As many people look at their calendars and start planning ahead for this year’s vacation spots for their families and horses some may overlook a wonderful location right here in Fillmore County. In fact, they may be the busiest trails in the United States for several reasons.
Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park, which is nestled between Spring Valley, Minn., and Preston, Minn., has so much to offer riders and their horses.
Mark White, Park Manager of Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park, states, “We are by far the busiest horseback site in Minnesota for any of the public trails,” adding, “they may be the busiest trails in the United States as far as horse per mile,” with only about 17 miles of trails drawing almost 11,000 riders in 2016.
Although there are other locations that offer more miles of trails, you may be hard-pressed to find any with trails so beautiful and well-maintained.
“We have a really good reputation for the condition of the trails here,” notes White. “We have a veteran staff here that has been on for many years and they are really good,” he says.
“We surface the trails with crushed rock,” which riders have appreciated, according to White. The trails are a good mixture of easy riding and slightly more challenging.
“The trails are fairly tame – they are fairly easy to ride,” states White, which is great for family riding as they are not very risky, although he states there are a couple trails that are a little more rugged or a little steeper than others.
“We have about 250 feet of elevation, which makes some nice climbs” for those who would like more of a demanding route, explains White.
The main reason people like to come to Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park to ride horses is because it’s scenic, says White. “There are some overlook spots where you can look out over the valleys where it’s very scenic,” he notes.
“The stream fords are especially popular because people can ride through the water,” says White adding, “a lot of places don’t offer that,” so it is pretty unique for riders. “It’s a place to teach your horse about crossing water and for a horse to get a quick drink,” states White.
“Another big factor here is we don’t have any biting insects,” notes White. There may be very few mosquitoes, a few black flies and an occasional deer fly, but it’s “a tiny impact compared to most other areas in Minnesota,” he states.
Due to flowing water that is cool in the summer, it is not a habitat for mosquitoes. As you can imagine, no mosquitoes is “one of the reasons riders really like it – on the trail and also for camping,” and also makes the horses more comfortable as well.
“All those things enhance the quality of riding” and camping for the riders who stay at the park. “A really high percentage of the people that come to ride here are campers,” states White, explaining that, “about 60% of our visitors camp that ride horses here,” which brings them to appreciate the park even more.
“It’s a pretty in-depth experience when you come riding out at Forestville,” especially at night, states White, as you can hear owls and coyotes, for example.
White says because a lot of people really like to be close to their horses at night, the horses stay right with the owners when camping. “People really care about their horses – they are like part of the family for a lot of people,” explains White, so “every site has a hitching rail right in the campsite and your horse stays right with you there,” which eases the owners’ minds.
There is so much more that Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park has to offer, as their printed information states, “perhaps no other Minnesota state park offers visitors a greater variety of attractions than does Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park. The park is rich in both historical and natural resources, including the 1853-1910 townsite of Forestville, meandering blue-ribbon trout streams, diverse plant and animal life, and dramatic Mystery Cave, Minnesota’s longest known cave,” which are all great reasons to stop for a day, a weekend or a week.
The address of Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park is 21071 Cty Rd 118, Preston, Minn. For more information phone (507) 352-5111.