Places We Protect

Leif Mountain


A landscape view of autumn on Leif Mountain Preserve.
Fall landscape at Leif Mountain Preserve in Pope County, Minnesota. The focus of this preserve is to restore the native prairie. © Michelle Kalantari/TNC

Leif Mountain hosts a tremendous diversity of prairie, woodland, wetland and grassland habitat.



Once grazed by roaming bison and elk, Leif Mountain Preserve is a dry gravel hill prairie that is currently grazed with cattle. Grazing allows natural grasses to flourish while stressing non-native cool grasses. Leif Mountain hosts a tremendous diversity of prairie, woodland, wetland and grassland habitat. Nesting birds, prairie butterflies and a wide assortment of rare and uncommon plants call Leif Mountain Preserve home. In the spring, visitors can use a bird blind to view migrating shorebirds and waterfowl including grebes, herons, harriers, eagles and hawks.

Why TNC Selected This Site

Leif Mountain Preserve is grassland that provides vital ecoservices: preventing erosion, purifying water and absorbing carbon. Grasslands are the most threatened ecosystem in the United States. This 854-acre tract increases the size of protected land in this region to 3,054 acres. Leif Mountain and other properties in the region represent one of the best opportunities in Minnesota to preserve a large prairie landscape.

What TNC Has Done/Is Doing

The focus of this preserve is to restore the native prairie. The Conservancy is doing this through active grazing, prescribed burns, restoring oak savanna, monitoring and removing invasive species, and eliminating invasive woody vegetation in more than 400 acres.



The preserve offers excellent opportunities for birdwatching.


Hiking, nature photography, birdwatching


854 acres

Explore our work in Minnesota


    • Birdwatching
    • Cross-country skiing
    • Hiking
    • Nature study
    • Photography and videotaping for personal use (if for commercial use, you must obtain permission from the Conservancy first)
    • Snowshoeing
    • Fishing
    • Hunting
  • Plants

    One of the first wild flowers to bloom in the spring is the Pasque flower, a beautiful purple bell flower with bright yellow anthers. Visitors can also enjoy the sights of purple coneflower, ground plum, needle grass, wild onion, prairie cord grass and prairie smoke.


    Regal fritillary butterfly (species of special concern) can be found in Leif Mountain Preserve. Declining species of lesser and greater scaup migrate late October prior to ice-up. In addition, visitors can enjoy the sight of local nesting sandhill cranes. As part of a grazing demonstration, 50 cow/calf pairs alternate four different pastures in the preserve to suppress non-native grasses and allow native grasses to flourish.

  • To minimize disturbance to wild places, we do not maintain trail infrastructure or facilities, and you will not find any staff onduty at the preserves. Therefore, we ask you to prepare for your visit and take proper precautions while on site.

    • Wear comfortable footwear suitable for hiking.
    • To protect yourself from ticks, poison ivy or poison sumac, wear long pants, and tuck them into your socks.
    • To get the most from your visit, and to protect yourself from the elements, you may want to bring the following items:
      • Binoculars
      • Camera
      • Compass
      • Field guides (to wildflowers, birds, butterflies and other natural features)
      • Insect repellant
      • Rain gear
      • Small first aid kit
      • Snack (fruit or trail mix)
      • Sunscreen
      • Water (dehydration is a serious risk at any time of the year)
  • Please help us protect our preserves by strictly avoiding the following activities while visiting:

    • Use of motorized vehicles of any sort, including ATVs, motorcycles and snowmobiles, except on public roads
    • Biking and mountain biking
    • Camping
    • To protect sensitive natural features and as a courtesy to other visitors, pets—as a general rule—are prohibited.
    • Carrying of firearms or archery equipment on preserves closed to hunting
    • Dumping of refuse
    • Feeding animals, including birds or fish
    • Fires or gathering of firewood
    • Horseback riding
    • Introducing exotic plant or animal species (those that are not native to a particular area)
    • Picking or digging up any tree, shrub, flower, grass, or removing any rocks, minerals or prehistoric or historic artifacts
    • Prospecting for minerals or metals
    • Picking of berries, nuts or mushrooms for other than personal use
    • Placement of permanent structures including deer stands
    • Target practice

    Policy on Dogs at Preserves

    To protect sensitive natural features and as a courtesy to other visitors, pets—as a general rule—are prohibited.

    • Service dogs are allowed at all preserves in Minnesota.
    • Hunting dogs are allowed only during hunting season at Minnesota preserves that are open to hunting.
    • All other dogs are otherwise prohibited from Conservancy preserves.


    • Do not remove any stakes, signs or other objects—they may be part of a research project.
    • Use trails and firebreaks where these are present. Do not make new trails.
    • Because seeds stick to shoes and clothing, you may introduce weeds into the preserve without knowing it. Inspect pant legs and shoes to remove seeds before entering.
    • Avoid walking on boggy, wet areas—they are more sensitive to the effects of foot traffic.
    • If you flush a ground-nesting bird, stop and avoid walking near the bird’s nest.
    • Give wide berth to livestock, which may be grazing on TNC preserves.
    • Close any gates that you open.
    • The Conservancy conducts prescribed burns to control invasive species. Please be on the lookout for Conservancy burn crews in the spring and fall.
    • During the fall hunting season, hunters may be near or on Conservancy property; wear bright, visible clothing.
    • Conservancy lands that are designated as Minnesota DNR Scientific and Natural Areas (SNAs) are subject to additional restrictions under state law.
    • Be aware of your surroundings; large predators such as bears, wolves and mountain lions may be present on some Conservancy preserves.

    Please report problems like trash, damage or broken signage to our Minneapolis office at (612) 331-0700 or

    Respect Our Neighbors’ Property

    A reminder: our preserves are often adjacent to private land. The Nature Conservancy respects and recognizes the rights and responsibilities of private property ownership. Please do not trespass on private property adjacent to Conservancy preserves. Property lines are clearly marked with small yellow signs featuring the Conservancy’s logo.

Nearby Preserves

Need more nature? Visit The Nature Conservancy's other preserves.

Find More Places We Protect

The Nature Conservancy owns nearly 1,500 preserves covering more than 2.5 million acres across all 50 states. These lands protect wildlife and natural systems, serve as living laboratories for innovative science and connect people to the natural world.

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