Park Loop

Kinnickinnic State Park, Wisconsin

Trip Date: Sunday, September 17th, 2017
Last Updated: Thursday, October 26th, 2017
By Ricky Holzer

Hike Information

Rating ★★★☆☆(3/5)
Overall Difficulty Moderate
Navigation Difficulty     Easy
Distance 4 miles roundtrip
Time 2 hours
Terrain A few hills
Best Seasons Spring, Summer, Fall
Family Friendly No
Dog Friendly Yes
Accessible No

Highlights

Hike Walkthrough

A quick trip from the Twin Cities, this park is just across the St. Croix from Afton State Park in Minnesota. The scenery is quite varied and features river bluffs, sandy beaches, hardwood forest, and prairie. This hike is a taster of the many different colored trails you can find in this park (see the official park map linked at the bottom of the page); you can follow the exact route I did or use this description as a guide to determine which color routes are best suited to your athletic needs and scenic desires.

Dogs are allowed on leash, but they are not permitted on the beach at the bottom of the Black Trail. This route covering multiple trails is too long to be family friendly, but each of the trails hiked individually are short and comfortable loops. Only the Red, Brown, Blue, Pink, and Black Trails are open to hiking during the winter, but you can hike any of the trails in the park during the other three seasons. Since this park is only about 10 minutes from Hudson and within easy driving distance of the Twin Cities, expect to see a good number of people on the trail, especially near the St. Croix Picnic Area.

The hike starts with the Brown Trail, 0.2 miles roundtrip up a hill to nowhere. I'm really unsure what the purpose of this trail is given its short distance and lack of scenic value. Perhaps this trail is intended mainly for winter use on skis or sleds? You can just skip this trail.

Next, follow the Blue Trail. The trail has a few hills, but the proximity to the road and lack of scenery makes this another trail you can skip unless you want to make your hike more difficult. I speak only for the half of the Blue Trail west of the Brown Trail, but I presume the eastern half is more or less the same.

Based on this experience, you should really just start hiking at the parking lot for the Yellow and Orange Trails. The Orange Trail parallels a portion of the Yellow Trail and is hillier. Both travel through the forest, though the Yellow Trail has some prairie views in the beginning, as pictured below. The sunny spots on the trail are perfect places for cute little garter snakes (completely harmless) to warm their cold-blooded bodies (see second picture below).

The first glimpse at the dry prairie from the Yellow Trail

The first glimpse at the dry prairie from the Yellow Trail
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This garter snake was sunning itself in the middle of the trail

This garter snake was sunning itself in the middle of the trail
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Whether you took the Orange or Yellow Trails, turn left when you reach the Purple Trail to continue to the St. Croix Picnic Area. This section is entirely forested, but there are quite a few mossy logs with interesting fungi (see picture below). At the picnic area, there is an overlook of the St. Croix River, providing you the beautiful view pictured at the top of the page. Be careful here -- when I visited there were a lot of bees near the overlook platform.
Fun fungi grow on a mossy stump

Fun fungi grow on a mossy stump
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From the St. Croix Picnic Area, follow the paved path to the Black Trail, which is a steep road heading down to the beach on the St. Croix pictured below. This is a great place for swimming, fishing, or just relaxing on the sand. The uphill return trip is quite a workout, but short enough that young children can survive the climb with a few breaks. Turn left at the top of the hill to follow the Purple Trail once more.
The beach on the St. Croix River at the end of the Black Trail

The beach on the St. Croix River at the end of the Black Trail
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At the intersection with the Yellow Trail, turn left. This next section cuts through the dry prairie, a special type of prairie found only on the top of bluffs (I assume they're called dry because all the water runs downhill away from the prairie when it rains). The lack of trees makes this area extra hot during the summer but also provides long views to the other side of the forest. If you want to spend more time in this environment, turn left onto the Green Trail at the intersection ahead to loop around the dry prairie before reconnecting with the Yellow Trail. Otherwise, continue straight like I did.
White daisies bloom in the dry prairie

White daisies bloom in the dry prairie
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Eventually the trail crosses the road and meets the Blue Trail again. Turn left to return to the parking lot by the Blue and Brown Trails, or turn right to return to the parking lot by the Yellow and Orange Trails. Now you've seen almost everything the park has to offer! If you enjoyed the trails on this side of the park, be sure to visit the Pink Trail (aka the Hidden Falls Trail) on the other side of the Kinnickinnic River, which is my favorite trail in the entire park. Let me know what you think in the comments section below and be sure to use #nocoastbestcoast on Twitter and Instagram!

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 right at the intersection ahead. After driving past the service drive on the right, park in the next lot on the left.

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 about parking here. There are no facilities at this lot.

External Links

Nearby Hikes

Hidden Falls Trail

Kinnickinnic State Park, Wisconsin
★★★★☆(4/5)

Deer Valley Loop

Afton State Park, Minnesota
★★★★☆(4/5)

Willow Falls from the Nature Center

Willow River State Park, Wisconsin
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Battle Creek Loop

Battle Creek Regional Park, Minnesota
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