The 15 Best Trails To Go Hiking In Minnesota

Best Hiking Trails in Minnesota

Whether you like a slow hiking pace with a short stretch of trail or the rugged terrain of long backcountry trails, Minnesota has the right trail for you.

In this post, we plan to take a look at a few of hiking trails in MN, identify the trail difficulty level, estimate the average time it takes to hike the trail and look for any specialty gear needed for an optimal hike.

Hiking in Minnesota has many options. While most trails are multi-purpose, we tried to keep this list as much to hiking only as possible. However, occasionally we had to make room for a bicycle or two. The good part of those hiking trails in mn is that most are wheelchair accessible. We know several avid wheelchair hikers and always try to keep an eye out for suitable trails they might enjoy.

Interested in camping? Check out our picks for the 41 Best Places To Go Camping in Minnesota.

Western Minnesota Hiking Trails

Trail Name: Bluestem Prairie Scientific and Natural Area

Sunset through the prairie grass

Bluestem Prairie has 1310 acres available to forge your own trail. No maintained trails give you many options for the best hiking in Minnesota. As a destination for bird watchers and those looking for rare plants and flowers, this park has blinds for wildlife views. In April, pre-dawn risers can reserve blinds to view the courtship behavior of greater prairie chickens.

Expect to see rare flowers such as the rare regal fritillary butterfly, a plains pocket mouse, and some prairie voles.

Rare bird species include Wilson’s Phalarope, the marbled godwit and more. As you go hiking in Minnesota over uncharted ground look at visible Norcross and Campbell strandlines that clearly mark water levels over many centuries at Glacial Lake Agassiz.

Located in Clay County, Bluestem Prairie hiking park is on the western side of Minnesota. The Nature Conservancy owns it and part of this park is within Buffalo River State Park. The open feel of uncharted space makes this one of the great hiking trails in mn,

There are no restrooms or drinking water available here. This hiking park is best suited for day hikers. Many hikers also enjoy snowshoeing and cross-country skiing during winter months. You can read more about winter camping and hiking here.

Trail Difficulty: 1 

Time Needed: Access allows for a quick look or a long hike. 

Specialty Gear Needed: Recommended items include binoculars, a camera, a compass or GPS unit that does not require cell service, books to identify rare flowers, birds, trees and grasses. Bring water as no water or restrooms available. Sunscreen, bug spray, flashlights, snacks, and a pack in-pack out bag are suggested.

Trail Name: Buffalo River State Park

Bend in the Buffalo River in Minnesota
Buffalo River, Minnesota

Located in western Minnesota, Buffalo River State Park borders South Dakota. The park is 14 miles from Moorhead, Minnesota and Fargo, North Dakota. The Buffalo River is a great fishing spot. If you take fishing gear, plan to catch river redhorse, white sucker, goldeye and more.

12 miles of prairie hiking trails lead you through grassland with bobolinks, upland sandpipers and other birds. Trails lead to a picnic area, campground and swimming area along the Buffalo River in the hardwood forest.
Along the way, catch sight of red foxes, prairie toads, and coyotes.

Trail Difficulty: 1 

Time Needed: Access from parks and other trails gives any length of time. 

Specialty Gear Needed: Recommended items include binoculars, a camera, water bottle, sunscreen, bug spray, and bags.

Southern Minnesota Hiking Trails

Trail Name: Big Stone Lake State Park

Hiking In Minnesota - Big Stone Lake State Park
Big Stone Lake

Located on the South Dakota-Minnesota border, Big Stone Lake State Park overlooks the 26-mile long Big Stone Lake. As one of the best places to hike in Minnesota, take a trek down to a lakeside campsite for an overnight stay. Bring your fishing gear and plan on catching dinner in the lake.

Bluegill, northern pike, yellow perch and walleye swim these waters that contain the source of the Minnesota River. Campfires using wood purchased in the park are okay. You can bring your dog if he wants to come along but keep him leashed. You can read more about hiking and backpacking with dogs here.

Bluebird Trail is mowed grass and mostly flat. The one-mile loop has views of wildflowers and bluebird boxes.

Bonanza Area Hiking Club Trail is mowed grass and packed dirt over rolling hills. One mile each way leads you along the lake, through the woods and over a creek. Views of wildlife and birds are common sights on this trail.

Prairie Trail’s two-mile loop takes you over mowed grass and nearly flat surfaces. This tallgrass prairie trail exhibits towering grasses like Indian grass and switchgrass. See wildflowers such as blazing star, goldenrod, Maximillian’s sunflowers and Joe pye weed.

Water, showers and restrooms are available during the regular season, which typically runs from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Vault toilets available on a year-round basis. Water spigots remain on until campgrounds close on October 21 but be aware it is not classified as drinking water. Weather permitting, the campground reopens on April 19.

Hiking during the fall season affords spectacular views of the changing colors on trees and plants. Combined with the lake view, this park offers some of the prettiest views you can find in a park. You might see wildlife. including deer, thirteen-lined ground squirrels, pheasants, wild turkeys, bobolinks and many more birds and animals. Definitely bring your camera.

Trail Difficulty: 1 

Time Needed: 3 trails measuring about 5 miles. 30 minutes to 2 hours round trip. Quick walks around or overnight stays allowed in this 26-mile long park. 

Specialty Gear Needed: Recommended items include binoculars, a camera, a compass or GPS unit that does not require cell service, bring a book to identify rare birds. Bring a water bottle, drinking water available at the campground during the regular season only. Suggested items include Sunscreen, bug spray, flashlights, snacks and a pack in-pack out bag. 

South-Central Minnesota Hiking Trails

Trail Name: Walker Backcountry in the Chippewa National Forest

Best Hiking in Minnesota -. Chippewa National Forest
Secluded Lake in the Chippewa National Forest

The North Country Trail personifies hiking in Minnesota. It runs for 71 miles along the southern border of the Chippewa National Forest. Not only can you access backcountry camping sites through Chippewa’s hiking trails in mn, but if your North Country Trail trek brings you here, you will find a lakeside camping spot for the night.

An overnight backpacking hike requires bringing your own water, as the backcountry does not have drinking water. Some of the best hiking trails in Minnesota lead you through the 71 miles of forests, lakes and backcountry. Follow rushing rivers and meandering streams through the White Pine forests. In the summer, take a dip in one of many backcountry lakes. Don’t be surprised if you stumble across one of the many old homesteads in Woodtick fields.

After a long day hiking the rugged trails in the Walker Area, find your campsite beside a small lake in this lightly traveled backcountry land. Bring fishing gear to enjoy the excellent fishing lakes before cooking the supper you caught. Locate one of the campsites that has a fire ring and wilderness latrine for convenience.

Trail Difficulty: 3 

Time Needed: Access trails allow for a short walk, a long day hike or overnight hiking that can take at least a week to travel 71 rugged miles. 

Specialty Gear Needed: Bring your own water supply, a compass or GPS unit, map, fishing gear, matches, food packed in plastic bags, rope, a whistle, flashlight/headlight, cold weather gear any time of the year. 

Eastern Minnesota Hiking Trails

Trail Name: Two Harbors to Silver Bay

Hiking the Sawtooth Mountain Range in Minnesota's North Shore
Sawtooth Mountain Range – Minnesota’s North Shore

Six hiking trails in mn lead from Two Harbors to Silver Bay. Just north of Duluth, this 44.6-mile route is part of the Superior Hiking Trail. While six of the best hiking trails in mn show as routes to traverse this stretch, only three are directly accessible right now. Plan to hike up fairly rugged footpath-like trails to reach Silver Bay.

Your views along the way include the Sawtooth Mountains and Lake Superior’s shoreline. Trails stretching from Two Harbors to Silver Bay are the reason hiking in Minnesota is worth every step you take.

During the first portion of your journey, your hike takes you along the gorgeous one-mile Breadloaf Ridge where you will overlook Lake Superior before making your descent toward Split Rock River through aspen and birch-filled forests.

When the bridge over the river at Split Rocks reopens later this year, you can discover some of the best hiking in Minnesota. Waterfalls cascade ahead as you to climb the steep peaks to the river near the giant Split Rocks. The restored bridge will allow for a steep descent down to sandy beaches.

3 miles stretching from Split Rock River Wayside to Beaver Bay are among the most challenging hiking trails in mn. Steep descents along a fault line ridge followed by sharply ascending to peaks show a view of the inland and Lake Superior. If you need lodging other than the three campgrounds, Cove Point Loop begins and ends at Cove Point Lodge.

Your final stretch goes from Beaver Bay to your destination at Silver Bay. Climbing through a pine forest, over and around rocky outcrops, leads to Silver Bay and its stunning views of Lake Superior and inland forests.

Trail Difficulty: 3-5 

Time Needed: half a day to 3 days 

Specialty Gear Needed: A compass or GPS, map, waterproof bags and clothing, water/purification unit, multi-purpose knife, whistle and/or flares, rope and climbing equipment, dried food, survival blanket and sleeping bag liner, cold weather gear any time of year, first aid kit, flashlight/headlamp, matches

Trail Name: Temperance River State Park

Flowing Rapids at Temperance River State Park
Flowing Rapids at Temperance River State Park

Arguably one of the best places to hike in Minnesota, Temperance River State Park offers short trails that present a challenge without a need to carry a lot of extra gear. Hike along the Temperance River Gorge with its waterfalls for a spectacular view. Rushing river waters follow deep grooves that allow room to hike beside them.

If you plan to hike Carlton Peak, bring climbing equipment and gear. It’s a popular place for rock climbers. Hike down to the shores of Lake Superior and enjoy a picnic or camp for the night. The lake has forests all around with spruce, cedar, pine and birch trees. The wide plant varieties offer shelter to many wildlife species.

When you hike the trail to Hidden Falls, mind your step and make sure you wear appropriate footwear. Another trail leads to the Cross River Wayside and the Superior National Forest whose rugged paths number among the premier hiking trails in mn. The Temperance River offers excellent trout fishing if you plan to camp and catch your dinner.

Trail Difficulty: 3 

Time Needed: Access allows for a quick look or a long hike, overnight camping is available 

Specialty Gear Needed: Water, sunscreen, bug spray, a jacket, compass or GPS and a map, flashlight, matches, water-resistant clothing and gear, a whistle, first aid kit, light climbing gear 

Southeastern Minnesota Hiking Trails

Trail Name: Richard J. Dorer Memorial Hardwood State Forest

Mississippi River

When you visit Richard J. Dorer Memorial Hardwood State Forest, consider the interesting fact that built-in goals specifically require that this park remain as natural as possible. Bluff and soil erosion protection are key points. Early settlers plowed southern Minnesota for farmland before finding that doing so caused soil erosion with nearly irreparable damage.

Stay mindful of the park’s efforts to establish stable streams, timber production, prevent further erosion and improve the area as a wildlife habitat. As responsible hikers, we respect their efforts. Reno North Recreational Area offers some of the best hiking in Minnesota with between 10 and 18 miles of vigorous hiking trails. However, hiking the steep bluffs along the Mississippi River Valley make the journey worthwhile.

A 10-mile looped hike starts from the horse campground on Hillside Road in Reno Township. As a side note, currently this trail remains closed for horseback rider, so you should have the place to yourself.

Follow the trail through hardwood forests, along ridgelines, beside creeks, and over streams while enjoying the unparalleled view over southern Minnesota’s Bluff Country and across and down the Mississippi Valley.

Trail Difficulty: 2, 3, 4 depending on where you enter the trail.

Time Needed: One to six hours depending on access trails and your speed. 

Specialty Gear Needed: Recommended items include a daypack with a first aid kit, sunscreen, bug spray, lots of water, a flashlight, snacks and pack in-pack out bags. IMPORTANT NOTE: Wear sturdy socks and hiking boots as rattlesnakes live in the area and some of the trails are tricky to navigate. 

Trail Name: Great River Bluffs State Park

Hiking in Minnesota - Great River Bluffs State Park
Hiking in Minnesota – Great River Bluffs State Park

Just an hour’s drive from the Twin Cities, Great River Bluffs State Park provides access to the bluff land area of southeastern Minnesota and is one of the few places to do so. 2,835 acres of beautiful views and wildlife greet you when you arrive for a hike on one of the five trails located here.

These five trails have a total of six miles of easy hiking. All of them lead to overlooks with spectacular views. Some offer a look of the Mississippi River and valley, other let you see fabulous panoramas of the park’s interior. Along the way, hike through fields, prairies and forests full of wild turkeys, grouse, coyotes and many other wildlife species.

As part of the Richard J. Dorer Memorial Hardwood Forest, you have access to join other trails there to enjoy some of the best hiking trails in mn.

Trail Difficulty: 1

Time Needed: Easy trails allow for any length of time.

Specialty Gear Needed: Recommended items include binoculars, a camera, water bottles, sunscreen, bug spray, flashlights, snacks and bags.

Central Minnesota Hiking Trails

Trail Name: Lake Woebegone Trail

Hiking Lake Woebegone Trail

Lake Woebegone Trail wanders through some of Minnesota’s leading dairy country. Enjoy a quick hike to see the boyhood home of Sinclair Lewis. A day hike leads you through monasteries and beautiful lakes. Wheelchair hikers will appreciate 63 miles of 10-feet wide asphalt paving covering its length.

Start at the eastern trailhead under the St. Joseph water tower. Hike about two miles going west through the nearly deserted town of Collegeville. Follow the trail left for two and a half miles where you should find a two-storied lookout tower for a breathtaking view of the surrounding areas. This view makes the trail one of the best places to hike in Minnesota.

Leave the tower to hike five and a half miles covering what might be the most beautiful portion of Lake Woebegone’s Trail. It covers prairies, deep woods and lakes. In May and June look for Lady’s Slipper orchids, often found along these hiking trails in mn. Continue your trek up north to Holdingford to see Minnesota’s longest covered bridge.

This trail follows the Great Northern Railroad corridor where all paths are good-looking, and trailheads remain above average.

Trail Difficulty: 1

Time Needed: Short strolls, day hikes or longer hikes with lodging in between

Specialty Gear Needed: Water, sunscreen, bug spray, a jacket, map, flashlight, matches

Trail Name: Lake Maria State Park

Lake Maria Hiking Trail
Lake Maria Hiking Trail

The fall season is the favored time to hike within Lake Maria State Park because of the maple-basswood forests. This park has one of the only remaining stands of the so-called Big Woods that once covered Minnesota with maple, basswood and oak forests.

Enjoy 13 miles of hiking trails ranging from easy to more challenging of the best hiking trails in mn. Take a short boardwalk stroll and enjoy a winding hike through a marsh. You might catch a glimpse of the Blandings turtle. Easily noticed by the bright yellow spots covering its shell, the turtle is a threatened species.

For more challenging hiking over rolling hills, take your backpack and hike to sites located in the remote areas of the park near lakes and ponds. Log camper cabins have bunk beds for up to six people.

Trail Difficulty: 1, 2, 3 

Time Needed: Short 20-minute walks or a full day hike with overnight camping available. 

Specialty Gear Needed: Bring water, snacks, binoculars, a camera, a compass or GPS unit, map, fishing gear, matches, food, sunscreen, bug spray and bags. 

Northern Minnesota Hiking Trails

Trail Name: Border Route Trail

Hiking in Minnesota - North Country Trail
North Country Trail

65 miles along the northeastern part of Minnesota is one of the world’s best trails. The Border Route Trail follows the international border between the United States and Canada. As part of the North Country Trail stretching from New York to North Dakota, the Border trail connects with the Superior Hiking Trail to the east and the Kekekabic Trail to the west.

If you do not consider yourself an experienced hiker, plan on using an access trail for a day hike. This hiking trail in mn traverse’s high cliff tops and ridgelines that often contain obstacles such as fallen trees and nearly impassable brush. For the experienced hiker, this offers amazing views of the Quetico Provincal Park in Canada and Boundary Waters Canoe Area in Minnesota. The Border Route Trail is a rugged, primitive wilderness. It remains so undeveloped that you may see the occasional moose.

Volunteers created developed campsites along the route, mainly near lakes. Stay at one if possible as they have box-type latrines and steel fire grates. Use only plastic bottles and zip-lock bags for food and water. Other containers remain prohibited. Black bears climb trees, so hang your food supply at least 10 feet high and six feet from the tree trunk. Pack out everything, including used toilet paper.

If you plan to hike and stay overnight anywhere between Crab and McFarland Lakes, the Boundary Waters Canoe Area requires a permit. No other trail areas require a permit. If you plan to hike off-trail, tell someone your planned general route but no permit is necessary. Solitude and the wilderness experience reign supreme here. Your canine companion can keep you company if he stays quiet at night.

This world-class wilderness is one of the best hiking trails in Minnesota.

Trail Difficulty: 5 

Time Needed: Several access trails allow for day hikers or hikers spending several days hiking and camping along the 65-mile route.

Specialty Gear Needed: A compass or GPS, map, waterproof bags and clothing, water/purification unit, multi-purpose knife, whistle, rope and climbing equipment, dried food, survival blanket, cold weather gear any time of year, first aid kit, flashlight/headlamp 

Trail Name: Mesabi Trail

Located in northeastern Minnesota the Mesabi Trail has 152 miles of easy hiking. You can stretch your legs with a quick stroll, take a short hike or plan a day hike with easy hiking conditions. Extended hiking in Minnesota with overnight stays takes a more experienced hiker.

The Mesabi Trail connects 28 communities so hiking through cities, towns and rural areas is all possible. Numerous entries give you access to the trail at nearly every point. 10-foot wide asphalt paving already covers much of this trail. Well-maintained, follow your planned route with maps detailing the entire trail.

Expect to discover old railroad beds and logging and mining roads. See rivers with rapids, creeks, rolling hills filled with birds and wildlife and travel through forests. Enjoy easy access to food, lodging, campgrounds, local parks, canoeing, fishing, and swimming along the trail.

Trail Difficulty: 1 

Time Needed: Short strolls, day hikes or extended overnight hikes that can take one week or more. 

Specialty Gear Needed: Water, sunscreen, bug spray, a jacket, map, flashlight, matches

Trail Name: Savanna Portage State Park

Continental Divide Trail

27 miles of hiking trails lead you along paths traveled by Indians, explorers and fur traders. Savanna Portage State Park itself has 15,818 acres of bogs, rolling hills and lakes. Water flows west to the Mississippi River. Water to the east flows to Lake Superior.

Hike the forests of the Continental Divide Trail for fantastic vistas. Hike to the river or one of four fishing lakes to catch bass, trout and more. When hiking through the oak woods catch sight of wolves, moose and deer.
More experienced hikers may enjoy the eastern region of 1.6 minimally maintained trails. This wilderness provides a refuge from the daily stress in the city. Discover tamarack peat bogs and old-growth hardwoods like aspen and birch in these northern woods.

Trail Difficulty: 1, 2, 3

Time Needed: Short strolls, day hikes or longer hikes with camping available

Specialty Gear Needed: Water, sunscreen, bug spray, a jacket, map, flashlight, matches, a map, binoculars, and a camera

Minneapolis Hiking Trails

If you want to go hiking and stay close the Minneapolis – St. Paul area, you’re in luck. The Twin Cities region has some incredible hiking locations to choose from.

Trail Name: Elm Creek Park Reserve

Hiking in Minnesota - Elm Creek Park Reserve
Elm Creek Park Reserve

One of the best hiking trails near Minneapolis, Elm Creek Park Reserve has 4900 acres to explore. Hike easy trails covering 2.1 miles in the park. If you feel like a more strenuous workout, pick one of the moderate trails with 9.3 trail miles to pick. If you really feel brave, 2.9 miles of advanced trails await.

Several lakes scattered throughout Elm Creek Park have views of the hiking trails. Diamond, Lemans, Powers, Goose and Mud Lake are just a handful of water views for you to enjoy. You can let your dog tag along if you don’t plan on a fast walk. There’s too many smells your pup needs to stop and smell.

Plan to bring a water bottle, especially during the winter months. While the park has drinking water available, you need to stay hydrated if you plan to finish your hike. Choose a looped trail or a one-way journey. Stay in one of the available camper cabins if you prefer an overnight hike. See one of the best hiking trails near Minneapolis for yourself.

Trail Difficulty: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 

Time Needed: Park access allows for any length of time. 

Specialty Gear Needed: Recommended items include a camera, water bottle, sunscreen, bug spray, flashlights, snacks and bags to pick up after your pup if necessary. 

Trail Name: Brown’s Creek State Trail

Hikers of all abilities enjoy 5.9 miles of accessible trails. One of the best hiking trails near Minneapolis, Brown’s Creek State Trail is located on a former railroad grade. All trails connect with local parks and other trails.

Hike the two miles of Brown’s Creek right beside the creek itself. It has a designated trout stream with a dense canopy of broadleaf forest. A mile-long trail along the St. Croix River has a majestic view of the National Scenic Riverway.

Along the trail, you can access the audio listening stations, historical buildings and markers. Restrooms are available as various points.

Trail Difficulty: 1 

Time Needed: Access from parks and other trails gives any length of time. 

Specialty Gear Needed: Recommended items include a camera, water bottle, snacks, sunscreen, bug spray and plastic bags to take any trash with you.

Check Out More Of Our Favorite Hiking Locations

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