Glacial Potholes

Interstate State Park, Minnesota

Trip Date: Saturday, April 30th, 2016
Last Updated: Thursday, December 12th, 2019
By Ricky Holzer

Hike Information

Rating ★★★★☆(4/5)
Overall Difficulty Easy
Navigation Difficulty     Easy
Distance 1 mile roundtrip
Time 1 hour
Terrain Mostly flat
Best Seasons All
Family Friendly Yes
Dog Friendly Yes
Accessible No


Hike Summary

Interstate State Park is only about an hour from the Twin Cities, making it a perfect destination for a day trip or as a stopping point to stretch your legs on a longer journey up north. This is a great hike for kids with many opportunities to explore the nooks and crannies -- once you reach the main pothole area, the trail diverges to several short trips to viewpoints overlooking the St. Croix (as pictured below) and to sights with fun names like Bottomless Pit and Bake Oven Pothole. The trail begins at the south end of the parking lot and is easy to find. There should be plenty of people around, especially if the weather is nice.

An overlook of the St. Croix River

An overlook of the St. Croix River

Millions of years ago, earthquakes released lava, forming the black igneous rock located here along the St. Croix. When the glacier that formed Lake Superior melted, the resulting flow of water carved the St. Croix Valley and whirlpools and sand eroded potholes in the hard rocks. This hike allows you to walk on this volcanic rock and view the many potholes left by the glaciers, ranging from potholes no wider than your foot to the giant Bake Oven Pothole that you can take stairs to enter. Note that a good portion of this hike is on solid rock with a few short sets of stairs, so be extra cautious if the ground is wet.

If you want to stay longer, I suggest continuing your hike by following the River Trail and making a loop by taking the Railroad Trail on the way back for a distance of 3 miles roundtrip. The southern portion of the park has a picnic area and campground and can be accessed via the River Trail or by driving south on U.S. Highway 8.

Important Information

Dogs are allowed on leash. This is an ideal hike for a family given its close proximity to the Twin Cities, short distance, and plenty to explore. You can hike here all year, but be careful on the icy rocks in winter! No matter when you go, there will probably be plenty of people, especially if the weather is nice.


Interstate State Park is located in Taylors Falls, Minnesota on the border with Wisconsin. From the Twin Cities, take Interstate 35 north, then go east on U.S. Highway 8. Normally, you can follow U.S. Highway 8 the entire way to the park, but when I went road construction closed a portion of the highway. If the road is still closed, on U.S. Highway 8 just past Lindstrom, turn left on Andrews Ave. then turn right on Louise Ave. You can contine on this road all the way to Taylors Falls, and signs should direct you to the park once in town. If you cross the river into Wisconsin, you have gone too far.

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). Parking is in a paved lot adjacent to the visitor center with flush toilets and water.

Nearby Hikes

The view of the St. Croix River from an overlook on the River Trail
Railroad and River Trail Loop
Interstate State Park, Minnesota
Impressive cliffs line the St. Croix River
Summit Rock Loop
Interstate State Park, Wisconsin
The St. Croix River lives up to its Wild and Scenic River federal designation
Hiking Club and Prairie Loop
Wild River State Park, Minnesota
The stunning fall colors viewed from the Prairie Overlook
Hiking Club Trail to Prairie Overlook
William O'Brien State Park, Minnesota

External Links