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Fort Snelling State Park Directory Logo
101 Snelling Lake Road, St. Paul, MN 55111
Admission: $0.00
Vehicle Fees: $7 Daily; $35 Annual
Hours of Operation:
Mon. 08:00 AM – 10:00 PM
Tue. 08:00 AM – 10:00 PM
Wed. 08:00 AM – 10:00 PM
Thu. 08:00 AM – 10:00 PM
Fri. 08:00 AM – 10:00 PM
Sat. 08:00 AM – 10:00 PM
Sun. 08:00 AM – 10:00 PM
Visitor Center Closes at 4:00 p.m.

Fort Snelling State Park is the only Minnesota State Park located in the heart of the Twin Cities. As a state park, it is managed by the DNR, however, the Minnesota Historical Society runs Historic Fort Snelling (and it has additional entrance fees) and the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board manages the golf course. The park has two lakes within it – Snelling Lake and Gun Club Lake. Families will find a Visitors Center, a beach, hiking and walking paths, a disc golf course and space to picnic. As with any Minnesota State Park, park patrons will need a vehicle pass – either for one day use or an annual permit – to enter the park.

Families can hike, bike and ski trails that link to Minnehaha Park and the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge. In the summer months they can also canoe and swim.

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Kids approaching the Fort Snelling State Park Visitor Center in St. Paul, Minnesota, on a fall afternoon

10 Ideas for Family Fun at Fort Snelling Park

Whether its our very first visit or you are a regular to this park, Fort Snelling offers plenty of park amenities to keep a family busy on any visit.

  1. Attend a Naturalist Program or Family Fun Event. Participants can pre-register to attend a variety of events at most Minnesota State Parks, but this park – in the middle of an urban area – is convenient to visit even with busy family schedules. Past events have included maple syruping, nature education and story strolls.
  2. Borrow GPS units, Birding Packs or Fishing kits. Stop at the Park Office on your way into the park to borrow free kits. Fishing is free for Minnesota residents at this park – no fishing license required.
  3. Explore the shores of the Minnesota and Mississippi Rivers. Pike Island, within Fort Snelling park, is located at the Bdote or confluence of the Minnesota River & Mississippi. This is the spot where the two rivers meet and become one. This spot has particular spiritual meaning to the Mdewakanton Dakota.
  4. Play a Round of Disc Golf. This is a pay course run by MPRB. Learn more below.
  5. Hit the Beach on Snelling Lake. If it is too chilly to swim, there is plenty of found to be found on the beach any time.
    • Look for Animal Tracks
    • Watch Airplanes
    • Study water plants
    • Play on the Playground
  6. Hike. There are lots of trails  for every level. There are even beginner hiking paths that are less than a mile long.  Learn more in our Kid-Friendly Hikes article. If its snowy, you can snowshoe or ski (skiing requires a MN Ski Pass)
  7. Bike through the park. Some of the paths through the park are multi-use trails and allow biking. The trails are well labeled and the bike trails are paved. If you are up for it, you can bike the Minnehaha Falls and back.
  8. Investigate the Thomas C. Savage Visitor Center. The DNR offers this nice visitor center where families can learn about the history of the area and the natural resources found within the park – not to mention warm up on a cooler day or cool down on a warmer day. There are indoor restrooms at this location as well.
  9.  Visit Wokiksuye K’a Woyuonihan (Remembering & Honoring) Memorial. Learn about the Dakota prisoners, some of whom were children, kept at Fort Snelling.
  10. Look for Wildlife. The park is open until 10pm, so you can time your visit for dusk if you want a better chance of running into wildlife (or not, if you don’t). A dusk walk might offer a glimpse of a fox, racoons, and deer (visit in the spring and you might see a mother and fawn). Daytime visits to the rivers and lakes may offer views of water fowl (maybe a trumpeter swan) and turtles.

Trumpeter Swan found at Fort Snelling State Park, St. Paul, Minnesota
Example of Trumpeter Swan found at Fort Snelling State Park

Airplane Viewing at Fort Snelling Park

By now most people know about the Aircraft Viewing Area set up by the Minneapolis St. Paul International Airport. While this is a really awesome place to see aircraft take off up close, it does have some downsides – like no restrooms, no shade and it’s crowded at times. The beach at Fort Snelling is another option. While you won’t see the actual take-off, the aircraft take off directly over the beach, so you will see plenty of up close planes. The beach has restrooms, shade, and a play area. If the beach is crowded, families could hike a little further away to watch planes. The curious can find a photo guide to the various aircraft near the beach buildings.

Airplane Viewing at Fort Snelling State Park
Airplane Viewing at Fort Snelling Beach

Fort Snelling Beach

We visited the beach in early spring. This may not be on everyone’s favorite beach list because of its close proximity to the airport. At least in the spring, there was a lot of animal droppings in the sand. I’m curious to see if that is cleaned up in the summer. The positives are the nearby play structure, the shallow entry, the nice beach buildings, and the outdoor shower. Also, at least during our spring visit, we saw an amazing variety of animal tracks in the sand — several deer, raccoons, ducks and geese, coyote? (maybe a dog?). That may have been my favorite part of our visit.

 Fort Snelling State Park Fishing

Visitor Center at Fort Snelling State Park

The Thomas C. Savage Visitor Center has films and and exhibits where families can learn about Minnesota history and natural resources. Kids can check out Kids Discovery Kits to explore the park.

Waterfall Interpretive Exhibit at Fort Snelling State Park Visitor Center, Saint Paul, Minnesota
Interpretive exhibits in the visitors center help families dive deeper into the history and resources of this beautiful area of the Twin Cities metro

Fort Snelling Pollinator Exhibit

Fort Snelling joins 9 other Minnesota state parks in installing educational pollinator plantings and exhibits. Below is a transcript of the audio connected with the exhibit:.

Welcome to our pollinator garden, be still here for a few moments. The plants and wildflowers all around you help pollinators, like monarchs and bumble bees, find food and shelter. Go ahead and get close to these plants. What do you smell? Do they all smell the same? Do you see any insects? What are they doing?

These insects, or pollinators, need good food and habitat to survive. Gardens like these help them out. You can plant native wildflowers where you live and help pollinators thrive near you.

Boy reads about water plants found in Snelling Lake while visiting the beach at Fort Snelling State Park in Saint Paul, Minnesota
“What’s Growing On in the Lake?”

Fish for Free Without a License

Because this is a state park, adults and children can fish for free without license. Even better, loaner fishing kits can be checked out, so you don’t even need to own your own tackle.

Fishing in Minnesota State Parks - I Can Fish Program at Fort Snelling State Park
Naturalists Kao Thao and Krista Jensen – I Can Fish (Image courtesy Minnesota DNR)

Birding and Geocaching

This park also has free birding kits and GPS units for patrons to borrow. Park Rangers are happy to give pointers and assistance. Birding Kits include binoculars, guide books and bird lists that are unique to each state park.

Disc Golf

While Fort Snelling is a State Park with a St. Paul address, the City of Minneapolis operates The Fort Snelling Golf Club within the park. Families may enjoy playing the 18-hole Disc Golf course during warm months. This is one of two pay disc golf courses that the City of Minneapolis operates. Adults cost $5.00 and children are $2.50. Season passes can also be purchased. Pay at the clubhouse.

Cross Country Ski at Fort Snelling State Park

In the winter trails are groomed for cross-country skiing. Adult and older teen skiers are required to have a Minnesota Ski Pass.

Teen reads memorial sign while toddler explores Wokiksuye K'a Woyuonihan (Remembering and Honoring) Dakota Memorial at Fort Snelling State Park in Saint Paul, Minnesota
“This memorial honors the sixteen hundred Dakota people, many of them women and children, who were imprisoned here at Fort Snelling in the aftermath of the 1862 U.S.-Dakota Conflict.”

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