Whitetail Woods Regional Park is located in Dakota County, in Empire Township. The park opened in the fall of 2014, and it is the only new regional park opened in Dakota County in the last 30 years. That alone makes it a pretty special place.
The park (which includes Empire Lake) offers hiking trails, a picnic shelter, an outdoor amphitheater, and winter activities such as sledding and cross country skiing. The two biggest highlights of the park , from my perspective, are the camper cabins and Fawn Crossing Nature Play Area.
The Camper Cabins look like a really neat place to stay. They are elevated 14 feet above the forest floor, offering a unique view of the forest. Cabin reservations can be made by calling or booking online, but beware – they are booked out through March 2016 for weekends and through September for weekdays so you will have to plan ahead if you want to stay over night! They are planning on building more cabins in the future. The cabins cost $68 a night.
Their Fawn Crossing Nature Play Area is wonderful! My kids were immediately hooked . There is a sandy area with 2 water pumps, rocks and logs. In the woods there are forts made from branches that peaked their curiosity right away.
Star Tribune wrote a great article when the park was opening; it’s definitely work a read. In it, they quoted the park’s director who said, “with children spending more and more time indoors rather than outdoors, we need to provide more close-to-home opportunities for children to connect to nature.” This park definitely provides that connection.
Click here for the full article, which offers a lot more information on the park
While there, we did a little hiking. The trails were very easy for small kids. We saw rabbits, frogs, a pheasant , deer tracks and lots of wildflower – plenty to keep the kids interested on a hike. The bugs were the only bad part of our hike, so make sure to bring bug spray!