Minnesota’s fourth largest state park, Fort Ridgely State Park sits on the historic location of the majestic Fort Ridgely, the monument of the Dakota War of 1862. The park encompasses the remains of this historic fort and the ruins of the battlefield alongside a quintessential display of nature. Here at Fort Ridgely State Park, you will find yourself in the blissful embrace of nature featuring prairie grasslands, glacial hills, interesting rock structures, and a plethora of wildlife and birds. This park is a must visit for you whether you are a nature lover or a history buff.
RV camping is offered seasonally from April to the third week of October due to pleasant weather conditions. The Creekside Campground offers 13 electric sites in a charming waterside location. A few non-electric sites are also available for a lesser fee. If you are a horse camper, you will love to take a spot in the horse campground where you may choose between 13 electric and a non-electric campsite. A non-RV group campsite accommodates large groups of 30 people. Non-RV visitors can also choose between a picturesque farmhouse and a magnificent chalet for as an option for overnight stay.
You will be spoiled for choices of recreation at Fort Ridgely State Park. Campers bringing their rigs to the park enjoy a wide scale of outdoor activities. You can hike the trails exposing the park’s prairie and woodlands, or you can find joy in horseback riding or mountain biking. You can also play horseshoe, picnic in a shelter built by the Civilian Conservation Corp, or get into the creek for boating or fishing. Pay a visit to the museum to learn more about the amazing history of the 1862 Dakota War or the region which Fort Ridgely calls its home.
As Fort Ridgely State Park is located roughly six miles to Fairfax off of MN-4 S, it is easy to access by car or RV. There are no driving restrictions for RVs inside the park. Big rigs and trailers are also welcome. Local park roads are easy to drive on. Most of the park roads close down due to snow blockage during winters and remain closed until late Spring. This mostly includes roads going towards the picnic shelter, main campground, and the equestrian campground.
You will find suitable parking options in the park. Five parking lots exist in several different locations including the entrance, main campground, and Creek Picnic Area. You can also park in your designated campsite. Parking your vehicle at a campsite that does not belong to you is prohibited.
Fort Ridgely State Park’s main camp is a rustic campground by the side of the creek. The Creek Picnic Area is located adjacent to this campground. The maximum length for all kinds of RVs is 60 feet. There are 31 drive-in sites, 15 of which either have a 30- or 50-amp connection. A non-electric pull-through site is also available. The dump station, water, flush toilets are available in the campground for as long as camping season lasts. There are no showers in the main campground. Camping is offered seasonally from Memorial Day to Labor Day weekend.
Three walk-in sites are available 1,000 feet from the parking area. The walk-in sites are not quite far from the main campground.
A non-electric group campsite for parties no larger than 30 people is also available in the campground. Only small pop-up trailers or tents are allowed in the group campsite. Fire rings, picnic tables, and vault toilets are provided in this primarily tent-camping group site.
14 campsites are the part of Fort Ridgely State Park’s equestrian campground. 13 of these horse sites are also electric, all having a 30-amp connection. The Horse Camp is available only from May 1st until MEA weekend. Dump station, flush toilets, showers are available throughout the camping season.
A reservable farmhouse sits on a small distance to the horse camp. The Horse Camp Farmhouse is a three-room building with picnic table, grill, refrigerator, microwave, and window AC. Up to six people can sleep in the farmhouse. The farmhouse provides horse campers convenient access to the Fair Ridge Trail.
Soak in the amazing scenery of Fort Ridgely State Park while hiking trails winding through its prairie and wooded regions. You will find a delightful variety of plant species in these eight miles of hiking trails. If you have planned a long camping stay, you must not miss any of the four trails. Upper Hill Trail displays rolling hills, Prairie/Oak Savanna Trail showcases the beauty of prairie habitat engulfed by oak savanna, and River Bluff Trail overlooks the gorgeous Minnesota River. Park your RV in your campground and follow the one-mile Fort Trail from the main campground to the historic fort location.
If you are an avid horse rider, you will want to bring your horses in your trailer or motorhome when camping at Fort Ridgely State Park. A 14-site horse campground is available for equestrians. The rest of the day you can spend on Fort Ridgely’s equestrian trails. Nearly ten miles of beautiful equine trails offer riders a chance to ride through the park’s diverse habitats. Horseback riding is only permitted in late spring, fall, and summer.
A museum houses interpretive displays showcasing the rich history of the state, the park locales, and the historic War of 1862. The museum is open from Memorial Day to the Labor Day weekend. Visiting the Fort Ridgely museum is one of the top attractions for RV campers coming during summers. Special history programs are also arranged during summers. The museum lies within walking distance to the Ridgely Fort, so stopping by the fort building while visiting this museum is a must.
Winter deprives visitors of their regular favorite things to do at the Fort Ridgely trails like hiking, biking, and horseback riding. But it creates some even more exciting options. The wintry trails become the ultimate destination for snowmobilers and skiers to enjoy some winter festivities. Five trails offer cross-country skiing while some eight miles are available to snowmobilers.
Some more options for winter recreation are available off the trails. Visitors are encouraged to enjoy a nice game of snowshoe anywhere but the trails. Three sliding hills are also available offering you some more wintry pleasure.
If you are a birding enthusiast, Fort Ridgely is the place for you no matter what time of the year you come with your binoculars. A never-ending variety of colorful birds nestle in the woods throughout the year. If you visit during the frosty winters, you may find yourself gazing at bald eagles, downy woodpeckers, northern cardinal, red-bellied woodpecker, geese, and white-breasted nuthatches. If you are lucky enough, you may also catch glimpses of white-tailed deer and turkeys.
Fort Ridgely State Park is known for its historically significant showpieces. One such piece of interest for the history buffs is the site of Fort Ridgely. Two huge battles of the War of 1862 were fought on this ground. The local farmers had destroyed the actual buildings, but the ruins remain to attract onlookers. In 1895, a monument called Fort Defenders Monument was erected sixteen years before the establishment of the park. The memorial is also a point of great interest for the visitors of Fort Ridgely.