On a recent work trip to Minnesota, I had the good fortune to stop at the Quarry Hill Park in Rochester. Quarry Hill Park was originally a part of the former Rochester State Hospital farm and was purchased from the state by the City of Rochester in 1965.
The Nature Center opened in 1973, and was tripled in size in September 1990. The main room has displays, aquariums, and taxidermied animals and birds of all sorts. While primarily geared towards children, there is plenty to learn for adults as well. Cross country skis can be rented from the back of the Center in appropriate weather.
There are more than eight miles of hiking trails. Paved, grassy and rugged single-track provide a variety of options for every fitness and ability level. Bikes are permitted, but on paved trails only. During the winter the Sports trails are reserved and groomed for cross-country skiing.
Many visitors come to hunt for fossils in the two quarries in the park. Some of the best fossils are found in the ‘old’ quarry (dress to get dirty and wet as the best hunting happens after a good rain). We didn’t go there, but apparently there are three large cephalopod fossils visible in the limestone floor of the new quarry. The best part of fossil hunting here? Finders, keepers. If the fossil you find can fit in the palm of your hand, you can take it with you.
Is Quarry Hill haunted? Those who believe say it is an awesome place to visit to spot a ghost. The “dead man’s bridge” is named after the spot where a man hanged himself in the 1960s. There’s also a cemetery – those buried here are former patients of the mental hospital.
Every year the park’s fall festival includes indoor activities like nature games, eco-friendly crafts, and candle rolling. Outdoor activities include cave tours, canoeing, rock climbing, pumpkin decorating, and tree climbing.
Directions to Quarry Hill Nature Center: