Afton State Park Trail Running

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About

Summary

Known for its hilly terrain, Afton State Park is perfect for the endorphin seeking trail runner. Garnering attention since 1994, the Afton Trail Run 50K and 25K has received attention for being one of the oldest and most beautiful runs in the nation.

Written by

Molly O'Connor

Distance

20.0 miles

Destination Distance From Downtown

24.9 miles

Difficulty

4 of 5 diamonds

4

Time To Complete

3 hours

Seasonality

All Seasons

All Seasons

Dog Friendly

On Leash Only

Yes

Fees Permits

Yes

A daily parking permit is $5, an annual state parks permit is $25.

Topographical Map

Afton State Park map

Land Website

Afton State Park

Review

Intro

Offering over 1,600-acres of woodland, wetland, and rugged terrain, Afton State Park is perfect for the casual hiker and intense trail runner. Within the park, there are 20 miles of maintained trails that will take you through many different landscapes.

What Makes It Great

Just south of the main parking lot, there is a large prairie restoration field that you can weave in and out of as you please. There is also the Deer Valley Loop trail that will take you up to a grassy ridge top. When you return back to the parking lot, cool off in the visitor center and read all about the prairie restoration efforts and the geological history of the local area.

Following the trail north, the prairies disappear and trees start to envelope you. Within a half of a mile, you will reach the first of many overlooks of the beautiful St. Croix River. Take a moment to rehydrate and absorb the scenery. From the vista, you can see the gifts the glaciers left Minnesota after the most recent ice age, such as steep ravines and exposed sandstone. When you’ve seen enough, follow the trail down the bluff. Make sure to watch your step as you run down the ravine, the wooden steps are frayed and the path gets very steep at times.

Once you reach the bottom of the valley, there are a plethora of trails to choose from. The two flattest trails are the North and South River Trails. Each path follows the St. Croix River till the park boundary. The only difference is that the South River Trail will take you to the group campsites that are available during the warmer months of the year.

If you want a lung-bursting workout, veer left following the signs for the backpacking campsites. This steep trail winds through a dense forested ridgeline that will make even the fittest runner perspire. No wonder The Afton Trail Run is renowned as one of the most challenging trail running courses in the nation. Even Runners World Magazine mentioned Afton as one of the best training runs in the country. They highlighted that “the rocky ravines challenge uphill stamina and downhill balancing skills.” Since 1994, runners from all over have come to Minnesota to check out the trail running scene in the St. Croix River Valley.

Once you get passed the hills, all the paths lead to the Prairie Loop trail, which is a 3-mile loop of pristine Minnesota prairie. Tall grasses, native wildflowers, and birds accompany you while in this section. Take a breather at the many shelters or benches scattered throughout. Also, don’t forget to look back from time to time to appreciate the views of Afton State Park and the St. Croix River.

If you have time, check out the Trout Brook Loop. After listening to up-beat running music for a while, it will feel nice to decompress and get lost in the natural sounds of frogs and crickets. At this point in time, if you’re thinking that you haven’t had enough of a workout, then you’re in luck because the trail continues on for 1.5 miles and offers hills that change up to 100ft in elevation.

Who is Going to Love It

Runners wanting a lung-bursting workout will love the hilly terrain found in Afton State Park.

Directions, Parking, & Regulations

The Park Office is open from 9 a.m. -3 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. during the weekend. By car, weave your way through the park to find the main parking lot, which is adjacent to the trailhead.

Location

Afton State Park

6959 Peller Ave S
Hastings, MN, 55033
44.848116, -92.786055

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