Family Weekender: Minneapolis

Minnesota Valley State Park and National Wildlife Refuge
By Mike Youngblood
GO GUIDE: Minnesota Valley State Park
* Activities: Bird watching, day hiking, biking, cross-country skiing, canoeing
* Hours from Minneapolis: 45 minutes
* Getting There: Park headquarters are located near the town of Jordan on County Road 57. The Wildlife Refuge visitor center is at 4101 E. 80th St. in Bloomington (exit highway 494 at 34th Ave., go south one block and turn left on 80th Street).
* Reference: Birds of Minnesota Field Guide by Stan Tekiela. Adventure Publishing, (800) 678-7006. Hiking Minnesota by Mike Link and Kate Crowley. Human Kinetics Publishers, (800) 747-4457.
* Contact: Minnesota Valley State Park, (612) 492-6400; Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge, (612) 335-2323.

You've probably driven past it dozens of times — the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge and the Minnesota Valley greenbelt just south of the Twin Cities.

But did you know that this semi-wild area, so close to downtown, offers an abundance of campgrounds, nature trails, and some of the best bird-watching in the state?

The springs, creeks and marshes of the refuge and the park's oak savanna and floodplain forests are rich habitat for songbirds, egrets, cormorants, woodpeckers and owls (as well as beaver, mink, muskrat, fox and deer). About 250 species of birds have been spotted in the area.

This relatively undiscovered haven is a quick and easy getaway for family fun. Hiking trails in the hills and bluffs offer panoramic views of the river valley — which is in some places 300 feet deep and five miles wide — and the trails linking the numerous bird-watching points are a great way for active kids to expend some steam while learning about the natural world.

Looking for a heartier workout?

Bring along your mountain bikes. The 35-mile trail system of varied difficulty levels is entirely accessible to bicycles as well as to boots.

Published: 28 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


Sign up to Away's Travel Insider

Preview newsletter »