Frequently Asked Questions

The Minnesota campus is open from 8:00 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. every day. The center is closed on New Year’s Day, Easter Sunday, Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day. The gates are locked and the public may not enter after business hours.  Buildings, grounds, parking lots, and trails all close at 4:30.

The Wisconsin campus visitor center, paved parking lot, and front gates are open from 8:00 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. daily. The center is closed on New Year’s Day, Easter Sunday, Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day. Trails are open from dawn until dusk 365 days a year.

The Apple Shack will be open to the public 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. seven days a week during the apple season (typically Labor Day through Thanksgiving).

The public is not allowed to hike the trails after hours. Both sites are private property. For the safety of our visitors and neighbors, site use is restricted after public hours. Anyone entering the site after hours is trespassing. Evening programs may be scheduled and would include paying a staff person. Call 651.437.4359 for more information.

There is no fee to enter the nature center. Our trails and buildings are accessible to the public free of charge during business hours. We welcome any donations, both monetary and physical items (see our wish list for more information). CNC relies on your donations to keep our programs available for everyone and to keep our sites open 361 days a year.

See our Locations and Hours page here

MN campus

From Hastings: take Hwy. 61 north, crossing the bridge over the Mississippi River. Turn right onto Hwy. 10 toward Prescott, Wisconsin. Continue on Hwy. 10 for almost three miles and turn left onto Cty. Rd. 21 (St. Croix Trail). Drive one mile up the hill to the CNC gates on the right.

From St. Paul (I-94 or I-494): take Hwy. 61 south through Cottage Grove. At the stoplight, where Hwy. 61 and Hwy. 10 split, turn left onto Hwy. 10 toward Prescott, Wisconsin. Continue on Hwy. 10 for almost three miles and turn left onto Cty. Rd. 21 (St. Croix Trail). Drive one mile up the hill to the CNC gates on the right.

WI campus

From CNC’s MN campus: Go south on County Road 21 approximately 1 mile to Hwy. 10. Turn left and stay on Hwy 10 through Prescott, WI. Turn left at the stoplight onto Hwy 29. Turn left onto County Road F, towards Hudson, going north for 9 miles. Turn left onto South Cove Road, heading west until you reach the intersection. Turn right and follow South Cove for approximately a half mile. Access to paved parking and the Al & Laurie Hein Visitor Center is on the left side of the road.

From Hudson: Go south on Carmichael Ave, which turns into County Road F. Turn right on East Cove Road and follow for approximately a half mile. Turn left on Ahrens Roads. At the intersection, take a left onto South Cove Road. Access to paved parking and the Al & Laurie Hein Visitor Center is on the right side of the road.

There are many things to do at Carpenter Nature Center, including public education programs, hiking, observing nature and wildlife, seeing animal exhibits, or visiting the apple orchard.

CNC offers a number of public programs such as bird and plant hikes, maple syrup making and yoga classes. CNC also hosts a number of children’s programs during the school year designed to foster interest in the natural world. Children can attend summer fishing, canoeing and raptor camps. Check the calendar of events for annual events held for the public including Raptor Releases, the Apple Fest and annual Autumn in the Valley Gala.

Visitors of all ages can enjoy the solitude, fresh air, hiking trails and the breathtaking views. In addition to the programs designed for children and students, CNC has a number of adult programs such as snowshoeing, yoga and maple syrup making. There is also a number of volunteering opportunities such as animal caretakers or gardeners and internships available for college aged students. All ages can enjoy our public programs like bird banding, nature hikes or other programs in addition to our beautiful trails and picnic areas.

Any group (for school, scouts, adult groups, birthday parties, youth groups, preschools, etc.) can make a reservation for a program. Check out our group scheduling page here for more information or call 651-437-4359.

CNC does not groom ski trails in the winter; however we do have snowshoes available for rent for $5 a pair or free for “Friends of CNC” and volunteers. If renting our snowshoes, there must be at least 6 inches of snow on the ground. You may also bring your own snowshoes. Only the savanna trail is plowed during the winter; there are no plowed trails on the WI campus. Our education staff would prefer if you use designated snowshoe trails.

The Nature Center has a number of facilities available for rent. The River Bluff Pavilion is great for large events such as weddings or other big events. For corporate conferences or meetings, CNC has the Flint Hills Trailside Lodge and Conference Center. There are a number of scenic outdoor facilities that are smaller and perfect for outdoor gatherings. For more information about rentals call our rental coordinator Alan Maloney at 651-437-4359 or visit our rental facilities page.

Dogs are allowed at Carpenter Nature Center but they must be on a leash and owners must clean up after them. Pets are not allowed in the buildings. The leash rule applies to both the MN and WI campuses. This rule is in place for the comfort and safety of other visitors. In addition, both sites are home to threatened and endangered species that are harmed by domestic dogs.

For the safety of all our visitors on our trails, we do not allow bikes or other motorized vehicles on our trails.

CNC’s MN campus has 4 miles of paved trails. Due to the age of the trails, many of our paved trails are not smooth and are of moderate difficulty. Newer paved trails around the administrative building, near the orchard and near the wetlands are flat and easily wheelchair accessible. The Savanna and North Loop trails are flat, minimal elevation, and about a mile long. For the more adventurous visitor, the beach trail descends about 25-28 meters in 0.1 miles to the railroad bed and is wood chipped and steeply sloped.

Firearms are prohibited on both campuses. Smoking is prohibited in all indoor spaces. Drugs and mood-altering chemicals are not allowed. Hunting and collecting are prohibited on the MN campus.

CNC does not have a boat launch. Visit the City of Hastings, Prescott or St. Croix Bluffs Regional Park for the nearest boat launches.

Dress suitably for the weather. A sturdy pair of hiking shoes is recommended. Wearing lighter clothes that cover as much skin as possible reduces the risk of being bit by insects. From early spring through late fall, check your clothes immediately after a hike to remove ticks.

We have a wide range of education animals that live in our Visitors Center. From a Bald Eagle, to a hawk to tiny turtles, the public is free to visit any of the animals from 8:00 am – 4:30 pm daily free of charge. All our animals are education ambassadors and help us in our programs throughout the year. During a hike, you may also see some native animals in their natural habitats.

MN Birding on Facebook is a great resource to use to identify common birds in your backyard. Visit the nature center on Fridays to get a chance to talk to experienced bird banders. These are also great websites to visit for identifying birds:

Backyard Bird Identifier by National Geograph

We appreciate that you care about wildlife. There are a few steps that both Carpenter Nature Center and the Wildlife (WRC) would like you to know before determining what to do with your injured animal. Please understand that Carpenter Nature Center is not equipped to take care of injured or orphaned animals.

Always ensure your own safety first when assisting an injured animal. If on the side of the road, pull over to a safe place and always handle the animals in a safe manner.

The first thing you should do when finding a potentially injured or orphaned animal is to call the WRC at 651.486.9453. They will instruct you if your animal needs to be taken into the Rehab Center. If instructed to bring the animal in, the Rehabilitation Center is located at 2530 Dale St. N. Roseville 55113. They are often very busy but if you leave a message with a name and number they will call you back as soon as they can. Often, an animal is best left alone and does not need any help. 

If the rehabilitation center is closed, please do not give the animal any food or water. A veterinarian should check to make sure the animals’ injuries will not continue to hurt the animal. The next step is to place the animal in a secure carrier or box with air holes and keep the animal away from noise, pets and other humans. This will reduce the stress on the animal and if you see the animal is very young or wet, you may place a heating pad under half the container set to no higher than low.

Carpenter Nature Center and the Raptor Center of MN would like to extend our thanks for taking time to help nature’s raptors. There are a few things that you should be aware of before handling a raptor.

You should always notify a licensed professional before handling a raptor. The Raptor Center can be reached at612-624-4745 during the spring/summer daily between 8:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. On the weekends and after hours, please call 612.702.9924. You can also call The United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), your state’s Department of Natural Resources or Department of Game, Fish, and Parks, or your local sheriff’s office.

Try to handle the raptor as little as possible to reduce stress and do not feed or offer water to the raptor. Until help arrives, try to keep it in a dark and quiet environment to reduce stress and keep pets and children away for safety reasons. If you must handle the bird, use heavy duty gloves and use a blanket or towel to reduce the visual stimuli for the

If you happen to find a frog, toad, salamander or other amphibian in your home during the winter months, we suggest you keep it in your home. Carefully move the animal to a makeshift terrarium, such a large Tupperware container with soil, foliage, and a shallow dish of water. If you do not have these supplies, contact CNC and we would be happy to provide you with some materials. Keep the terrarium in a cool, dark place away from other animals until spring when it is warm enough for you to release the animal outdoors.

CNC recommends checking your plants before bringing them inside for the winter to avoid accidentally picking up these hitchhikers.

Please refrain from bringing these animals back outside during winter, because their bodies will not acclimate properly to the cold weather. Again, if the critter is not being a nuisance, the best way to care for it would be to keep it inside your home.

If you have further questions or concerns, feel free to contact CNC at 651-437-4359.

Cocoons are often accidently brought indoors on branches intended for kindling. Check all kindling branches for cocoons prior to bringing them indoors to avoid this issue. Cocoons do not need water or food, just a nice cool place for them to continue developing and growing. If you place them in a warm area, these cocoons may develop prematurely, or will not hatch. If the cocoon is in an undesirable location in your home, gently pick it up and place it in a Tupperware, canning jar, or other container. Pick a cooler and more humid location for the cocoon to stay in, like a porch, garage, or shed. Air in homes is usually quite dry, which can affect the moisture in the cocoon, whereas the winter air is humid. Once it begins warming up, you can place your container outside so the cocoon can acclimate to the weather, and soon emerge!

Another note: If you find a cocoon outside your house during the winter, it is best to leave it. These critters are built to survive the Minnesota winters better than we are! They create an antifreeze of sorts in their bodies to keep their temperatures stable so they don’t freeze in the cold.

If there is an adult moth in your home or garage, take similar step as you would if you found a cocoon. If you are comfortable keeping the moth indoors, place it in a Tupperware container with holes in the lid so they are able to breathe. A moth’s lifespan is only a few days, so there is no need to provide food or water for the animal. They don’t even have mouth parts to eat or drink! You can keep the moth in a garage or shed space until it reaches the end of it’s life, or you can bring it indoors and enjoy the beauty of the moth for the short time it is alive.

If you have any further questions about how to care for a cocoon or adult moth, feel free to call Carpenter Nature Center at 651-437-4359.