A Midwest State Has One Of The Most Underrated State Parks You've Likely Never Heard Of

When it comes to gorgeous geography in the Midwest, Minnesota has a way with freshwater lakes, plains, rivers, and rich farmland that's hard to top. You don't have to be here long to realize why one of the nicknames it's earned is "The Land of 10,000 Lakes." While there are many natural landmarks and wonders to experience across Minnesota, visiting state parks is the perfect way to pair amazing views with outdoor adventure. There are currently 66 state parks across the state that visitors and locals can set out to explore. That said, if you're looking to enjoy an underrated destination among the bunch that's a true hidden gem, be sure to make time for a visit to Glendalough State Park the next time you're here.

Located in Battle Lake, Minnesota, Glendalough State Park sits about 170 miles north of Minneapolis and covers around 1,900 acres of land. It was originally donated to The Nature Conservancy in 1990 before officially becoming a state park in 1992. While it's significantly smaller than popular destinations like St. Croix State Park, which covers 34,000 acres with wetlands, prairie, and forest, Glendalough State Park has a plethora of fantastic views, landscapes, and activities to offer visitors. Here, you'll find a unique combination of leaf hills, prairie, hardwood forests, and lakes to check out at your own preferred pace.

Explore the prairies and waterways

Glendalough State Park is a place where the landscapes invite visitors to step back in time for a while. The park is home to around 700 acres of protected prairie, which provide a glimpse at what the wild terrain would have looked like long before it was ever settled upon. Standing between the towering prairie grasses and open skies, it's easy to feel like you've been transported to another era.

Time enjoyed at Glendalough State Park is also an opportunity to make the most of on-the-water adventures. Begin at Annie Battle Lake, which spans 335 acres and is a non-motorized fishery lake found in the center of the park. It's a popular and peaceful place for reeling in everything from sunfish and crappie to walleye and large bass.

When you want to spend time on the water, there's a self-service rowboat, kayak, and canoe rental hub set up just past the Old Camp Bridge. Lifejackets come included and vessels can be booked for four hours at a time, or until 9 p.m. If you want to canoe or kayak your way through as much of the park as possible, follow Battle Creek, which connects Annie Battle Lake, Blanche Lake, Molly Stark Lake, and Battle Lake. Beyond boating and paddling, there are options to explore the fishing pier at Molly Stark Lake. This is also where you'll find a scenic swimming beach that's ideal for cooling off in the summertime.

Make the most of hiking, biking, and wildlife watching

If hiking is your preferred method of exploration, Glendalough State Park promises to inspire. Here, you'll find nine miles of hiking trails that can be accessed right from the park's picnic area. There are also five miles of paved trails across the park designated for cycling, with a two-mile mountain biking path set up for those who are looking to go off road with their sightseeing adventures.

The two self-guided interpretive trails at Glendalough State Park are great for visitors who are interested in birding. If you've packed your binoculars, turn your eyes to the skies and toward the marshes for a chance to view the many hawks, flycatchers, sparrows, thrush, vireos, and waterfowl that call the park home. Along the way, you'll have a chance to admire the scenic oak savannas that provide many birds with rich ecosystems in which to thrive.

Glendalough State Park also hosts other exciting creatures to observe when you want to see wildlife. Raccoons, red foxes, and white-tailed deer are commonly spotted in the prairie and along the trails. Near the waterways, there's a chance you might see beavers building their dams. If you find you need more time to enjoy everything there is to see at Glendalough State Park, canoe-in campsites are available to book near the shoreline of Annie Battle Lake. There are also cart-in campsites as well as group campsites, lodges, and two seasonal yurts.