Found within the St. Croix River Valley, Interstate State Park offers its trail runners forested trails with rugged terrain and steep changes in elevation. Runners will enjoy the 3.5-mile run along the River Trail and Sandstone Bluff Trail.
What Makes It Great
Mostly known for its glacially formed potholes, some being 60 feet deep, Interstate State Park also features towering basalt bluffs, scenic river views, and rugged trail terrain.
From the campground parking lot, there are two trails to choose from: The Sandstone Bluff Trail and the River Trail. Just off the parking lot, there is also a flat, paved trail that loops to the Boat Ramp. It you want to warm up with a few sprints, this short loop is perfect for that. Once you’re warmed up, if all you want is a lung-bursting hill workout, then the Sandstone Bluff Trail is the trail for you. Follow the signs under the bridge to the trailhead.
During the spring, this trail is covered in wildflowers. The Minnesota DNR website even boasts “its one of the best spring wildflower walks in the region.” The trail starts at the bottom of a ravine and winds in between two steep cliff faces. About a quarter-mile in, prepare for your lungs to burst because the trail begins to follow a drastically steep ridgeline. The climb is brutal, but the views of the St. Croix River Valley and its jagged basalt bluffs are phenomenal.
Once you return back to the parking lot, veer left and follow the forested River Trail. Though flat and easy for the first half-a-mile, it does get steep in a few locations. By a mile in, the trail borders Highway 8, and is about a quarter-mile away from the bustling Visitor Center/Pothole area. If you’re up for maneuvering through tourists, then go for it! While you’re at the Pothole Area, take a quick peak at the enormous craters in the ground. Especially The Cauldron, which is in the SE corner of the area.
When running back, be mindful of the steep steps. Some of the steps are frayed and can be easily slipped on. When you’re done, consider cooling your feet in the St. Croix River.
Who is Going to Love It
Urban runners looking for a change of pace will love the scenic St. Croix River Valley views and steep climbs found in Interstate State Park.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
It’s an easy 45 miles to Taylor’s Falls from Minneapolis. Just take I-35 north to Highway 8 East and about 22-miles after the Highway 8E exit, when you’re driving down into the river valley, look to your right for the Interstate State Park campground/boat dock entrance. There are technically two entrances to the park, one is for the campground and the other is for the Visitor Center/Pothole Area. As a trail runner, it is recommended to park at the campground entrance, which is the first one you will see.
During the warmer months, the park is open daily from 9a.m. to 4p.m., but during the winter the hours will vary and the trails are not maintained. If you happen to visit the park during the winter and have some questions, call the park office at 651 465-5711.
Don’t forget to pay the $5 parking fee either at the park office or honor box.
This park is very popular, especially during weekends with good weather; sometimes even parking can be difficult. Also, crowds will gather at the overlooks, mostly near the Visitor Center/Pothole Area. It is best if you get to the park early in the morning or during a weekday.