Hiking & Trail Running in Afton State Park

Hastings, Washington County • Daily or annual state park permit required

woman standing in front of a bench overlooking the St. Croix River

Afton State Park offers 20 miles of some of the best unpaved, natural-surface hiking in the Twin Cities metro. These dirt or mowed grass trails take us through diverse terrain and topography, making it both interesting and (sometimes) strenuous!

Hiking and Trail Running are Both Popular at Afton

My young friend, Renee, and I hiked 5ish miles altogether on our morning at Afton. This park is very popular with trail runners—we saw many. Probably more runners than hikers, actually.

I can see why—it’s a super workout! Big, steep hills but also lots of long flat trails for variety. Lots of shade and also lots of sun, depending on the trails you take.

With so many to choose from, you won’t get bored easily!

hiker on a wooded trail
The South River Trail is wide, flat and shady. There are a few spur trails down to the St. Croix River, but they’re steep!

The North and South River Trails are flat and easy, with tons of shade for hot summer days. When you start moving away from the river, though, prepare for steep climbs! You’ll get your heart rate up, that’s for sure.

There’s one short trail set aside for winter hiking or you’re welcome to hike on the ungroomed trails if you can find them and the snow isn’t too deep.

Here’s the link for both summer and winter maps. Be sure and see page 2 which gives short descriptions of the trails, including difficulty.

woman hiking up a hill on a wooded trail
This photo doesn’t give you the true feeling of how steep some of these trails are! A great workout.

What You’ll See in Afton State Park

Afton State Park sits alongside the St. Croix River, with a couple miles of shoreline. You can hike along the swimming beach for the best views of the river, and to sit and relax there for awhile if you want to. There’s a beautiful sand beach there and a few gigantic cottonwood trees.

There’s plenty of wildlife here. We scared up a couple of deer as we headed from the woods into the meadow. It was still quite early in the morning with not too many people around yet, so that was a fun surprise.

There’s been a note on the park website saying a black bear had been sited throughout the summer, so be aware this is bear territory. Don’t leave food laying around, and no matter what, if you see a bear while hiking DON’T try to approach it or feed it!

deer bounding off in a meadow
Can you spot both deer bounding across this meadow?

Wildflowers are abundant here,especially in the open meadows. Tall prairie grasses were growing over our heads along the mowed Deer Valley Loop Trail. It’s a great place for birding, too.

Other Activities at Afton

Afton has some great camping, but they’re all backpack-in tent campsites. You’ll park your car in the parking lot and hike in up to a mile (uphill!). There’s easy access to the trail system from the campsites. Afton also has some rustic camping cabins and a couple of yurts.

Winter lovers: Almost all the trails are either groomed for cross country skiing in the winter or marked for snowshoeing. And the hike-in campsites are open all winter if you like winter camping!

How to Get There

Afton State Park is in southeast Washington County right on the St. Croix, about halfway between Interstate 94 to the north and Hastings to the south. The main entrance is off 70th Street and St. Croix Trail South.

The park surrounds Afton Alps Ski area/Golf Course.

You’ll need a daily or annual Minnesota State Park permit to park, which you can get at the main entrance or online ahead of time.

This park is very popular and gets super busy in the summer months, especially on the weekends. Get there early if you want to be sure of a parking spot!

woman hugging a giant cottonwood tree
Renee with the biggest tree we found at Afton State Park, right next to the swimming beach
Hiking Guide cover

Twin Cities Hiking & Trail Running Guide

Published in 2020 and updated in 2023, our 48-page digital Hiking & Trail Running Guide is the easiest way to find hiking and running trails in all seven counties of the Twin Cities metro area.

Click here for the details…

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Sharon Brodin
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