Most normal people wouldn’t step off of an 11 hour flight from Asia and stop for a waterfall hike on the way home but I (and my sister and brother-in-law who were on the same flight) am not normal. We landed early in the afternoon and one of the most important things (in my experience) to get over jetlag quickly is to stay up until 9pm the first night no matter how tired you are. The short hike to Hidden Falls (#1 on this list below) was perfect. It wasn’t very difficult but we stayed active and jet lag was minimal for the trip.
My trip started at my father’s farm near Conger, Minnesota before spending a few days in the Twin Cities and finishing up on Minnesota’s North Shore. I had taken many trips to the BWCA as a child but other than Gooseberry Falls we didn’t stop at many of the waterfalls along Hwy 61. I am still surprised at how many and how big the waterfalls are up there but those will be shown in part 2 (3 parts) of this blog series. Other than Minnehaha Falls (not really southern Minnesota…) I had no idea that any waterfalls existed in southern Minnesota. Here are the five waterfalls that I visited in southern Minnesota.
Hidden Falls in Big Woods State Park was the biggest surprise for me on this list. The Minnesota and Mississippi river valleys have some hills so waterfalls aren’t a complete surprise but southcentral Minnesota is as flat as a pancake. Hidden Falls is only 8-10 feet tall but it is a broad fall and is very impressive after recent rains. It is only a short hike to the waterfall but there are 11 miles of hiking trails at Big Woods State Park for those wanting to stretch their legs a little more.
Minnehaha Falls is Minnesota’s most popular waterfall since it is located in the center of Minneapolis. It will be crowded on weekends but the park is a lovely area to spend an afternoon in.
Minneopa Falls was an unexpected surprise fairly close to my hometown. I had taken many trips to Mankato and even lived there for a month as a child (Vikings training camp was awesome) but Minneopa Falls wasn’t on my waterfall radar until I started planning my trip home. My expectations for Minneopa Falls were modest but we were pleasantly surprised by a beautiful 40 foot waterfall that nearly matches the more famous Minnehaha Falls.
In addition to the waterfall you can also visit a bison conservation area at Minneopa State Park. We saw about 8 bison in a meadow near Seppmann Mill. Only cars (DO NOT GET OUT) are allowed into the conservation area but there is a walking trail on the other side of the enclosure where you might have a better chance of seeing them.
4. Minnemishinona Falls – Mankato, MN
Until recently Minnemishinona Falls was on private property but Nicollet County took advantage of an opportunity and acquired the land. The waterfall and the overhanging cliff are pretty cool but I really wanted to be at the bottom of the waterfall instead of on the bridge. They only acquired 3 acres of land and the rest is private property. Please respect the neighbor’s land.
Vermillion Falls is part of Hastings history with one its mills located right next to it. There is a nice park and a few miles of trails next to the river to explore within the town of Hastings.
These are certainly not all of southern Minnesota’s waterfalls but these are the ones that I visited during my trip home in June 2016. Hopefully I will visit a few more waterfalls on my next trip home. Do you have any favorites that aren’t on list that I must visit next time? Remember that this is only part 1 of my trip home. I still have another blog of waterfalls along the North Shore to write. That entire area is beautiful and we only visited a small part of it on this trip.
I would like to give a special thanks to Lisa Crayford’s ‘Waterfalls of Minnesota’ guidebook (connect with her on her waterfall FB page). She has directions to over 100 waterfalls in her book (just released in May 2016). I really enjoy taking waterfall photos and I love her technical perfection that she shows in the book. I have been given a few new ideas for tricky to photograph waterfalls.