Minnesota Scientific and Natural Areas 
Things to do and rules

Boots at Falls Creek SNA, Visit the Wild Places

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Come for solitude and an uncommon experience

Scientific and Natural Areas are found throughout Minnesota. One is likely nearby your home. You can visit a Scientific and Natural Area to enjoy exceptional natural features with unique plants and animals.

Come for solitude and an uncommon experience. However, most Scientific and Natural Areas do not have trails, restrooms or drinking water, so you will need to come prepared. Some sites have interpretive kiosks to introduce you to key features, but signs and parking do not exist at all sites. We do not have staff on duty at these sites.

Minnesota's natural resources are threatened by a number of invasive species; be informed and help keep them from spreading to natural areas. Please be aware that some sites allow hunting and wearing blaze orange during hunting season is advised. Other sites have special rules regarding entry. Find out about these Natural Area sanctuaries.

Curious how to start and connect to SNAs? We have a curated list of these Minnesota Wild Places you can begin to get to know.


Allowed at All Scientific and Natural Areas

Bird and wildlife watching

Minimal human disturbances make Scientific and Natural Areas a great place to get out and enjoy all of your favorite creatures!

Scientific and Natural Areas recommended for birding

Scientific and Natural Areas recommended for wildlife watching

What to bring and resources

Hiking

Hiking is a great way to connect with nature and get outdoors. Most Scientific and Natural Areas do not have maintained trails; you will likely need to find your own path. With that in mind, bringing a compass or GPS along is recommended. Cell service may be limited or not exist at some Scientific and Natural Areas.

Scientific and Natural Areas recommended for hiking

What to bring and resources

  • Camera
  • Binoculars
  • Map, compass, and/or GPS
  • Sun screen and bug spray
  • Headlamp or flashlight
  • Water and snacks
  • Bag or pack to bring all belongings in and back out
  • Hiking Safety
  • Recreation Compass
Photography and video

Scientific and Natural Areas are renowned for their undisturbed beauty. Photogenic subjects found in Scientific and Natural Areas include wildflowers; wildlife; breath-taking sunsets and sunrises; rivers, lakes, and the occasional waterfall; and many of Minnesota's native plant communities. Be sure to share your photos on the Minnesota Scientific and Natural Areas' Facebook page or in the Flickr group.

Scientific and Natural Areas recommended for photography and video

Snowshoeing and cross-country skiing

Scientific and Natural Areas are open all year round—bring your snowshoes or skis with you in the winter! Exploring Natural Areas in the winter can be a serene and otherworldly experience. As with hiking, most Natural Areas do not have maintained trails for skiing. Most parking areas and access roads are not regularly maintained in the winter.

Scientific and Natural Areas recommended for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing


Not Allowed at Any Scientific and Natural Areas

Camping and campfires

Restrictions on camping and campfires help protect native plant communities. In many instances, public camping facilities are available nearby. See where camping and campfires are allowed at Minnesota State Parks.

Complete Administrative Rule: MR 6136.0550, Subpart 1.  (Letter A and B)

Collecting plants, animals, rocks and fossils

Leave plants, animals, rocks, and other natural elements (this includes shed deer antlers) in place to fulfill their life cycle and role in the environment. Scientists may be allowed collections through a permit. Berry and mushroom picking are allowed at some sites with specific regulations. See below for details.

Complete Administrative Rule: MR 3136.0400, Subpart 2. 

Geocaching and orienteering

Geocaching and orienteering are prohibited on Scientific and Natural Areas. Restrictions on these activities help protect sensitive native plant communities and other features. Earthcaching, an activity that does not place physical objects on a site, is allowed by permit  . See geocaching and orienteering opportunities at Minnesota State Parks and Trails.

Complete Administrative Rule: MR 6136.0550, Subpart 1.  (Letter L)

Organized athletic or social events

Scientific and Natural Areas are not intended for intensive recreational activities or social events such as weddings. Restrictions on organized events help protect native plant communities and wildlife.

Complete Administrative Rule: MR 6136.0550, Subpart 1.  (Letter L)

Rock climbing

Rock climbing for sport, including bouldering, is prohibited on Scientific and Natural Areas. Restrictions on rock climbing help protect unique rock formations and associated native plant communities. See rock climbing opportunities on other lands at Mountain Project.

Complete Administrative Rule: MR 6136.0550, Subpart 1.  (Letter L)

Technologies

Scientific and Natural Areas are places to experience Minnesota's natural features in an undisturbed state. Technologies that may disrupt nature features (drones*, trail cameras, etc.) are discouraged. Contact us.

Complete Administrative Rule: MR 6136.0550 
*Complete Administrative Rule: MR 6136.0550, Subpart 1.  (Letter H)

Vehicles

Motorized vehicles are not allowed on Scientific and Natural Areas outside of designated parking areas. Individuals with mobility disabilities may apply, by permit, to be granted motorized access. (ATVs and snowmobiles are allowed on specific Scientific and Natural Areas, see lists above) Restrictions on vehicles help protect native plant communities and wildlife. Check out opportunities offered by the DNR for biking, off-highway vehicle riding and snowmobiling.

Complete Administrative Rule: MR 6136.0550, Subpart 1.  (Letter G and H)


Sanctuaries (Restricted Entry)

Find out about special rules regarding Scientific and Natural Area sanctuaries


Allowed at Specific Scientific and Natural Areas

Activities such as hunting, biking, snowmobiling, and dogs are typically not allowed on Scientific and Natural Areas. See special cases listed below where these activities are allowed and at which Natural Area.

ATVs

Restrictions on ATVs (all-terrain vehicles) help protect sensitive plant communities and guard against the introduction of invasive species. ATVs must remain on designated trail.

ATVs allowed at

Berry and mushroom picking

On the Scientific and Natural Areas listed below, berry picking is allowed for non-commercial, personal use only. Mushroom picking is only allowed at one natural area. Berry and mushroom picking at sites other than those listed violates the administrative rule prohibiting collection of natural features on Scientific and Natural Areas: MR 3136.0400, Subpart 2.

Berry picking allowed at

Biking

Bike trails pass through or adjoin some Scientific and Natural Areas. Bikes are allowed only on trails designated for that purpose. Restrictions on bikes help protect sensitive plant communities and guard against the introduction of invasive species.

Biking allowed at

Dogs

Dogs can be great companions; however, unleashed and uncontrolled dogs disturb ground-nesting birds, other wildlife and fellow visitors. Restrictions on dogs also help to protect against the introduction of invasive species. Specific conditions may apply, but please always pick up after your dog and assure the dog is under your control so it doesn't disturb wildlife or fellow visitors.

Dogs allowed at

Fishing

Non-toxic tackle is encouraged on all Scientific and Natural Areas open to fishing. You are also encouraged to use artificial lures to decrease the risk of spreading invasive species (ex. earthworms and non-native minnows). While fishing in a Scientific and Natural Area, you must have a valid fishing license: see fishing regulations handbook for details on seasons and licenses. Please be aware that only a handful of Scientific and Natural Areas allow watercraft (see watercraft list further down)—in most cases you can fish from the shore.

Fishing allowed at

Horseback riding

Horseback riding is allowed at Wolsfeld Woods and Uncas Dunes, on specified trails. Horseback riding is allowed at River Warren Outcrops only on trails and open seasonally May 15 through October 15, when conditions allow. Restrictions on horseback riding help protect sensitive plant communities, guard against the introduction of invasive species and minimize erosion.

Hunting and trapping

Regulations on hunting and trapping are specific to individual Scientific and Natural Areas. Please consult these lists carefully and see the hunting and trapping regulations handbook for details. In Scientific and Natural Areas open to hunting, portable stands and elevated scaffold may be used if:

  1. they are removed each day at the close of shooting hours and
  2. they do no damage to trees or other vegetation.

Nails, spikes, screws or other devices that damage the bark of trees are prohibited. Non-toxic shot is encouraged on all Scientific and Natural Areas open to hunting. Non-toxic shot helps protect both hunters and wildlife from lead poisoning. For the safety of you and others wear blaze orange during hunting season.
Rules vary by individual site designation orders to address specific management needs.

Deer hunting only allowed at

Waterfowl hunting only allowed at

All hunting allowed at

Trapping allowed at

Picnicking

When picnicking, please be sure to leave the area as you found it: do not litter or leave any food behind. There are no facilities on Scientific and Natural Areas; no bathrooms, no water and no trash cans. Campfires are not allowed on Scientific and Natural Areas. Please plan accordingly.

Picnicking allowed at

Snowmobiling

Some Scientific and Natural Areas have designated snowmobile trails that run through or adjacent to them. Snowmobiles must remain on the designated trails. Restrictions on snowmobiling help protect sensitive native plant communities and reduce disturbance to wildlife active in the winter.

Snowmobiling allowed at

Swimming

Swimming allowed at:

Watercraft

When using watercraft at Scientific and Natural Areas, please be mindful not to disturb native vegetation or shorelines. While motorized watercraft are allowed on the sites below, it is strongly recommended use of non-motorized watercraft when visiting these Scientific and Natural Areas. Restrictions on watercraft help protect against introduction of invasive species and damage to sensitive shorelines. Please practice safe boating principles.

Motorized watercraft allowed at

Non-motorized watercraft only allowed at


Most SNAs are accessible by road, but some may require a boat or a significant hike. Maps on this website are intended for directional use only and do not show precise legal boundaries. SNAs are intended to give you an opportunity to experience undisturbed natural conditions. Thus, signs and parking may not exist at individual sites.


A special use permit may be required for non-research related uses (research related information) on Scientific and Natural Areas. These uses may include, but are not limited to, large groups, classes or organized activities; some types management work or entrance into sanctuaries (see above); and drone or trail camera use. You may be asked to report or share results of allowed special uses.