA 52146

At just over 3 hours drive south from Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, Effigy Mounds National Monument preserves over 200 sacred burial mounds associated with more than 20 different Native American tribes.  The mounds in the park take the form of animals and were thought to be used for ceremonial, sacred, and burial traditions. Many of the mounds here are similar to those found in Indian Mounds Park near downtown St. Paul and thought to have been built by the same mound builders.

Great for an extended weekend trip, visitors can hike the trails to see and learn about the mounds, and take in some breathtaking views of the Mississippi River.  Add it to an extended Midwest national parks road trip or a trip to visit all the national parks in Iowa.

North Country Scenic Trail

Park Website:
https://www.nps.gov/noco/index.htm

Park Address:
more than 4600 miles including the Superior Hiking Trail in Minnesota

The longest of the two National Scenic Trails near the Twin Cities area is the North Country National Scenic Trail. At 4,600 miles, it’s also one of the longest trails in the entire United States winding through eight different states. Much of the trail weaves through the glacial hills of the upper Midwest.  Our favorite sections connect with the Superior Hiking Trail near Duluth, Minnesota, and the Border Region trail near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

Pipestone National Monument

Park Website:
https://www.nps.gov/pipe/index.htm

Park Address: 
36 Reservation Ave
Pipestone, MN 56164

If you’re on a quest to visit all of the national park units in Minnesota, you’ll want to plan a stop at Pipestone National Monument in Pipestone, MN. Located 3.5 hours drive southwest from Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, Pipestone National Monument protects a sacred and historical quarry where Native American communities have harvested stone to carve into peace and prayer pipes for nearly 3,000 years. With working quarries and pipemaking ongoing at the national monument, visitors can experience why the site is sacred to more than 20 different Tribal Nations including the Dakota, Sioux, Iowa and Ponca peoples.

Other Parks to Visit

A few other spots that are outside the range of Minneapolis-St. Paul for a day trip (but still worth adding to your #parkchasing list) include: 

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