Here are some highlights from Mankato’s wide variety of beautiful walking trails! Time to lace up your shoes and blaze your own trail, or take my advice and check out one of these! You are going to want to bring your camera…
Red Jacket Trail Park
19983 State Hwy 66, Mankato, MN 56001
Highlights: The Red Jacket Bridge and the stairs up to the bridge are perfect for a photo op. Take the lower trail by the river to walk the riverbank. You will find shells or a tire swing, discover teepees in the woods, or stumble across an abandoned hammock.
Red Jacket Valley Park
(Formerly known as the Guaranteed Sand and Gravel Pit)
19950 Old Hwy 66, Mankato, MN 56001
Highlights: Across the road from Red Jacket Trail Park, you can walk around the ponds and observe geese, pelicans, swans, and other wildlife. Go early, have the place pretty much to yourself, and watch the sunrise. One pond also has a small beach area for swimming and a quiet place to kayak.
City of Mankato Open Space Area
55600 Hilldale Ln, Mankato, MN 56001
Highlights: This is a chipped trail around the pond across from Mount Kato. There is a huge beaver dam that you can walk right on down to. Another cool spot is to walk through the woods on the back side of the pond down to the river. You will see lots of beaver work in this area! You will see people enjoying some fishing here and you may catch a loud chorus of frogs croaking if you time it right.
Minneopa State Park: Minneopa Falls and Bison Drive
54497 Gadwall Rd, Mankato, MN 56001
Highlights: A Mankato staple, it’s best to go during the week when it’s less busy. Take time to hike all the way down to the bottom of the falls for a breathtaking view. On Bison Drive, now is the time to see the baby bison! Drive all the way up to Seppmann Mill and check out an overlook of the prairie. Check hours here: Minneopa State Park
555 Stoltzman Rd, Mankato, MN 56001
Highlights: The old trestle bridge and below that, the floating bridge, are perfect for exploring with kids young or old. There is a tiny creek that runs through and tall grass flanks the floating bridge all summer long.
Spring Lake Park
650 Webster Ave, North Mankato, MN 56003
Highlights: Have your worries whisked away by the swaying willow trees at Spring Lake. Watch the geese with their goslings just a few feet from the path, but get too close and the mama will hiss at you! Walk out onto the large dock for a peaceful moment of reflection and relaxation.
188 Mary Circle, North Mankato, MN 56003
Highlights: The view of Hiniker Pond and lower North Mankato from the new deck overlook is spectacular. Mid-summer, the sea of wildflowers in the middle of the circle path will dazzle you.
Williams Nature Center
54988 MN-68, Mankato, MN 56001
Highlights: You will likely encounter wildlife, such as deer, turkey, and many birds, on these paved paths. The loops aren’t very long, so you have plenty of time for the views at both outlooks. Check out some of the side trails to make your hike extra interesting. Note: No pets allowed.
Wildwood County Park
60550 200th Ln, Mankato, MN 56001
Highlights: The awesome swinging bridge is just steps from the parking lot! This park is a true hidden gem right outside of Mankato. There are several loops of trails to take, none of which are super long, so it’s a great place to take kids who don’t want to do too crazy of a hike.
Seven Mile Creek County Park
47454 US-169, St Peter, MN 56082
Highlights: Be prepared for a good long hike, if you’ve got the time! This park has miles of trails, creek, wildlife, and cool bridges. Pay attention to what trail you are on. Reception isn’t great and it would be easy to get lost!
40923 Judson Bottom Road, North Mankato, MN 56003
Highlights: This lesser known falls is a beautiful hidden gem in Mankato and a quick, rewarding little walk.
54101-54199 Glory Ln, Lake Crystal, MN 56055
Highlights: Get a delicious slice of pie from the Dam Store (when it’s open!) and watch the power of the dam. Grab a photo of the old Pepsi sign and Conoco gas pump for a great Instagram pic!
900 Mound Ave, Mankato, MN 56001
Highlights: The always stunning flower gardens and fountain with lily pads are my favorite spot to stop. They keep adding more gardens to the park, so come back every year and it will be even more beautiful! Drive up CHS Pergola Way and walk to the lookout and the pergola. There are so many gorgeous oak trees on top of the hill, they provide a stunning backdrop for any family photo.
35356-36498 468th St, Kasota, MN 56050
Highlights: It’s spectacular at sunrise, particularly with a layer of morning dew covering everything. It’s wide open, quiet, and never super busy in my experience. It’s an out and back trail, not a loop, so you can wind all the way around and then turn around and go back. In the summer, there are wildflowers on both sides of the path, so beware of bees!
Land of Memories Park
Highlights: Drive all the way into the park and park by the boat entry by the river. Walk the chipped trail parallel to the campground. You will be following the river the whole way. If you go late spring/early summer, the crab apple trees by the Frisbee golf course will be blooming.
These are just a few of my favorites. If you’re up and at ’em early, maybe I’ll see you on the trails!
*Photography by Melissa Neeb
All rights reserved.
Check out more of my nature photography from the Mankato area at www.mellamemories.com.