Historic monument at Fort Ridgley State Park in Fairfax

Fort Ridgely State Park is one of several state historic sites in Minnesota. While the frontier military fort was established in 1853, the Dakota called this area home for several centuries. A self-guided tour provides the history of the fort, a monument, historic buildings and remains as well as information about the tragic U.S.-Dakota War. Today, Fort Ridgely in rural Fairfax, MN offers beautiful hiking trails, trout fishing, campgrounds, and equestrian trails and campsite. Learn more about the top things to do at Fort Ridgely State Park in Minnesota.

See also my related Minnesota state park series.


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Top 10 things to do at Fort Ridgely State Park in Fairfax, MN

Fort Ridgley State Park in Fairfax best state park for history in Minnesota

Here are the top 10 things to do at Fort Ridgely State Park in Fairfax, Minnesota.

  1. Take a self-guided historic tour of Fort Ridgely State Park.
  2. Hike the scenic trails at Fort Ridgely through the hardwoods and prairie grasses.
  3. Camp overnight in a traditional tent, RV, or hammock.
  4. Rent a renovated farmhouse.
  5. Enjoy horseback riding on the designated trails. And spend the night at the equestrian campsite.
  6. Fish in a stocked trout stream at Fort Ridgely State Park.
  7. Look for wildlife like gray fox in the trees, beavers, snapping turtles, deer, red-tailed hawks, bluebirds, and more.
  8. Picnic at the historic stone picnic shelter or scenic views.
  9. Stay at the chalet in the wintertime.
  10. For more winter fun, try snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, sledding, and snowmobiling.

Frequently asked questions about Fort Ridgely State Park in Fairfax, Minnesota

History of Fort Ridgley State Park in Fairfax best state park for history in Minnesota sign

Where is Fort Ridgely State Park located? What is the address for Fort Ridgely State Park?

Fort Ridgely State Park is located at 72158 County Road 30, Fairfax, MN 55332.

When is Fort Ridgely State Park open?

Fort Ridgely State Park is open year-round, 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day.

Is Fort Ridgely State Park free? How much is the admission fee at Fort Ridgely State Park?

Fort Ridgely 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 Ridgely 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.

Is the self-guided tour at Fort Ridgely State Park free? How much is the tour at Fort Ridgely State Park in Minnesota?

Interpretative self-guided tour of History of Fort Ridgley State Park in Fairfax best state park for history in Minnesota

The self-guided tour at Fort Ridgely State Park is free. Here you’ll learn about the military frontier fort, historic buildings and ruins, the monument, and the two U.S.-Dakota War battles fought here.

Does Fort Ridgely State Park have a lake, river, or waterfall?

Yes. Fort Ridgely Creek, a tributary of the nearby Minnesota River, runs through Fort Ridgely State Park. And it has a small fishing pond.

Can you fish at Fort Ridgely State Park in Minnesota?

Yes. You can fish for brown and rainbow trout at Fort Ridgely Creek and the stocked pond at Fort Ridgely State Park. One of the most popular trout streams, best spots are near the horse camp access area and tent camping sites.

Does Fort Ridgely State Park have a swimming beach?

No. Fort Ridgely State Park does not have a swimming beach. However, a public swimming pool is located in the town of nearby Fairfax, Minnesota. Additionally, you can swim at the sandy-bottom pond at nearby Flandrau State Park Thursdays through Sundays. Open seasonally in the summer though mid- to late August.

Can you boat at Fort Ridgely State Park? Does Fort Ridgely State Park offer a boat ramp with trailer access?

No. You cannot boat at Fort Ridgely State Park. However, the Minnesota River is nearby.

Does Fort Ridgely State Park have a campground?

Yes, Fort Ridgely State Park offers several campgrounds, including:

  • 33 drive-in sites with 15 electric sites; RV length limit is 60 feet
  • 6 of these campsites allow one hammock per set of trees (no stacking)
  • 3 private and secluded walk-in campsites
  • A group camp that accommodates up to 30 campers (tents only)
  • 14 horse campsites (with 13 of them with electric and water hook-ups
  • A farmhouse near the equestrian campground available seasonally May through October

Is firewood available at Fort Ridgely 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 big is Fort Ridgely State Park in Minnesota?

Fort Ridgely State Park is one of the smaller state parks with 537 acres.  

Is Fort Ridgely State Park buggy? Mosquitos? Ticks?

I visited Fort Ridgley State Park on a stormy and windy day. No bugs that day.

How long and how difficult are the hiking trails at Fort Ridgely State Park?

Hiking trails at Fort Ridgley State Park in Fairfax best state park for history in Minnesota

Fort Ridgely State Park offers nine miles of short and fairly easy to moderately challenging hiking trails. You can hike across flat, mowed grass paths and over rolling hills of packed dirt. Hiking trails through the woods and prairies at Fort Ridgely State Park range from 1 mile one-way to a 2.5-mile loop.

Note: Due to flooding, the Valley Tail east of Fort Ridgely Creek is closed until further notice. From mid-summer to early fall, tree removal will also take place in this area.

Snowshoeing or cross-country skiing trails at Fort Ridgely State Park?

Yes. Fort Ridgely State Park offers five miles of ungroomed x-skiing trails and eight miles of snowmobile trails. Additionally, you can snowshoe anywhere in the park in the winter (except groomed trails).

Are hiking poles needed on the trails at Fort Ridgely State Park?

No. Hiking poles are not required on easy trails at Fort Ridgely State Park.

What are the best views at Fort Ridgely State Park?

One of the best views at Fort Ridgely State Park is on the 1.5-mile loop Hilltop Trail. Here you’ll find a scenic overlook on Airplane Hill.

Are there bike trails at Fort Ridgely State Park?

Yes, but it’s short. The paved bike trail at Fort Ridgely Sate Park is only one-half mile. However, it connects to the seven-mile bike trail that leads to nearby Fairfax, Minnesota.

Does Fort Ridgely State Park have horse trails?

Yes. Fort Ridgely State Park features 13 miles of equestrian / horse trails. Make sure to check the Fort Ridgely State Park website for horse trail conditions especially in the spring.

Does Fort Ridgely State Park have a visitor center? Modern restrooms?

Fort Ridgely State Park features a historic visitor center site and interpretive exhibit. However, it is currently closed until further notice. A park office is open seasonally Thursdays through Sundays. The park does not keep regular office hours from late October to mid-May.

Modern restrooms with flush toilets are located in the chalet year-round. Flush toilets are also available in the horse campground and upper picnic area seasonally. Vault toilets are located throughout Fort Ridgely State Park seasonally. They are typically open April 1 through mid- to late October. While showers are not available in the main campground, you can find them in the equestrian campground. Additional showers at the chalet are available for those who reserve the building.

Is Fort Ridgely State Park dog-friendly?

Yes, leashed dogs and pets are welcome at Fort Ridgely State Park. All Minnesota state parks welcome dogs except inside buildings, including the camper cabins (with the exception of service dogs). Leashes must be six feet or less.

Are there bears at Fort Ridgely State Park?

Bears don’t usually hang out at Fort Ridgely State Park.

What wildlife can you see at Fort Ridgely State Park?

Wild turkeys crossing the road near Fort Ridgley State Park in Fairfax best state park for history in Minnesota

I saw lots of wild turkeys on my drive to Fort Ridgely State Park. Watch for other wildlife in and near Fort Ridgely State Park including gray fox in the trees, beavers, snapping turtles, deer, red-tailed hawks, bluebirds, and more

How far is Fort Ridgely State Park from the Twin Cities – Minneapolis and St. Paul (MSP) airport?

Fort Ridgely State Park is located 99 miles from the Minneapolis – St. Paul (MSP) International Airport.

What’s nearby Fort Ridgely State Park? Top things to do near Fort Ridgely State Park?

Fort Ridgely State Park is in a pretty rural area. I had a hard time finding it initially due to road and bridge closures. But you can find a few things to do near Fort Ridgely State Park in Minnesota.

  • Bike to nearby Fairfax, Minnesota on the seven-mile bike trail.  
  • Explore nearby Flandrau State Park, which is located 19 miles from Fort Ridgely State Park. This state park offers a swimming pond in the summer as well as hiking trails and historic buildings. Learn how to plan and hike all 66 Minnesota state parks in one year.
  • Another state park, Minneopa State Park in Mankato, MN is about 40 miles from Flandrau State Park. Minneopa State Park offers a two-tiered waterfall, hiking trails, and a bison range you can drive through. See my full review of the top things to do at Minneopa State Park.

When was Fort Ridgely State Park in Minnesota established?

Fort Ridgely State Park was established in 1911, making it the fourth oldest state park in Minnesota.

How did Fort Ridgely State Park get its name?

Fort Ridgely State Park is named after the frontier military fort built here in 1853.

Does Fort Ridgely State Park host deer hunts? Is Fort Ridgely State Park closed during deer season?

No. Fort Ridgely 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

Ruins at Historic Fort Ridgley State Park in Fairfax best state parks in Minnesota

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 Fort Ridgely State Park in Minnesota

Please share and pin this guide for when you visit Fort Ridgely State Park in Fairfax, MN – one of the best historic Minnesota state parks.

Guide to the historic Fort Ridgely State Park in Minnesota top things to do

Guide to the historic Fort Ridgely State Park in Minnesota top things to do

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

28 comments

  1. I’ve not been to Minnesota and clearly this state has many choices of national parks. It’s good to know that the Fort Ridgely state park has a number of opportunities to experiences spending time in the park, including horseback riding and that one would see local wildlife. And, I’ve never heard of a snapping turtle.

  2. What an array of choices to do at Fort Ridgely state park! I would love to a couple of nice relaxing short scenic trails. Renting the renovated farmhouse and enjoying a day sounds great. Must visit this park in Minnesota when I am there next.

    1. For such a small place, Fort Ridgely State Park does offer a variety of activities. The hiking trails are pretty easy and scenic.

  3. Fort Ridgely state park looks like a great place to spend a day or several days camping! That overlook sounds like it would be fun to hike to as well!

    1. Definitely recommend reserving a camping site at Fort Ridgely State Park well in advance if camping on a weekend. They book up fast. But have reserved camping at Minnesota State Parks on the day of my arrival during the week.

  4. So many amazing things to do at Fort Ridgely Start Park. We are placing this Minnesota State Park on our must visit list.

  5. Fort Ridgely State Park looks like a good spot to visit to learn more about the local history. And the Fort Ridgley State Park adds some great outdoor fun too. A chalet stay in the winter looks like a fun option for some cold weather fun.

  6. I’d love to investigate the history and ruins at Fort Ridgely State Park. The variety of walks and hiking trails would keep me happy too.

    1. There is a lot of interesting history here at Fort Ridgely State Park. The Minnesota State Historical Society has a lot of information.

  7. It’s so cool that you can hop down into the fort and see the earth-works up close! They must have taken ages to dig out and build, but it is interesting that they lasted so long! Fab post (as always) Karen!

    1. Thank you so kindly! It was really cool to see the historic fort ruins at Fort Ridgely State Park. They’ve done a great job at preserving this piece of history.

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