The 2,803 acres of Frontenac State Park (29223 County 28 Blvd., 651/345-3401) stretch along four miles of Lake Pepin, a gorgeous 28-mile-long widening of the Mississippi River. Most facilities, including a picnic ground with great Mississippi views on Point-No-Point, are perched atop a forested 430-foot bluff.
Moving inland down the back of the bluff you’ll find a diverse ecosystem of prairie, oak savanna, floodplain forest, and a small lake. The varied habitats make for great bird-watching, and some 261 species reside here. Most noteworthy are the many species of migrating warbler that pass through in early May, while the prothonotary and Cerulean warblers, rare in Minnesota , nest in the bottomland forests.
Frontenac has nearly 13 miles of hiking trails. The most popular is the short and easy Bluffview Trail, an interpretive path that offers both forest and grassland scenery. Heading for 1.5 miles atop the 430-foot ridge in the opposite direction and returning down along the river is the more rewarding Bluffside Trail.
At the far end of the trail, behind the campground, is In-Yan-Teopa, a giant rock with a hole carved through its heart by glacial meltwaters. There is an overlook with a historical marker above the stone, but to see the hole you must walk down the trail.
Beginning at the parking area along U.S. Highway 61, the 0.75-mile Sand Point Trail cuts through wetlands on a long boardwalk and leads out to Lake Pepin, where you can stroll the beach. This is the most noteworthy spot in the park for bird-watchers, and interpretive signs along the way discuss the history and ecology of the area. The other trail starting here is a short and easy unnamed walk that loops past some small Native American burial mounds.
In the winter the park maintains a steep sledding hill and grooms 5.7 miles of cross-country ski trails, which, unfortunately, intersect with snowmobile trails at several points.
The 58 shady sites in the campground (www.stayatmnparks.com  for reservations) are spaced close together, but all have trees between them. The 19 electric sites are in the first two loops, so if you are tenting, reserve a site in the back two. Better yet, take one of the six cart-in campsites, which are less than half a mile down a trail.