Welcome to the Nerstrand Big Woods State Park virtual tour! This park has something to offer visitors during any season: view wildflowers in spring; cool off near the waterfall in summer; experience incredible colors in fall; and ski the wooded trails in winter. Enjoy your virtual tour, and come visit the park in person sometime soon!
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Just a short distance from the main parking lot, picnickers can enjoy fire rings, standing grills, and picnic tables. Group and family gatherings will love the accessible picnic shelter with a fireplace, picnic tables, kitchen counter, electric outlets, and sink. Contact the park office to learn more about this popular rental. Horseshoe pits, a volleyball court, playground equipment, and nearby interpretive panels make this a great place to spend the afternoon.
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A rustic, wooden stage and benches that seat 70 can be found beneath the dappled shade of tall trees. This amphitheater, set against the big woods backdrop, is a popular site for weddings, interpretive programs, and speakers. Contact the park office for rental information.
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Hidden Falls Trail
The Hidden Falls Waterfall is located halfway along this one mile loop trail. Pause at interpretive signs along the way to learn more about the park.
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Trout Lily Boardwalk
Vistas of Prairie Creek and a wide variety of plants, including the federally endangered Minnesota Dwarf Trout Lily, can be seen from this scenic boardwalk. Guests are asked to stay on the boardwalk when traveling along the edge of this designated sensitive area. Over 200 species of wildflowers, along with countless ferns and mushrooms, grow in the park. Check the park website or office for bloom times each spring.
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Generations of visitors are drawn to this 20 foot limestone waterfall hidden in the woods. It is enchanting in any season: frozen in winter; tranquil under gentle rain; and dramatic during high rain events and spring thaw as water is channeled through the narrow stream valley of Prairie Creek.
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Concrete bars placed in the creek serve as stepping stones for hikers. Crossing the creek at this point provides access to hilly northern trail loops with great views of the big woods and Prairie Creek.
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Prairie Creek Floodplain
Beaver Trail ventures out of the woods here and into an oversized river valley carved by glacial melt waters.
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Entrance to Hope
Named after a local farmer, this trail is a favorite for hikers and skiers. The gently rolling terrain and full tree canopy offers visitors a shaded and scenic experience.
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Four walk-in campsites near parking areas offer a more secluded camping experience. Camping under a lush tree canopy makes these walk-in sites a popular choice for the rustic camper. Make your reservations early.
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Larger groups looking for a rustic experience just a half mile from the main park will enjoy spreading out at three group campsites backed up against the big woods. Vault toilets, a water pump, and a common recreation area are located nearby.
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White Oak Trail Bridge
Just a short distance from the main parking area, this scenic bridge provides a great view of canopy trees in the ravine below.
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Park Entrance – Welcome!
A sign at the park’s entrance bears a three leaf logo that reflects the main trees within the park: maple, basswood, and oak. Look for these trees as you enjoy over 11 miles of wooded trails within the park. To the left of the sign, a solar panel works to offset the energy used in the park’s visitor center.
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Within the visitor center, exhibits share fascinating stories about the park’s human history, natural history, endangered species, and common trees of the big woods. Once you pass through the exhibit area, a self-guided trail highlights hands-on examples just outside the door. This building also holds a small nature store with camping items and park logo merchandise. Staff is ready to answer your questions, check out nature kits and GPS units, or provide coloring sheets for the kids.
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Choose from 51 sites (27 electric sites and 24 non-electric) in the park’s main campground. Campers in these sites can enjoy a centrally located and modern shower facility with family restrooms and eight showers. This handicap accessible building is open seasonally.
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If you want a campsite tucked among the trees that still offers the convenience of a modern shower building, there are many popular options in the campground. Spend an evening around the fire ring with family or friends or enjoy a camp supper at the site’s picnic table.
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Take a moment to sit on the listening bench along the Hidden Falls Trail and soak in the scenery. Look out into the big woods. Notice the birds or the silence, or simply relax and enjoy the forest. Birdwatchers exploring the park may be lucky enough to spot scarlet tanagers, rose-breasted grosbeaks, indigo buntings, and seven species of woodpeckers.
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Big Woods Trail
Put on your hiking shoes and head for the Big Woods Trail. Look for tree identification signs located along this trail to learn about the important trees of the big woods.
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Blue Beech Bridge
Blue beech, an unusual tree species for this location, can be spotted from this bridge. Built for snowmobilers, the sides of the bridge are high for safety. The small creek that runs below is often a trickle, but can come alive in a large rain event.
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View of Big Woods
Look south from this prairie on the north side of the park, and you will be rewarded with a spectacular view. From this vantage, the big woods look much like they did in the mid-1800s.
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Groomed Ski Trail
Winter doesn’t stop visitors from enjoying the park. Six miles of groomed ski trails, five miles of snowmobile trails, one mile of snowshoe trail, and access to Hidden Falls are all good reasons to make a winter trip.