|Distance||5 miles roundtrip|
- See a herd of bison
- Historic Seppmann Mill
Disappointment is the word that comes to mind with this hike and state park. After a less than stellar visit to the Waterfalls Area in this park, I was hoping seeing a herd of live bison would redeem my experience here. Boy was I wrong.
First, to even get to this hike, you have to drive through the middle of the enclosure almost its entire length -- I didn't see any bison. Then, near the historic Seppmann Mill, you are on top of a hill overlooking the entire enclosure (I couldn't see any bison here). Finally, this hike circles the entire perimeter of the bison enclosure (still no bison). I finally saw a glimpse of bison in the distance on the drive out, but they were too far to take a picture. Needless to say I was pretty disappointed here.
Worsening this matter was that this hike is extremely uninteresting. Other than the hope that you may see bison any second now, there isn't much else to look at on this hike. The trail is flat and overgrown; my girlfriend and I joked the entire time that the person who usually mows the lawn must have quit in the middle of doing his job. There were even some portions of trail that were so overgrown we had to take a different route. By the last two miles of the hike, we were both wishing for it to be over.
From the parking lot, head southeast towards the old mill. This area is probably the highlight of the whole hike. The mill is pretty cool, even though it's a reconstruction. The view from the top of this hill is also nice because there are no trees, and you should see many prairie flowers like the purple and yellow ones in the picture below.
In my opinion Blue Mounds State Park is a much better experience if you want to see bison (their herd is giant at about 100). Although the drive to Blue Mounds might be much further than here, it is definitely worth the trip, with interesting geology, a giant bison herd, and the opportunity to stay overnight in a teepee. Maybe I came to Minneopa State Park on the wrong day and a perfect storm of disappointing things ruined my experience, but I do not recommend doing this hike. However, I think driving to the Seppmann Mill through the bison enclosure could be a worthwhile endeavor if you are in the area and actually see the bison. If you do this hike, please use the comment section below to let me know how your experience went!
From the Twin Cities, take U.S. Highway 169 towards Mankato. A bit outside of the city, turn right on Minnesota Highway 68 (there will be a brown sign pointing to Minneopa State Park that tells you to turn here). Turn right to enter the park, then stop at the kiosk on the right to pay your park fee. Turn left to continue onto the road through the bison enclosure and follow the road until it ends at the parking area.
Google Maps Directions
Parking, Fees, and Facilities
Like all Minnesota State Parks and Recreation Areas, you must pay a vehicle entry fee of $7 per day or $35 for an annual pass (highly recommended if you frequently go to Minnesota State Parks). The dirt parking lot isn't particularly large, but people come and go frequently, especially if you can't see the bison from the top of this hill.