Blocked from Hell’s Gate – Banning State Park

Being blocked from Hell’s Gate most people would rejoice.  I was disappointed.  I am not afraid of Hell, been there done that many times. A short visit on a beautiful day would make the Devil aware that I am still alive and kicking.  I just never thought it would be blocked by a creek of high water and a downed tree. I think the Devil was afraid to meet me on my own terms.

After a very crazy month and three airplane trips across the Atlantic we finally were able to take some time to unwind with a hike.  I am falling very short of my plans for this Spring and now have decided that plans aren’t what are important, being flexible is what is important.

We had the choice of two very close Minnesota State Parks to visit for the day, Jay Cook State Park (one of our favorites for hiking) or something new Banning State Park.  We choose Banning State Park as we had visited the Kettle River (read my blog about kayaking the Kettle, here) earlier in the morning close to my parents farm.  The changes in the river over the last three weeks rekindled my adventurous spirit.  From snow-covered and iced to now river banks full of water from the snow melt. Gathering water from surrounding farm fields and swamps as it makes its way downriver to link up with the St Croix and then on to the Mississippi River.   We were interested in seeing how it was flowing only 37 road miles down river.

I have visited Banning State Park over the years to see the river flow but I have never really hiked or really investigated the river. This was a first time visit for my Dutch hubby. This park is located less than a mile off Interstate 35 between Hinckley and Moose Lake, Minnesota.

Banning State Park

The now warm and mild temperatures were perfect for hiking.  My hubby mentioned there were no bugs sucking the blood from him as he is the walking foreign food buffet usually in Minnesota at other times of the year.

From the parking lot there are several hiking routes to choose from and we of course picked the route along the River heading towards the Hells Gate class IV rapids.  The 2 mile hiking trail is wide and easy for any hiking level.  There are areas that would be dangerous for small children if not closely watched as the river is fast and the trail in places can be slick along the river.

Wide hiking trails that lead along the Kettle RIver

Wide level hiking trails along the Kettle River and through the old quarry

The first signs of Spring were reveiled to us within feet of hiking as I nearly stepped on a Garter snake.  Then a butterfly fluttered by.  Above us circled the bald eagles looking for a meal along the fast-moving river.  The clear blue sky with small puffy clouds floated by and we seemed to have the entire Park to ourselves to enjoy.

Garter Snake

Garter Snake out in the warm sun

This Park was created in 1973 and is the location of a former rock quarry.  The signs of the old quarry are located all along the trail and are nice stops to learn the history of how the quarry worked from the posted park signs along the trail. The Kettle River is heaven for kayakers with class III and IV whitewater rapids located along this stretch.

About the white water of the Kettle River

About the whitewater of the Kettle River at Banning State Park

One of the remnants of the quarry

One of the many remnants of the former quarry.

The hike was enjoyable as we watched the river change from rolling turbulent challenging waves to fast flowing quiet runs of Spring run off. The sun was strong through the bare trees and the light breeze made it an enjoyable hike to refresh our souls after our recent family torments and travels.


We didn’t make it to Hell’s Gate.  The trail was blocked with a creek at flood stage and a downed tree.  That was ok – visiting Hell is more about the journey than getting there.

Looking at the Kettle River from above

Looking at the Kettle River from above and reviewing the trail map to Hell’s Gate.