Whitewater State Park
Dakota and Meadow trails

Cross the river

Whitewater State Park contains several high limestone ridges surrounding a lush valley carved by the Whitewater River.

The trail described here climbs and follows two of the ridges, providing amazing views of the valley and the cliffs.
Whitewater State Park is an intricately beautiful place - it takes a while to find all the nooks and crannies tucked away between and on the ridgetops. This trail is only one of many that can be taken. You have to start somewhere!

From the junction of Interstate 90 and Hwy 74 south of St. Charles, Minnesota, take Hwy 74 north through St. Charles to Interstate Hwy 14.
Hwy 74 turns left and follows Hwy 14 west for 0.2 miles till Hwy 74 takes a right and heads north again.
Follow Hwy 74 5.8 miles north where you will see a small wooden walking bridge on your left, and a gravel road for the group camp on your left. Exit on the group camp road, then turn immediately right and park in the Meadow Trail parking lot.
Note that you need to have a park sticker to park in the lot, which can be purchased at the park office, one mile north of the trailhead parking lot.
Coordinates for the hike: 44.0510600,-92.0543900
Parking / Trailhead amenities
The parking lot is gravel and level. There are no facilities near the parking lot.
Trail observations
The trailhead is beside the stop sign where you turned off Hwy 74 to enter the parking lot. Look for the "Dakota Trail" sign and follow the pointing arrow.
The trail starts immediately climbing along a very narrow dirt trail. The trail is often damp and can be slippery. From this point, the Dakota Trail climbs and then follows the cliffs edge till it descends and crosses over the river further down the valley. The trail then climbs and returns along the cliff on the other side of the valley, till it descends and crosses the meadow back to the parking lot.
You need to use caution when the trail is wet - the trail is often very narrow and traverses some fairly steep hillsides. A slip could be painful. At times the trail skirts the edges of some fairly substantial cliffs - a slip along these places could be fatal. If you have children, be careful.
Trail statistics
The trail is 3.15 miles long. The sum of all the uphill climbs is 264 feet.
Trail waypoints
0.10 miParkingParking lot
0.12 miTrailheadTrailhead
0.32 miStay rightBranch - stay right
0.41 miSide branchGo right on side trail to overlook, then return here and go left
0.43 miKeep rightKeep right - don't go down the stairs
0.45 miEagle pointGo back to the start of the side branch, then go left
0.46 miMapTrail map
0.52 miMapTrail map
0.62 miKeep rightBranch - keep right
0.67 miShort and steepShort steep climb
0.83 miKeep leftBranch - keep left (bench)
1.13 miSide branchGo right on side trail to overlook, then return here and go left
1.13 miMapTrail map
1.37 miBenchBench
1.40 miGo rightTee - go right (trail map)
1.47 miRiver crossingCross the river on the cement steps
1.47 miGo leftTee - go left
1.55 miHead uphillIntersection - go straight across and follow the uphill trail
2.22 miGo straightKeep right to go straight (trail map)
2.50 miGo down stairsHead down the stairs (map)
2.67 miRight at bottomGo right at the bottom and walk alongside the road
2.70 miBeside the roadWalk alongside the road for about 50 feet
2.74 miMeadow trailFollow the meadow trail
2.97 miMapTrail map
2.97 miLeftGo left at the end of the bridge
3.15 miEnd of trailEnd of trail
Trail map - Dakota and Meadow trails
Altitude chart - Dakota and Meadow trails Side branch Keep right Eagle point Stay left Short and steep Keep left Side branch Head uphill Right at bottom Meadow trail Map End of trail
Difficulty: Moderate
Terrain : Bluff
Terrain : Hilly
Trail surface: Dirt
Trail surface: Grassy
Trail surface: Gravel
Type: Loop
View: Overlook
View: Wooded
County: Winona
State: Minnesota
Country: United States of America
State park map
Minnesota State DNR web page
Printable trail map in PDF format (33 Mb download)
Printable trail map in PNG format (4 Mb download)
Waypoints in CSV format
Waypoints in KML format
Instructions on using a trail description page
Instructions on using a trail map printout
Trails in the surrounding area
Area map for Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin (6 additional trails)
Area map for Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin (3 additional trails)
Area map for Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin (4 additional trails)
Area map for Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin (4 additional trails)