History and mystery is what you’ll find at Forestville / Mystery Cave State Park. Although near each other, you’ll find lots of very different things to do at each state park section in southeastern Minnesota. Forestville offers a restored historic village, pre-Civil War cemetery, and beautiful hiking trails with stunning views. Mystery Cave features several tours to explore Minnesota’s longest cave of underground passages.
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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!
Top 10 things to do at Forestville / Mystery Cave State Park in Preston, MN
Here are the top 10 things to do at Forestville / Mystery Cave State Park in Preston, Minnesota.
- Tour the living history village of Forestville from the 1850s.
- Explore Minnesota’s longest cave – 13 miles of passages in Mystery Cave – and the surreal underground Turquoise Lake.
- Hike 17 miles of trails of easy to moderately challenging terrain with scenic overlooks.
- Go horseback riding on 15 miles of designated equestrian trails.
- Fish in the blue ribbon trout spring-fed streams and South Branch Root River – winter angling also available.
- Camp in traditional tent and RV sites as well as a horse camp, group camp, and year-round camper cabins.
- Check out several historic sites including the peaceful and remote pre-Civil War Zumbro Hill Cemetery, the remains of an 1850s schoolhouse, and more.
- Admire the diverse and rugged landscape of steep bluffs, limestone cliffs, ravines, meadows, tallgrass prairie grasses, savanna, hardwoods, and evergreen trees.
- Listen and watch for wildlife like coyotes (especially at dusk), rare glacial snails, timber rattlers (although rare), deer, mink, gray fox, wild turkey, barred owls, and turkey vultures.
- For winter enthusiasts, enjoy five miles of snowmobile trails, ungroomed cross-country skiing, winter hiking, and unlimited snowshoeing.
Frequently asked questions about Forestville / Mystery Cave State Park in Preston, Minnesota
Where is Forestville / Mystery Cave State Park located? What is the address for Forestville / Mystery Cave State Park?
Although Forestville and Mystery Cave are considered one state park in Minnesota. They are actually two parks in one and located a few miles from each other. The Forestville section of this Minnesota state park is located at 21071 County Road 118, Preston, MN 55073.
Mystery Cave is a little more challenging to get to when you’re directionally challenged like me. And I was taking a night tour so it was dark when I attempted to drive to Mystery Cave. Do not depend on GPS. It will not get you from here to there. Entrance to Mystery Cave State Park is near Preston and Spring Lake, Minnesota – four miles south of State Highway 16 on County Highway 5. Then go two miles east on Fillmore County Road 118.
Here are the directions on how to get to Mystery Cave from Forestville State Park, provided by the Minnesota Department of Transportation (DNR).
- Take County Road 118 west to County Road 5.
- Turn left and follow County Road 5 south for two miles.
- Turn right onto 180th Stret.
- Go west ¾ of a mile.
- At the next intersection, turn right onto Old Cave Road.
- Proceed north ½ mile to the Mystery Cave Entrance Road on the left.
If you need a visual, check out MN DNR’s map. Scroll down to the dropdown option: How to get there.
When is Forestville / Mystery Cave State Park in Minnesota open?
Forestville / Mystery Cave State Park is open year-round, 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day. However, the special tours at Forestville and Mystery Cave State Park are seasonal. The historic Forestville village is pictured.
Mystery Cave State Park offers several tours generally May through October.
Note: Forestville tours of the living history village are temporarily closed due to the closure of the historic bridge on County Road 118. Tours will resume in 2024.
Can you tour the Mystery Cave on your own? Does the Mystery Cave offer tours? How much are the Mystery Cave tours?
You can register for several guided Mystery Cave tours. Minnesota’s longest cave at nearly 13 miles features many underground passages. Therefore, all tours are guided. You cannot tour Mystery Cave in Minnesota on your own.
Mystery Cave tours in Minnesota include:
- One-hour scenic Mystery Cave tour: Mid-May to late October; $10-$15
- Mystery Cave’s one-hour lantern tour: Memorial Day through Labor Day (weekends only); $18 (8 years and older)
- Two-hour Mystery Cave geology tour: Memorial Day Weekend through Labor Day Weekend (Saturdays); $23 (8 years and older)
- Four-hour wild caving tour at Mystery Cave: Early June to early August (Saturdays); $80 (13 years and older)
- Two-hour photography tour: Early June to early August (Sundays); $40
- Advanced educational tours and K-12 school group tours also available
How cold is the Mystery Cave? Do I need to wear a coat during the Mystery Cave State Park tour in Minnesota? What should I wear in Mystery Cave State Park?
Mystery Cave maintains a constant temperature of 48 degrees Fahrenheit – even in the summer. So definitely wear a coat, hat, and even gloves when taking a Mystery Cave State Park. Also wear closed-toe shoes. Some tours may require other required attire.
Why aren’t there year-round Mystery Cave tours?
Bats. They start to hibernate in Mystery Cave the end of October every year.
Is Forestville / Mystery Cave State Park free? How much is the admission fee at Forestville / Mystery Cave State Park?
Admission to Forestville / Mystery Cave 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 Forestville / Mystery Cave 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: admission is free; tours are extra – see previous question for details about tour fees.
What historic sites can you see at Forestville State Park in Minnesota?
You can view several historic sites at Forestville State Park in Minnesota. The former frontier site as well as the Meighen Store (pictured) are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Native Americans lived in this area for centuries. Forestville became a pioneer settlement and trade center in 1853. Eventually, Forestville grew to 150+ residents, 20 houses, a school, sawmills, a distillery, blacksmith shop, and more. When the railroad bypassed Forestville in 1869, the village declined. Forestville became a ghost town when the final business, the Meighan Store, closed in 1910.
Other intriguing historic sites from the mid- to late 1800s include several homestead buildings, the pre-Civil War Zumbro Hill Cemetery, former brickyard, 1856 schoolhouse, grist mill site, historic iron bridge, and distillery.
Does Forestville / Mystery Cave State Park have a lake, river, or waterfall?
Yes. Forestville / Mystery Cave State Park features three spring-fed trout streams that meet in the park. Reports name South Branch Root River, that runs through Forestville / Mystery Cave State Park, as one of the top trout streams in the U.S.
Can you fish at Forestville / Mystery Cave State Park in Minnesota?
Yes. You can fish for trout at Forestville / Mystery Cave State Park in Minnesota.
Does Forestville / Mystery Cave State Park have a swimming beach?
No. Forestville / Mystery Cave State Park does not have a swimming beach.
Can you boat at Forestville / Mystery Cave State Park? Does Forestville / Mystery Cave State Park offer a boat ramp with trailer access?
No. Forestville / Mystery Cave State Park does not offer a boat ramp. However, you can paddle on the Root River nearby.
Does Forestville / Mystery Cave State Park have a campground? Can you camp at Forestville / Mystery Cave State Park?
Yes, Forestville / Mystery Cave State Park offers a semi-modern campground, a non-electric campground, a rustic campground, two group camps, a horse camp, and year-round camper cabins. And camping at Forestville / Mystery Cave State Park with its dark skies is perfect for stargazing.
- 23 seasonal electric campsites
- 50 seasonal non-electric campsites
- 55 horse campsites (23 electric)
- 2 seasonal group camps that accommodate 50 campers
- 5 cart-in camper cabins with heat and electricity available year-round (sleeps five to six per cabin)
- RV length limit is 50 feet
How big is Forestville / Mystery Cave State Park in Minnesota?
Forestville / Mystery Cave State Park covers 3,170 acres.
Is Forestville / Mystery Cave State Park buggy? Mosquitos? Ticks?
I hiked Forestville State Park on a very warm November day. So no bugs that time of year. Even though it was past peak color, the fall colors were still stunning.
How long and how difficult are the hiking trails at Forestville / Mystery Cave State Park?
Forestville / Mystery Cave State Park features nearly 20 miles of hiking trails. You can find a hiking trail of various challenge levels from easy to moderate. Hiking trail lengths at Forestville / Mystery Cave State Park range from one mile to several miles as many trails connect and intersect. You can hike a two-mile loop on the Maple Ridge Trail, which is the Minnesota State Park Hiking Club Trail.
Snowshoeing or cross-country skiing trails at Forestville / Mystery Cave State Park?
Enjoy winter hiking, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing on ungroomed trails at Forestville / Mystery Cave State Park.
Can you snowmobile at Forestville / Mystery Cave State Park?
Yes. Forestville / Mystery Cave State Park in Minnesota features five miles of snowmobile trails.
Are hiking poles needed on the trails at Forestville / Mystery Cave State Park?
I didn’t require any hiking poles on the trails at Forestville / Mystery Cave State Park. Most trails were easy with gentle slopes.
What are the best views at Forestville / Mystery Cave State Park?
Make sure you hike the Sandbank Trail to the scenic overlook. A gorgeous panoramic view of the blufflands will reward your efforts. I fortunately timed my visit during the golden hour and it was mesmerizing. It was November and past peak for fall colors, but still beautiful.
The sun goes down fast that time of year so I was chasing daylight by the time I reached my vehicle. And my vehicle was the only one left in the parking lot.
And that’s when I heard what I thought were dogs. Initially. Then I realized the howls were coyotes. I didn’t see any coyotes, but I definitely heard them.
Turquoise Lake at Mystery Cave State Park is one view you definitely don’t want to miss. This surreal underground body of water is breathtaking.
Are there bike trails at Forestville / Mystery Cave State Park?
No. Forestville / Mystery Cave State Park does not offer a bike trail. However, the Root River State Trail is nearby.
Does Forestville / Mystery Cave State Park feature equestrian trails?
Yes. Equestrians will find 15 miles of horse trails at Forestville / Mystery Cave State Park.
Does Forestville / Mystery Cave State Park have a visitor center? Modern restrooms?
Yes. The William H. Morrissey Visitor Center is where you meet for your Mystery Cave State Park tours. Open seasonally, the visitor center offers modern restrooms, interactive exhibits , and a nature gift store.
Modern restrooms and showers are available seasonally at the Forestville State Park campgrounds. Vault restrooms are open year-round.
Is Forestville / Mystery Cave State Park dog-friendly?
Yes. Leashed dogs and pets are welcome on Forestville / Mystery Cave State Park hiking trails. All Minnesota state parks welcome dogs except inside buildings, including camper cabins (with the exception of service dogs). Leashes must be six feet or less.
Are there bears at Forestville / Mystery Cave State Park?
Bear sightings are not common at Forestville / Mystery Cave State Park.
Is firewood available at Forestville / Mystery Cave State Park?
Yes. You can purchase firewood at the park office when open. Or buy certified safe-to-move firewood from a gas station. Additionally, download the Yodel app to purchase firewood at Minnesota state parks. You can also purchase your vehicle permits from the Yodel app.
Why can’t you bring in your own firewood? To protect Minnesota trees, you can only burn certified wood on MN DNR land. Collection is not allowed in state parks and you may not bring firewood from home. This helps prevent spreading harmful insects and diseases.
How far is Forestville / Mystery Cave State Park from the Twin Cities – Minneapolis and St. Paul (MSP) airport?
Forestville / Mystery Cave State Park is located 116 miles from the Minneapolis – St. Paul (MSP) International Airport.
What’s near Forestville / Mystery Cave State Park? Top things to do near Forestville / Mystery Cave State Park?
Forestville / Mystery Cave State Park is located near rural Preston, Minnesota. This remote park in southeastern part of the state is near the Iowa border.
- Another stunning cave to visit near Mystery Cave State Park is Niagara Cave State Park. Located just 19 miles away, Niagara Cave features a 60-foot underground waterfall and 450-million-years-old fossils. Note that this cave is open seasonally early May to late October.
- Visit Cherry Grove Blind Valley Scientific and Natural Area, which is 5.5 miles from Forestville / Mystery Cave State Park.
- Are you planning to hike all 66 Minnesota state parks? Then I recommend also checking out nearby Lake Louise State Park, which is 21 miles from Forestville / Mystery Cave State Park.
- One of the other best Minnesota state parks nearby is Beaver Creek Valley State Park near Caledonia. Located 51 miles from Forestville / Mystery Cave State Park, Beaver Creek Valley State Park (pictured) features switchback trails with one of the most breathtaking views in Minnesota. Read my full review of the Beaver Creek Valley State Park.
When was Forestville / Mystery Cave State Park in Minnesota established?
The valley and historic sites of Forestville became part of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources in 1941. Later, this historic site became Forestville State Park in 1963. They added Mystery Cave to the park in 1987, and it was renamed Forestville / Mystery Cave State Park.
How did Forestville / Mystery Cave State Park get its name?
Forestville / Mystery Cave State Park got is name from the former frontier town of Forestville. And Mystery Cave is the name of the 13-mile underground cave.
Does Forestville / Mystery Cave State Park host deer hunts? Is Forestville / Mystery Cave State Park closed during deer season?
Yes. Forestville / Mystery Cave State Park does 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 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)
Pin it for later: A local’s guide to Forestville / Mystery Cave State Park in Minnesota
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