Finding the Frozen Hidden Falls at Nerstrand Big Woods State Park

Winter has an amazing habit of turning beautiful waterfalls into unbelievable natural ice sculptures. Nerstrand has a splendid limestone falls at the heart of the “Big Woods.” Listen closely to hear the trickle of water hidden beneath the frozen falls.

Quick Review: 6/10 A lovely little park with a stunning waterfall view and gorgeous tall trees. I really liked the clear signage at this park.

Location

Nerstrand Big Woods State Park is about an hour south of the Twin Cities, just outside of the small city of Nerstrand. Our route took us through Northfield, home of a Malt-O-Meal factory. It smelled like cereal in that town, delicious.

Playground

Upon arrival, you’ll be greeted by a petite rustic playground. Perfect to burn off that initial energy for little ones after a long car ride. There are swings, a train, and a swing bridge.

Hiking Trail

There are a total of 11 miles of hiking trails at Nerstand Big Woods but the hike to the falls is quite short, just half a mile. This is a perk when hiking with kids on a chilly winter day. If you have more time on a beautiful day, take advantage of the numerous loop trails where snowshoeing and skiing are permitted.

Fence/Rope Barriers

Along the way to the falls, you’ll notice there are several areas that have been roped off with signage deterring hikers from entering certain areas. This is because of a rare plant that only grows in this park and nowhere else in the world. It’s called the dwarf trout lily, a great reason to return in the spring and summer.

Boardwalk

Boardwalks have been put in place along with the other barriers. Please stay on the boardwalks when on this section of trail. They keep the foot traffic off of the rare lily and other important plants in this area. The boardwalk also makes it easier to traverse the path down to the falls along rather steep hills.

Hidden Falls

Hidden Falls isn’t quite as hidden as the name suggests. The falls is a short half mile hike from the parking area. The signs are very clear directing hikers to the main attraction of this park. Next to the falls is a set of stairs leading to the lower section of river where hikers can explore the bank and take in the magical view of this falls. In winter this solidified falls is like freezing time, but the trickle of living water can be heard beneath.

Crossing the Creek

Continuing on trail is no problem across Prairie Creek just before the falls. The trail leads over cement blocks to get to the other side. This was great fun for the kids to hop over and adds an exciting obstacle to the hike.

Park Activities

Hiking to the falls is not the only thing that this southern Minnesota park offers. There are plenty of activities to keep the nature enthusiast busy in this neck of the woods all year round.

Spring:

  • Wildflower Observation

Summer:

  • Hiking (11 miles)
  • Camping (Camper & Walk-in)- Reopening March 2023
  • Waterfall Viewing
  • Geocaching
  • Birding

Autumn:

  • Leaf Peeping

Winter:

  • Winter hiking
  • Candle Light Hike (check events calendar)
  • Snowshoeing (rentals available $6)
  • Cross Country Ski (no groomed trails)
  • Snowmobile (4 miles)
  • Frozen Waterfall Viewing

2 thoughts on “Finding the Frozen Hidden Falls at Nerstrand Big Woods State Park

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