North and South Overlooks

Great River Bluffs State Park, Minnesota

Trip Date: Monday, June 3rd, 2019
Last Updated: Wednesday, July 31st, 2019
By Ricky Holzer

Hike Information

Rating ★★★★☆(4/5)
Overall Difficulty Easy
Navigation Difficulty     Easy
Distance 0.75 miles roundtrip
Time 30 minutes
Terrain A few hills
Best Seasons All
Family Friendly Yes
Dog Friendly Yes
Accessible No


Hike Summary

Possibly the easiest hike in the park, this quick walk on two short trails to the North and South Overlooks of the Mississippi River bluffs rewards you with the best views in southern Minnesota. Though the hike won't occupy much of your time, it's a memorable spot to visit adjacent to picnic grounds, making this a great place to spend a nice afternoon.

The Y-shaped trail starts by passing the picnic area. At the intersection ahead, you can choose to go left towards the North Overlook or right towards the South Overlook. You'll walk by a more secluded picnic spot, then you'll soon reach the overlook with the grand view pictured below. The spectacular bluff-lined river scene in front of you is typical of the southeastern edge of Minnesota and the Driftless Area, an area of the Midwest that escaped the flattening effects of glaciers in the last ice age.

The view from the North Overlook

The view from the North Overlook

From the North Overlook, head back the way you came, then veer left to continue to the South Overlook -- you don't have to go all the way back to the first intersection since there's a trail connecting the two overlooks to save you a few steps. After a minimal amount of downhill, you'll end at the South Overlook with two unique views. On the southern end of the platform, you can see the densely forested bluffs lining the valley, as pictured below, making this an ideal place to visit for fall colors. On the eastern edge, you'll have another view of the Mississippi River, as shown in the second picture below.
Looking into the valley from the South Overlook

Looking into the valley from the South Overlook

The river view from the South Overlook

The river view from the South Overlook

This fast hike certainly packs a scenic punch! Connect with me using the social media links below and share your adventures!

Important Information

Dogs are allowed on leash. With a short distance, beautiful views, and picnic facilities at the trailhead, this is a great hike for families. You can hike this trail in any season, including winter; fall colors here are particularly amazing thanks to the topography and overlooks here and throughout the park. I visited on a Monday and saw a few people, so I would expect to see many more especially because the park is only an hour from Rochester and 2 and a half hours from the Twin Cities.


From the Twin Cities, take U.S. Highway 52 south towards Rochester. Take the exit for Interstate 90 heading east towards La Crosse. Take the exit for County Highway 12, turn left, then turn right on County Highway 3. Turn right on Kipp Drive and continue into the park. Pay the entrance fee, then continue straight. Drive until there is a fork in the road, then turn left, following the signs for the picnic grounds.

Google Maps Directions

Parking, Fees, and Facilities

Vehicle permits are $7/day or $35/year (the annual pass pays for itself after 5 visits!). There are restrooms and a picnic area near the lot.

Nearby Hikes

Wildflowers and green bluffs to the west of the trail
King's Bluff Hiking Club Trail
Great River Bluffs State Park, Minnesota
See these historic buildings from the 19th Century in Forestville State Park
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The cold, clear waters of South Branch Root River reflecting the afternoon sun.
Big Spring Trail
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Late afternoon sun over the South Branch Root River
Hiking Club Loop
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External Links