This summer my family checked Pipestone National Monument off our bucket list. It was one we had driven by a few times on trips to South Dakota, but we hadn’t yet stopped. I’m glad we finally fit it in! We made a little weekend out of the trip. In this blog I will highlight our day at Pipestone and share other ideas for a short trip to the area.
About the Park:
Pipestone National Monument is located in Pipestone, Minnesota, which is in the southwest section of the state near the South Dakota Boarder. It is about 1 hour from Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and 3 ½ hours from Minneapolis, Minnesota. The 301-acre Monument consists of many quarry pits, 56 of the pits are active pipestone extraction sources. The park also is home to Pipestone Creek, beautiful quartzite cliffs, Winnewassa Falls, and beautiful tall grass prairie landscape that surrounds the quarries. Pipestone quarrying is reserved for American Indians who are enrolled in tribes recognized by the Federal government. Without proper permits it is illegal to remove pipestone from the park. You can buy a souvenir at the gift shop and you can learn a lot about what pipestone is, and how it is used in the visitor center. You may even get lucky and have the opportunity to see a live demonstration. Check out Pipestone National Monuments Official Website as well to learn more about the geology and history of the park.
We got to Pipestone National Monument at about 10AM and went directly to the visitor center. At the visitor center we picked up Junior Park Ranger booklets for the kids and took time to look at the exhibits. We also picked up a map which showed us what the park had to offer. We decided to do the Circle Trail, a ¾ mile loop around the park.
This was a beautiful hike, full of a variety of nature and wildlife. The quartzite cliffs and Pipestone Creek were beautiful and of course we loved Winnewissa Falls. The different rock formations were a lot of fun and we all enjoyed climbing around and exploring. This hike was also nice because the kids (age 3 & 6) were able to do the full hike BY THEMSELVES! No carrying for us! This is always a big positive. It did take a few games of trail tag, and trail hide and seek (one parent hides up trail) to keep the kids moving but we did it!
Once we made it back to the visitor center we sat down and finished our Junior Park Ranger booklets. If you have kids, YOU MUST do this during your visit. I highly recommend it. The program is great and is available at National Parks nationwide. We have done it in quite a few parks with the kids now and they always love it, and as parents, we love it too! It often teaches us just as much, or more than it teaches the kids. The booklet at pipestone was pretty short so we spent maybe a half hour working on it before the kids were ready to get sworn in as Junior Rangers of Pipestone National Monument. This was great. Also, we got quite the bonus getting to see a monarch open its wings for its very first time just after the kids got their badges! We had fun talking with the rangers and watching the butterfly they had on display!
After exploring the park, we stopped at a picnic area near the entrance to the park. Here we enjoyed beautiful views and a great late lunch before heading back to our hotel for a night of swimming and fun!
Where to Stay:
There is no camping available in the National Park but there are good options nearby.
Pipestone RV Campground
Across from the Pipestone National Monuments entrance.
Split Rock Creek State Park
6 miles south on Hwy 23 near Ihlen, MN.
Blue Mounds State Park
23 miles south on Hwy 75 near Luverne, MN.
Camden State Park
35 miles northeast on Hwy 23 near Marshall, MN.
For hotels I highly recommend the GrandStay Hotel & Suites. On summer weekends they do sell out so book ahead. We stayed at the GrandStay Hotel & Suites about an hour outside of Pipestone in Montevideo, Minnesota. This worked well with our driving from the Brainerd Lakes Area. The one right in Pipestone looks almost identical, and fantastic as well. Very family friendly. They even have a playground outside by the patio. For us, a big bonus of this hotel chain is that they offer BBQ grills to use during your stay. We grilled both nights during our stay and loved it. The pool was fabulous, the hot tub was relaxing, the staff was friendly, and free breakfast was great!
Other Things to do in the Area:
Pipestone Family Aquatic Center & Harmon Park
Come here for summer fun! Enjoy waterslides, diving boards, splashing, and swimming. Great areas for both older and younger kids. There is also a picnic area, sand volleyball, tennis courts, basketball, softball, and a playground.
Here you can enjoy frisbee golf, walking trails, sand volleyball, baseball, and of course playground equipment.
Bike the Casey Jones State Trail:
This 12-mile trail is a favorite of locals. Bike rentals available from Ewart Community Center.
Spilt Rock Creek State Park:
Enjoy hiking, fishing, swimming and wildlife while visiting this park. Camping and picnicking are also available. The main attraction in this park in the Sioux Quartzite stone dam.
I hope this made you excited to visit Pipestone National Monument. It is a great area of Minnesota and I definitely recommend a short getaway to the area. I encourage you to bring the kids! For some tips on getting your youngsters hiking check out my post on The 10 First Things to Teach Your Kids About Hiking. Good luck, have fun, and feel free to ask any questions in the comments!
Much Love & Happy Travels,
*This post contains affiliate links, this means I receive a small commission for the sales made. I only recommend products I myself would buy. Thank you in advance.