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LENGTH 6 miles
DIFFICULTY easy with occasional hills and rocky terrain
MAIN FEATURES Waterfall at Wolf Creek and Scary Trail names!

It’s Black Friday and we decided we would skip the holiday shopping for the day and  #optoutside along with REI and the 6 million other people who skipped the mall!

Most of my adventures are planned way out, but today’s started as a text with my sister:

“Want to go on an adventure today?”


and we’re on!   I didn’t tell her where we were going….

Banning State Park is about an hour or so outside of Minneapolis, just minutes off I-35 in Sandstone MN.  The historic Tobie’s, a travelers tradition since 1947 and home of some pretty dang good caramel rolls,  is on the way, so that was enough to get us on the road!

For the last couple of years, MN governors have declared the day after Thanksgiving “Free Park Friday” at all 75 Minnesota state parks and recreation areas.  We were expecting hoardes of people, but the visitor center and much of the park was closed off for the holiday and the parking lot was completely empty.  There’s something wonderful and kind of creepy about knowing that the ranger is gone and you are the only ones in the park.  We started at the parking lot and took the Hiking Club Trail along the Quarry Trail and Deadman’s trail.  Of course the latter was very funny to us, since we were convinced we were the only one’s in the abandoned park.

Our hike started out enthusiastically, then slowed down a bit as we got turned around looking for the hiking club password in the fresh snowfall, especially down by Wolf Creek.  Bring your compass kids!  So, our 3 mile hike ended up being a glorious 6 mile stroll through the snowy woods.   The Deadman trail wasn’t as scary as it sounds but there were lots of warning signs around it, so we took heed.  With the other trail names like Hells Gate, Dragon’s Tooth, Mother’s Delight, Wolf Creek and Deadman’s Trail, we were sure we were goners.

The landmark view in the park is the waterfall where Wolf Creek meets the Kettle River. The flow was pretty slow this time of year, but it was a treat to be the only ones there and get up close.

Overall, this trail had a few small hills, a bit of history and would be a fun side trip on your way up north.  It also looks like a great place to do some canoe or kayak camping in the summer.  Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see the campsites because the area was closed off.  Something for next time!

Have you been to Banning State Park?


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