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Nerstrand Big Woods State Park

Enjoy this park on foot, any season of the year. In the spring, the park is a wildflower garden where hepatica, bloodroot, Dutchman's breeches, and the dwarf trout lily bloom. The dwarf trout lily is only found here. Relax by Hidden Falls in the summer. The autumn brings a burst of red, orange, and gold in the maple-basswood forest, one of the last extensive stands of the "Big Woods." When winter comes, ski or snowmobile the trails through picturesque woods.

Tell me more about this park's wildlife, history, geology and landscape.

Visitor Alert!

2015 Permit mugs are in stock!


All trails are now open to hiking. Please wear appropriate footwear for spring conditions.

Visits to Hidden Falls finally ice-free. Liverworts are prominent on the east face of the limestone near the stairs.

Park hours are 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Note: Visitor Center hours vary weekdays. Weekend hours generally 9-4 pm as staff availability allows.

Hidden Falls

Remember that waterflow increases when it rains.

Birds: Listen for cardinals and chickadees. Red-headed woodpeckers are feeding on acorns stored for winter and supplemented with suet and corn at the feeders. Look for birds at Visitor Center feeders and throughout the park. Red headed woodpeckers can be seen near the park office and picnic area!

Loaner Binocular Kits Available

Bird identification kits are great for seeing birds. Check at the office for details.

Last updated April 15, 2015

Park Notes

Be fascinated. Check out the naturalist programs and other activities scheduled at the park.

Virtual Tour:

Take a virtual tour. It's a great tool to help you plan your next trip to the park!
Panoramic tour | Snapshot tour

Hiking:All trails are open. Expect a mix of spring conditions. Wear hiking boots.

Squirrels are active in the understory and can be in the treetops. Turkeys and deer can be seen from a distance. Come explore the Big Woods in spring.

Gift Cards:

Purchase a Minnesota State Parks Gift Card.

Don't move firewood!

Burning non-local firewood can spread invasive species, and it's against Minnesota state law. Learn more. Always buy your firewood at the park, or from an approved local vendor. Find firewood vendors for Nerstrand-Big Woods State Park.

Firewood is available for sale at $6.00 per bundle.


As of 4-15-2015 there are more leaf buds of all the spring ephemerals poking out of the ground. Blooms seen on the following: Hepatica, bloodroot, false rue anemone, dutchman's breeches, wild ginger, spring beauty and wood anemone are blooming throughout the park trails. Frequent sightings of scarlet cup fungus too. Expect things to change daily coming up on the weekend of 4-18-12.


Fewer winter birds as the spring migration continues. American Kestrel, grackels, Red-winged black birds, robins, bluebirds, killdeer, turkey vulture, mourning doves, osprey, song sparrow, Hermit Thrush, Phoebe, Eastern Meadowlark, Ruby & golden crowned Kinglets, brown creeper and Great Blue Heron seen the past week of 4-06-15. New 04-15-15 Chipping Sparrow and bluebirds on boxes.

Birding is great! Feeding stations bring out the birds. Best viewing in the morning. Chickadees, nuthatches, goldfinches, and several species of woodpeckers can be seen at the feeders. Watch for the occasional pileated woodpecker that visits when traffic is low. Overnight listen for barred owls calling.

Red-headed woodpeckers (and young of the year with grey heads) can be seen at the feeders and at the Visitor Center and throughout the picnic area.

Birding Etiquette: Listen to bird calls before arriving to familiarize yourself for identification. Avoid playing call tapes in the park as it creates stress for birds busy with daily duties.

Thank you.

Bird Checklist This is a PDF file. You will need Adobe Acrobat Reader to download it. Nerstrand Big Woods State Park.

Park Highlights

tree "Big Woods" Landscape

tree Spectacular Spring Wildflowers

tree Fabulous Fall Color

tree Visitor Center

tree Self-guided Interpretive Trail

tree Hidden Falls Waterfall


Best time to contact the park:

Fall-Winter Saturday - Sunday, 9 a.m. - 4 p.m.; Monday - Friday, variable depending on staff availability. If no one is available, please leave a message.

When office is closed, please use the self-registration station at the front of the office to purchase daily and annual permits. Annual permits purchased through self-registration will be mailed to you.


9700 170th Street East
Nerstrand, MN 55053

tel: 507-333-4840

email: nerstrand.statepark@state.mn.us

Getting There

Take I-35 to State Highway 19 east into Northfield. Go south on State Highway 3, east on State Highway 246, then turn right onto County Road 29.