6 State Parks to Visit (for Free!) with Fido on Black Friday

We’re thrilled to welcome another guest post from The Adventure Dog Blog, where Danielle Lindblom shares her adventures in hiking, camping, and traveling with her Border Collies.

Breaking news! Minnesota State Parks and Trails will be open and FREE to the public to #optoutside this Black Friday, November 25. What better way to work off all that Thanksgiving turkey than to hit the trails with your dog on Free Park Friday? Here are six great state parks recommended by The Adventure Dog Blog.

1. Afton

A personal favorite when it comes to overlooks and some rugged hiking, Afton State Park is nestled right against the St Croix River in Hastings. Feel like a true adventurer as you hike up the bluff and wind your way through the rich forests. If you’re looking for a way to stretch your legs and burn some serious holiday calories, this is the park for you. Your dogs will love trotting up and down the beach, putting tail to trail, and finding great smells. With 20 miles of trails, there is plenty to explore!

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Work off that turkey at Afton. Photo: The Adventure Dog Blog

2. Lake Maria

Up in Monticello, MN, Lake Maria State Park doesn’t get a lot of traffic, but it is full of wonders just waiting to be discovered. A mix of expansive oak forests and rolling hills, there is also the Lake itself to enjoy. Though it might be past water-faring season on Black Friday, you can still enjoy the views of the waves lapping the shore. This park is quiet, peaceful, and a tranquil place to enjoy nature. Need to decompress after all that Thanksgiving family time? This is the spot for you. Let your thoughts wander as you explore the myriad of winding trails through the woods. Fido will want to be by your side on squirrel patrol. If you’re lucky, you might even see the migrating trumpeter swans enjoying a rest on Lake Maria.

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Behold Lake Maria State Park. Photo: The Adventure Dog Blog

3. William O’Brien

Only an hour from the Twin Cities, I enjoyed my very first camping experience at William O’Brien State Park. Mica and I stayed in the Savanna campground where there is a handy trail access right from your tent. You’ll really like the sprawling trail system at this park on the St Croix River, and there is trail signage and maps along the way. You can adjust course, be spontaneous, and have no fear of getting lost. Choose the Woodland Edge Trail loop for a long, leisurely hike across rolling hills with your pup. Take a nice, long day hike and pack a Thanksgiving-leftovers snack (make sure to put some turkey in there for Rover too).

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Post-holiday bliss can be yours at William O’ Brien. Photo: The Adventure Dog Blog

4. Interstate

After driving by Taylors Falls, I knew I had to make it back to Interstate State Park someday. The trees were in full fall splendor, and it looked like just the sort of place a person could wander in for hours. There are only four miles of hiking trails here, but they are no joke. Steep, rugged trails with, to quote the Minnesota State Parks and Trails website, “many stairs.” Daunting? Challenging? Invigorating? All the above! This state park also boasts unique geological features called glacial potholes. These are actually the deepest natural potholes in the world: Don’t let your dog fall in! On top of that super cool, must-see attraction are 10 exposed lava flows. This is definitely a stop for adventure dogs.

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Gorgeous overlooks await at Interstate. Photo: @evee_inwisco

5. Mille Lacs Kathio

If you don’t mind a bit of a drive, Mille Lacs Kathio State Park is an excellent destination. There is an abundance of rich history in the area, and you’ll enjoy exploring the nearby towns just as much as the State Park. With its diverse archaeological history, this state park has actually been named a National Historic Landmark. There are 35 miles of hiking trails over wooded rolling hills with river, lake, and beaver pond overlooks. There’s also a strong chance you and your pup will see a bald eagle during your trek! If that wasn’t enough incentive, there is also a 100-ft observation tower you can climb to overlook the huge Mille Lacs Lake. Wow! You could go back and have a second Thanksgiving dinner after that with no guilt. The views are incredible from the top. Might need to have someone hold Fido while you climb, though.

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Up for a drive? Head to Mille Lacs Kathio. Photo: @craig_w_olson via Instagram

6. Fort Snelling State Park

Right in the heart of the Twin Cities, Fort Snelling State Park is a great choice for a hike with your dog. Pike Island is ideal because you can choose from a one-, two-, or three- mile loop around the island. You might run into wild turkeys or even deer, so be sure to keep your pup close. This state park has so many opportunities for recreation, you’ll have to come back in the summer. With 150 picnic sites, maybe you can even have your Thanksgiving meal here. In any case, it is a quick drive to get there and the perfect place for a leisurely stroll through nature with the family.

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All smiles at Fort Snelling. Photo: @brennahumphreys via Instagram

No matter which park you choose, get out and enjoy the FREE Minnesota State Parks and Trails access this Black Friday. Your dog will thank you, and you will have a grand adventure. Keep in mind that all MN State Parks require your dog to be on a leash no longer than six feet, and please clean up pet waste.

All of these state parks also feature short, one mile self-guided interpretive trails as well — a great option if you are taking the entire family for a short trip to get outside.

For more State Park destination ideas, head to the Free Park Friday page.

And don’t forget to tag those Instagram pics with #MyDogisaSidewalkDog and @TheAdventureDogBlog so we can share in the fun.

state park free dayDanielle Lindblom is a Minnesota native who loves exploring the great outdoors with her two Border Collies, Mica and River. The Adventure Dog Blog is a source for inspiring adventure destination ideas, detailed local trail guides, and dog training tips. Her goal is to inspire others to get outside with their dogs.

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