Oatmeal Runner Runs Afton State Park

After three trails runs at Theodore Wirth Park, I decided I was ready to try a little bit of a challenging in trail. And since we bought a Minnesota State Park permit during our camping trip in June, why not try running at a state park. Seriously, I’m still regretting not bringing running gear to Cascade River State Park because that would have been an amazing run!

 Prarie views at Afton State Park

Prarie views at Afton State Park

Luckily, we have several state parks within an hour drive from us so I had several to choose from. But I had read a blog post from Minneapolis Running of six trails less than an hour away from the Twin Cities and knew I really wanted to run Afton State Park. Gorgeous scenery and somewhat technical trails? Just what I was wanting!

Now, I’ve got to say, I have a ton more respect for people who regularly run technical trails (especially with tough hills) after running at Afton State Park. I ran 5.5 miles of the 20 hiking trails there and it was tough. I had almost 600 feet of elevation gain over my run and there were some spots where I had to hike up instead of running because of the steepness. But on the other hand, that meant I had some fun “bombing” downhill which is an experience I’ve never had.

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One really great thing about running at Afton State Park (and probably all state parks) is how well marked the trails are! I had no chance of getting lost, even with my sense of direction, with how many trail maps there are out there. It also really helped me plan which way to go as I was running because the distances between points are marked and I could go “Oh, let me get in a little bit mileage and take this route instead” and end up at the same place.

 A view of the St. Croix River at Afton State Park

A view of the St. Croix River at Afton State Park

And the views are spectacular, you get a little bit of everything from the river, to forests, to restored prairies. I couldn’t help but stop and take tons of photos because it was just gorgeous, especially with the blooming flowers. I cannot wait to get back out to Afton during the fall and spring to see how it changes throughout the seasons. And even though I saw plenty of people (including lots of runners) on the trails, it was so quiet and serene.

 Luckily, this was a downhill section for me (winding beyond view)

Luckily, this was a downhill section for me (winding beyond view)

Do you have a trail running recommendation for me? Let me know in the comments where I should be trying to get a run in (hopefully around the Twin Cities area)!

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