Discover the Minnesota Town with the State’s Worst Air Quality

Written by Jaydee Williams
Updated: July 24, 2023
© Oasishifi/
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Key Points:

  • Hastings and Cottage Grove are the two towns in Minnesota that share the distinction of having the worst air quality in the state.
  • The air quality score of both towns is 41.4, which is still fairly good on the index.
  • Even though these towns have the lowest air quality in Minnesota, they still fall within the mild range on the index.

Minnesota is “the Land of 10,000 lakes,” known for its beautiful countryside and colorful forests. It’s no wonder that so many people choose to live in the state of Minnesota. But like all places, there are some parts of Minnesota that are less desirable than others. You probably wouldn’t want to live in an area with poor air quality, unless other features of the town made up for it. 

In Minnesota, there are two towns that tie in having the worst air quality in the state — Hastings and Cottage Grove.

Zippel Bay is a state park in far north Minnesota on the Canadian Border and Lake of the Woods
The land of 10,000 lakes has pretty good air quality compared to the rest of the nation.

©Jacob Boomsma/

Worst Air Quality in Minnesota

Hastings and Cottage Grove come in first place for having the worst air quality in the state at a score of 41.4. To be fair, any number between 0 and 50 is considered “good” on the air quality index. So while these towns do have the worst air quality in the state, they are still pretty mild according to the index. This is because the entire state of Minnesota has pretty great air quality compared to the rest of the nation. In fact, Minnesota is the 9th best state in the nation in terms of air quality, including the District of Columbia.

About the Town of Hastings

Hastings is in southeast Minnesota, near the city of Minneapolis. The town was established in 1857. It is a small town with just over ten acres of land area and a population of 22,355. The city is best known for Vermillion Falls, a waterfall located nearby that garners tons of visitors each year. The park is a great place for exploring and picnicking, and there is an observation deck just above the 35-foot waterfall for viewing. The river that feeds the falls flows throughout the county and is designated for trout fishing in a few parts.

The city is overflowing with arts and culture, with a gorgeous downtown area and many shops. The Hastings Art Center regularly puts on theatre shows and has an art gallery for viewing. 

There is also a popular walking trail in the city called “The Hastings 10 Mile Loop Scenic Circuit”. It follows the Mississippi River and gives visitors an up-close glance at the rushing waters below. It also eventually ends travelers at Vermillion Falls Park, so you can see many attractions on this route. 

One interesting draw to this city is the Extreme Sandbox. This attraction is a giant sandbox where visitors can operate bulldozers, excavators, or wheel loaders after receiving proper instruction. The guides will teach you how to use the heavy machines, and then you’re free to dig and play for hours!

A Close Up Blue Hour Shot of the New Hastings Bridge Illuminated and Reflecting in the Mighty Mississippi River During Fall
Hastings ties for the worst air quality in the state.

©Sam Wagner/

Where are Hastings and Cottage Grove Located on a Map?

Cottage Grove is located just south of St. Paul in southeast Minnesota. It makes up just over 33 acres of land area and has 35,169 residents. There are a few recreational opportunities in the city, but it isn’t quite as much of a tourist attraction as Hastings. Cottage Grove has the River Oaks Golf Course which was rated “4-1/2 Star Best Places to Play” in Golf Digest. It also features an ice arena for ice skating, which has artificial turf for half the year for other activities. 

Here is Hastings on a map:

The town is especially known for the many parks and trails that are available to the public. Cottage Grove has over 1,500 acres of park land. They make the land very easy to access by providing maps of the parks and trails on their website. It is also a popular place for kayaking because of its adjacency to the Mississippi as well as a few other waterways. The town offers kayak rentals at a few different locations.

Here is Cottage Grove on a map:

Recreation in Cottage Grove

Cottage Grove. Minnesota. USA on a map
Cottage Grove is a suburb of St. Paul and Minneapolis.


Cottage Grove is located so close to St. Paul and Minneapolis, it is usually considered a suburb of those cities. This is because a majority of the residents work in one of the major cities and commute to Cottage Grove where they live. Despite the fact that it isn’t a larger city, Cottage Grove offers numerous recreational activities and the city puts on many events. In the spring, they offer an ice skating school. They also have a very lively softball league with men’s and women’s divisions that operates regularly. The city is focused on providing active activities for its residents, from the young to the old. There are quite a few things for kids to do in Cottage Grove. Kids can participate in archery camps, summer programs, and other activities. The city also puts on multiple 5k runs every year. 

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About the Author

Hi there! I'm Jaydee, and I love all things animals! I run a pet sitting business in my hometown, and have sat pets for over 5 years now. I also have experience teaching about animals as an elementary librarian. My husband and I have a golden retriever named Butter, and a tabby cat named Beans.

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