This is the latest stop in the series 101 Things To Do. Each week through December 2020, we will select one place or activity around the region to highlight.
There are many reasons to visit Frontenac State Park, but one of the strongest would be the cliff-edge views of Lake Pepin, especially in winter when the lake shines with ice.
“We are a bluff-top park, so we have a lot of nice hiking and skiing with a lot of scenic overlook views,” said Brian Nordby, assistant park manager. “When most people come in, that is what they are looking to do is go on a hike and see the view of Lake Pepin.”
The park has 13 miles of summer hiking trails, and some of those trails drop 425 feet down staircases and switchbacks to the shore of Lake Pepin. In the winter, seven of those miles are groomed for skate and classic cross-country skiing. Another four miles are designated for snowshoeing, although snowshoers are welcome to walk anywhere in the park, except on trails groomed for another purpose. Snowshoes may be rented at the entrance station.
The park has maps on its website which show the trails specifically marked for skiing and the trails designated for snowshoeing. Trails vary in difficulty from easy to more difficult, and the level of each trail is marked on the map.
The park has options for camping, some of which are open year-round. Two backpack sites can be reached with a one-mile walk. Six cart-in sites are located a quarter mile from the parking lot and carts are available to use to transport equipment and supplies to the sites. There are 58 drive-in sites in the four loops of the main campground and 19 sites have electricity.
Crews plow the second loop of the campground throughout the winter, although deep snow, like that which fell last winter, can delay or stop plowing, according to Nordby.
Reservations for camping can be made with the Minnesota State Parks and Trails system through a link on the Frontenac State Park website.
In the spring, birdwatching becomes a popular activity in Frontenac State Park.
“Depending on which report you read online, we were listed as number one in the state for birdwatching in the state parks,” Nordby said. “We are on the flyway here, so in May, we get a lot of people here for birdwatching.”
If you go...
Name: Frontenac State Park
Address: 29223 County 28 Blvd., Frontenac, Minn.
Hours: 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Cost: Car permit is required. $7 daily or $35 annual. Anyone skiing on groomed trails on state land must also have a Minnesota Ski Pass which is $10 daily and $25 for a year. A ski pass is not required to snowshoe on ungroomed trails.