75 Reasons to Love Hiking in Minnesota (How to Join the MN State Parks Passport Club)

Minnesota is one of the most underrated states for outdoor adventurers. It’s got so much to offer and, because it’s off of most people’s radar, you can enjoy more nature with less crowds. Of all of the places I’ve lived, Minnesota has the most strong and welcoming outdoor adventure community, making it easy to connect with like-minded outdoor adventurers.

With 66 state parks, 9 recreation areas, and more than 10,000 lakes (one of which is the massive Lake Superior), there are literally thousands of miles to hike all year round. Because Minnesota has the benefit of having all four seasons, the same trail can offer you a completely different experience throughout the year.

Bright green and yellow trees are on either side of a gorge, connected by a dark red footbridge. A hand is holding up an Minnesota State Parks Passport with 4 stamps in it. Text: Why you need to join MN State Parks Passport Club

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Why Visit Minnesota State Parks?

So what does Minnesota have to offer? Well, did you know that you can step across the tiny creek that marks the beginning of the Mississippi River at Itasca State Park (which I chose as the best state park in Minnesota)? Or that you can go whitewater rafting at Jay Cooke State Park? See bison at Minneopa State Park and hear coyotes howling in Blue Mounds State Park? Or that you can view the Northern Lights from northern Minnesota?

Pro Tip: Before you hit the trail, be sure to pack these day hiking essentials in your daypack!

There are so many incredible ways to enjoy the outdoors in Minnesota State Parks! What outdoor adventures are on your Minnesota bucket list?

What is the MN State Parks Passport Club?

Whether you’re looking for new trails to inspire you or a fun way to remember your adventures, the Minnesota State Parks Hiking and Passport Club is perfect for you! Grab your passport at a park office or online for under $15 and then collect your stamps as you explore each of the 75 state parks and recreation areas. Each passport comes in a pouch along with a travel log. The travel log is like a journal to take notes on your adventures!

The Minnesota State Parks Passport comes with a travel log to record your adventures!
The Minnesota State Parks Passport comes in a pouch with a journal to track your hikes!

Minnesota State Park Passport Club Perks

If the passport and travel log aren’t cool enough, how about some free stuff? After visiting 25 parks, you earn a free night of camping and a pin. And, honestly, who doesn’t love a free night of camping? Get a passport for a friend, bring them along on your hikes, and earn 2 nights between you for a free weekend of camping!

Taking in the fall colors near Lake Superior in Minnesota at Split Rock Lighthouse State Park.
Bright autumn colors at the Minnesota state parks along Lake Superior’s north shore.

If you can’t get enough of hiking in Minnesota and make it to all 75 state parks and recreation areas, you earn another free night of camping plus a personalized MN State Parks Passport Club plaque.

Seriously, you can earn free camping just by hiking!

Minnesota State Park Passport Club Tips

Once you get your passport, don’t forget to bring it with you when you hit the trails! Just stop by the park office to get it stamped. If the office isn’t open, don’t worry. There is usually a stamp in the self-serve area outside of the office or near the entrance to the park. Look for it near the paper maps.

Pro Tip: Forgot your passport? Stamp any piece of paper you can find and paste it into your book.

Be sure to ask the park staff for their tips on the best trails while you’re getting your passport stamped. They are always incredibly helpful! They’ve offered me great tips on where to train for elevation gains, where to get the best photographs and how to spot rattlesnakes (yeah, apparently we have those in Minnesota). 

Bright blue skies seen from Interstate State Park.
A sea of green forest as seen from a trail at Interstate State Park.

Pro Tip: To enter the Minnesota State Parks and Recreation Areas, a permit is required. Buy a day pass or get an annual pass for just $35 (which is a bargain!). If you buy the annual pass, it must be displayed in the lower passenger side window in your vehicle. Grab your permit online or at a park office.

Grab Your Passport and Get Hiking in Minnesota

So there you have it, 75 beautiful reasons to love hiking in Minnesota. Grab your Minnesota State Park Passport and discover new trails. Where will your adventures take you first?

Ready to start collecting stamps? Related content to read next:

Daytrip to Minnesota’s North Shore

Minnesota Outdoor Adventure Bucket List

Perfect Minnesota Iron Range Road Trip

Find even more Minnesota travel destinations and tips on my Minnesota travel page.

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A cloudy dramatic sky is the backdrop for Split Rock Lighthouse perched on a tall rocky cliff as seen from the shoreline of Lake Superior below. Text: 75 reasons to love hiking in Minnesota, how to join the Minnesota State Park Passport Club
Three photos of Minnesota State Parks. Top: Bright autumn leaves on a footbridge in Gooseberry Falls. Middle: View overlooking the river with trees on both sides from a trail in Interstate State Park. Bottom: A paved path lined with bright green trees in Fort Snelling State Park. Text: Discover Minnesota with the State Park Passport Club. 75 reasons, 4 seasons, 10,000 lakes

16 thoughts on “75 Reasons to Love Hiking in Minnesota (How to Join the MN State Parks Passport Club)

  1. This Big Wild World says:

    Seriously, Josy! It’s such a steal. I agree – I get a little giddy each time I get a stamp 🙂

  2. This Big Wild World says:

    Yesss! It’s looking like that might be what my summer is all about at this point 🙂 No complaints though!

  3. Josy A says:

    $35 for a whole year of gorgeous local trails? That really is a bargain! I like the idea of the passport too. I would have LOVED that as a kid. I’d still secretly love it now too. 😉

  4. Tara says:

    I agree that Minnesota is totally underrated for outdoor adventures. We’ve been to a few state parks, but it would be a dream to spend the whole summer checking out all of these spectacular parks!

  5. This Big Wild World says:

    I get excited every time I get a new stamp! It’s worth checking to see if the parks near you have a similar program – OR, of course, just come a hike the awesome Minnesota state parks 🙂

  6. This Big Wild World says:

    Thanks, Karen! So glad you like the video – this was one of the first ones I ever made 😉 The passport is really encouraging me to get out and explore some lesser known parks, which right now also means – no people, easier social distancing!

  7. Karen says:

    I really liked the video. I know what a great state Minnesota is for adventure but the video gives more reasons. We have a similar park passport system in Massachusetts and it’s great.

  8. This Big Wild World says:

    Hi Ian! That sounds like an awesome project! Always nice to connect with another MN State Parks Passport Club enthusiast 🙂 Hmmm, I’ve done some looking around and can’t seem to find which one came off the list. When I purchased mine in 2018 there were 75, though that would include the 8 recreation areas since those are part of the passport program. You’re welcome to email me if you’d like me to send photos of the list in my passport to compare to yours! (My email is on the contact page.) Happy trails!

  9. Ian says:

    I was just doing research for my project this year, which is to photograph all of the State Parks and Rec Areas, and also complete the Hiking Club book. I love finding others who are a part of it. Question, I purchased my Passport in 2014 and have waited this long to start hitting them all…at the time I believe there were 76 parks and rec areas? Do you know if we lost one at some point?

  10. This Big Wild World says:

    Hello, fellow Minnesotan! Always great to connect with others from the area. I can’t believe I didn’t know about the passport club until recently either! So excited to explore some new trails. Have fun with it!:)

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