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The 3 Best National Parks In Minnesota

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The 3 best national parks in Minnesota. Searching for the best of the best? Look no further because here I will discuss the best national parks you can find in Minnesota, where to stay, and what to pack.

What is a national park?

national parks in Minnesota

Before we discuss Minnesota, what exactly is a national park?

A national park is an area protected due to its cultural heritage, diverse wildlife and unique and beautiful landscape. National parks aim to protect and preserve these sites to prevent from environmental damage, whilst also allowing these parks to be enjoyed and explored by the public. Local economies benefit heavily from national parks as they act as a big tourist attraction, meaning there are not only environmental benefits, but also economic benefits.

The ‘National park service‘ manages 423 national parks across America, in aims of conserving the ‘natural and cultural heritage for the benefit of current and future generations’.

Why visit the national parks in Minnesota?

national parks in Minnesota

Why visit the national parks in Minnesota? The national parks in Minnesota are a breath of fresh air, the natural scenery, wildlife and peace of the many lakes in Minnesota acts as a haven for pure relaxation. Find American history, deep forests, picture perfect scenery and a range of activities on the way.

How many national parks in Minnesota are there?

national parks in Minnesota

There are 5 national parks in Minnesota, with roughly 1 millions visits a year to these parks alone! It’s no wonder why the national parks in Minnesota are so popular, due to their beauty, history and culture.

The best accommodation when visiting the national parks in Minnesota

So you’re looking to visit a national park in Minnesota, but you can’t find a hotel in a good location? Look no further because I’ve got it sorted. Keep reading to find the most convenient accommodations for visiting the national parks in Minnesota.

Best Western Plus NorWester Hotel & Conference Centre

Best Western hotel is the closest accommodation to Grand Portage, just a 30 minute drive/taxi. It’s a travel sustainable property with top notch facilities, including a shuttle service (perfect for getting to national parks), pool, fitness centre and restaurant. The accommodation itself is stunning, boasting a beautiful interior with amazing open restaurant seating. Rooms are equipped with a desk and chair, lounging sofas and a mini kitchen. Click here to find out more.

OYO Hotel Pipestone MN, Canterbury Park

Hotel Pipestone is located just 1.3 miles away from Pipestone national monument. This accommodation is conveniently located, surrounded by restaurants from McDonalds to Wing street. There is free WIFI on site and all rooms are spacious and cosy, overall it’s a good mid priced accommodation. Click here to find out more.

Afton House Inn

Afton house Inn is located on the edge of the Saint Croix river beach. If camping at the river side isn’t your thing, this accommodation is perfect for visiting the site. This accommodation has it all, from hot tubs to walking tours, packed lunch services for the day and even a barbers! Relax in the evenings on the private beach area, and enjoy the bars selection of drinks. There is a restaurant on site, but if it doesn’t take your fancy you can explore the wide range of eateries located around the accommodation, from Subway to The Lumberyard pub. Click here to find out more.

Essential packing list when visiting the national parks in Minnesota

So you’re heading to Minnesota to visit the national parks… but what do you pack? Here are the essentials for your trip to make sure you tick every box and head towards the most amazing trip.

Hiking/Camping backpack

Whilst visiting the national parks in Minnesota there are many opportunities to go camping and hiking. With a backpack adjusted to the job, it makes carrying everything you need efficient and easy. I recommend the POKARLA 40L backpack because its rainproof, has breathable shoulder straps and fits into a convenient pocket for easy packing.

Hiking socks

You’ve heard of hiking shoes, so what about hiking socks? Hiking socks are perfect for everyday use as well as long distance walking. Their breathability, anti sweat material, and comfort are a great essential in an everyday wardrobe as well as visiting the national parks in Missouri. The DANISH ENDURANCE hiking socks are perfect for their neutral black colour and invisible sock length.


Sunglasses are essential for protecting the eyes on long days in the sun. Luckily they act as a great way to upgrade any outfit too!

A good option for women are the Joopin sunglasses, which are classic and elegant, but also lightweight, polarised and practical.

A great option for men are the Vans sunglasses, which are a casual yet cool, with UVB 400 protection.

Sun cream

Sun cream is just essential for summer…especially those long days enjoying the national parks in Minnesota! To make sure you’re protected, put on your Garnier sun cream and you’re good to go.

The best national parks in Minnesota

What are the best national parks in Minnesota? Here I have found the 3 national parks that stand out amongst Minnesota’s natural scene, due to their beauty, history and range of activities on offer. Keep reading to discover the best national parks in Minnesota…

Grand Portage

national parks in Minnesota

Grand Portage is one of the best national parks in Minnesota for its diversity. The site is brimming with activities from skiing in winter, to camping in the summer sun, to watching films and trekking on a hiking adventure. All of this is contained within the stunning 710 acres of land.

A good place to start is at the Visitor centre & Museum which gives some background onto the grounds history and the Anishaabe culture with various exhibits to read and see.

There are plenty of trails for those who love a hike! For a shorter trail, take the Mount rose loop trail, one of the newest trails on site. You will start on the dirt path of the heritage site and make your way up Mount rose which is just under a mile, but it has the most amazing views.

For those who are staying for longer and want a longer hiking day, try out the Grand portage hiking trail which is roughly 8 miles from stockade to Old highway. This route allows you to truly discover the site and all it has to offer.

If you’re looking to immerse yourself in nature, there are campsites at Fort charlotte to truly make the most of your stay at Grand portage. You will need a backcountry permit to camp, so make sure to keep that in mind and stay safe.


national parks in Minnesota
Photo by Evan Frost, MPR News

The site of Pipestone was once quarried by native Americans for the precious red pipestone found beneath the land. The red pipestone holds much religious value, throughout the years the stone from this very site has been made into pipes used for prayer.

Today the site is open to explore the rich history of Pipestone. Check out the cultural demonstrations with Indian craftsmen, displaying the technique that went into the types of work that was produced thousands of years ago.

The Visitor centre hosts exhibits of the pipestone with information about the history, great for discovering the culture, and a chance to see many historical artefacts up close. Then if you get the chance, watch the screening of the award winning short film about the site, entitled “Pipestone: an unbroken legacy”. As well as this, there are indoor interpretive experiences to get hands on and ask your own questions! The activities range from wildlife programmes to ‘reading with a ranger’.

national parks in Minnesota
Photo by NPS

One of the best things to do at Pipestone is the Circle trail, perfect for all abilities with its short 3/4 mile length. Along the way you can pass many points of significance in history, including the Tallgrass Prairie, which once was one of the largest ecosystems in North America, or The Oracle rock, a sight of amazing natural beauty, where quarriers once came to seek wisdom. Click the map above to discover the trail in detail.

Saint Croix

national parks in Minnesota

Saint Croix is one of the most scenic national parks in Minnesota, stretching over 200 miles from northwest Wisconsin to eastern Minnesota. Of course, this makes the park an amazing place for water sports, including kayaking , paddling and canoeing. But safety needs to be ensured at all times, not matter what the activity. Make sure you know which section to boat, as the river can be daunting! Luckily there are plenty of trails recommended by the NPS.

Fairy falls use area is a 54 acre forest located in Stillwater, bursting with a variety of plant and animal life. It’s an amazing place to explore and trail through, so get your backpack on and gear up! After a trail, Osceola landing is a great place for a picnic stop off right by the river, surrounded by greenland in a pretty little haven, what more could you want?

Saint Croix provides camping space for those who are looking to indulge in the great outdoors. Depending on your location there are different options on where to camp, but there are many sites near the river in Minnesota.

National parks in Minnesota- further reading.

I hope you have enjoyed and learned from this guide on national parks in Minnesota. If you found this article interesting, check out these posts!