This past weekend we were finally able to head out and add a new passport stamp to our National Park Passport! We were so excited! We’ve been wanting to visit Pipestone every since moving up this way, but once we were ready to, the pandemic happened and we had to wait for the visitor center to reopen to actually be able to mark that stamp officially in the book! After months of stalking their website for updates, we finally had the go ahead that the visitor center had reopened a few weeks ago. It was time to head out!
We did opt to watch the video online about Pipestone before driving out there to minimize time in the Visitor Center. Pipestone is named for the stone that is quarried in the area by Native Americans (usually of the Dakota tribe) to turn into pipes. Native Americans can still quarry in the area today, but the wait is quite long to receive a quarry site.
Another great thing about visiting Pipestone was we were able to bring the dogs along for this trip as the trail was dog friendly. We weren’t sure how well it would go with them, but they loved it!
When we arrived we took right to the trail as the dogs were itching to get out of the car. I think during normal times, you would be able to access the trail right out doors from the visitor center, but you also can access either end of the loop from the parking lot as well. We wound up probably going backwards because of not starting near the center doors, but either way seemed to work. This one actually led us to an old quarry right away, which was a neat way to start the trail.
From there you could take the Circle Trail or the South Quarry Trail. We knew we wanted the loop, so we continued on the Circle Trail. The trail is a nice mix of asphalt and occasional “rock” bridges. It was tight in some places so while it many should be accessible to all, it could be tougher in some places than others. At first we had a lot of view of prairie grasses, and then the rocks really began to appear.
Once we really got going, you could hear the roar of the upcoming waterfall and creek bed. It is an absolutely stunning waterfall that kind of shows up out of nowhere! You also can utilize some rock steps to view the waterfall from above as well.
Up above you also can access a really neat piece of history. Turns out the Nicollet Expedition passed by this way and actually used it as a rest point along the way. This portion of rock was actually etched into by Nicollet on the journey and is preserved for viewing today.
Following out hike, we dropped the dogs into the car for a few minutes while we went into the Visitor Center. They actually had the passport stamp outside of the center for easy access, but this allowed us to browse a few of the brand new exhibits they have just had put in.
I highly recommend taking a trip to Pipestone if you live anywhere nearby, or even if you will be passing nearby on another trip. It’s a very interesting part of Native American history and provides a beautiful short hike.
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