Afton State Park is an backpacker’s paradise. They offer over 25 backpacking sites and a group campground with 10 camping sites year round, with a wide variety of trails and activities to participate in. In summer, there are fishing and boating options available, and in winter, skiing and snowshoeing keeps the park busy with visitors. The park gets the majority of its visitors May through October and a few in the winter months to go skiing. Campers can enjoy their stay in the yurts or cabins available as well.
The park was established in 1969 through an extensive effort to protect the wildlife in the area. They have continued their work since then to bring back the prairie and other landscapes that used to call Minnesota home. The protection and creation of the landscape is a huge volunteer effort. Just ask the staff what kind of volunteers they need and when their next big project will be, as they welcome anyone who wishes to lend a hand. The park has made a great effort to reduce its carbon footprint by installing solar panels around the park to help keep the park energy commitment on a brighter path.
While this park does not have specific RV or trailer areas, they have plenty of camping areas available. You can always park your rig in the parking lot and then use a tent in the group and backpack camping areas. Afton State Park sits right next to the St. Croix River which divides Minnesota from Wisconsin. Along the river you can find a beach with comfortable white sand and a beautiful view. The connecting trails throughout the park will leave you breathless as you observe the rolling prairies and wide variety of birds. There is so much to discover when you visit Afton State Park.
RV Rentals in Afton State Park
Transportation in Afton State Park
Located alongside the St. Croix River, Afton State Park is easy to access. Depending on which direction you are coming from the park is several miles northwest of Hastings and about 20 miles southeast of St. Paul. There are signs along the highway to help you find the entrance with ease. The park is near the town of Afton where you can get ice, groceries, and maybe a bit of bug repellent for those summer nights.
There are plenty of signs in the park for you to navigate the trails and shoreline. Each of the trails are marked with a sign regarding the length and a few facts about it, and maps of the trails are available in the camp store. When traveling around the park, it is recommended that you either go on foot or a bike. And while horses are allowed in the park, it’s best to keep them on the horse trails or in the stable.
If you visit the park during the winter months, then stop by the camp store where you can pick up a pair of snow boots for a small fee. Some trails may be closed due to the snow but many of the ski trails will be open unless the park says otherwise. Remember to read all the safety rules and regulations to keep the park beautiful and safe for everyone.
Campgrounds and parking in Afton State Park
Campsites in Afton State Park
Afton State Park offers a year round campground for backpackers and small groups with small trailers and RVs at 10 available sites. The Group Camp# 1 is a one mile hike from the parking lot. You have the option of choosing wooded sites or paved ones. Amenities included are restrooms, picnic tables, and fire rings. There are no showers, water, or electric hookups available, however you can get your water from the solar powered pumps located in the picnic areas. There is a dump station 10 miles away and firewood is provided at each campground. You can only burn firewood that has been approved by the park to prevent different critters from entering the park’s ecosystem. Group Camp #2 is open to tent campers only. You are able to stay a limit of 14 days at a time and reservations are preferred but not required to stay at the park.
There are no first-come, first-served campgrounds at this state park.
Seasonal activities in Afton State Park
There are two different areas to fish along the St. Croix River- the Upper and Lower. Each has a distinct habitat which allows for a different fishing experience each time. The St. Croix River is home to over 100 different species of fish. While some fish can be considered as keepers, others must be released after you catch them. Crappies and largemouth bass are the most commonly caught fish in the river. The Lake Sturgeon or flathead catfish can weigh over 50 pounds and take a lot of effort to catch, but they are definitely worth it due to their flavor and meatiness. If you are a non-resident and 16 years or older you will need to buy a Minnesota fishing license. Minnesotans do not need a license to fish in a state park. You will love spending the day soaking in the beautiful riverfront views while hooking your bait during your RV trip to Afton State Park.
There are over 20 miles of hiking trails at Afton State Park for you to explore once you park your camper. A few of them have an interpretive sign where you can learn more about the habitat and animals during your hike. You can take the guided trails or walk along the St. Croix River shoreline and observe the change in elevation and scenery. If you would like a challenge, then hike along the St. Croix River to the Prairie Loop and back. You will see a few wild animals and you might even see a bear. Remember to wear a sturdy pair of hiking boots if you are planning to hike during the summer, and snow shoes in the winter.
A five-mile trail is available for horseback riding. Afton offers a remote camping experience for you and your horse. You will need to purchase a horse pass if you plan to ride a horse in any state park. You can go to the park's website to find out the cost of an annual pass or just a seasonal one. Each person 16 years or older has to have a valid horse pass. You can take your horse along the shoreline and on any other trail that permits horses. If you forgot to bring your horseshoes, you can pick some up in the camp store.
Afton State Park provides a great combination of grassland and riverine for a variety of birds to call their home. The park provides a checklist for all the avid bird watchers with a list of the possible birds that they may come across. The checklist provides the names of over 100 birds and whether they are common, uncommon, rare, or spotted occasionally. The checklist also breaks down bird sightings according to the time of year and season. Remember to bring your binoculars in your rig, but if you forgot them, then you can pick a pair up in the camp store.
Attending Naturalist Programs
Due to park’s initiative to better understand and preserve the wildlife in the area, they have a naturalist on staff to provide guided tours. The tours are available year round and you can enjoy them with your family or by yourself. You will need a water bottle and a pair of sturdy hiking boots for your naturalist adventure. Remember to look at the events calendar for the next available naturalist program. If there is none available, give the park a call and ask them if they can provide a small one for you and your family.
Geocaching has become a huge pastime at state parks. At Afton State Park, you and your family can get a GPS device from the camp store and start your treasure hunt. The park also provides Geocache group activities throughout the year, so make sure to check out their events calendar to see when their next available date will be. To properly enjoy geocache, you will need a sense of adventure, your inner pirate, a water bottle, a device with GPS capabilities, a pen or pencil, and a pair of hiking boots. Remember to bring your own little treasures to trade and leave each site as undisturbed as you found it to keep the adventure going.