Find Your Summer Outdoor Adventure in Southern Minnesota

By Southern Minnesota Tourism Association

With great weather, numerous parks and abundant wildlife, southern Minnesota is a haven for those looking for a fun outdoor adventure this summer.

During the summer, the area has a number of activities for nature enthusiasts, from catching wild trout in the Root River to zip-lining through the Bluffs.

Here are six things to do outdoors this summer in southern Minnesota:

  1. Explore the Trails
    Biking Root River bike trail Lanesboro

    Root River bike trail, Lanesboro

    Explore the Trails

    Whether by bike, Rollerblades or on foot, the best way to enjoy nature in southern Minnesota is by exploring one of the many trails in the state parks. The most popular southeastern route is the Sakatah Singing Hills State Trail, a 41-mile paved road that runs from Faribault to Mankato. Trail visitors will pass lush pastures, farmlands, small towns and forested state parks.

    The Root River State Trail is another popular destination for nature lovers. This 42-mile trail overlooks the Root River and has a dense forest that is home to abundant wildlife. Keep an eye out for possible sightings of deer, bald eagles, raccoons, wild turkeys and badgers. Bike rentals are available at Little River General Store.

  2. Go Canoeing
    Group kayaking on river rapids

    Group of kayakers on the Minnesota River in Mankato

    Go Canoeing

    Go on a river adventure by canoeing or kayaking down the Root River to catch brown trout, smallmouth bass, crappies and channel catfish. Kayakers will enjoy the solid limestone bluffs and ruins of an old dam and an abandoned 1915 power plant along the river. For a more challenging trip, the Zumbro River in Bluff Country has lively currents that are sure to give you a fight. While it’s not white-water rafting, experience with paddling is advised due to the strong current. Visitors can stop by the Boulder Dam Canoe & Kayak to rent boats by the river.

  3. Try Camping
    Couple and dog on scenic overlook

    Scenic views of limestone bluffs await at Whitewater State Park / @angeladivinephoto

    Try Camping

    To immerse yourself in the beautiful nature of southern Minnesota, embark on an overnight camping trip. Campers with tents or RVs can reserve campsites with access to lakes, rivers, trails and bonfires for as low as $15 a night. Among the suggested campsites are Flying Goose Campground in Fairmont, Sylvan Park Campround in Lanesboro and Kiesler's Campground in Waseca. Some of these campgrounds are a bit on the fancy side, so you won’t exactly be roughing it. Check with campsites in advance to learn more about available accommodations.

  4. Climb a Cliff
    Cliff and prairie at Blue Mounds State Park

    Quartzite rock cliffs and prairie grasses draw visitors to Blue Mounds State Park in southern Minnesota

    Climb a Cliff

    Live the high life by climbing the quartzite cliffs at Blue Mounds State Park. Some of the cliffs have peaks of 100 feet high and are more suitable for seasoned climbers. The trek is difficult, but climbers find it worth the effort to see the spectacular view of the prairie, wild bison and rock escarpments. Don’t forget to reward yourself for this challenging task by cooling off and swimming in the small reservoir at the park.

  5. Ride a Zip Line
    Boy on zip line

    Zip through the Minnesota River Valley at Kerfoot Canopy Tours / Jim Henderson

    Ride a Zip Line

    In southeastern Minnesota’s Bluff Country, adventurers should head over to Summer High Ropes (available only in summer) to learn the art of zip-lining. Visitors can soar from tower to tower while enjoying the scenic view of the pristine wilderness.

    The Kerfoot Canopy Tour near Henderson offers 2.5 hours of whizzing fun. Kerfoot hosts more than a mile of zip-lining routes and 14 lines varying in height and speed. The course is set up so visitors can slowly or rapidly work their way to more hair-raising zip lines.

  6. Tour a Winery
    Cannon Valley Winery vineyard

    The vineyard at Cannon Valley Winery in Cannon Falls

    Tour a Winery

    Wind your way through southern Minnesota sampling the best of Minnesota wine. Wineries to visit in this area include the Cannon River WineryRound Lake Vineyard, Indian Islands Winery and Chankaska Creek Ranch and Winery. Many of the wineries offer summer specials and wine-tasting discounts. Wine tours often include a stroll through the vineyards, where you can explore the small towns and take in serene views of southern Minnesota.

Southern Minnesota Tourism Association

Southern Minnesota has plenty of other fun indoor attractions, tons of upcoming festivals and events, and countless places to dine. And if you’re looking to stay overnight, there are plenty of affordable lodging options. Plan your southern Minnesota winter escape today.