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Welcome to part 2 of my trip report, featuring FOUR more Minnesota State Parks! In 2014, my buddy April and I started hiking the Minnesota State Parks Hiking Club trails. Even though we live in different states now, we still manage to pull off one or two camping trips a year. Read her trip report from our Moose Lake State Park Snowshoe hike and more about last year’s adventure to Ledges State Park in Iowa, where the racoons run the joint.

Three more things:
1. The colors are poppin, and so are the rifles. Friendly reminder to wear your bright colors during small game hunting season. Here’s a list of hunting dates from the MN DNR, a video of why I’m more intentional about this now, and how my Superior Hiking Trail thru hike went out with a bang (8:10).

2. My custom designed Kula Cloth that was given away at our Art Hike at Theodore Wirth Park just became available for a limited time purchase on the Kula website. Its selling quick, I hope you can snag one!

3. I started an art account where you can see more of my art on and off the trail. Check out @wandering.pine.art and give it a follow for more art, process videos and some exciting upcoming plans!

Ok. On with the show!

Happy Campers

This post picks back up on day 3 of our stay in the camper. It’s been great to have a cozy spot to use as a home base and a person could get used to putting their feet up on the bed while dinner is cooking on the stove. My family has one more trip planned before the snow flies, and it’s been a great way to extend the camping season and enjoy time together.

Know Before You Go

Upper Sioux and Big Stone Visitor centers were closed and had reduced hours when we visited.  Many parks have reduced staffing during the pandemic, so check before you go if you want to get a patch or want to access the visitor center.   The campgrounds have campground hosts that will sell firewood and signs are posted regarding burning restrictions and other information about the park.

At the time of our visit, Upper Sioux agency State park also had a significant road closure and 16 mile construction detour. So plan ahead.

This region is also known for tall grass and ticks – so stay on the trail, learn about tick prevention and check yourself after your hike.

Upper Sioux Agency State Park


LENGTH 4.3 mile hiking club trail
DIFFICULTY easy, flat, with one hill overlooking the prairie
DATE VISITED September 25, 2021
MAIN FEATURES  Upper Sioux Agency is a State Park in Southern Minnesota, located on the ancestral lands of the Dakota Oyate people. The original inhabitants called this land Pejuhutazi Kapi-the place where they dig for yellow medicine. In addition to hiking, the park offers a variety of camping options including: tent, electric, boat-in, backpacking, Tipi and equestrian sites.

The park was established in 1963 as a way to preserve the historic agency site. This region bears the history of the Treaty of Traverse Des Sioux and US Dakota war, resulting in the forced removal, assimilation and genocide of the Dakota people, something that I continue to acknowledge and educate myself on as I recreate in these spaces. Learn more here.

The Upper Sioux, or Yellow Medicine Agency, was built by the U.S. government after the Treaty of 1851, establishing a new Dakota reservation along the Minnesota River. It was an early site in the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862. It still remains a center for Dakota culture and heritage.

After centuries of sustaining a seasonal nomadic lifestyle, many in the Upper Sioux community turned to farming in order to adapt to reservation life.

But following the war of 1862, the Dakota were exiled from Minnesota, fracturing their extended family.


Learn more about the Upper Sioux Agency Community here.

April and I entered the hiking club trail from the Yellow Medicine campground, leading us up the terrace trail to an overlook of the prairie and Minnesota River. As with any exposed hike on the prairie, I would recommend avoiding mid day during the warm months, or making sure that you have sun protection and adequate water – read more about our hot prairie hikes at Blue Mound, Minneopa and Flandrau State Parks.

The trail continues into the shaded canopy of the woods with a hike to the mink trail. We wanted to see the river, and I was a little surprised that the hiking club trail routed through the woods instead of along the water. So, we took a right instead of left and landed at the large opening where the boat-in campsites are located on the Minnesota River. I took a Fall kayaking trip down the St Croix River with my sister a few years ago and have been wanting to do it again ever since.

From the campsites, we continued along the Minnesota River trail, where the mowed grass trail is lined with hedges of ripe rose hips on the left, and hills painted with flaming sumac against yellow prairie grass on the right. A rainbow of colors against a cerulean blue sky – a painter’s dream! It was a beautiful sight to see and made the hike go fast.

We stopped back at camp for lunch and some time to paint, and then off to our next park!

Camden State Park


LENGTH 2.4 mile hiking club trail
DIFFICULTY easy, a few steep climbs
DATE VISITED September 25, 2021
MAIN FEATURES  Camden State Park  is a Southern Minnesota Park, located on the ancestral lands of the Dakota Oyate people. Originally known as the Camden Woods, the park began as a place that was used by local people for picnics and family gatherings, becoming an established State Park in 1935.

Camden State Park is about an 45 minute drive from Upper Sioux Agency State Park and made for a nice afternoon adventure. There are two large campgrounds and plenty of trails to explore over a weekend. We enjoyed all of the parks we visited on our trip, but this was our favorite hike because of the lush scenery and slightly more rugged terrain.

We entered the Hiking club trail from the main parking lot, immediately climbing up a hill that led into the shady woods. This park is known for its moist soil and cooler temperatures due to its cold water springs and geology, which support large canopies of sugar maple and basswood. It felt like we were entering natures air conditioning, creating more comfortable hiking conditions compared to the exposed prairie.

The hike is relatively short, but offers views of a waterfall, dam, and a canopy of gold in the Fall months.

About half of the hike winds through the prairie on the Dakota Valley trail. The hills are blushing with waves of red sumac this time of year and the vibrant purple thistles were too beautiful to ignore.

The hiking club trail ends at the swimming pond, which has a beach house, bridge and large sandy beach. Unfortunately, it was unsuitable for swimming when we were there, coated in a bright green layer or algae (common on lakes this time of year), hopefully it clears out in the earlier summer months. Looks like a great place to spend the day! We’d love to come back to this park and explore the rest of the trails, maybe in the Spring, when the trillium and trout littles are in bloom.

Final Thoughts

I’m excited to get back to my goal of hiking all of the the Minnesota State Park Hiking Club Trails and earned a new patch and 60th park visit with this trip. The MN State Park Hiking Club program, along with the 52 Hike Challenge were two programs that gave me the framework and confidence to pursue larger trips and a sense of belonging on the trail when I was just starting out. If you are just starting out or need to mix things up from your current hiking routine, I highly recommend them!

Up next: We have one more family trip in the camper before the snow flies and I’m working on creating a monthly newsletter and some new art ventures that I’m excited to share when they are ready. Be sure to subscribe via email at the top of the page and consider sharing with a friend if you’re enjoying what you are reading here, and want to stay up to date. How are you celebrating the peak of Fall Hiking Season? Drop me a note in the comments below. I’d love to hear from you!

Happy trails!

~ WP

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Gear Used on This Trip

Goal Zero Torch 250 Flashlight, Kuhl Klash Pants, Wright Socks – Cool mesh tab, Zensah Compression Sleeves, Altra Timps , Altra Gaiters, Leki Micro Vario Trekking Poles , REI Rain Jacket, InReach Mini, Granite Gear Hip Wing, Kula Cloth, Purple Rain Adventure Skirt, Daniel Smith Extra Fine Watercolors, Moleskine Watercolor Notebook, Isabey Travel Paintbrush

Copyright Wandering Pine 2021


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