Hidden Falls Trail

Kinnickinnic State Park, Wisconsin

Trip Date: Sunday, September 17th, 2017
Last Updated: Monday, May 20th, 2019
By Ricky Holzer

Hike Information

Rating ★★★★☆(4/5)
Overall Difficulty Easy
Navigation Difficulty     Easy
Distance 2.9 miles roundtrip
Time 1.5 hours
Terrain A few hills
Best Seasons All
Family Friendly Yes
Dog Friendly Yes
Accessible No

Highlights

Hike Walkthrough

Unlike the other Hidden Falls hikes near the Twin Cities (in Hidden Falls Regional Park in St. Paul and Nerstrand Big Woods State Park near Northfield), this Hidden Falls is actually hidden and you can only see a small glimpse of the waterfall at the bottom of the ravine. However, the wide open prairie at the start of the hike is full of stunning wildflowers and the intimately narrow trail snaking through the forest provides an exceptionally fun and scenic experience. If you're expecting a monumental cascade at the terminus of the hike, you will be sorely disappointed. Even so, the scenery here is fantastic, and this is the most fun hike in the entire park.

There are no other trails in this part of the park, so navigation is simple. From the parking lot, the trail leads into a tallgrass prairie. The picture below of the flowers I saw does not do the vivid colors justice -- you'll have to go to experience the glory yourself.

The killer prairie flower combo of white daisies, purple asters, and goldenrod goldenrods

The killer prairie flower combo of white daisies, purple asters, and goldenrod goldenrods

After a short romp through the prairie, you will enter a thicket of pines and walk across a carpet of fallen needles. Judging by their height, these are relatively new trees. The forest changes again as you continue hiking, and the short pine canopy is replaced by the towering trees pictured below (cottonwoods perhaps?). The trail begins to wind between the trees with little bumps of up and down, at which point you realize this trail is purely for entertainment purposes only -- any sensible route would cut straight to the edge of the ravine and back.
Sometimes the best views are right above your head

Sometimes the best views are right above your head

The landscape changes yet again once you near the Hidden Falls "overlook", with fat old oaks and other typical big woods. Hopefully you've been enjoying this hike, because the "overlook" is underwhelming and the rest of the hike is pretty similar to what you've already seen. You'll know when you've reached the "overlook" when you see a wooden barricade built to discourage frustrated hikers from eroding the fragile hillside in hopes of seeing something better. As mentioned earlier, Hidden Falls is tucked away deep in the ravine; you can probably see a hint of the river, but not much else thanks to the thick forest and steep drop in front of you. As you continue, the trail follows the edge of the ravine for a bit before curving away.

Eventually you'll pop back out for another foray through the prairie. Ahead there is a clearing with a bench offering you beautiful views like in the first picture below. You'll return to the forest and will see scenes like the second picture below with nice grasses and happy trees. The loop ends and you'll turn right to retrace your steps through the pines and prairie back to the parking lot.
Looking across the prairie with a twinge of fall color

Looking across the prairie with a twinge of fall color

The trail cutting through a grassy patch before returning to the forest

The trail cutting through a grassy patch before returning to the forest

This hike demonstrates the wide variety of landscapes in this region of Wisconsin adjacent to the St. Croix River on a fun trail that everyone will enjoy. Even better, you can come back each season and always see something different. Overall a solid hike. Let me know what you think in the comments section below and be sure to use #nocoastbestcoast on Twitter and Instagram!

Important Information

Dogs are allowed on leash. While this is a bit longer than most other family friendly hikes on this site, I think this is an excellent trail that will hold everyone's attention the entire duration. If your family just isn't ready for something this long, there are plenty of other trails in the main portion of the park to suit your needs. This trail is good for all four seasons; in the winter, this trail becomes a snowshoe trail and as such is also available for hiking. The varied landscape provides new surprises with each season: wildflowers in spring, bright green foliage in summer, changing colors in fall, and frozen wasteland in winter. I did this on a Sunday afternoon, and there were a handful of people on the trail. Since the trailhead is separated from the main part of the park and other attractions like the beach and sledding hill, it is unlikely this will ever see the traffic of the other trails.

Directions

From the Twin Cities, take Interstate 94 east to Hudson. Exit at Carmichael Road, then turn right. Follow this road straight -- the name changes to County Road F. Turn right on 820th Avenue (there should be a sign for Kinnickinnic State Park), then turn left into the park. Pay the fee at the park office, then turn around and return to County Road F. Turn right, then turn right on 770th Avenue (dirt road). The parking lot is a small dirt lot on the right side in the middle of a prairie.

Google Maps Directions

Parking, Fees, and Facilities

If you have Wisconsin license plates on your vehicle, parking is $8 for the day or $28 for an annual pass valid at all Wisconsin State Parks and Forests. If you are from out of state, parking is $11 for the day or $38 for an annual pass (you recoup your cost after just 4 visits!). See details here. There are no facilities at this lot.

External Links

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