Fort Snelling State Park, one of Minnesota’s best state parks with easy hiking trails, is located within the Twin Cities metro area. In fact, this state park is located only two miles from the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. And if you like a little history surround by natural beauty, then you’ll love Fort Snelling State Park.
See my related Minnesota state park series.
- Take the Minnesota State Park Challenge – list of all the best MN state parks with reviews
- How to hike all 66 Minnesota state parks in a year
- Explore Minnesota State Parks on Free State Park Day (updated with 2023 dates)
- Top Minnesota state parks with waterfalls – ranked!
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Top 10 things to do at Fort Snelling State Park in St. Paul, MN
Here are the top 10 things to do at Fort Snelling State Park in Minnesota.
- Hike through the floodplain forest to the confluence of the Minnesota River and Mississippi River on Pike Island.
- Rent a canoe or kayak and paddle Snelling Lake.
- Take in the cool view under the Mendota Bridge on the banks of the Minnesota River.
- Visit the Wokiksuye K’a Woyuonihan (Remembering and Honoring) Dakota memorial
- Learn about the history and culture of the area at the Thomas C. Savage Visitor Center.
- Fish from the pier on Snelling Lake or riverbanks at Fort Snelling State Park.
- Only 2.5 miles from the Minneapolis – St. Paul, International Airports, watch planes take off and land.
- Picnic on Picnic Island
- Swim at Snelling Beach.
- Walk over to the historic Fort Snelling, a National Historic Landmark.
Frequently asked questions about Fort Snelling State Park in St. Paul, Minnesota
Here are a few of the most frequently asked questions about Fort Snelling State Park in Minnesota.
Where is Fort Snelling State Park located? What is the address for Fort Snelling State Park?
Fort Snelling State Park is located at 101 Snelling Road, St. Paul, MN 55111. It is the most centrally located state park in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota.
When is Fort Snelling State Park open?
Fort Snelling State Park, a day-use park, is open year-round, 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Is Fort Snelling State Park free? How much is the admission fee at Fort Snelling State Park?
Fort Snelling State Park in Minnesota only costs $7 per vehicle per day ($5 per motorcycle). That includes unlimited visits to all Minnesota state parks on the same day. I highly recommend an annual pass, which gives you entrance to all Minnesota state parks. See the Minnesota DNR website for more information. And it’s highly recommended to pay online ahead of time. Minnesota state parks are no longer accepting cash self-payment envelopes on site.
Admission to every Minnesota state park is free for all Minnesota state tribal members.
You can also visit Fort Snelling State Park on any of the four free state park days in Minnesota. See my related post for this year’s free state park days.
Note: The historic, and National Historic Landmark, Fort Snelling (the actual fort), is adjacent to the park, but is an additional cost. Check the Minnesota Historical Society website for details.
Does Fort Snelling State Park have a lake, river, or waterfall?
Yes. The Minnesota River and the Mississippi River border Pike Island in Fort Snelling State Park. In fact, you can hike to the confluence of these two major rivers at Fort Snelling State Park. The Mdewakanton Dakota Nation considered this confluence sacred and the center of the earth.
Additionally, Fort Snelling State Park features Snelling Lake, and Gun Club Lake is nearby.
Can you fish at Fort Snelling State Park in Minnesota?
Yes. You can fish at Fort Snelling State Park. If you need gear, you can rent fishing equipment from the park office. A fishing pier is located on Snelling Lake. However, you cannot fish from the beach.
Does that mean Fort Snelling State Park has a swimming beach?
Yes. You can swim at the Snelling Lake swimming beach at Fort Snelling State Park in Minnesota. Note there are no lifeguards on duty.
Snelling Lake Beach is also one of the best places to watch planes land in the Twin Cities. Fort Snelling State Park is just a couple of miles away from the Minneapolis – St. Paul (MSP) International Airport.
A nearby kiosk even identified some of the most common planes you’ll see land at MSP. So if you love planespotting, then head to Snelling Lake.
Note: You can still enjoy the beach at Fort Snelling State Park. The planes are not constantly flying right over Snelling Lake Beach.
Can you boat at Fort Snelling State Park? Does Fort Snelling State Park offer a boat ramp with trailer access?
Yes. You can boat at Fort Snelling State Park. Stop at the park office to rent canoes and kayaks. You’ll also find boat ramps with trailer access on Snelling Lake and the Minnesota River. Note that Snelling Lake only allows boats with electric motors.
How big is Fort Snelling State Park in Minnesota?
Fort Snelling State Park is nearly 3,000 acres.
Is Fort Snelling State Park buggy? Mosquitos? Ticks?
I’ve never noticed many bugs, mosquitos, or ticks at Fort Snelling State Park.
How long and how difficult are the hiking trails at Fort Snelling State Park?
Fort Snelling State Park offers some of the easiest and kid-friendly hiking trails in the Twin Cities and Minnesota. All hiking trails are flat or a gentle grade. Four of the best hiking trails at Fort Snelling State Park include:
- Pike Island Hiking Trail (my favorite) offers a 1-, 2-, or 3-mile loop. Summer 2023 note: The main trailhead is closed for construction. You can find the other trailhead at the end of the Visitor Center parking lot. This flat trail leads you to the confluence of the Minnesota and Mississippi rivers. Confluence means where two bodies of water meet. The floodplains forest looks magical with the trees bending over due to the winds and floods over the years. Look for a pole marking some of the most historic floods in the Twin Cities.
- Minnehaha Trail offers a slight incline to scenic overlooks of the Mississippi River. This hiking trail at Fort Snelling State Park is a three-mile loop.
- Snelling Lake Trail offers a 2.5-mile loop with views of its namesake.
- The one-mile Picnic Island Trail loop is an easy, flat, and short trail.
You can find this historic flood marker on the Mississippi River side of Pike Island at Fort Snelling State Park. The lines mark how high the floodwaters reached in 1885, 2001, 1952, and 1965. For perspective, I’m 5’4”.
Pay your respect at the Dakota Memorial – one of the top things to do at Fort Snelling State Park
Of special historic significance, learn about the Dakota Memorial at the Pike Island trailhead and near the visitor center. Seasonal note: This area is currently under construction as of July 7, 2023. But the visitor center is open.
The Wokiksuye K’a Woyuonihan (Remembering and Honoring) Dakota memorial is sacred. So please treat this area with respect. This memorial honors the 1,600 Dakota people (many of them women and children) who were imprisoned at Fort Snelling. This was the aftermath of the tragic U.S.-Dakota War of 1862. A pipestone sits in the center of this memorial. You can learn more about this memorial at the interpretive signage and exhibits inside at Fort Snelling State Park Visitor Center. The exhibit also includes narratives and photos of what’s known as the Dakota Conflict Concentration Camp.
Snowshoeing or cross-country skiing trails at Fort Snelling State Park?
Yes. Fort Snelling State Park offers several trails for winter enthusiasts. Here you’ll find groomed multi-use trails for cross-country skiing, fat tire biking, snowshoeing, and winter hiking. Additionally, Fort Snelling State Park offers an ungroomed multi-use trail for snowshoeing and skate skiing. You’ll also find a dedicated winter hiking trail and a dedicated cross-country ski trail.
Are hiking poles needed on the trails at Fort Snelling State Park?
No. Hiking poles are not required on the flat and easy trails at Fort Snelling State Park.
What are the best views at Fort Snelling State Park?
Early June view of the confluence
The best views at Fort Snelling State Park include Pike Island. Hiking trails hug alongside the Minnesota River and the Mississippi River until the confluence.
Early July view of the confluence (you can walk the narrow path to a sandy area.)
For a unique view of the Mendota River, make your way to the Minnesota River shoreline.
Are there bike trails at Fort Snelling State Park?
Yes. You’ll find a 10-mile mountain bike trail at Fort Snelling State Park. Additionally, the park’s five miles of paved bike trails connect to longer bike trails. They include the 51-mile long Grand Rounds Scenic Byway and the Big Rivers Regional Trail.
Note: Bikes are not allowed on Pike Island. Don’t have a bike with you? Look for self-service bike rentals at Fort Snelling State Park.
Does Fort Snelling State Park have horse trails?
No. Fort Snelling State Park does not have horse trails.
Does Fort Snelling State Park have a visitor center? Modern restrooms?
Yes. Fort Snelling State Park offers a park office as well as a visitor center. Check out the interpretative displays at the Thomas C. Savage Visitor Center.
Modern restrooms with flush toilets are located in the visitor center and the park office when open. Additionally, you can find modern restrooms on Picnic Island and typically at Snelling Lake’s beach area (currently closed). Portable toilets are also located at the visitor center, the beach, and the fishing pier.
Is Fort Snelling State Park dog-friendly?
Yes, leashed dogs and pets are welcome at Fort Snelling State Park. All Minnesota state parks welcome dogs except inside buildings(with the exception of service dogs). Leashes must be six feet or less.
Are there bears at Fort Snelling State Park?
It’s unlikely you’ll come across a bear at Fort Snelling State Park.
Can you camp at Fort Snelling State Park?
No. Fort Snelling State Park is a day-use only park. You cannot camp at Fort Snelling State Park.
How far is Fort Snelling State Park from the Twin Cities – Minneapolis and St. Paul (MSP) airport?
Fort Snelling State Park is in the heart of the Twin Cities. It’s located just two miles from the Minneapolis – St. Paul (MSP) International Airport. While Fort Snelling offers lots of greenery and nature, it’s also a great place to watch planes fly low overhead.
What’s nearby Fort Snelling State Park? Top things to do near Fort Snelling State Park?
With its prime location in St. Paul, Minnesota, you’ll find lot of things to do near Fort Snelling State Park. It also helps that the light rail and a bus stop at Minnehaha Ave. are located near Fort Snelling State Park also. And several sightseeing river cruises are nearby.
- Walk next door to the historic Fort Snelling – a National Historic Landmark shares stories about the military fort as well as native people who lived here for thousands of years. And the not-so-pretty past like the Dakota War of 1862. Entrance is an additional cost.
- More of the best hiking trails in the Twin Cities are withing walking distance or a short drive away. In fact, you can see Crosby Farm Regional Park across the river from Pike Island (pictured above). See also my guide to the top walking tours in the Twin Cities.
- Mall of America, the largest mall in the United States, is only four miles away. It’s Minnesota’s top tourist attraction. Here’s a teenager’s guide of the top things to do at Mall of America.
- Take a guided or self-guided tour of the beautiful Saint Paul Cathedral in St. Paul, Minnesota. This breathtaking church is open to the public (except during services and other events). It is less than 10 miles away from Fort Snelling State Park.
- And since you’re in the neighborhood, tour the James J. Hill House. The railroad magnate’s home is also known as St. Paul’s own Downton Abbey.
- Both the Saint Paul Cathedral and James J. Hill House are located on the prettiest street in the Twin Cities. Take a self-guided tour of the historic Summit Ave in St. Paul, Minnesota. Here you’ll find the longest avenue of Victorian homes in America. And nearly 400 original homes from the 1800s.
When was Fort Snelling State Park in Minnesota established?
Fort Snelling State Park was established in 1961.
How did Fort Snelling State Park get its name?
Fort Snelling State Park is named after the fort built here in 1820.
Does Fort Snelling State Park host deer hunts? Is Fort Snelling State Park closed during deer season?
No. Fort Snelling State Park does not typically host deer hunts during deer hunting season.
For a complete list of which Minnesota state parks are closed or limited to the public during deer season, see my post: Hiker safety: MN state parks that host deer hunts.
Hiking safety tip during deer season: Wear bright orange when hiking during deer season. I typically avoid hiking even when the state park is partially open to non-hunters.
A list of the best Minnesota state parks
All Minnesota state parks are the best in my opinion. You can read reviews of each one to create your own list of top-ranked Minnesota state parks: Take the Minnesota state park challenge
- 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 | Finland, 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)
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