15 Best Things to Do in Pipestone, MN

Pipestone, MN
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Most tourist destinations feature nature parks, natural sites, and amusement parks.

If you’ve had your fill of such types of places, then Pipestone in Minnesota offers a different kind of experience.

Unlike most places, this town prides itself on having a rich historical legacy as a transportation and quarrying center.

Over the years, Pipestone has lured visitors through its interesting and unique architecture that features buildings constructed from quarried catlinite and Sioux quartzite.

Anyone who comes here will have a glimpse of the time when Minnesota was first penetrated by the expanding Western influence.

Throughout history, Pipestone has witnessed various clashing cultures come and go, which eventually produced a town that’s rich in history and hidden stories locked away in their museums, waiting to be uncovered.

Whether you’re a history buff or not, Pipestone is worth paying a visit.

Here are the 15 best things to do in Pipeline, Minnesota:

Visit the Pipestone National Monument

Name sign of Pipestone National Monument
Ahsoka Dillard, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

As Pipestone boasts as a quarrying center, it established the Pipestone National Monument that preserves the town’s quarries in a natural prairie setting.

Located along Reservation Avenue, the site speaks about how American Indians used to visit the place to quarry the red stone, which is called pipestone.

A waterfalls in Pipestone National Monument
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The pipes that have been quarried through the years were used for various purposes, including sealing treaties and agreements, showing intention for peace or war, trading, and the conduct of religious ceremonies.

Go around the area and see the different attractions such as its native plants, the Leaping Rock, Winnewissa Falls, and various rock formations.

Don’t miss checking out the visitor center, where you can watch informative films and admire interpretive displays.

Rock outcrop in Pipestone National Monument
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Marvel at the Winnewissa Falls

Scenic view of Winnewissa Falls
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If you aren’t aware already, there are quite a number of waterfalls around Pipestone.

While many of these are popular with tourists, the Winnewissa Falls takes a backseat but shouldn’t be underestimated in any way.

Located within the Pipestone National Monument, it is easily accessible through a short but fun hike. Since it is not as popular, arriving here means almost having the place just to yourselves.

Rushing waters of Winnewissa Falls
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You will love the scenic waterscape, especially its gorgeous water.

Make sure to pause on the bridge to breathe in the stunning sight of the waterfall and the creek.

You can also climb the steps to get to the top for an even more fascinating view of the natural surroundings.

The Winnewissa Falls during the winter
Michaelzamboni, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Discover the History of the Water Tower Park

When in Pipestone, you wouldn’t miss spotting the Water Tower Park, a concrete water tower park that has become an unmissable landmark in the town. It is located along 2nd St, NE, Pipestone.

Because of its height, travelers can already see it from a distance, with its height of 132 feet and diameter of 25 feet.

Among the fascinating features of the tower are the spiraling series of windows and the bowl atop the structure, which holds 150,000 gallons of water.

An important trivia to learn is that the water tower was built because of Pipestone’s lack of natural glacial lakes; thus, the reservoir stores the moisture from the soil.

A pump draws water from the earth, while gravity lets it flow when needed. This structure is not just a landmark but also proof of the locals’ ingenuity.

Learn the History of Pipestone at the Pipestone County Museum

History marker of Pipestone County Museum
Myotus, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Explore the Pipestone County Museum in the heart of historic downtown Pipestone and learn about the town’s history through its interesting exhibits.

Its four galleries in the museum focus on history and happenings, with geology and botany being featured in the many murals that grace the building.

Step inside the Museum’s Research Library to find newspaper collections, surname files, photographs, church histories, and census records.

The Pipestone County Museum also manages the Farmer School, the county’s oldest schoolhouse.

The school opened in 1883 and closed in the 1960s, and was then turned over to the Historical Society.

Experience Fun and Sports at the Westview Park

Westview Park is Pipestone’s newest park, located on the west side of town and north of Paulsen Field.

The park sits on a vast area of 25 acres, featuring a walking track, shelters, sand volleyball, restrooms, a playground, and a baseball/softball diamond.

It’s the perfect place to bring the kids to for some sports and leisure activities.

From visiting the museums, coming here afterward will be a breather from the more serious stuff in Pipestone.

If you don’t feel like playing or going around, simply sitting down to imbibe the lively atmosphere can make a huge difference to your day.

Enjoy Hiking at the Circle Trail

Empty Circle Trail
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Pipestone isn’t just about the red stone as it also lets you experience its lovely nature.

The Circle Trail is a 3/4-mile paved path within the Pipestone National Monument that starts and ends at the visitor center to form a loop.

Following the trail, you will see a creek inhabited by the Topeka Shiner, an endangered species, cut through a Tallgrass prairie, and go past a waterfall and some of the quarries that many Native Americans still use to this day.

The area surrounding the trail is home to more than 500 species, including the goldenrod, asters, blazing star, swamp milkweed, and more.

Watch for interesting stone formations like the Oracle, Old Stone Face, and Leaping Rock that will surely captivate your senses.

As soon as you leave the grassland, get ready to behold the Sioux Quartzite formation, a tall ledge that rises 10 to 15 feet tall.

Don’t miss the Winnewissa Fall and the Lake Hiawatha, both serving as beautiful accents to the already-mesmerizing sight.

Enjoy a Picnic at the Three Maidens

The Three Maidens on a sunny day
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Don’t leave the Pipestone National Monument without visiting the Three Maidens.

You will encounter these three huge granite boulders along the entrance road to the Visitor Center.

Seize the chance to take photos of the boulders.

Aside from being a great sight, it holds a lot of history and stories as the American Indians view the Three Maidens as the guardians of the quarries, making the place sacred.

You might even see some offerings left by visitors. Do make sure not to disturb those offerings as a sign of respect for the place and the people’s beliefs.

Get Spooked by Joining the Ghost Walk

A bit scary but offers a lot of fun, and information is what describes the Ghost Walk.

Starting at the Pipestone County Museum, you will walk with other tourists and your guide down Main Street and continue along the alleyways.

As you pass by structures and establishments, your guide will tell you about unusual tales and bizarre happenings that have occurred in the area over the years.

Wait till you get to a local hotel, where many sightings and paranormal activities are said to have occurred.

Whether you believe the stories or not is yours to decide on. But many people do believe these are true, as three locally published ghost story books are sold at the museum’s store.

To complete the ‘spook,’ your tour guide will be in costume.

Get spooked!

Shop at the Keepers of the Sacred Tradition of Pipemakers

Shopping should always be an important part of any excursion.

When in Pipestone, make sure to drop by the Keepers of the Sacred Tradition of Pipemakers.

This non-profit gift shop is the best place in town to find arts and crafts and tribal pieces. Beads, leather, raw pipestone, and various other supplies will delight your senses as they come in multiple colors.

Add to these the local herbs, books, and t-shirts—plus quillwork, carvings, and paintings that have been made by the local artists.

Buying stuff here doesn’t just prove that you’ve been to Pipestone, but it also allows you to support their local business.

Walk around the Pipestone Commercial Historic District

Exterior of Calumet hotel at Pipestone Commercial Historic District
McGhiever, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

This area of downtown Pipestone is composed of 30 commercial buildings distributed throughout a 2-block area.

Spot the four-story Calumet Hotel, occupying the downtown’s main intersection, and the Pipestone City Hall, both of which feature Richardsonian Romanesque-style architecture.

Moving along, you will spot the two unmistakable buildings of the First National Bank as well as the Italianate style of the Syndicate Block.

You will notice that the beauty of these old buildings in Pipestone is owed to the way they cut the stone and arrange them to build the walls.

The blocks are arranged in a variety of colors, produced mostly by the combination of light and dark Sioux Quartzite, taken from the Jasper quarries and the Pipestone quarries.

Catch a Show at the Pipestone Performing Arts Center

Located on Main Street East is the Pipestone Performing Arts Center, housed in a building that dates back to 1897.

The Calumet Players offers exciting shows managed, directed, and acted by local talents.

You can watch any of the three shows they perform each year, which fall in mid-winter, fall, and summer. In the summer is a musical, perfect for music-loving locals and tourists.

There are also the AI Opland Singers that entertain visitors twice a year with their talented voices.

If you are lucky enough, you can also catch the once-yearly performance at the Children’s Theatre, featuring the local youth entertaining audiences of all ages.

Visit the Indian Pipestone Shrine Association

This organization is located within the Pipestone National Monument and dates back to the 1930s.

It aims to have the area, which is the famed pipestone quarries of Minnesota, recognized as a National Park Service Area and preserve the vanishing art of pipe making.

It also assists the Pipestone National Monument in developing educational, scientific, and interpretive programs.

Visit them in the monument’s visitor center and learn about this unique art form. You can even watch them make pipes, which is a truly fascinating art.

Take Photographs of the Calumet Inn

Exterior of Calumet hotel at Pipestone Commercial Historic District
McGhiever, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

From Fort Pipestone, take a two-minute drive to the Calumet Inn, a place worth visiting and taking photographs of.

Located in downtown Pipestone, this old hotel was built in 1888 and continues to operate to this day.

Looking at the hotel’s facade, you will immediately recognize the material used for its construction—quartzite, which Pipestone is most known for.

For its interior, you will be mesmerized to see turn-of-the-century antiques and unique architecture.

Though it’s already an old hotel, it keeps up with typical modern accommodations as it also has wifi connection, well-appointed rooms, a shared lounge, a bar, and a restaurant.

Many tourists come to stay here to have a feel of what Pipestone used to be.

Rock Island Depot is the last depot in Pipestone, built in 1890 and located along Hiawatha Avenue. It used to be very useful when there were four railroad lines entering the city.

However, with the decrease of the use of the railroad, the depot eventually had to close.

In the 1970s, the depot became a center for the Native Americans, and in 1986, Historic Pipestone bought the depot.

Today, it is home to the Keepers of the Sacred Tradition of Pipemakers.

Make sure to visit it and buy for yourself some of their crafts in the gift shop.

Plus, there is also an art gallery that features different kinds of pipes.

Admire the architecture of the County Courthouse

If there is one thing that you should look out for in the County Courthouse, then that would have to be its architecture, which is made of local quartzite stone.

Though Pipestone brims with many quartzite stone-made buildings, the County Courthouse is the most stylized.

Apart from the statue of Lady Justice, you can marvel at the clock tower that stands 110 feet tall, with a dome on top that accentuates the design.

No wonder it’s in the National Register of Historic Places.

Final Thoughts

Pipestone offers you a one-of-a-kind experience—a mixture of sights and history, which is among the best ways to get to know a new place.

Be among those who have experienced the beauty of this breezy town. Come now and get to love Pipestone.