If Minnesota is well-known for anything, it has to be its incredible variety of scenery. The state is characterized by breathtaking landscapes. These range from craggy river bluffs, great, glassy lakes, hardwood forests, scenic trails, rolling farm fields - the list goes on. It's no wonder that one of the best-loved activities in Minnesota, by both locals and visitors, is hiking.
Here are some of the top hiking trails to add to your Minnesota bucket list the next time you visit the Land of 10,000 Lakes...
Hike Your Heart Out in Minnesota: 10 of the Best Hiking Trails
If you ask any Minnesotan, they'll probably tell you that the best time to hike the state is in the fall. With moderate temperatures, lower rainfall, fewer people and the stunning buffet of fall colors to marvel at, this time of year is ideal.
This being said, if you're willing to brave winter or summer temperatures, these 10 Minnesota hiking routes are still worth your while:
1. The Superior Hiking Trail
It's not called the Superior Hiking trail for nothing. Spanning over 300-miles, this trail stretches from Jay Cooke State Park in Duluth, all the way to the Canadian border at Grand Portage.
The trail itself crosses a myriad of rivers and streams, interspersed with flowing waterfalls. You'll pass through towering, colorful forests, dotted with an array of lookout points to take in the grandeur of Lake Superior as you hike. This trail is ideal for those looking for a short day hike, or a multi-day hiking experience. There are trailhead parking lots peppered along the route for this reason.
For the best short loops, stick to the Oberg Mountain Loop or the Gooseberry Loop, beginning at Gooseberry Falls State Park.
2. Maplewood State Park
For a true outdoor experience of Minnesota, including iconic wildlife sightings, this is the hiking region for you. Be sure to pack your binoculars as you're almost guaranteed to spot raptors, herons, and other wildlife species native to Maplewood State Park.
Located near Pelican Rapids, Maplewood State Park is host to over 25-miles of hiking trail. If you're looking for a short, self-guided hike, go for the Hallaway Hill Overlook route, which leads to a stunning viewing site of Lake Lida and Hallaway and the sprawling forest below. On a hike through Maplewood State Park, you can expect to walk through towering surrounding forest and see sugar maple, basswood, elm, oak, and aspen trees.
The park itself spans 9,000 acres, lying between a transition zone of forest and prairies. This means it's home to a wide variety of habitat and wildlife, including 150 species of birds and 50 species of mammals.
3. The Mississippi River Bluffs
This is a brilliant opportunity to hike along the mighty Mississippi River and take in the amazing views along its craggy bluffs. If you're looking for spectacular views of the city and the Mississippi River, hike up the Barn Bluff trails, located in Red Wing, to a 400-foot high outlook. There are two trails to choose from: the South Trail and Quarry Trail.
It's well-known that some of the best hiking in Minnesota can be found in this region along the towering limestone bluffs of the river, especially in the fall. Just south of Red Wing, you'll also find the Frontenac State Park with 14-miles of hiking trails along the scenic shores of Lake Pepin.
4. The Three Rivers Park District
The Three Rivers Park District operates 25 parks and 17 multi-use trails throughout suburban communities across Minneapolis. So if you don't feel like driving too far, you can hop onto one of these scenic trails for a day hike and some time in nature. There's a plethora of opportunity for hiking, camping, and outdoor recreation right on your doorstep. The 25 parks throughout the district are family-friendly and include modern playgrounds and nature centers, too.
Head to Carver Park in Victoria for 36-miles of uninterrupted green space along the paved and unpaved trails- perfect for walking or running. These trails also wind around 10 different lakes. Elm Creek Park is host to 4,900 acres of untouched parkland and over 50-miles of hiking trails, too!
5. The North River Trail and Prairie Loop
This is the perfect spot for city dwellers looking to escape into nature for a much-needed respite from city life. The North River Trail is located less than an hour from St. Paul in Afton State Park. The landscape is truly breathtaking, combining prairie valleys with expansive river banks.
Afton State Park itself is host to 20-miles of hiking trail to explore. Begin at the North River Trail, which lies parallel to the St. Croix River and climb the bluff for beautiful views. The Prairie and Trout Brook loops are also wonderful and a great way to track up some decent hiking mileage. On these routes, you'll walk through prairie landscapes and peaceful woodlands.
You can also choose to camp out at Afton State Park with its many backcountry campsites found along some of the routes which wind through it.
6. The Glacial Pothole Trail
Head on over to Minnesota's Interstate Park which provides outdoor lovers with a mixture of terrain to hike and scramble over. It also provides a decent insight into the state's geological background - if that's what you're into!
You'll find the park situated beside the banks of the St. Croix River and Highway 8, and adjacent to Wisconsin Interstate State Park too. Without a doubt, the most popular trail is the Glacial Pothole route, littered with over 400 geological attractions created by swirling glacial waters thousands of years ago. Along the trail, you'll also find the Bottomless Pit, a glacial hole created by this same phenomenon, measured at 60-feet deep.
7. The Little Two Harbors Trail
If you're on the North Shore of Lake Superior, the Little Two Harbors trail is worth the walk. This trail actually diverts from the Superior Hiking Trail we previously mentioned and offers a better view of the Split Rock Lighthouse.
The Little Two Harbors Trail is easily accessible from nearby parking areas and takes you along pebbled shorelines, the beauty of Ellingsen Island and you'll get to take in the sheer size of Lake Superior itself. You'll also have a chance to climb to the historic lighthouse atop the lakeside cliffs.
This is a shorter hike for some, measured at only three-quarters of a mile. But it's a good way to explore this region and leads to other popular trails such as the Gitchi-Gami State Trail for a longer hike.
8. The Sioux-Hustler Trail
You'll find this beautiful train nestled within the Boundary Waters of the Superior National Forest in northeast Minnesota. The Boundary Waters comprises one-million acres of wilderness, packed with thousands of lakes, streams, islands, wildlife, and natural wonder to explore.
The rugged landscape also borders Canada's Quetico Provincial Park and Voyageurs National Park to the east. The Boundary Waters draws thousands of visitors each year and for good reason, despite its relatively remote location. With over 1,200 miles of canoe routes, boating routes, and hiking trails, this truly is a landscape to marvel at. In fact, Boundary Waters is home to some of the best hiking trails you'll find across the state.
The Sioux-Hustler trail is one such route that gives hikers the chance to trek through this varied landscape on either short day hikes or multi-day backpacking adventures. The loop is 32-miles in total and is fairly rugged and non-maintained. This means you'll need to pack the right equipment for the experience. Along the way, you'll pass beaver dams, expansive lakes, and some of the most remote wilderness in Minnesota. Bear in mind you'll need a permit to spend the night in this region.
9. The Eagle Mountain Trail
While you're in the region of the Boundary Waters, the Eagle Mountain Trail is yet another hike to add to your list. Eagle Point is the highest point in all of Minnesota and is a popular achievement with hikers looking for a bit of a challenge. But it's best hiked in the warmer seasons!
Reaching an elevation of 2,300 feet, the trail leading up to the point is no walk in the park. Keep in mind that it's for the more experienced hiker with its rocky, rutted, and steep terrain. It's a wilderness trail, after all. Along with a deep sense of accomplishment, you'll be treated to stunning views of the Superior National Forest and Lake Superior on the horizon.
10. The Wolf Creek Falls Trail
This hiking trail is located in one of Minnesota's best-loved state parks- Banning State Park, which runs beside the Kettle River.
Not far from the flowing waters of the Kettle River is the Wolf Creek Falls trail which provides hikers with a truly serene hiking experience. With plenty of photo opportunities, the surrounding scenery is enough to take your breath away and feel reconnected with nature.
For another nearby hiking adventure within Banning State Park, head out on the Quarry Nature Trail which runs alongside the Kettle River too. You'll also get a chance to visit the historic ruins of the sandstone quarry, after which the trail is named.
Looking For Outdoor Apparel?
If you're thinking of hitting these Minnesota hiking trails, whether it's in the winter, spring, fall or summer, we have the outdoor apparel to suit. And if you're just a big Minnesota fan in general, we have the perfect apparel for that too!
Check out our range of winter hoodies, perfect for the season and upcoming outdoor pursuits.