Afton State Park
6959 Peller Ave S, Hastings, MN 55033
I fell in love with Afton State Park on this leisurely 4-mile hike. As a park close to the cities, I’ve grossly underestimated the beauty offered here. It was a great place to start the “Great Minnesota State Park Challenge!” Hash tag that 🙂 #MNnature
For one, the landscape along the St Croix is unique to other local parks so it almost felt like I was in another state. The beaches were a mix of packed sand typical to river shorelines. There were some areas with trickling water making its way down the bluff to the river, and in those areas there were mangled, exposed tree roots and colorful pebbles.
There are a lot of evergreen cedars and twisted oaks along the river bottoms, and the St Croix water was so clear blue! This is in stark contrast to the tall and straight cottonwoods and silver maples along the muddy Minnesota river.
Second, there are some great look-outs. On the other side of the river there are—trees. Lots and lots of nothing but trees! A majestic bluff of trees! My favorite part of the hike was looking out over the blue river with the fall colors surrounding me.
At sunset everything was golden, and overwhelmingly breathtaking. I wanted to just sit on that bench forever. But alas, the sun was going down and there was quite a bit of hike left to get back to the car.
Making my way through the prairie fields, this late in fall everything was dead. The yellow fields were pretty at sunset but I kept imagining what this must look like in summer when the wildflowers take over. I bet it’s magical.
As the first state park in the Great Minnesota State Park Challenge, I was a bit unprepared. My phone died immediately, so no camera = no photos. The hike was a bit longer than expected so the pup and I were a thirsty when we got back to the car. I stopped at one of the “primitive toilets” (outhouse) and it was clean and had TP so I was happy with that.
There were lots of horse trailers and picnic-goers, and I can see why. The trails are great for horseback riding, and the picnic areas offer convenience right by the parking lots. There are nice overlooks that are a short walk from the parking lots. If you’re feeling adventurous, there is a stunning picnic area on a dreamy oak grove hillside overlooking the river further along the trail.
Features: The state park offers winter rec, like skiing, snowshoeing, and camping/yurts. Here’s the winter map.