Room to Roam: Whitetail Woods Regional Park Celebrates Grand Opening
Years of planning, strategy and preparation finally came to a head, as Dakota County, MN officials officially unveiled Whitetail Woods Regional Park—the county’s first regional park in three decades—on a sunny September afternoon.
As visitors flew kites, listened to live music, and enjoyed horse-drawn wagon rides, they described their impressions enthusiastically: “Beautiful.” “Great for families.” “Nature-filled.” “Big spaces.”
Emphasis on the “big”—456 acres, to be exact. Whitetail Woods offers over 10 miles of summer hiking trails and over 6 miles of ski trails traversing rolling prairie, pine forest, wetlands, and Empire Lake.
But an even more fitting descriptor for Whitetail Woods might be “one-of-a-kind.” Top of the List’s Audrey Flack attended the park’s grand opening festivities with her family and noted several standout features that make the park, in her words, “worth the drive.” Here are few of her top picks:
Fawn Crossing Nature Play Area
For kids, Fawn Crossing Nature Play Area offers a change of pace from the traditional playground, using the landscape itself to encourage creative play. Hills, hollows, and rock walls become places to build forts, play with sand, pump water, and jump across tree stumps and logs. Flack and her two young sons took full advantage of these opportunities:
And to help ease the wintertime doldrums, the hilly portion of the play area becomes a 915-foot lighted sledding hill. Post-sledding, groups can use a nearby king-size outdoor fireplace to toast smores beneath the stars.
“Treehouse”-style camper cabins
Open for just one month, Whitetail Woods’ one-of-a-kind camper cabins have made a big impact. When reservations opened at 10 a.m. December 1, there were 45 requests within the first 60 seconds. The three cabins have sold out completely through April 2015.
The cabins offer soaring views of the surrounding forest, while still remaining ADA compliant. Each cabin houses up to six people on simple full-size and twin day beds and can be used year-round.
Looking ahead: A regional destination
At the Whitetail Woods grand opening, visitors learned of future plans for the park, including a paved trail around Empire Lake, an arbor for weddings, a dog park, disc golf course, visitor center, lighted ski trail, and up to 30 camper cabins. Programming for children and adults began in the fall, which attracts visitors from across the county and beyond.
A nature-lover at heart, Flack is eager to return. “Connecting with nature has been a key form of stress relief throughout my life,” she said. “I can’t wait to share the beauty of Whitetail Woods with my boys as they grow.”