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Right next to the town of Nerstrand and around ten miles northeast of Faribault lies a wildflower garden paradise called Nerstrand Big Woods State Park. The park is named after “Big Woods,” a kind of forest that is typically found in south-central Minnesota and western Wisconsin. Big Woods are usually comprised of maple, basswood, elm, and oak trees.
Each season gives the park a unique allure. In spring, the scents of blooming dwarf trout lily, Dutchman's breeches, and bloodroot spread throughout the park. Hidden waterfalls are some of the best places to unwind and beat the scorching heat during summer. In autumn, a large portion of the park's 2,882 acres turns the golden and fiery colors of fallen leaves. And finally, the snow-capped trails and scenic surroundings make for some of the most memorable skiing experiences during winter.
Nerstrand Big Woods State Park's campgrounds are open throughout the whole year, and guests who enjoy RV camping frequently come here to unwind. Those who live a bit further away or come to visit from another state tend to reserve an RV rental in Rice County. You can also check out the camper rental options in Northfield, just 13 miles away from the park, and Wanamingo, 20 miles away from the park.
Nerstrand Big Woods State Park is an amazing place to relax, but it's also a place where you can get a good workout. Hop onto one of the park’s trails that will have you traverse the big woods, where you can observe the area's flora and fauna. The park is home to more than 200 wildflower species, and if you pay close attention, you can see mammals like raccoons, foxes, hoary woodland bats, and deer.
If you listen closely, you might hear woodpeckers as they pierce the tree barks, or scarlet tanagers and bobolinks chirping about. Pick up a birding checklist and see how many species you can tick off. Alternatively, you can grab a GPS and do a little geocaching. This is a unique way to explore the park and uncover its hidden treasures. If the staff is available, they'll also share some insights and helpful tips with you.
Guests who are camping at Nerstrand Big Woods State Park during winter should jump onto their snowmobile and drive around the park. In spite of the drop in temperature, the snow-covered trails and wilderness add an additional layer of tranquility to the park.
The Nerstrand Big Woods State Park campground feature both open and wooded sites. There are over 50 campsites, nearly 30 of which come with 30-amp electric hookups. The maximum length for RVs is 60 feet. A handful of accessible sites are available.
Seasonal amenities for Nerstrand Big Woods State Park campers include flush toilets and hot showers. These are open from May to October. Guests camping in an RV will find a dump station east of the visitors' center where they can dispose of waste.
If you need motorhome camping essentials, like groceries or gas, there's a store for both in the nearby city of Nerstrand. If you'd like to explore the county's museums or restaurants, your best option is Northfield.
Family restaurants, pizzerias, cafes, breweries, fast food, Indian, Japanese, and Mexican cuisine options are all available in Northfield. The town also has an amazing golf club, which is a fun place to visit even if you're not a golfer yourself. The clubhouse is very cozy and stylish, and it’s one of the most famous clubhouses in the entire state.
As far as museums go, you're likely to find the Perlman Teaching Museum very interesting. Not only does this place feature an amazing art collection, but it also holds public lectures. Check the events calendar and see when the next lecture is scheduled during your Nerstrand Big Woods State Park camping trip. The art collection consists of nearly 2,000 prints and photographs, as well as hundreds of paintings, cultural artifacts, and sculptures.
The Northfield Historical Society is in charge of preserving the area's history. One of the most interesting tales you can hear here is the one about the James-Younger Gang and their failed bank robbery back in 1876. Led by famous American outlaw Jesse James, the James-Younger Gang robbed banks all over the state throughout the late 19th century. There's even a film about the raid in Northfield called The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid.
When you've had your fill of outlaw history, head east to connect to I-35, which leads north into Minneapolis and south toward Des Moines.