One of the few remaining stands of the state's Big Woods lies just 50 miles northwest of the Twin Cities in Lake Maria State Park. This dense forest of maple, basswood, elm, red oak, tamarack, and red cedar once covered over 3,000 square miles of south-central Minnesota. Most of the trees have been cleared, but this rolling and rocky park still stretches over some 1,500 acres, boasting a gorgeous string of lakes, including several that are canoe-only (conveniently, the park offers canoe rentals). Fourteen miles of trails connect the lakes and marshes, and the ambitious hiker will be richly rewarded. The threatened Blanding's turtle lives here, identifiable by the bright yellow spots on its shell, as do eagles, Cooper's hawks, osprey, trumpeter swans, great blue herons, and owls.