I’ve hiked all 66 Minnesota state parks from A to Z – literally from Afton State Park in Hastings, Minnesota to Zippel Bay State Park way up north on Lake of the Woods in Williams, MN. Afton State Park is one of the best state parks for hiking, stunning views, boating, swimming, fishing, camping, picnicking, birdwatching, and more.
See my related posts:
- Take the Minnesota State Park Challenge – hike all 66 Minnesota state parks
- How to plan and hike all 66 Minnesota state parks in a year
- Minnesota state parks with waterfalls – ranked!
- Minnesota state park free days
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Top things to do at Afton State Park in Minnesota
With 16,000 diverse acres and a shoreline along the St. Croix River, you’ll find lots of things to do at Afton State Park – one of the best state parks in Minnesota.
Here’s a curated local’s guide and list of the top 10 things to do at Afton State Park.
- Hike more than 20 miles of trails that take you over a rolling glacial moraine, historic bridges, over to bluffs and through hardwoods, pines, wildflowers, and prairie grasses, as well as a sand bar along the river.
- You’ll find an additional four miles of paved biking trails and five miles of horseback trails.
- Take in breathtaking views at one of several scenic overlooks as high as 300 feet above the St. Croix River Valley – ravines created by glacial meltwater.
- Swim at the uncrowded beach in the calm bay along the St. Croix River.
- Go fishing off the fishing pier.
- While you won’t find a drive-in boat ramp, you can access the park by boat via one of the designed boat beaches.
- Home to more than 190 species of birds, Afton State Park is perfect for birdwatchers – also look for other wildlife including deer, fox, badgers, and more.
- Walk through the beautiful prairie restorative area interpretative trail – less than a half-mile loop.
- In the winter, you can cross-country ski or snowshoe 12 miles of groomed trails – and rent snowshoes from the park office. One mile of the paved bike trail is cleared for winter hiking.
- Learn more about the beautiful and historic Afton State Park at the Visitor Center with interpretive displays; typically open 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Frequently asked questions about Afton State Park in Hastings, Minnesota
Where is Afton State Park located? What is the address for Afton State Park?
Afton State Park is located at 6959 Peller Avenue in Hastings, Minnesota.
When is Afton State Park open?
Afton State Park is open year-round, 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.
How much does it cost to visit Afton State Park?
An annual pass to all 66 Minnesota state parks and 9 Minnesota state recreation areas is very affordable – only $35 a year with discounts for multiple vehicles ($26 and expire same month as first vehicle) and $30 a year for motorcycles. And daily passes are only $7 per vehicle or $5 per motorcycle (with unlimited park visits on the same day). Check the Minnesota DNR website for the most up-to-date costs.
New in 2022! Free admission to every Minnesota state park every day for Minnesota state tribal members. Many Minnesota state parks are home to sacred Native American sacred sites. Previously, tribal members could visit designated state parks with sacred sites; however, to improve tribal relationships with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR), legislation passed to provide open admission to all Minnesota tribal nations beginning in 2022. Long overdue.
See when you can visit Minnesota state parks for free.
Does Afton State Park have a lake, river, or waterfall?
Afton State Park is set along the St. Croix River.
Does Afton State Park have a beach? How big is the beach at Afton State Park?
Afton State Park features a small and quiet swimming beach right next to a beautiful picnic area along the St. Croix River. While there is no lifeguard, you will find the shallow and calm section of the river sectioned off with buoys. Take caution when swimming in rivers, as the currents are swift.
Is Afton State Park buggy? Mosquitos? Ticks?
We hiked Afton State Park on a very hot and humid day, and I didn’t find it buggy with mosquitos or ticks.
Can you fish at Afton State Park?
Yes, you can definitely fish at Afton State Park. You’ll find a fishing pier / boat dock near the swimming area. Even though there is a trail called Trout Brook Lake, it’s not ideal conditions for trout fishing. Restoration efforts are underway.
Does Afton State Park have drive-up boat ramp?
No, Afton State Park does not offer a drive-up boat ramp. But you can portage smaller boats from the parking lot to the fishing pier / boat dock (about a half-mile).
How long and how difficult are the hiking trails at Afton State Park?
With 20 miles of trails, you can design your own hiking adventure by duration and difficulty. Trails range from flat, crushed gravel, to rolling terrain, to prairies to more challenging, steep packed dirt. Distances on these trails range from 0.4 miles to nearly 6 miles.
Are hiking poles needed on the trails at Afton State Park?
While I hiked without my trekking poles during our summer hike at Afton State Park, my husband did bring his. They weren’t needed most of the time, but you may want hiking poles on the steeper terrain on the Trout Brook Loop or Deer Valley Loop.
What are the best views at Afton State Park?
My favorite view at Afton State Park is the Northeast Overlook. And I believe this is the location where Oliver Charley, an early settler and conservationist who originally owned 96 acres of the park, built a honeymoon cabin – a second home.
You’ll find several other scenic outlooks throughout the 20 miles of trails at Afton State Park.
Does Afton State Park have a visitor center? Modern restrooms?
Yes, Afton State Park has a visitor center, which is typically open 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. throughout the year. You will find modern restrooms with flush toilets at the visitor center and park office when open. Additional vault toilets are open year-round near the picnic and camping areas.
Can you camp at Afton State Park?
Yes, rustic backpacking campsites, cabins, and yurts are available year-round at Afton State Park. You’ll even find one canoe campsite. Note that you will not find any drive-in sites, RV sites, electric sites nor showers at the Afton State Park campground.
Note: Bridge repair construction is planned at Afton State Park on Sept. 11-25, 2022. Watch for one-lane traffic control. Afton State Park will not accept camping or lodging reservations during this time.
Is Afton State Park dog-friendly?
Yes, leashed dogs and pets are welcome at Afton State Park except in the swimming beach area and inside buildings.
Will Afton State Park close during deer-hunting season?
Yes, typically Afton State Park hosts a deer hunt in early November. Watch for 2022 dates when Afton State Park will close, and check the MN DNR website for the latest updates.
How far is Afton State Park from the Twin Cities – Minneapolis and St. Paul (MSP) airport?
Afton State Park is considered part of the Twin Cities metro area. It is located 26 miles from the Minneapolis – St. Paul (MSP) Airport.
What’s nearby Afton State Park?
You’ll find additional recreational areas near Afton State Park, including:
- St. Croix River – it’s right there
- Afton Alps Ski Area is next door (skiing and snowboarding in the winter)
- Wisconsin is right across the river.
- Downtown St. Paul, the capital of Minnesota, is only 20 miles away.
- Mall of America is 25 miles away from Afton State Park.
When was Afton State Park established?
Afton State Park was established in 1969. Oliver Charley, an early settler and conservationist, purchased 96 acres of land that is now part of Afton State Park. He planted 10,000 trees in 1923 to help stop soil erosion.
Who or what was Afton State Park named after?
While Afton State Park has a Hastings, Minn. address, it’s actually located just south of the town Afton. According to the Washington County (MN) Historical Society, Afton was named by settlers as a tribute to a Robert Burns poem called Afton Water. However, Afton was first known as Catfish Bar in reference to the large sandbar in the St. Croix River.
My travel blogger friend Wendy with Perth Travelers (Australia adventures), inspired me to include this sentiment. I would like to respectfully acknowledge the traditional owners, first people, and tribal nations of these lands. As we visit Minnesota state parks, let’s pay respect to the elders past, present, and future, for they hold the memories, the traditions, the culture, and hopes of their tribal nations.
List of all 66 Minnesota state parks
Below is a list of all 66 Minnesota state parks and the distance from the Twin Cities / MSP International Airport.
- Afton State Park | Hastings, MN (26 miles)
- Banning State Park | Sandstone, MN (97 miles)
- Bear Head Lake State Park | Ely, MN (240 miles)
- Beaver Creek Valley State Park | Caledonia, MN (148 miles)
- Big Stone Lake State Park | Ortonville, MN (186 miles)
- Blue Mounds State Park | Luverne, MN (208 miles)
- Buffalo River State Park | Glyndon, MN (240 miles)
- Camden State Park | Lynd, MN (161 miles)
- Carley State Park | Plainview, MN (88 miles)
- Cascade River State Park | Lutsen, MN (257 miles)
- Charles A. Lindbergh State Park | Little Falls, MN (112 miles)
- Crow Wing State Park | Brainerd, MN (134 miles)
- Father Hennepin State Park | Isle, MN (113 miles)
- Flandrau State Park | New Ulm, MN (93 miles)
- Forestville / Mystery Cave State Park | Preston, MN (115 miles)
- Fort Ridgely State Park | Fairfax, MN (99 miles)
- Fort Snelling State Park | Bloomington / St. Paul, MN (2 miles)
- Franz Jevne State Park | Birchdale, MN (336 miles)
- Frontenac State Park | Frontenac, MN (62 miles)
- George H. Crosby Manitou State Park | Silver Bay, MN (231 miles)
- Glacial Lakes State Park | Starbuck, MN (156 miles)
- Glendalough State Park | Battle Lake, MN (194 miles)
- Gooseberry Falls | Two Harbors, MN (197 miles)
- Grand Portage State Park | Grand Portage, MN (308 miles)
- Great River Bluffs State Park | Winona, MN (136 miles)
- Hayes Lake State Park | Roseau, MN (343 miles)
- Hill Annex Mine State Park | Calumet, MN (197 miles)
- Interstate State Park / Taylors Falls State Park | Taylors Falls, MN (56 miles)
- Itasca State Park | Park Rapids, MN (219 miles)
- Jay Cooke State Park | Thomson, MN (146 miles)
- John A. Latsch State Park | Winona, MN (99 miles)
- Judge C.R. Magney State Park | Grand Marais, MN (282 miles)
- Kilen Woods State Park | Lakefield, MN (153 miles)
- Lac qui Parle State Park | Watson, MN (141 miles)
- Lake Bemidji State Park | Bemidji, MN (230 miles)
- Lake Bronson State Park | Karlstad, MN (409 miles)
- Lake Carlos State Park | Alexandria, MN (152 miles)
- Lake Louise State Park | Le Roy, MN (113 miles)
- Lake Maria State Park | Monticello, MN (60 miles)
- Lake Shetek State Park | Currie, MN (168 miles)
- Lake Vermilion-Soudan Underground Mine State Park | Soudan, MN (229 miles)
- McCarthy Beach State Park | Side Lake, MN (227 miles)
- Maplewood State Park | Pelican Rapids, MN (217 miles)
- Mille Lacs Kathio State Park | Onamia, MN (108 miles)
- Minneopa State Park | Mankato, MN (82 miles)
- Monson Lake State Park | Sunburg, MN (141 miles)
- Moose Lake State Park | Moose Lake, MN (116 miles)
- Myre-Big Island State Park | Albert Lea, MN (93 miles)
- Nerstrand Big Woods State Park | Nerstrand, MN (52 miles)
- Old Mill State Park | Argyle, MN (350 miles)
- Rice Lake State Park | Owatonna, MN (70 miles)
- St. Croix State Park | Hinckley, MN (105 miles)
- Sakatah Lake State Park | Waterville, MN (60 miles)
- Savanna Portage State Park | Northeast Aitkin, MN (149 miles)
- Scenic State Park | Bigfork, MN (232 miles)
- Schoolcraft State Park | Deer River, MN (198 miles)
- Sibley State Park | New London, MN (128 miles)
- Split Rock Creek State Park | Jasper, MN (202 miles)
- Split Rock Lighthouse State Park | Two Harbors, MN (204 miles)
- Temperance River State Park | Schroeder, MN (239 miles)
- Tettegouche State Park | Silver Bay, MN (217 miles)
- Upper Sioux Agency State Park | Granite Falls, MN (122 miles)
- Whitewater State Park | Altura, MN (99 miles)
- Wild River State Park | Center City, MN (58 miles)
- William O’Brien State Park | Scandia / Marine on the St. Croix, MN (43 miles)
- Zippel Bay State Park | Williams, MN (345 miles)