Twin Cities Forest Picnic
November 24, 2020 6:13 AM   Subscribe

For Thanksgiving, my little family wants to have a picnic in a pine forest. But which one? Can you recommend a place within 90 minutes of the Twin Cities that has a pine forest where we can lay our blankets on a bed of pine needles? Bonus points for: not crowded, not a 5 mile hike from the car with picnic, and postprandial pretty hiking options.
posted by shadygrove to Science & Nature (3 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I'm sure you're aware that the ground is likely to be wet and/or partially snow covered. The coniferous biome starts well north of the cities. There's also a map of all the old growth forests left in the sate.

If you click on any forest in this DNR State Forest Map, you can click on "About the Forest" and it'll describe the type of trees in the area.

Close to the metro, if you follow the "soft surface trail" at Carver Park in Woodbury there are definitely some patches of pine trees. It's surrounded by a mountain bike trail so picnicking there would be unusual, but the bike trail is closed temporarily for freeze/thaw.
posted by mcgsa at 10:00 AM on November 24, 2020 [2 favorites]

As mcgsa mentioned, it's going to be hard to find the picturesque all-pine forest that close to the cities. They're well north. You can certainly find pine trees around the metro, but most of those are going to be mixed with other trees, meaning your bed is going to be wet leaves rather than pine needles.

Chengwatana State Forest is similarly mixed forest but has a number of campsites you'd very likely be able to commandeer for the day that are surrounded by pines. Picnic tables too, if you're not sold on the idea of sitting on the ground. Not quite 90 minutes from either downtown.

Jay Cooke is the closest place I can think of where you can get that yummy northern pine smell and have the needles crunch under your feet on the trails or have a bed of them to enjoy. But it's snowing up there today and won't really be conducive to picnicking come turkey day when it'll be in the middle of melting (though there's obviously tables there too). 90 minutes north of North Branch, so depending on where exactly in the metro you are this could either be on the edge of doable or way too far.
posted by SquidLips at 10:31 AM on November 24, 2020 [1 favorite]

We ended up on the Tall Pines trail at Moose Lake. It was great! Thanks all!
posted by shadygrove at 6:18 AM on November 27, 2020

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