Even More State Parks & Breweries to Visit
We’re on a quest to visit all 66 of Minnesota’s state parks, and we love finding dog friendly breweries for post-hike refreshments when we visit new places! For the next installment of our Parks & Breweries series (see Part 1 and Part 2 for more recommendations), we’ll be heading a bit further afield from the Twin Cities.
Maplewood State Park (Pelican Rapids, MN) + Outstate Brewing Company (Fergus Falls, MN)
This large state park is dotted with lakes, rolling hills, and - you guessed it - maple trees! With several campgrounds, camper cabins, and even a horse camp, you’d have enough to explore at Maplewood State Park to keep you busy for several days. For a quick visit, check out the Hallaway Hill Trail for a quick 1 mile out-and-back up the former ski hill for sweeping views of the area. We visited in early spring and saw tons of migratory birds (pelicans, loons, swans, ducks) as well as an eagle and osprey soaring near the crest of the hill. We also saw many of the park’s signature maple trees being tapped for syrup! Later in spring and summer, you’ll find tons of wildflowers and native grasses, and as fall comes around, the park’s signature maple trees turn a vibrant red.
Once you’ve finished up your visit, hit the road to nearby Pelican Rapids for a quick photo op with the 15-foot-tall Pelican Pete statue before heading south to Fergus Falls and Outstate Brewing Company. The brewery’s spacious dog friendly patio overlooks the Otter Tail River. Grab a flight to try several of their lake country themed beers with cute names like “Spray Tan Sour” and “Blue Northern Light” and a pizza or something from the on-site food truck. There’s tons of lake decor - perfect for a northern version of I Spy!
Zippel Bay State Park (Williams, MN) + Lake of the Woods Brewing Co. (Warroad, MN)
Don't be surprised if your cell phone starts pinging Canadian towers when you visit this park!
Zippel Bay State Park sits on the shore of massive Lake of the Woods, a popular fishing/ice fishing lake that forms part of the northern border of the United States.
The iconic way to experience this park is by water (there's a nice new boat launch with slips for overnight campers), but we had a ball walking the sandy Hiking Club trail along the beach. Watch your step and prepare to get your feet a little wet - this trail requires some clambering over downed trees and hopping through waves to get to the Coast Guard lights at the entrance to Zippel Bay! We had close encounters with a couple of fishing bald eagles, and Bert and Ernie splashed in the waves.
It'd be easy to be fooled into thinking you were walking alongside an ocean given the enormous scale of the lake. At 14,000 acres, Lake of the Woods is the 6th largest freshwater lake in the US. (Missed being a Great Lake by thatmuch.) Drive half an hour west of Zippel Bay State Park to reach Warroad, MN. This small town is known as Hockeytown USA due to its tradition of hockey excellence, ranging from state champion high school teams (4 men's and 2 women's titles in the last 20 years) all the way to Olympians! No US Men's Hockey team has won Olympic gold without a player from Warroad on the roster.
Warroad is also home to one of the three Lake of the Woods Brewing Co. taprooms! The Warroad location of LOW Brewing is Minnesota's northernmost brewery. Grab a pint or a flight in this restored firehouse taproom or when the weather's right, sit out on the spacious dog friendly patio with your pup. There are even a couple of slips right outside if you want to boat up after a day of fishing!
Blue Mounds State Park (Luverne, MN) + Take 16 Brewing (Luverne, MN)
Blue Mounds State Park sits in the far southeast corner of Minnesota and is home to one of two bison herds residing in MN state parks! (The other herd lives in Minneopa State Park near Mankato.) Another notable feature of this large prairie park is the pink Sioux Quartzite cliffs, popular with rock climbers.
We spent 2 nights camping at Blue Mounds in the group campsite and loved watching the bison every morning and evening. The tipi and cart-in campsites are also located near to the bison range - the regular campsite and RV hookups are a bit further away. For hiking, the Upper Cliffline Trail and the Mound Trail connect for a large, sunny loop that runs parallel to one side of the bison range. Keep an eye out for prickly pear cactuses - they are native to this part of the state! (Note - don’t confuse Blue Mounds State Park in Minnesota with Blue Mound (singular!) State Park in Wisconsin.)
Just a 10 minute drive from the park entrance, you’ll find refreshment at Take 16 Brewing Company.
The brewery gets its name from its location situated on Luverne’s main thoroughfare - the old US Highway 16 that ran from Detroit, Michigan all the way to Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming! Take 16 has a large patio space that welcomes pups and plenty of board games to borrow while you visit. We loved the Coffee Kolsch - a spin on their signature Country Mile Kolsch - and the Kick the Can IPA.
Palisades State Park (Garretson, SD) + Remedy Brewing Co (Sioux Falls, SD)
If you’re out near Blue Mounds/Luverne, you might as well hop over the state line to visit the very cool Palisades State Park about a half hour away while you’re there!
Palisades features stunning pink Sioux quartzite formations along Split Rock Creek, which flows through the park.
Daily admission is $8 per vehicle for SD State Parks - you can pay online or when you arrive. We followed the Split Rock Creek Trail (1.5 miles) on our visit, and would have tacked on the King and Queen Trail (0.8 miles) with a bit more time. AllTrails was helpful for navigation - the trails were not clearly signed and there were several places where people had created shortcut trails to access campsites that made the paths a bit confusing! For the Split Rock Creek Trail, be prepared to navigate across water and rocks if the creek is running high.
Venture into Sioux Falls - the largest city in South Dakota - for lunch and a beer at Remedy Brewing Co. Dogs are welcome both inside and outside at this brewery! We ordered pizzas and sat on the spacious patio, which had many different seating options/configurations (both covered and uncovered, so it would be totally fine to sit out there in a rainstorm). The Kickball sour series was yummy, and the Espina lager really hit the spot on a warm day. We grabbed a crowler and a 6 pack to go, too. Peek at the sticker wall near the bathroom and see if you can find the Bert & Ernie sticker!
Wishing you happy hiking and exploring!