Nerstrand Big Woods State Park
Guide

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Introduction

Located about an hour south of the Twin Cities, Nerstrand Big Woods State Park features one of the last remnants of Minnesota’s Big Woods, preserving the ancient maple-basswood forests of pre-settlement Minnesota. With its historic Big Woods landscape, picturesque Hidden Falls waterfall, stunning spring wildflowers, and miles of trails for year-round recreation, Nerstrand Big Woods State Park has something to attract every type of visitor—making it an easy choice for your next RV vacation.

Hikers will enjoy exploring the park’s 11 miles of hiking trails, and wildflower enthusiasts will revel in the 50 varieties of wildflowers that bloom in spring, including the endangered dwarf trout lily. Birders will appreciate trying to spot some of the many migratory and nesting birds in the park, and visitors of all sorts will appreciate checking out the Hidden Falls Waterfall just a short hike from the park’s visitor center. In the snowy winter months, winter adventurers can hop on skis, snowshoes, or snowmobiles to traverse the park’s many miles of snow-covered woods.

Guests who plan to stay overnight at Nerstrand Big Woods State Park can take advantage of the park’s 51 total drive-in sites, which offer a mix of electric and non-electric sites. This park experiences the cold and snowy winters typical of Minnesota, so the campground is open only from April until mid-October, though the park remains open for day-use recreation year-round.

RV Rentals in Nerstrand Big Woods State Park

Transportation in Nerstrand Big Woods State Park

Driving

Located about an hour south of Minneapolis and several miles off the highway, Nerstrand Big Woods State Park is a fairly quiet and secluded park. Many of the roads approaching the park are dirt and gravel, so visitors should be prepared to navigate some tricky conditions to reach the park in a rig.

This trickiness continues inside the park, with some narrow interior roads with tight turns and possible scraping branches. While the campground can accommodate sites of up to 60 feet long, some of the sites are more difficult to back into, so visitors with larger rigs should select a site accordingly. Guests can plan to park their rig at their campsite or in various designated areas throughout the park, including in overflow parking areas within the campground, near the visitor center, and near the amphitheater and picnic areas.

Visitors can purchase a small range of items from the park’s nature store, but for more extensive supply needs, visitors can find a few stores in the nearby town of Nerstrand, and can find a wider variety of shops, restaurants, and grocery stores in Faribault 11 miles to the southwest and Northfield 12 miles to the north.

Parking

Public Transport

Campgrounds and parking in Nerstrand Big Woods State Park

Campsites in Nerstrand Big Woods State Park

Reservations camping

Nerstrand Big Woods State Park Campground

Nerstrand Big Woods State Park offers 51 total RV sites, with 27 of these sites featuring 30-amp electric hookups. Water spigots are located in a few spots throughout the campground, and visitors can make use of the dump station located near the entrance of the campground. Most of the sites are back-in only, though one site is pull-through for easier access. This campground can accommodate rigs of up to 60 feet in length, though some of the sites are a tighter fit, so be sure to check the site description before making a reservation.

The campground also offers restrooms, showers, overflow parking, a playground, and easy access to Hidden Falls Trail, for guests who want to stretch their legs and go for a hike directly from the campground. The campground is also conveniently located near the Visitor Center. The campground closes in the winter season and is open from April to mid-October, though the showers, dump station, and flush toilets are open just from May to mid-October. Reservations for these sites can be made online.

First-come first-served

Alternate camping

Seasonal activities in Nerstrand Big Woods State Park

In-Season

Hiking

Visitors eager to stretch their legs and explore the “Big Woods” landscape at Nerstrand Big Woods State Park by foot will be happy to learn that the park features around 11 miles of hiking trails. For a mid-length, easy stroll, visitors can hop on the one-mile one-way Big Woods Trail, which takes hikers through the park’s tallest and straightest Big Woods trees. For a longer, more challenging trek, hikers should plan to check out Prairie Trail, a nearly five-mile loop that winds through native flowers and grasses, and features some hills.

Hidden Falls

One of the chief features and can’t-miss sites at Nerstrand Big Woods State Park is Hidden Falls, a small waterfall along Prairie Creek, which flows through the park. Hidden Falls Waterfall is located about halfway along the one-mile loop Hidden Falls Trail. The trail takes visitors through stunning vegetation that changes with seasons, past benches and interpretive signs that offer more information about the area, and then finally down to the valley floor to reach Hidden Falls.

Wildflower Viewing

Nerstrand Big Woods State Park is a wildflower enthusiast’s dream: the park is home to over 50 varieties of wildflowers in spring. Visitors should be especially on the lookout for dwarf trout lily, which is a federally-listed endangered wildflower, though hepatica, bloodroots, and Dutchman’s breeches are all present as well. While these wildflowers can be spotted in many areas throughout the park, visitors can easily find incredible spring flowers on the Hidden Falls Trail, where a boardwalk and stairs lead visitors through dwarf trout lily colonies. While the spring wildflowers are a top draw to Nerstrand Big Woods State Park, the park also boasts gorgeous fall colors for visitors who plan to come in autumn.

Off-Season

Snowshoeing

Visitors who brave the Minnesota winter and make a trip to Nerstrand Big Woods State Park in the off-season are in for a treat, as the park becomes a haven for winter recreation once snow hits the ground. Snowshoeing is permitted anywhere in the park, except for on groomed trails and on roped-off sensitive areas. To make this activity more accessible, the park offers snowshoe rentals at the park office, so even those who don’t bring their own snowshoes will be able to take advantage of the park’s many miles of snowy terrain to explore.

Snowmobiling

Another great way to explore Nerstrand Big Woods State Park in the winter is on a snowmobile: in the snowy winter season, the park opens up four miles of trails to snowmobiles. So, visitors eager to take their snowmobile through this Minnesota park’s snow-covered sugar maple and elm forests should plan to make a winter visit and enjoy the added tranquility of the off-season. Visitors can start by checking out the one-mile one-way Big Woods Trail, which becomes a snowmobile-only trail in winter.

Birding & Wildlife Viewing

Birdwatchers and wildlife enthusiasts will have plenty to keep them busy during a visit to Nerstrand Big Woods State Park. This Minnesota state park is home to a wide variety of species—visitors can look out for red and hoary woodland bats, raccoon, fox, deer, and red-bellied garter snakes, to name a few. Birdwatchers can hope to spot scarlet tanagers, barred owls, indigo buntings, bobolinks, and the red-headed woodpecker, which is a “species of special concern.” Visitors can pick up a birding checklist and rent binoculars and bird identification kits from the park office.

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