If you are near central Minnesota and are looking for an hour or two of pleasant walks along earthen trails next to a river, I suggest Rockville. It is a short drive west from St. Cloud on Highway 23, or a slightly longer drive east from Paynesville. A paved bike trail crosses the road just before the entrance to the park, and when the ROCORI trail is complete, it will connect to the Glacial Lakes State Trail in Richmond. The bike trail’s name is a combination of the three towns it will connect: Rockville, Cold Spring, and Richmond.
Rockville County Park has almost 300 acres of land (1.2 km2) and is adjacent to Eagle Park which has another 63 acres. The Sauk River runs through it. The trails loop around upon themselves in a way that allows you to choose the length of your walk. You are never very far from your starting point. This park exists because of donations of land by private citizens. That is pretty cool.
The trails are well marked. The parking lot has a covered picnic area and pit toilets that were well maintained and clean. There were about 10 other people also using the trails on the chilly windy Sunday that we were there. I sensed that this is a place that is valued by the community and with good reason. The variety of natural beauty is a treasure. Moss covered boulders and outcroppings of granite. The winding Sauk River. A Tamarack bog. A restored prairie with native grasses. An overlook of the river valley. This was my first visit here and hopefully I will return to paint many of these scenes. So far I have a drawing of a young oak tree that I will add to the Paint and Hike creativity page for October.
As I write this, much of Minnesota is covered in a blanket of fresh snow. It is only October, so this snow will probably melt soon and we may have more days like the day we walked here. I am glad that we got outside to enjoy that crisp fall day.