Originally established to stabilize the sandy soils in the area after the Dust Bowl of the 1930s, Sand Dunes State Forest offers a variety of recreational opportunities not far from the Twin Cities. Contained within the forest is the Uncas Dunes Scientific and Natural Area, named for the endangered butterfly the Uncas skipper and home to vegetated dunes. The Bob Dunn Recreation Area and Ann Lake Day Use Area feature a swimming beach, picnic area, and campground. There are trails here available for hiking and horseback riding in the summer and cross country skiing and snowmobiling in the winter.
A trail circles the Uncas Dunes boundary and is an interesting loop hike. The eastern portion of the forest features the South Orrock Trail, a series of connected loops. The Bob Dunn Recreation Area also has several trails that are the shortest and easiest of all of the trails in the forest.