Wildflower hikes abound in Hastings area

Posted 4/21/21

Trails cross blufftop woods, dry prairies, Mississippi River forest (April 7, 2021) – There’s no better way to see wildflowers in the Hastings area than a hike. Wildflowers bloom from spring …

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Wildflower hikes abound in Hastings area


Trails cross blufftop woods, dry prairies, Mississippi River forest

(April 7, 2021) – There’s no better way to see wildflowers in the Hastings area than a hike.

Wildflowers bloom from spring through autumn. Because of that, which ones can be seen on a trail in May will be much different than when hiking it in July or September. In addition, some trails head through areas perfect for spring wildflowers while other trails run across an ecosystem where blooms appear mainly in June or late August.

Spring is the season most associated wildflowers, and for good reason in Minnesota. Many of our woodlands have ideal understories for flowers to blossom before the tree canopy fills out and blocks the sunlight. While trail conditions sometimes can be cold and wet in spring, hikers also have fewer bugs to deal with and less undergrowth, making the spotting of wildflowers easier.

Summer offers more warmth and sunlight, making for pleasant hikes. Wildflowers often look more impressive, as colonies of them stand out against a lush green background. On the downside, summer means bushes block line of sight views of many wildflowers.

Autumn’s crisp and dry days make for excellent hiking. As the leaves thin out, wildflowers become easier to spot once again. Fewer wildflowers bloom in autumn than in spring or early summer, though, making for limited viewing except in very specific locales.

Fortunately, there are plenty of great hiking trails around Hastings to see wildflowers from spring through autumn. Some are right out your back door, while some are a day trip that you can do in an afternoon.

Spring Lake Park Reserve (Hastings) Though best known for its great views of the Mississippi River atop Scharr’s Bluff, the spring ephemerals also are fantastic at Spring Lake Park Reserve. A 1.5-mile round trip route that includes the Mississippi River Regional Trail and the connector to it heads though a blufftop woods. From Hastings, take Second Street west. When the street splits, go right/northwest onto Niniger Road, which naturally becomes 132nd Street East. Turn right/north onto Idell Avenue, which becomes 127th Street East when it curves west. Head right/north onto the park entry road and leave your vehicle in the lot for the playground. The connector trail heads east from the parking lot.

Kinnickinnic State Park (Prescott) White daisies bloom in the dry prairie at Kinnickinnic State Park. The 1.2-mile Yellow Trail loops at the edge of a forest and prairie area. From Prescott, take Wis. Hwys. 29/35 north. Turn left/north onto County Road F then left/west onto 820th Avenue. The park entry is a left/south onto DNR Road. The Kinni Overlook Lot is a good place to start the loop, and the hike can be extended by adding the Green, Orange or Purple trails.

Lilydale Regional Park (St. Paul) Hikers can see wildflowers of a forest floodplain right in the middle of the state’s largest metro area at Lilydale Regional Park. The 1.6-mile round trip Lilydale Park Trail runs through the 380-acre public area in Saint Paul. Wild ginger, Canadian honewort , pointed-leaf tick-trefoil, and spotted touch-me-not flower are just some of the flowers that can be seen. American lotus dot Pickerel Lake from July to September. From downtown St. Paul take Interstate 35E south. Upon crossing the Mississippi River, exit onto Minn. Hwy. 13/Sibley Memorial Highway. Go left/northeast. Turn right/south onto County Road 45/Lilydale Road. After going under the railroad overpass, look for an entry road on the left/northwest that heads to a parking lot. At the lot’s north side, take the trail northeast.

Rudy Kraemer Nature Preserve (Burnsville) The smallest flowering plant in Minnesota’s wetlands can be found at the Rudy Kraemer Nature Preserve. Diminutive duckweed consists of a lone one-quarter inch wide leaf with a microscopic flower. They grow in the wetlands along the half-mile Kraemer Nature Trail. The rest of the way, look for prairie flowers that bloom through the summer. In Burnsville, from the junction of Interstate 35W and Minn. Hwy. 13, take the latter west. Turn left/south onto Chowen Avenue, which ends at a preserve parking lot and the trailhead.

St. Croix Savanna State Natural Area (Bayport) The prairie blufftops usually are the first place to see wildflowers each spring. The St. Croix Savanna State Natural Area offers an easy to reach gravel prairie high above the river. In early April to early May, you’ll know spring has finally arrived when the pasqueflower blossoms there. Skunk cabbage comes next on the blufftops. That usually is followed by pussytoes and then violets. Wildflowers growing beneath the forest canopy usually blossom in mid-spring. Wood anemones typically are the first to arrive, as they bloom before the trees grow their leaves. From Minn. Hwy. 95 in downtown Bayport, take Fifth Avenue/County Road 14 west. Turn left/south onto Stagecoach Trail North/County Road 14, left/east onto Inspiration Parkway, and right/south onto Prairie Way South. As the street curls north, turn right/southeast. Park when the road ends out. A 1.25-mile degraded footpath loops along the prairie’s edge.

Barn Bluff (Red Wing) Most of Minnesota’s population of bladderpod flower can be found in one city – Red Wing. The yellow wildflower loves south-facing bedrock bluffs, and that environment can be found aplenty in the Mississippi River town. The best spot to see bladderpod is on the east prairie of Barn Bluff. A combination of the South and Prairie trails with the Kiwanis Staircase will take you there in a 2.2-mile round trip hike. From U.S. Hwy. 61 in downtown Red Wing, turn southeast onto Plum Street. Next, go left/