Not only does Minnesota have an absurd number of World’s Largest this and that, but it also boasts the World’s Oldest Rock. Yes, you read that right. The oldest exposed rock on the earth, right here in Minnesota, on the side of the road in the southwestern part of the state.
With all the lakes and rivers in Minnesota, it’s not uncommon to find the occasional waterfall. And while the majority of them are found on the North Shore, Minneapolis is blessed to have one right in the city. Minnehaha Falls is a 50-foot waterfall section of Minnehaha Creek, which flows through the Minneapolis area and its suburbs. “Minnehaha” translates to ‘waterfall’ in Dakota and it is found in a city park near the Mississippi River.
Another geologic wonder of MN, found in the amazingly beautiful Whitewater State Park, is Chimney Rock. Whitewater sits in the absolute heart of bluff country, northeast of Rochester about 30 miles, and the hikes and scenic overlooks are amazing. One of the hikes takes you up to an overlook on the east side of the park. On the way up, you will pass Chimney Rock. A 40-foot tall limestone rock column that has been worn away so you can actually climb around in it.
Five-hundred-million years ago, a shallow sea covered much of North America, specifically this portion of southeastern Minnesota. Sediment accumulated which later turned into this rock hundreds of feet thick. The sea eventually retreated and later on, an ice age came through, causing glaciers to sculpt the area’s bluffs and rock outcrops. Chimney rock is a great example of the ancient history of this area.
While in the area: Coyote Point and Eagle Point are both pretty good hikes in this park too, or try some fishing in the trout-stocked Whitewater River. Or, swing up to Elba, MN and climb to the top of the Elba Fire Tower for spectacular panaromic views of the area.
Along the southwestern plains of Minnesota lies another one of its many hidden gems – the Jeffers Petroglyphs. Marked by nothing but a small sign and an interpretive center, this off-the-beaten path site is home to some incredible history of Minnesota.
Minnesota’s Iron Range sits in a largely forgotten part of the state, north of Duluth, West of the Boundary Waters and pretty far off of any beaten path. A good 3-4 hours from the Twin Cities, it’s more of a hidden gem, hiding in plain sight. Known for its iron ore pit mines, the excavation over the years has left the area spotted with these scenic wonders. This one, the Hull-Rust-Mahoning Open Ore Pit Mine is over three miles long, a mile wide and 535 feet deep.