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William O’Brien State Park

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Park Info

William O’Brien State Park is located just an hour outside of the Twin Cities (Minneapolis/Saint Paul) along the St. Croix River. It is known for hiking, fishing, and canoeing (it is said to be the best canoeing river in the nation). There is also biking, cross-country skiing, ski-skating, and snowshoeing. Here, there are 12 miles of trails to explore with 1.5 miles being paved and wheelchair accessible. The website says that on the accessible trail, there are benches every 900 feet, so there are plenty of places to rest.

Since this area has a diverse landscape, this park is home to a wide variety of wildlife, including raccoons, mink, beaver, woodchucks, white-tailed deer, and foxes. When it comes to birds, you can find woodpeckers, bluebirds, orioles, herons, raptors, and a variety of warblers. If fishing is your thing, you can catch northern pike, walleye, bass, and trout.

This park also offers a park office, visitor center, boat access, picnic area, three picnic shelters, volleyball, horseshoes, and a ball field. The picnic area and two of the shelters, as well as the fishing pier, are labeled as accessible. In the winter, the visitor center is a warming house. If you like interpretive exhibits, naturalist programs, and gift shops, you’re in luck. Equipment rentals are available in the park office.

If you’re looking to camp, there are lots of sites to choose from. There are 114 drive-in sites, with some being electric. There are also RV sites, group camps, and camper cabins. The website says that three of the sites near the bathrooms are accessible.

All of this info came from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources website, so credit where credit is due. Click here to view the original source.

Accessibility of Facility

Parking was on a paved lot with plenty of spaces, which includes handicapped spots. 

Bathrooms were not available at the park office, but there are modern ones in the visitor center and picnic area. They didn’t have door buttons, but there were handicapped stalls with grab bars.

The trails were marked well with signage in the area where we were. I did use AllTrails to make sure we were in the spot I wanted to be in.

Trail Info

My hiking buddy and I took the Riverside Trail, which is a 1.80 mile loop with about 49 feet of elevation. Like the name implies, it runs alongside the river and loops around the camping area. The trail is paved in some areas and packed gravel in others, making it fairly accessible, but special tires/equipment may be needed if yours doesn’t do well with potentially uneven, soft, or slippery surfaces. We did fine with our regular shoes and didn’t need to use our sticks.

This trail also happened to be the interpretive exhibit, which was cool. It helped us identify some plants we saw and gave some information about the creation of the area. If you’ve been here before, you know I like trees…and we saw so many different types, some were even kinda weird shaped, which I enjoyed. I have to say this was my favorite hike on the trip. It was fairly quiet, and we got so see so much nature without having to expend tons of energy. I would rate this one as easy on the rating scale. While out here, I had shortness of breath and pain issues, but that was more of a me problem than a trail issue.

After our hike, we sat at one of the picnic tables and used my camp stove and cooking gear to make a hot lunch. There wasn’t a place to clean up, so it got packed away for a home problem, but that’s what dishwashers are for. I am glad I found this park and will likely go back in the future. Before planning this summer, I didn’t even know it existed, which is sad. The situation has now been rectified and I suggest checking it out if you’re in the area.  

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Be safe out there! REMEMBER YOUR MAPS AND PASSPORT STAMPS!! Seeyalaterbye <3

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