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Best Outdoor Activities in St. Cloud — Our Top Five

Abby Faulkner wandering in Quarry Park

If you had asked me about what I like to do outside in St. Cloud when I moved here at the start of winter, I would have looked at you all cross-eyed. “What do you mean “do outside?’ Does sprinting from my car to my house in the blistering cold while trying not to fall on the ice count? No?”

Ok, so I admit I didn’t hold out much hope for the outdoors in the middle of January.

But as it always does, summer arrived and, frankly, I’m delighted at the number and variety of awesome activities that get me out of the house on a regular basis. From biking to canoeing to just grabbing my headphones for a good long walk, St. Cloud and the area which surrounds it have a lot of options for spending quality time out of the house – reminding us why we put up with those not so pleasant winter days.

Here are 5 that I think are top-notch.


 

Honestly, this might be my favorite thing on this list. A few weeks back, I canoed an 18 mile stretch of the Sauk River between Sauk Centre and Melrose with Todd Foster and Scott Miller, two world-class canoeists. One of the coolest things about canoeing on the Sauk is being able to witness the contrast in area landscapes. It wasn’t uncommon for us to wind through a wooded riverbend, only to find ourselves out in front of acres of farmland, barns, cows, etc.
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Another great thing I learned about the Sauk River is that it has a lot of stretches that are perfect for beginners. The stretch I canoed, the 18 miles between Sauk Centre and Melrose, has a nice easy current, a very relaxed pace and plenty of beautiful sights.
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Want to try it out? You should connect with Friends of the Sauk River. They're a non-profit that has a "canoe library" full of equipment that, for a small fee, you can check out.
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Oh, and to see a video that shows why I dig canoeing the Sauk so much, check out my highlights from my trip.
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I discovered Quarry Park on a little ski trip back in December. Even though I was freezing cold and am klutzy on skis, I was quite impressed with the park. I mean, it's this expansive wildlife area with miles of hiking trails, bike paths, rock climbing piles, granite swimming pools - and it's pretty much smack dab in the middle of Waite Park. Talk about convenient. 

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I spent an afternoon last week getting lost on just a few of trails which make up the miles of hiking trails in Quarry Park. I spotted a few brave souls rock climbing, and even braver ones hurtling their bodies off what I consider "cliffs" into deep water pools. While these things are NOT for this wimp (I'm MORE than content to stroll along shaded paths with a camera) but I can see why so many people would spend many  a day at Quarry Park and Nature Preserve.

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Added bonus -  it's cheap to frequent all summer long. 

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Abby Faulkner
Abby Faulkner
 

One of my very favorite things about living in St. Cloud is being right along the Mississippi River. A great way to get close to the river is to hit up the Beaver Island Trail.

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This is a pathway that runs parallel to the river, connects downtown with SCSU's campus, loops south by Roosevelt Road, and then connects right back to campus and downtown. For someone who used to be a bike commuter, I consider this a great discovery; it's scenic AND practical.

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So to recap - not only can you enjoy being outside biking, skating, jogging, etc, but it's a practical way to get across the city! Sounds good to me, and I'm definitely not the only one who thinks so.

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And check out a quick video of yours truly biking the path behind the SCSU hockey arena. (Shot by David Engberg of Townsquare Media)

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Ok, so this is easily one of the coolest discoveries of the last few weeks. Chances are, if you live in St. Cloud, you've been to, or at least driven past, Riverside Park, right across University Ave from the Clemens and Munsinger Gardens. (We'll get to those soon...)

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What you may NOT know is that there is an 18-hole frisbee golf course officially sanctioned by the Professional Disc Golf Association. On any given evening (or earlier) it's not uncommon to see packs of folks - all ages - tossing frisbees around this expansive course.

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Now, you'll have to provide your own frisbees, but the course is free to all. And this is certainly not the only disc golf spot in the area. After a little digging, I found out that they're everywhere!

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Those looking for a little more structure, the St. Cloud Disc Golf club organizes all kinds of play around the area. After my visit to Riverside, I might be looking into this myself.

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Abby Faulkner
Abby Faulkner
 

I've been referred to as an "old soul" on more than one occasion. That being said, when it come to the outdoors, there are few things I enjoy more than a simple wander through somewhere lovely.  I had been told about the Clemens and Munsinger Gardens quite a bit, but I moved here in the winter and they weren't a whole lot to look at back then. 

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Things have changed.

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It's important to note that these are two completely separate areas. The Clemens Gardens is the one most people see, located right along Riverside Drive. It's a quick stroll - the garden isn't very big - but it has a gazebo, a winding red brick path, lots and lots of different flowers, and a pretty cool history to boot. 

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Now, Munsinger Gardens is just a quick jaunt down the hill toward the river. It's bigger than Clemens, and has plenty of nice, shaded spaces to kick back, read, picnic and see the river. I know it seems cheesy, but after living in a jammed city for so long, I'm just really happy to find a space like this right here in the middle of town. 

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Obviously, spaces like this lend themselves well to special events and such, and if you're interested in learning more about that, visit the Botanical Society's website.

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Abby Faulkner
Abby Faulkner

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