Minnesota's 75 state parks are really starting to pop with beautiful fall colors, perfect for a little autumn exploring.

Minnesota is blessed with a ton of natural beast just waiting to be hiked, biked, fished, and explored. A single-day vehicle permit will cost you $7, and an annual vehicle permit is $35.

The best news is that a lot of these state parks are just a short drive from the Owatonna area.

Minnesota DNR
Minnesota DNR
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Here are the Ten State Parks Closest to Owatonna

  • Open fields, wetlands, upland forests, lakes, and forest edges provide the perfect habitat for many southern Minnesota wildlife species at Sakatah Lake State Park near Waterville.
  • Walking the Prairie Loop Trail at dusk or dawn can be a magical time visually. With the beautiful contrast in wildflowers and grasses, and the kaleidoscope-like lighting of the sunset or sunrise, the imagery can take your breath away at Nerstrand Big Woods State Park near Nerstrand.
  • Rice Lake State Park near Owatonna is a major wetland in the area. Enjoy camping under the tall hardwoods, picnicking, and birdwatching.
  • Bring a picnic to eat under towering trees in the picnic area or while on a break at one of the overlooks on the trails. Follow the Hiking Club Trail as it loops through the park's varied landscapes at Myre Big Island State Park near Albert Lea.
  • Minnesota's third oldest state park is home to a newly re-established American Bison herd. Enjoy a fun day of exploring Minneopa State Park filled with natural and historical features, including Southern Minnesota's largest waterfall.
  • Bring a picnic to eat under towering trees near the swimming pond, beach house and trailheads. Follow the Hiking Club Trail as it loops through the park's varied landscapes at Flandrau State Park near New Ulm.
  • Beauty and quiet, that is the essence of Carley State Park near Altura. The park's hardwood forest and adjacent farmland is home to white-tailed deer, beaver, coyotes, red and gray fox, pileated woodpeckers, great horned owls, and many migratory songbirds.
  • Hike Chimney Rock Trail for a scenic view of the Whitewater River, or take the Meadow Trail for a more accessible hike surrounded by dramatic bluffs at Whitewater State Park near Altura.
  • Mystery Cave is the longest cave in Minnesota, with over 13 miles of underground passages! Each guided tour takes you underground through different areas, and showcases scenic pools and a variety of cave formation at Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park near Preston.
  • Explore a 3-mile loop around Pike Island and keep an eye out for wild turkeys at Fort Snelling State Park in St. Paul.

The next 'Free State Park' day is coming up on Black Friday (November 25th).

The bottom line is that there's no shortage of ways to spend some quality time with your family outdoors this fall. I'll see you there.

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