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Sibley State Park

By Jim Umhoefer
Sibley State Park is named after Minnesota’s first governor, Henry H. Sibley, who used to hunt the area. Mount Tom, Andrew Lake and the surrounding land became a state park with the help of Peter Broberg, who was the only member of the Daniel Broberg family to survive the U.S. Dakota Conflict of 1862.

Sibley State Park is located 15 miles north of Willmar on the Glacial Ridge Trail Scenic Byway in Minnesota’s Kandiyohi County.

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The observation tower on top of Mount Tom gives you a great view of the surrounding area at Sibley State Park

The observation tower on top of Mount Tom gives you a great view of the surrounding area

The beach at Lake Andrew at Sibley State Park

The beach at Lake Andrew

Sibley State Park offers 18 miles of hiking trails

Sibley State Park offers 18 miles of hiking trails

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Trails
Hikers and horseback riders will see and climb moraine hills made of drift, rock and soil debris bulldozed into place by a massive glacier. Sibley features an extensive 18-mile trail system that includes seven miles of horseback trails. Whether riding or hiking, you’ll come across many overlooks that offer vistas of the woods, ridges and wetlands.

On the Mount Tom Trail at Sibley State Park

On the Mount Tom Trail

The hiking trail to Little Mount Tom at Sibley State Park

The hiking trail to Little Mount Tom

For bicyclists, there is a designated trail that winds from the interpretive center parking lot down to Lake Andrew and along the lake shore. The 22-mile, paved Glacial Lakes State Trail passes through New London five miles outside the park and can be reached by biking on road shoulders.

The interpretive center tucks into the fall landscape at Sibley State Park

The interpretive center tucks into the fall landscape

 

Camping/Lodging
Sibley offers a choice of 132 campsites in two separate campgrounds. Three group camps accommodate a total of 100 people, while the horse camp has nine sites. For a less rustic experience you can rent one of four year-round camper cabins. A group center with seven bunkhouses, dining hall and bathroom building has room for up to 128 and is available for rent.
Landscape
From Mount Tom the view sweeps in a grand circle over miles of forest, farmland and lakes. Fragments of stone pipes found here suggest that, like most high places, Mount Tom held spiritual significance to the Dakota Indians.
French and Indian fur traders used Mount Tom as a lookout when they traveled the Red River Trail with fur-laden oxcarts. Each spring, they ventured into the prairie wilderness from Pembina, North Dakota, on their way to St. Paul to sell their furs.

The Mount Tom Monument was built in 1938. A viewing platform was added in 1992 at Sibley State Park

The Mount Tom Monument was built in 1938. A viewing platform was added in 1992

Sibley State Park is a mix of woods and grasslands

Sibley State Park is a mix of woods and grasslands

The countryside around Mount Tom is more wooded now than when the Dakota scouted the horizon. Hardwood trees took over former grassland after the settlers came and prairie fires were brought under control. Within the park, you can see remnants of the once-vast grassy sea on the knolls that were never plowed. These knolls, like Mount Tom, were born of the boulders, sand and gravel deposited by the last glacier. As you explore the park, you’ll see several lakes, like Andrew Lake, which were left behind as the glacier retreated.

A high knoll hiking trail at Sibley State Park

A high knoll hiking trail

The park's rolling hills were sculpted by glaciers at Sibley State Park

The park’s rolling hills were sculpted by glaciers

Some of the hiking trails travel through oak savanna and remnant grasslands at Sibley State Park

Some of the hiking trails travel through oak savanna and remnant grasslands

Andrew Lake
During summer, Andrew Lake is where you’ll find most of the park action. A large picnic area with a handsome granite shelter on the shoreline overlooks the lake. The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) built this shelter, and other granite park buildings, in the late 1930s. The sandy swimming beach draws flocks of sunbathers and kids, while the nearby pier is a fishing hot spot.

Taking a nap on the beach after a day of kayaking at Sibley State Park

Taking a nap on the beach after a day of kayaking

The beach at Lake Andrew at Sibley State Park

The beach at Lake Andrew

Winter

Sibley’s eight miles of cross-country ski trails are rated intermediate to challenging and are long enough to give you a good workout. 2.5 miles are also groomed for skate skiing. Just outside the interpretive center is an action-packed inner-tube hill for those who enjoy sliding downhill. Snowshoeing is allowed anywhere in the park except on groomed trails.
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