Everyone knows that Memorial Day weekend marks the start of summer in Minnesota. The current blast of hot and humid weather has gotten a lot of folks pulling out the shorts and sandals, and looking for ways to enjoy our state’s great outdoors.
We’ve picked some of the most promising events and opportunities for fun scheduled in Minnesota’s state parks and trails this holiday weekend.
Whether you’re looking to learn about nature or history, or walk through the woods looking for birds, or even just get some pancakes, we’ve got something for you.
Memorial Day is not just an extra day off work, of course. It’s also a solemn holiday for all the brave Americans who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. Take a moment while you’re enjoying the parks and trails this weekend to remember those that never got the chance to, so you could.
Friday, May 28
1. Games, campfire and park tips
Wild River State Park, 7:30 p.m.
You can canoe 20 miles of the St. Croix River, camp, hike along parts of a road built in the 1850s, visit a vast restored prairie, and lots, lots more at Wild River. But where to start? Kick off your weekend by finding out from a Naturalist about all that the park has to offer, while enjoying s’mores and a game of jeopardy around the campfire.
Visit our Wild River State Park page for an interactive map of park facilities, photos, and information about everything you’ll need to plan a visit.
2. Get to know bears
Mille Lacs Kathio State Park, 8 p.m.
It was the black bear’s ability to adapt and eat just about anything that helped it survive the last Ice Age, while many other species were wiped out. Learn all about Minnesota’s black bears from a naturalist, then watch a film about bears around the world. Plan your visit to Mille Lacs Kathio State Park.
Saturday, May 29
Bear Head Lake State Park, 7 a.m. to 9 a.m.
Get up early for this guided hike through the park near Ely and Tower, listening and looking for birds. Participants should bring their own binoculars if possible, though a limited number will be available for check-out.
Bear Head Lake is known as the closest thing to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness without ever having to put a canoe on your shoulders. Learn more and plan your visit.
4. Meet the fastest creature on the planet
Whitewater State Park, 8 p.m. – 9 p.m.
Peregrine falcons just returned to Whitewater State Park last year after a 47-year absence! Join Jackie Fallon, VP of Field Operations for the Midwest Peregrine Society, and meet a real, live Peregrine. Learn about how the species was brought back from the brink of extinction, as well as what the future holds for efforts to protect it.
Plan a visit to Whitewater State Park for trout fishing, wildflowers, bluffs, and more.
Sunday, May 30
Lake Bemidji State Park, 8 a.m – 10 a.m.
Get all the pancakes your family can eat and help raise funds for the Friends of Lake Bemidji State Park. Kids 6-and-under are free, kids 7-12 are just $3.00, and adults are $5.00. And as if that wasn’t a good enough deal, there’s a $20 maximum for families.
6. The Civilian Conservation Corps’ lasting legacy
St. Croix State Park, 2 p.m. to 3 p.m.
The Great Depression’s Civilian Conservation Corps was responsible for creating most of the state parks in the United States–800 in all, including numerous structures at Minnesota’s largest park. Learn about the lives of the workers and their visible legacy while touring their beautiful, well-constructed buildings. The next issue of MN Trails magazine features an article about the magic of the St. Croix. Subscribe to the magazine so you don’t miss it!
Go to our St. Croix State Park page to learn more about visiting this jewel of the state park system.
Monday, May 31
Fort Snelling State Park, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Even though they haven’t found a way to incorporate text messaging, the kids love geocaching. Come learn how to use GPS satellite-positioning units to track down hidden caches and explore the great outdoors.
Located in the heart of Minneapolis/St. Paul, Fort Snelling provides opportunities to explore nature close-to-home and also learn about the fascinating history of this region at the important confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers. Learn more and plan a visit.
Bonus four-day weekend water trails!
Are you one of the lucky ones who could take an extra day off? Don't give in and spend it mowing the lawn. Why not find some solitude while canoeing or kayaking one of Minnesota’s water trails? This weekend might be one of the last when water levels are high enough to easily float downstream. That said, wear shoes with toe protection in case you have to drag your boat.
The following rivers around the state feature great access, solitude, and beautiful scenery. Call a local outfitter to find out what the latest river conditions are, or to arrange canoe rental or shuttle service.
- North: Cloquet River
Paddle away from civilization on this wild river, featuring rocky rapids, ancient white pines, and not many people.
Outfitter: The Canoeist, Two Harbors
- South/West: Minnesota River
Explore this meandering river as it wanders through Minnesota’s farm country.
Outfitter: Kato Canoe and Kayak, Mankato
- East: St. Croix River
Great canoeing, kayaking, fishing and camping await, with opportunities for day trips to adventures that will take a long weekend or more.
Canoe rental: William O’ Brien/Interstate, Wild River and St. Croix State Parks
- Central: Crow Wing River
Fish for walleye, northern and bass, stop and swim at sandy beaches, and navigate a few easy rapids.
Outfitter: Huntersville Canoe Outfitters
Enjoy your weekend outdoors! Want to stay up on the latest parks and trails news and events? Become a fan of “Minnesota Trails magazine” on Facebook.