This small park has a few of activities, is close to a small city and is not too far from I-90. It's worth a stop if you are close by to see the bison and falls but probably not worth going out of your way. The top two activities here is the drive through the bison pasture and the short hike to the view the waterfall. You'll need to time your visit for the waterfall. We visited in the late summer and the flow was just a trickle. Although this park is quiet, we will probably not return here. We wouldn't avoid it, but it wasn't a favorite.
The park was set aside in 1905 as a way to preserve the falls. People had been coming from all over the area to enjoy the beauty before it was even designated a state park. The bison at the park are part of a genetic diversity program. The herd size is kept to 20-30 animals and they only bring 1 male per year into the herd. The wind powered grain mill was donated to the park from the owner's family and still stands today much as it did in 1864.
We liked the campsites here. They were fairly level and spaced a good amount from the neighbors. It was pretty warm out during the day so having shade at the site was a bonus. The campground is off the main road and there are no other main roads nearby. We didn't experience much noise during the day or overnight. There were a few other campers there with us but it didn't feel like a party atmosphere. Most of the other campers were in tents. In addition to the camping fee and the online reservation fee, you'll need to pay another $7/day as an entrance fee. There is no place to add this when booking your campsite, but it is required to enter the park. We spent 15 minutes reading all the park information and it still wasn't clear if the park entrance fee was on top of the camping fee, so we had to make a phone call to the park's deparatment. Only a small minority of states require a separate fee on top of the camping fee and Minnesota is one of them. To pay the fee you'll need to access a website on your phone, pay for the pass (pick the overnight option if you are camping to cover both days you are there) and then fill out your confirmation number on the card. The card then goes in your windshield. While we were there on the off season we did see rangers checking for the daily pass.
The website lists bathrooms and showers as available in the campground. We take that to mean flush toilets and hot running water for showers. We were very surprised to find pit toilets in the bathrooms. There were regular, working showers with hot water and flush urinals in the men's room. But both the men's and the women's room had pit toilets in the stalls. We were extremely disappointed to see this since the website doesn't mention it. Across all the state parks we've stayed at over the years we have never seen this before. We have used plenty of pit toilets (sometimes called vault toilets or primitve toilets) over the years, but parks usually clearly list this and mark them on the maps. The bathrooms were decently clean and well stocked. This was the first state park were we couldn't use the garbage dumpsters. For the three days we were in this park the dumpsters were completely overflowing. The dump station was easy to access and worked fine.
The first thing we did after arriving was a drive through the bison pasture. When we first drove through the bison were close to the entrance. The few dozen bison were close to the road and easy to watch. When we drove through on the second day we found the bison herd much further down the road but still in easy viewing distance. At the end of the bison pasture the road continues a ways to a historic building. The building is an old wind driven grain mill but we didn't explore since it was late in the day. The mill was completed in 1864 and operated until 1890 when it was struck by a tornado. The damage wasn't repaired since the mill was no longer profitable.
Another fun activity at Minneopa State Park is the hike to the waterfall. To access you'll need to leave the campground area and drive about a mile to the other section of the park. We visited at the end of the summer so the water flowing over the falls was just a trickle. Even though there wasn't much water, it was still worth the short hike. The hike from the parking area to the top of the falls is very flat and the trail is paved. It was an easy, short hike to view the falls. We then took the trail to the bottom of the falls and it was a very different trail. This trail starts with a lot of stairs and ends at the bottom with a dirt trail that follows the river. We followed the short trail a bit, but since the water wasn't really flowing much there wasn't much to see. If you have trouble with lots of stairs we'd suggest skipping the trip down to the river.
The city of Mankato is a decent size and we were able to find fuel, fast food, and groceries without problem. There is a decent Planet Fitness in town that we used a couple of times. We use Planet Fitness for a workout and shower while traveling. The Planet Fitness had much better showers and flush toilets. We didn't spend much time outside the campground since we were just passing through the area.