3 Dog-Friendly Frozen Waterfalls within 90 minutes of the Twin Cities

3 Dog-Friendly Frozen Waterfalls within 90 minutes of the Twin Cities

Winter in Minnesota can be long and brutal. But true Minnesotans know how to make the best of the cold. One way to make the most of the winter, is to search out experiences that are unique to the season. And hiking to frozen waterfalls is a great way to find the beauty amidst the ice and snow.

There are many waterfalls in Minnesota. And most of them freeze during our winters. But not all of them are an easy drive from Minneapolis and St Paul, where the majority of Minnesotans live. This winter, Glia and I made the trek to three frozen waterfalls within an hour and a half drive from the Twin Cities metropolitan area of Minnesota.

Each of these frozen waterfalls are near or part of great dog-friendly hiking trails, so you and your pup can enjoy the snowy trails on your way to or from the waterfalls. Whether you choose to walk, snowshoe, or ski, a hike through the snow crusted trees to gaze at some frozen falls will make you feel a little better about spending your winter in freezing temperatures.

Falls #1: Hidden Falls at Nerstrand Big Woods State Park

-1 hr 5 minutes (57 miles) from Minneapolis & 51 minutes (51 miles) from St. Paul

Located south of the Twin Cities metro, Nerstrand Big Woods State Park is an easy drive, mostly consisting of highway driving on either US-52 or I-35. This park is a treat for winter hikers, as most of the trails are open for hikers and leashed dogs year round. 

Hidden Falls can be accessed via a 1 mile loop trail. This trail will take you through forested terrain and alongside a frozen river. In the winter, the falls may be covered with a thick blanket of snow. When we visited, the falls almost just looked like a snow covered hill. But as we walked closer, there were some beautiful cascades of ice exposed among the snow.

For the best view of the falls, there is a short set of stairs to navigate. Use caution when there has been heavy snow as the stairs can turn into a ramp.

We were able to walk right out onto the frozen river (following previous hikers footsteps). And since we visited early (before 10am) on a Saturday, we had the falls to ourselves.

After you finish enjoying Hidden Falls, we recommend spending the rest of your time at the park enjoying the additional up to 11 miles of trails.

*Note: A Minnesota State Park Pass (annual or daily) is required to park at this state park.

Falls #2: Wolf Creek Falls at Banning State Park

-1 hr 23 minutes (93 miles) from Minneapolis & 1 hr 20 minutes (91 miles) from St. Paul

North of the Twin Cities, is Banning State Park and Wolf Creek Falls. This state park is an easy drive, as it is located off of I-35.

Banning State Park boasts great hiking trails along the river, as well as two waterfalls. Wolf Creek Falls is the waterfall located inside the main region of the park. It is accessible via the 4 mile Wolf Creek Trail loop.

In the winter, this 20ft tall waterfall is hard to find as you approach. With the river covered in snow, it just looks like another riverside bluff. But as you get close to the falls, a beautiful cascade of ice opens up in front of you.

And if you have the time, after enjoying Wolf Creek Falls, hike the Quarry Loop Trail. While not officially a waterfall, the melting water dripping over the old quarry walls creates a beautiful frozen waterfall effect.

Enjoying the frozen cascades of water along the old quarry walls.

*Note: A Minnesota State Park Pass (annual or daily) is required to park at this state park.

Falls #3: Minnehaha Falls near Fort Snelling State Park

-16 minutes (6 miles) from Minneapolis & 18 minutes (15 miles) from St. Paul

The iconic Minnehaha Falls is located in Minnehaha Falls Regional Park in Minneapolis. This 53 foot waterfall is as beautiful in the winter as it is in the summer. 

Be aware that this is Minneapolis, so you may have to pay for parking. It cost us $1.50 for an hour of parking on a Thursday afternoon. After we left, we noted that the map does indicate that there are a few free parking spots in the area. 

Also, when we visited, the stairs down to the falls where closed due to the snow. At first, we thought we were going to have to content ourselves with a view of the falls from above. But as we wandered around the park, we found that you can access the trails to the falls without the need to navigate stairs. Just head to 46th Avenue and you should be able to find a trail down to the falls.

Before visiting, we had seen photos of people hiking behind the frozen falls. However, at the time of our visit all paths to the back of the falls were closed.

And after you are down enjoying the beauty of Minnehaha Falls, hike some of the trails in the park. Or if you want a longer hike, head over to the nearby Fort Snelling State Park. Some of the trails at Fort Snelling are groomed for cross-country skiing in the winter, but there are still many that are open to hikers and leashed dogs year round.

So there you have it: 3 great dog-friendly frozen waterfalls.

What are you waiting for? Get outside and enjoy the frozen beauty before spring arrives and the ice melts and gives way to raging rivers.

Looking for more hikes to enjoy with your dog around the Twin Cities? Check out our growing list of local hiking trails.

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