Nerstrand Big Woods State Park
Midway between Northfield and Faribault is Nerstrand Big Woods State Park (507/333-4840), a nearly 3,000-acre remnant of the Big Woods, once a vast island of forest in the surrounding prairie and oak savanna, that stretched from Mankato almost to St. Cloud.
Although there are 13 miles of trails crossing the peaceful rolling hills and valleys, most visitors are here to see petite Hidden Falls, which is very impressive in high water, almost looking man-made. The best time to visit is in the spring when not only is the waterfall at its peak, but over 50 varieties of wildflower bloom in the park. Look for sharp-lobed hepatica, nodding trillium, March marigold, bloodroot, and the endemic Minnesota trout lily, the only federally endangered plant in Minnesota.
You’ll pass one of the greatest blossom concentrations on the way down the steep hill to the falls. The vivid bloom begins in mid-April and lasts about a month. The seven miles of trail in the north half of the park are groomed for cross-country skiing, and snowshoes for rent from the park office let you explore the rest of the forest.
The campground has 51 sites, plus four walk-in sites sit nearby. For the most part the 24 sites without electricity are fully shaded, while the others are not.
© Tim Bewer from Moon Minnesota, 3rd Edition