Bridge hiking trail at Buffalo River State Park in Minnesota

One of the most peaceful places to hike in Minnesota is at Buffalo River State Park. Here you’ll find serene hiking trails along a river and through open prairies, tallgrass, hardwoods. Watch for wildlife like deer and prairie chickens.

One of the largest northern tallgrass prairies in the U.S., this state park with 4,568 acres offers serene hiking trails, fishing, camping, and more than 250 species of wildflowers and grasses. While not technically a part of Buffalo River State Park, hiking trails lead into the neighboring Bluestem Prairie Scientific Nature Area and the Morehead University of Minnesota Science Nature Center.

Buffalo River State Park is also a favorite destination for fishing, picnicking, and camping.

See my related Minnesota state park series.


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Top 10 things to do at Minnesota’s Buffalo River State Park

Hardwoods hiking trail at Buffalo River State Park in Minnesota

You’ll find lots of cool things to do and see at Buffalo River State Park in Glyndon, Minnesota.

  1. Take a serene hike through the tallgrass prairies, hardwoods, and wildflowers and along the riverbank.
  2. Hike at neighboring Bluestem Prairie Scientific Nature Area and Morehead University of Minnesota Regional Science Center.
  3. Learn about the area’s history through interpretative signs on the Muskoda Trail
  4. Look for wildlife like the curious deer that kept in step with me (from a distance).
  5. Discover more than 250 species of wildflowers and grasses.
  6. Fish on the Buffalo River.
  7. Go camping.
  8. Enjoy a riverside picnic.
  9. Bring your binoculars and watch for the prairie chicken, bobolinks, marbled godwits, and upland sandpipers.
  10. Learn the geological significance of the railroad track.

I’d add swimming at the Buffalo River State Park’s sandy-bottom pond – if it were open. Unfortunately, the Buffalo River State Park swimming pond is closed in 2023.

Hike through prairie grasses, wildflowers, and hardwoods at Buffalo River State Park

Prairie hiking trail at Buffalo River State Park in Minnesota

Buffalo River State Park offers 12 miles of serene hiking trails in one of Minnesota’s largest remnant prairies. Easy and flat trails also wind along the Buffalo River and hardwoods. Look closely for wildlife, wildflowers, birds, butterflies, and more.

Extend your hike to neighboring Bluestem Prairie Scientific Nature Area and Morehead University of Minnesota Regional Science Center

Prairie hiking trail at Buffalo River State Park in Minnesota

While not technically a part of Buffalo River State Park, the hiking trails stretch into two neighboring areas. The cooperatives include the Bluestem Prairie Scientific Nature Area and the Morehead University of Minnesota Regional Science Center.

Visitors are welcome to check out the science center building when open, see their sculpture, and hike their trails.

Learn more about the history of Buffalo River State Park on the Muskoda Trail

Interpretative Muskoda hiking trail at Buffalo River State Park

Although the interpretive hike on the Muskoda Trail is short (0.45-mile loop), it’s one of my top things to do at Buffalo River State Park. This serene path winds through the prairie grasses with informative signs about the history of the area as well as the best features of the park.

Watch for wildlife at Buffalo River State Park

Deer on hiking trail at Buffalo River State Park in Minnesota

Keep your eyes open for wildlife at Buffalo River State Park. While I did not see or hear a prairie chicken, I did spot a deer and nearly stepped on some kind of mouse. More than 40 mammal species call Buffalo River State Park home. They include beavers, foxes, badgers, coyotes, jackrabbits, and even moose.

Discover 250+ species of wildflowers and grasses at Buffalo River State Park

Prairie grasses at Buffalo River State Park in Minnesota

Through the cooperation of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the Bluestem Prairie Scientific Nature Area and the Morehead University of Minnesota Regional Science Center, you’ll be treated to more than 250 species of wildflowers and prairie grasses.

Buffalo River State Park – a popular fishing destination

Fishing at Buffalo River State Park in Minnesota

You can cast a line right from the banks of the tranquil Buffalo River. Some of the more common fish found at Buffalo River State Park includes a few I’ve never heard of like white sucker, river redhorse, and goldeve.

Go camping at Buffalo River State Park

Buffalo River State Park offers more than 44 drive-in sites for tent, car/SUV/van, and RV camping. Additionally, the group camp accommodates up to 50 people. Tents and pop-up campers welcome.

Campsites at Buffalo River State Park are open seasonally typically April through October.

Enjoy a picnic – riverside, under the trees, or indoors

Picnic benches at Buffalo River State Park in Minnesota

You’ll find several picnic benches and areas at Buffalo River State Park. Some come with fire pits and grills. The park also offers one enclosed picnic shelter that you can reserve in advance.

Picnic shelter at Buffalo River State Park in Minnesota

Buffalo River State Park is for the birds

More than 200 species of birds are known to fly in and out of Buffalo River State Park every year. Watch for the prairie chicken and four species of woodpeckers. Also add great-crested flycatchers, phoebes, warblers, vireos, and orioles to your birding checklist.

Discover a geological lesson near the train tracks

Prairie hiking trail at Buffalo River State Park in Minnesota

What’s the significance of a railway at Buffalo River State Park? One of the interpretive signs will provide some insight. Look at the top of the railroad grade. And you’ll see the landscape gradually rises from west to east. This was once the shoreline of the glacial Lake Agassiz.

So if you’re a geology buff, you’ll love Buffalo River State Park. Up to 10,000 years ago, Lake Agassiz covered more than 200,000 square miles – 17,000 of those in Minnesota. As the lake drained, it created gravel ridges or beach lines. One of those beach lines borders the eastern edge of Buffalo River State Park.

Train track rail cars at Buffalo River State Park in Minnesota

And if you have kids, it’s always fun to count the number of railcars on the train as it passes by.

Frequently asked questions about Buffalo River State Park in Glyndon, Minnesota

Bridge at Buffalo River State Park in Minnesota

Where is Buffalo River State Park located? What is the address for Buffalo River State Park?

Buffalo River State Park is located near the North Dakota border. In fact, Buffalo River State Park is only 14 miles from Fargo, ND. The address for Buffalo River State Park is 565 155th Street South, Glyndon, MN 56547.

When is Buffalo River State Park open?

Like all Minnesota state parks, Buffalo River State Park is open year-round, 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. The campground is seasonal, typically April through October.

Is Buffalo River State Park free? How much is the admission fee at Buffalo River State Park?

Buffalo River State Park is almost free. It costs $7 per vehicle per day ($5 per motorcycle) with 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 Buffalo River 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.

Are there buffalo at Buffalo River State Park?

Buffalo rubbing boulder at Buffalo River State Park in Minnesota

No. In fact, you won’t find any buffalo in Minnesota. Although bison once lived in this area now known as Buffalo River State Park. The type of boulder pictured here was commonly used by bison as rubbing rocks. According to the interpretive sign on this trail, local legend believes someone tried to sculpt a bison from this boulder.

How did this boulder get here in the middle of a prairie? That’s the work done by Glacial Lake Agassiz. When it melted, it left behind rocks known as erractics – far from its origin.

While bison are not roaming free at Buffalo River State Park, Minnesota is home to three bison conservation herds. Two of them are Minnesota state parks. You can safely observe bison at Blue Mounds State Park in Glyndon, Minn., Minneopa State Park, in Mankato, MN, and at the Minnesota Zoo in Apple Valley, MN.

Buffalo and bison are commonly mistaken for one another. Bison are native to North America and Europe while water buffalo and Cape buffalo are found in Africa and Asia. To tell them apart, bison feature large humps on their shoulders and beards with thick skins. They shed them in the spring and early summer. Source: Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservatory Biology Institute  

Does Buffalo River State Park have a lake, river, or waterfall?

Buffalo River State Park in Minnesota

Yes. The Buffalo River runs through its namesake state park. While Buffalo River State Park features a unique swimming pond, it is closed for the 2023 season.

Does Buffalo River State Park have a swimming beach?

Sandy-bottom swimming pond beach at Buffalo River State Park in Minnesota

Yes, however, no swimming this season. Buffalo River State Park features a sandy-bottom swimming pond. However, the swimming beach at Buffalo River State Park is closed again for the 2023 season.

Can you fish at Buffalo River State Park? What kind of fish are in Buffalo River?

Yes. Buffalo River State Park is a perfect fishing destination in Minnesota. Typically, you’ll catch white sucker, river redhorse, and goldeye fish right off the riverbank. I’ve never heard of any of those fish before. Have you?

Can you boat at Buffalo River State Park? Does Buffalo River State Park offer a boat ramp with trailer access?

No. You cannot boat at Buffalo River State Park.

How big is Buffalo River State Park in Minnesota?

The 4,658 tallgrass prairie complex at Buffalo River State Park is managed by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources in cooperation with The Nature Conservancy, and the Minnesota State University Moorhead Regional Science Center.

Is Buffalo River State Park buggy? Mosquitos? Ticks?

Buffalo River State Park in Minnesota was not buggy. But I always protect myself with my favorite Aunt Fannie’s DEET-free mosquito wipes and/or picaridin.

Box of DEET-free mosquito repellent wipes
I cannot recommend Aunt Fannie’s DEET-free Mosquito Wipes highly enough. I am a mosquito magnet, but they stay away when I apply these wipes. My link does include a referral code, which means I’ll receive a small compensation – but I only recommend products and services I would use myself. And I definitely use Aunt Fannie’s – I bought a case of them and give to family and friends. And they smell good and are good for the environment – biodegradable and no harsh chemicals!

See my full review of what to pack on a day hike.

How long and how difficult are the hiking trails at Buffalo River State Park?

Easy hiking prairie trails at Buffalo River State Park

Buffalo River State Park offers 12 miles of flat and easy hiking trails along the river, through the woods, and prairie grasses. These trails range from 0.5- and 3-mile loops.

Make sure to hike the Bluestem Trail. It takes you through part of the protected Bluestem Prairie Scientific and Natural Area located next door. Please note that the River View Trail winds through the Minnesota State University – Moorhead (MSUM) Regional Science Center land and next to private property. Stay on the trail.

Other popular trails at Buffalo River State Park include the Wide Sky Trail and the Muskoda Trail (interpretative signs).

Snowshoeing or cross-country skiing trails at Buffalo River State Park?

You can snowshoe and cross-country ski at Buffalo River State Park in the winter. However, these trails are not groomed. While I have not visited Buffalo River State Park in the winter, it appears they offer a sledding hill.

Are hiking poles needed on the trails at Buffalo River State Park?

No. The hiking trails at Buffalo River State Park are flat and easy. But I always like to keep my keep my trekking poles in my vehicle just in case – especially in the winter.

What are the best views at Buffalo River State Park?

Tree and prairie grasses at Buffalo River State Park in Minnesota

Most of the trails at Buffalo River State Park are flat. However, you’ll find scenic views of the Buffalo River, prairie grasses and wildflowers in the nearby Bluestem Prairie Preserve, and gorgeous hardwoods. Watch for wildlife – a curious deer followed me during my hike at Buffalo River State Park.

Are there bike trails at Buffalo River State Park?

No. You will not find any bike trails at Buffalo River State Park.

Does Buffalo River State Park have a visitor center? Modern restrooms?

You can find a ranger’s station / park office open at Buffalo River State Park typically between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Additionally, you’ll find a trail center and nature center at Buffalo River State Park.

You will find a modern restroom with flush toilets and showers April through October in the campground area. Additional showers and flush toilets are round near the swimming pond; however, since swimming is currently closed, I’m not sure if these facilities are available. More primitive toilets are available year-round throughout the park.

Is Buffalo River State Park dog-friendly?

Yes, leashed dogs and pets are welcome at Buffalo River State Park (and all Minnesota state parks) except inside buildings (with the exception of service dogs). Leashes must be six feet or less.

Are there bears at Buffalo River State Park?

I’ve never heard of any bear sightings at Buffalo River State Park.

Can you camp at Buffalo River State Park?

Yes. Buffalo River State Park offers 44 drive-in campsites (must be able to back-in). You’ll find 35 of those campsites with electricity (50-, 30-, and 20-amp). RV campsites at Buffalo River State Park are limited to 60 feet. Two of the campsites are wheelchair-accessible (all campsites are level). The Buffalo River State Park Group Camp also accommodates up to 50 people, which allows tents and pop-up campers.

SUV Camping 101

Everything you need to know

Is firewood available at Buffalo River State Park?

Yes, typically you can purchase certified firewood at all Minnesota state parks or certified safe-to-move firewood at nearby gas stations. 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 Buffalo River State Park from the Twin Cities – Minneapolis and St. Paul (MSP) airport?

Buffalo River State Park is about 240 miles northwest of the Minneapolis – St. Paul (MSP) International Airport. It is located only 25 miles from the Hector International Airport in Fargo, ND.

What’s nearby Buffalo River State Park? Things to do near Buffalo River State Park?

You’ll find additional things to do near Buffalo River State Park.

  • Bluestem Prairie Preserve / Bluestem Prairie Scientific and Natural Area is connected to Buffalo River State Park where you will find more than 300 plant species including native tallgrass prairie grasses. Also watch for wildlife (like the prairie chicken).
  • You can also hike the River View Loop Trail, which takes you into neighboring Minnesota State University Moorhead Regional Science Center. Visitors are welcome to check out the building when open, see their sculpture, and hike their trails.
  • Visit nearby Fargo, North Dakota and Moorhead Minnesota metro area. Fargo is only 14 miles away. Cool things to do in Fargo include:
    • Bonanzaville – a pioneer village and museum take you back to the 1800s and early 1900s
    • Interactive Fargo Air Museum
    • Fan of the movie Fargo and dark tourism? Even though the movie was not filmed in Fargo, you can take a woodchipper photo at the Fargo-Moorhead Visitor’s Center.
    • Visit Red River Zoon in nearby Fargo.
    • MSUM Planetarium is located in nearby Moorhead, Minnesota.
  • If you’re planning to visit all 66 Minnesota state parks, check out nearby Maplewood State Park (46 miles away).
  • You’ll find a pelican sculpture – a fun roadside attraction and photo op – in nearby Pelican Rapids. This pelican sculpture in E.L. Peterson Park is located 38 miles from the Buffalo River State Park.

Are there pelicans in Minnesota?
Pelicans Lake Osakis Minnesota

Yes, some people are surprised to learn that Minnesota is home to pelicans. Specifically, the American white pelican likes to summer in the Land of 10,000 Lakes. Nearly 16,000 American white pelicans nest in Minnesota – with more than 13,000 in the Marsh Lake complex in Big Stone and Lac qui Parle counties. Source: Minnesota Department of Natural Resources

When was Buffalo River State Park in Minnesota established?

Buffalo River State Park was established in 1937.

Established in 1937, the park bears the name of the river flowing through its boundaries. 

How did Buffalo River State Park get its name?

Buffalo River State Park is named for the river that runs through it.  

Does Buffalo River State Park host deer hunts? Is Buffalo River State Park closed during deer season?

Yes. Buffalo River State Park does host a deer hunt in the fall. However, the park doesn’t completely close. Access to Buffalo River State Park during deer season is typically limited for a couple of days every October. 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.

A list of the best Minnesota state parks

Split Rock Lighthouse on Minnesota's North Shore

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


Pin it for later: A local’s guide to Buffalo River State Park – home of a bison range

Please share and pin this guide for when you visit Buffalo River State Park in Glyndon, MN – one of the best state parks in Minnesota.

Guide to top things to do at Buffalo River State Park in Minnesota - bridge

Guide to top things to do at Buffalo River State Park in Minnesota - bridge

Author

Twin Cities-based blogger sharing memorable emptynester, solo, family and girlfriend-getaway adventures, as well as my day hiking adventures (including all 66 Minnesota state parks), latest book reviews, and updates on my quest for the best adult mac and cheese. Also two WIPs: historical fiction and psychological thriller

40 comments

  1. I really enjoyed this list of top things to do Buffalo River State Park in MN! I live in the desert which has its own beauty, but seeing all of the lush greenery in your photos is like a breath of fresh air (and I am sure that can be taken literally too haha!) Just so serene and beautiful!

    1. Quite literally! And thank you! While I love the lush greenery of Minnesota’s state parks, I also love hiking in the desert.

  2. I love the lush forest and wide open meadow. This place looks fantastic. I bet visiting all the parks in Minnesota is a fun hobby. We like to do the same in Oklahoma and Arkansas 🙂 State Parks are the best. Have a great summer.

    1. Yes, we definitely have a lot of lakes in Minnesota! But also a lot of protected green spaces for hiking like at Buffalo River Stare Park.

  3. It is too bad that there aren’t any Buffalo at Buffalo River State Park. But I would love to go hiking there. Wow! It is sooo green. I live in a desert and our landscape looks nothing like that. Good to know about the mosquito wipes- I just heard of those recently.

    1. The desert and Minnesota landscapes are both beautiful – yet so different! I love Aunt Fanny’s DEET-free mosquito wipes. So effective!

  4. I’m heading to Fargo next month, if I have time, I might just head over to Buffalo River State Park. Looks like a beautiful park.

    1. Perfect! I hope you get the opportunity to visit Minnesota’s Buffalo River State Park when you’re in nearby Fargo. It should be the perfect time to check out the more than 250+ species of wildflowers and prairie grasses.

  5. Buffalo River State Park looks like a great stop for hiking and to see all the great variety of wildflowers and grasses. Always fun to run into curious deer on a walk. And we would certainly plan to bring a picnic and stop at one of the scenic points. Love the idea of covered picnic shelters if you get caught in bad weather. A great guide!

    1. Thank you so kindly! I know you would love the hiking and views at Buffalo River State Park. Lots of protected wildflowers and grasses.

  6. This looks like a wonderful park. I wish I would have visited here when I lived in northern Minnesota. I had no idea they were pelicans in Minnesota.

    1. I love northern Minnesota and Buffalo River State Park in western MN is pretty awesome. People are so surprised to learn we have pelicans in Minnesota.

  7. This place looks beautiful. Coming from a country (Malta) that prefers concrete to nature, I love learning about places like this. Hope I get to see in person one day!

  8. I would love to watch for wildlife (that deer is so cute!) and go fishing in Buffalo River State Park. I love how lush and green it is here. Thanks for sharing!

  9. Buffalo River State Park looks absolutely lovely! Hiking would be my activity of choice. While I don’t mind hills and such, I like the fact that it’s mostly flat for those who need it. I would also love to discover all of the wildflowers.

  10. Wow! Buffalo River State Park looks like a beautiful place to visit. I enjoyed reading about the top things to do there. The pictures are wonderful.

  11. This was such an enjoyable and informative FAQ lit to pore through – some of these things never even crossed my mind, I definitely feel a little more aware of the nitty gritty now!

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