Fort Snelling State Park

Quick Facts

Fort Snelling State Park

Minnesota

(612) 725-2389

Map Directions

Things To Do

Overview

Located in the heart of the Twin Cities, this park offers extensive hiking, bike, and ski trails that link to Minnehaha Park and the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge. Canoe on Gun Club Lake, play golf, swim in Snelling Lake, or hike on Pike Island where the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers converge. Interpretive exhibits and films on display in the Thomas C. Savage Visitor Center give visitors a good background on the history and resources of the park and area. Trails also allow visitors to hike up to the historic Fort Snelling for a view of military life in the 1820s. This is a day-use only park; no camping is available.

For hundreds of years before Europeans arrived, generations of Dakota people lived in villages along the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers that meet in the park. The river confluence was believed to be the place of origin and center of the earth by the bands of Mde-wa-kan-ton-wan Dakota, the "Dwellers by Mystic Lake." By the late 1600s, Europeans had visited the area. In the 1820s, historic Fort Snelling was built on the bluff above the two historic rivers to control the exploration, trade, and settlement on these waterways.

The area was established as a state park in 1961. The swimming beach, added in 1970, remains a popular recreation attraction in the park. In 1997, a new visitor center opened to the public.

The park is located in the Mississippi River Sandplains Landscape Region at the confluence of the Minnesota and Mississippi rivers. Most of the park is on the Minnesota River floodplain. The riverine environment hosts large cottonwood, silver maple, ash, and willow trees along the braided channels of the Minnesota River.

Map of Fort Snelling (MN)

Latitude, Longitude: 44.860181, -93.186654

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Activities

  • Boating

    The park offers carry-in and drive-in boat access on lakes and the Minnesota River. Motor use is restricted to electric motor only, on Snelling Lake. Canoe and kayak rentals are seasonally available; visitors should inquire at the park office.

  • Bird Watching

    The park is situated at the confluence of the Minnesota and Mississippi Rivers, both of which are natural migration corridors and provide excellent lowland river habitat. Additionally, the collection of lake, marsh, shore, and woodland habitats make this an outstanding spot for bird watching. This is a good area for viewing flycatchers and swallows. Gun Club Lake is a great area for viewing congregating American coots, diving ducks, great blue herons, great egrets, and double-crested cormorants.

    The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources offers a free birding checklist available online as a printable PDF. All the birds listed have been spotted in the park by staff and other reliable observers. It indicates each bird's approximate abundance and the season it can be observed.

  • Bicycling

    The park's centrally located five miles of bike trails connect to the 53-mile long Grand Rounds Scenic Bikeway at Minnehaha Falls in Minneapolis and the Dakota County Big Rivers Regional Trail. Ten miles of mountain bike trails are located on the Dakota County side of the river.

  • Fishing

    River and lake fishing area available at the park. An accessible fishing pier is located on Snelling Lake.

  • Golfing

    A 9-hole course operated by Minneapolis Park Board is located in the Upper Bluff Area.

  • Hiking

    A one mile self-guided trail connects the Historic Fort and the Visitor Center. A brochure is available at the park. Eighteen miles of easy to moderate hiking trails lead through wooded areas and along lakes and rivers. The trails also connect the park with nearby historic sites and offer excellent birdwatching.

  • Historic Sites

    An interpretive exhibit focusing on the history and resources of the area can be found at the Thomas C. Savage Visitor Center. Visitors can hike up to the Historic Fort Snelling from the park. The Sibley Historic Site is a 3-mile drive from park. Both sites are operated by the Minnesota Historical Society and are open to the public May through September.

  • Picnicking

    Accessible picnic areas both at the beach and on Picnic Island are suitable for large gatherings and events. Areas include picnic tables and pedestal grills. Two picnic shelters are located on Picnic Island. Picnic Island has a road access for vehicles. Two shelters are located on Picnic Island and both have electricity. The enclosed shelter has a fire pit and pedestal grill. Both areas have playgrounds and the beach area has a volleyball space.

  • Water Sports

    An accessible swimming beach is located within the park on Snelling Lake.

  • Winter Sports

    Fort Snelling State Park has 12 miles of groomed and tracked ski trails and multiple-use packed trails. Three miles of packed walking trails are maintained on Pike Island. Snowshoers are allowed anywhere in the park except on groomed ski trails.

Seasonality/Weather

The park is open year-round from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Canoe and kayak rentals available through September. Snowshoeing is popular during the winter months. Naturalist programs are offered year-round and there are ample activities here throughout all seasons. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources offers a free birding checklist that indicates which season birds may be found.

Park Partners

Directions

Driving

Fort Snelling State Park is located on Post Road off State Highway 5, just west of the main terminal exit for the International Airport.

Phone Numbers

Primary

(612) 725-2389

Links