A day of traversing craggy bluffs and viewing breathtaking nature.

Image by Andy Richter

By Aubrey Schield

It’s easy to get bogged down and worn out by big city living. Sometimes you just have to get out and get back to nature. (Don’t get me wrong, I love being near the vibrant downtowns of Minneapolis and St. Paul). Every year when fall rolls around, I seem to crave outdoor adventure more than ever. Something about the crisp air and changing colors makes me want to get out of the city and enjoy the natural beauty of Minnesota.

In times like these, I’m thankful that the Twin Cities are only a short drive from plenty of opportunities to explore the great outdoors. One in particular (admittedly my favorite) is Taylors Falls. The town is a small community nestled within the craggy bluffs that tower over the St. Croix River, delineating the border between Minnesota and Wisconsin.

I made the hour-long drive north to Taylors Falls earlier this month with a couple friends for a day of hiking. We arrived in the morning because the weather was humid and threatening rain later in the day. After parking and making a pit stop in an information center equipped with restrooms, we hit the trails of Interstate State Park.

The bulk of the park is located on the other side of the St. Croix in Wisconsin. On the Minnesota side, however, there is a half-mile trail that winds around glacial potholes drilled in the rocky bluffs from years of water erosion. We hiked along the trail made from ancient lava and walked down a set of stairs into a pothole at least 15 feet deep.

After an hour of exploring the glacial pothole area, we hopped in the car, crossed the bridge into Wisconsin and re-entered the park. With ample places to park the car, we had no trouble finding a good spot to leave our wheels and set out on two feet.

Here’s a tip: Grab a trail map before you start exploring. While the trails are clearly marked, it’s a good idea to map your route ahead of time. We hopped on Summit Rock Trail that wound around forest and rocky landscape and culminated in the highest point of the park. With such spectacular views of the gorge and river below, selfies ensued. (If you find yourself on Summit Rock Trail, keep an eye out for Old Man of the Dalles rock. You’ll know it when you see it.) Continuing along River Bluff Trail, we eventually hooked up with Lake O’ the Dalles Trail, which runs along a small lake by the same name. The trail is great for wildlife viewing, though we only caught a glimpse of a few geese swimming in the water.

The trails took us from the shores of the river all the way up to the highest point of the bluffs and back down again—a continuous cycle of climbing and descending. Surrounded by forest and glacial rock outcrops, it felt as though we had left civilization completely. Needless to say, I got my nature fix.

My only complaint about the excursion was our timing. Unfortunately the leaves weren’t at their peak color for the season—so I guess I’ll just have to go back. Sigh.

It just so happens that I’m returning to Taylors Falls this weekend. This time around, there are a few things I will be sure not to miss.

Taylors Falls Boat Tours
Gently glide along the water with a drink in hand while knowledgeable tour guides discuss the history of the region? Don’t mind if I do.

The Drive In
This retro-themed burger joint has just the right amount of small town charm and 1960s finesse.

The Old Jail B&B
After a long day of exploring, relax in a former jail. Seriously. Choose from a room in the former saloon, or bunk in the town’s rustic jailhouse. Yes, there are bars on the windows, but you can come and go as you please.

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