Afton State Park
Best Trails in Afton State Park
Looking for a great trail in Afton State Park, Minnesota? AllTrails has 11 great trail running trails, hiking trails, forest trails and more, with hand-curated trail maps and driving directions as well as detailed reviews and photos from hikers, campers, and nature lovers like you. Ready for some activity? There are 6 moderate trails in Afton State Park ranging from 2.4 to 31.1 km and from 260 to 299 meters above sea level. Start checking them out and you'll be out on the trail in no time!
Afton State Park is located in the St. Croix River Valley, surrounded by woods and prairies. It was created in 1969 to protected its territory. Among the many activity you can enjoy in the park are hiking, backpack camping, fishing, swimming and cross-country skiing in the winter. $7 entrance fee per car
RunningHikingForestRiverDogs on leashNature tripsKid friendlyWildlifeWalkingViewsWildflowersCamping
Show moreSours: https://www.alltrails.com/parks/us/minnesota/afton-state-park
Afton State Park
Parks & Trails Council of Minnesota membership has helped preserve scenic Minnesota places like this beach at Afton State Park. Photo by Mark Lissick.
About the Park
Grand oaks and delicate prairie flowers grace the rugged, rolling landscape of this park. Trails traverse remnant and restored prairies, wind down deep ravines that drop 300 feet to the river and rise up to the grassy ridge tops and bluffs overlooking the scenic St. Croix River.
The trails are perfect for hikers, horseback riders and cross-country skiers. The park offers visitors a swimming beach, backpack campsites and a visitor center with interpretive displays.
Birdwatchers can observe hawks and waterfowl on the St. Croix flyway, bluebirds and meadowlarks in the grasslands, and waves of migratory birds in the floodplain.
Our Work by the Numbers
undertaken by P&TC
for this park
of land saved
for this park
of park's total acreage
P&TC assisted in adding
total value of
all land projects
Park Map (courtesy of MN DNR)
Our Project Stories
Project 3: Buffer
Project Years: 1996-1996
Project Acres: 40
This 40-acre parcel was a private inholding, consisting of an old farmstead and agricultural field in the northwestern portion of the park. This property and the surrounding area had a high potential to be developed, so its addition to the park boundary would serve as a buffer. Parks & Trails Council acquired the parcel for $350,000 in 1996. Once the land exchanged hands, the unusable structures on the property were burned and buried with the help of the Lower St. Croix Fire Department, Friends of Afton and an excavation contractor.
Project 2: Shoreline
Project Years: 1993-1995
Project Acres: 30
Originally part of a private trust, this 30-acre parcel provided 1,200 feet of spectacular shoreline along the St. Croix River. The property was optioned to the MnDNR, who could only offer the appraised value, well below the asking price. In order to fill this gap and ensure that the land was sold to the state for the appraised value of $584,000, Parks & Trails Council paid the trust a total of $140,000.
Project 1: Creation
Project Years: 1968-69
Project Acres: 827
Visionaries build parks from scratch – even when the odds are against them. Such is the case of Samuel H. Morgan and the battle for Afton State Park. One of seven founding members of what would come to known as Parks & Trails Council of Minnesota, Morgan learned in 1967 that lands with the best beaches on the lower St. Croix River were for sale. At the time, P&TC didn’t have the funds necessary to negotiate with the landowners who were fast recognizing the tremendous value of their land. To further complicate matters, legislation establishing the park and its boundaries couldn’t happen until purchase options for a substantial amount of the proposed park were secured.
Fundraising efforts began in earnest through the Afton Land Company, an entity created by Morgan and others with the sole purpose of soliciting and managing loans and donations for the park. Despite many trials and tribulations, they managed to purchase or negotiate options on 827 acres valued at $876,000 by the time a bill to create Afton State Park went before the Legislature in 1969. Strong local opposition to the park led to a last-minute legislative battle in which park supporters eventually prevailed.
Land Projects at Other Parks or Trails
Tour more of the land projects we’ve undertaken for parks and trails.
Hastings, Washington County • Daily or annual park fee required
Afton State Park offers 20 miles of some of the best unpaved, natural-surface hiking in the Twin Cities metro. These dirt or mowed grass trails take us through diverse terrain and topography, making it both interesting and (sometimes) strenuous!
Hiking and Trail Running are Both Popular at Afton
My young friend, Renee, and I hiked 5ish miles altogether on our morning at Afton. This park is very popular with trail runners—we saw many. Probably more runners than hikers, actually.
I can see why—it’s a super workout! Big, steep hills but also lots of long flat trails for variety. Lots of shade and also lots of sun, depending on the trails you take.
With so many to choose from you won’t get bored easily!
The North and South River Trails are flat and easy, with tons of shade for hot summer days. When you start moving away from the river, though, prepare for steep climbs! You’ll get your heart rate up, that’s for sure.
Almost all the trails are either groomed for cross country skiing in the winter or marked for snowshoeing. There’s one short trail set aside for winter hiking or you’re welcome to hike on the ungroomed trails if you can find them and the snow isn’t deep.
Here’s the link for both summer and winter maps. Be sure and see page 2 which gives short descriptions of the trails, including difficulty.
What You’ll See in Afton State Park
Afton State Park sits alongside the St. Croix River, with a couple miles of shoreline. You can hike along the swimming beach for the best views of the river, and to sit and relax there for awhile if you want to.
There’s plenty of camping here, too, which you’ll see as you hike through. In fact, if you camp here you can jump on the trails no matter where you’re staying. There’s easy access to the trail system from any of the camping spots.
There’s plenty of wildlife here. We scared up a couple of deer as we headed from the woods into the meadow. It was still quite early in the morning with not too many people around yet, so that was a fun surprise.
There’s been a note on the park website saying a black bear has been sited throughout the summer, so be aware this is bear territory. Don’t leave food laying around, and no matter what, if you see a bear while hiking DON’T try to approach it or feed it!
Wildflowers are abundant here,especially in the open meadows. Tall prairie grasses were growing over our heads along the mowed Deer Valley Loop Trail. A great place for birding, too.
How to Get There
Afton State Park is in southeast Washington County right on the St. Croix, about halfway between Interstate 94 to the north and Hastings to the south. The main entrance is off 70th Street and St. Croix Trail South.
The park surrounds Afton Alps Ski area/Golf Course.
You’ll need a daily or annual state park pass to park, which you can get at the main entrance.
Click here for more hiking options in Washington County
Founder & Publisher of Twin Cities Outdoors at Brodin Press LLC
Sharon loves going to local parks and natural spaces to hike, paddle, camp, snowshoe and cross country ski. Besides maintaining TCO and her other blog, Active Outdoor Women, Sharon writes and designs websites, newsletters, blogs, emails and other marketing tools for clients.
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