Only a 40 minute drive outside of the twin cities, Willow River State Park is a dog friendly, must see! I had no idea what I as missing all this time, but you don’t know what you don’t know.
Here’s what to expect–
If you enter the park in the falls parking lot (the first lot to the right hand side as you pull in past the gate) then you don’t have much hiking to do so its seems pretty effortless!
However, that hill you go down at first… you have to come back up that, so as you are out exploring keep that in mind!
So, where does the difficulty come from? On this one I chose a higher difficulty level because you actually have the opportunity to go into the water by the falls if you choose. If your dog is up for the challenge, and loves the water, it’s intense but totally worth it!
Just make sure to hang on, but let go if you need to or you both might go in!
This park is literally gorgeous but only for the portion of the falls. Ok, ok, I didn’t go much further than that because I didn’t think I needed to! Not the first time anyways.
The second time I went back, I explored a little more down some trails and the scenery was not great. In fact I was super hot, sweaty, no where near the water and was immediately disappointed in the route we took, but didn’t have the heart to tell the other hikers that I wanted to go back. Because heck, to them, they didn’t like going to the water in the falls like I enjoyed.
That being said, this is only my opinion and it’s all really based on your preference of what kind of hike you’re lookin for!
Dog Friendliness 5/10
I mean, this park is dog friendly, I have to give them that. My dog is able to be on leash, in the water, etc. However I don’t think I found a garbage anywhere for poop bags. I literally had to carry around our garbage the entire time. Set it down when we went into the falls area, and had to pick it back up to take it with me. I didn’t even see any trash bins on my way out of the park. Keep this in mind and bring extra bags/bins to keep that smell out of your car for the ride home! I actually stopped at a gas station just outside of town to toss our trash away.
Otherwise, the paths are large so I felt extremely comfortable taking my dog reactive dog here!
I definitely think Willow River State Park needs to be on your calendar, however it’s likely to be a quick trip and that’s ok too. I do have plans of spending a morning there drinking coffee in my bathing suit on the rocks with my buddy just to enjoy the view.
Oh yeah, and getting back up that hill… good luck!
Interested in other dog friendly hikes?! Check out this post where I review the parks we’ve been to!