Great River Bluffs State Park
This 3,026-acre bluff-top park (43605 Kipp Dr., 507/643-6849) is managed as a “natural” park, so development is limited to a small picnic area, campground, and 6.5 miles of wide, level hiking trails linking eight scenic overlooks.
The north-facing vistas offer some of the best Mississippi River views anywhere, but don’t miss the valley views to the south, which are also impressive. If you don’t want to walk to the overlooks, there is a good one of the river along the road to the campground.
As you walk the trails you’ll also see several small goat prairies (on slopes so steep that only goats could graze them) riding some of the bluff tops. Ironically, they get more sunlight than any other natural community in Minnesota, but because they freeze easily woody plants that would otherwise establish themselves are killed off.
The King’s Bluff Nature Trail, a 2.5-mile round-trip, has interpretive signs along it discussing these and other ecological topics. In winter these trails, plus a few miles of additional loops, are groomed for cross-country skiing. Snowshoes can be rented at the park office, and there is a steep sledding hill.
The primitive campground has 31 shady and widely spaced sites and is one of the best campgrounds along the river. Additionally, a five-site bicycle campground down along U.S. Highway 61 is available for those pedaling the Great River Road.
© Tim Bewer from Moon Minnesota, 3rd Edition