Grab your hiking shoes and jump in the car. Time to take advantage of Minnesota’s great outdoors. Here are five easy hiking trails in Minnesota you may want to explore. Serious backpackers can find more challenging trails at Best Summer Backpacking Trips In Minnesota.

(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

Fort Snelling State Park
101 Snelling Lake Road
St Paul, MN 55111
(612) 725-2724
www.dnr.state.mn.us

Escape to another world right here in the Twin Cities. Eighteen miles of easy to moderate trails meander aside rivers lined with beautiful woodland trees in the river bottom forest and through prairie restoration areas aside pretty lakes. Busy squirrels scamper up and down trees filled with birds. Look for the large group of wild turkeys, and if you are lucky, catch sight of a bald eagle. A one-mile self-guided trail leads to the Historic Fort and the Thomas C. Savage Visitor Center. A brochure is available at the park.

Afton State Park
6959 Peller Ave S.
Hastings, MN 55033
(651) 436-5391
www.dnr.state.mn.us

Twenty miles of summer hiking trails and six miles maintained for winter hiking offer backpackers plenty of rewards. Climb the bluffs and ridges for spectacular views overlooking the St. Croix River. Winding trails under majestic trees take the hiker down deep ravines. Picnic areas with charcoal burning grills make for a relaxing day trip. Hikers can reserve a campsite to enjoy a weekend in the woods under starry skies. The facilities are rustic, with no flush toilets, showers or electricity. Get your drinking water at a solar pump on the campground or the visitor center.

Related: Best Hiking Trails In Minnesota

Dakota Rail Regional Trail
Park at 175 Grove Lane
Wayzata, MN 55391
(763) 559-9000
www.threeriversparks.org

This 13-mile paved trail offers splendid views of Lake Minnetonka as you retrace the Rail Corridor beginning in Wayzata through Orono, Minnetonka Beach, Spring Park, Mound, Minnetrista and on to St. Bonifacius. Continue along an additional 12.5 miles of paved trail in Carver County from St. Bonifacius to Mayer. Stop by the Gale Woods Farm along this trail where you can learn about agriculture, food production and land stewardship. See the link for six designated parking areas.

Minnesota River Valley

(credit: Paul Stafford/Explore Minnesota)

Minnesota River National Wildlife Refuge
11255 Bloomington Ferry Road
Bloomington, MN 55438
(952) 854-5900
www.midwest.fws.gov

Minnesotans are fortunate to have a 14,000-acre refuge shielding migratory waterfowl, fish and other wildlife from a nearby major metropolitan expansion. The refuge is a series of units extending nearly 70 miles along the Minnesota River, from Bloomington to Henderson, Minnesota. For example, The Bloomington Ferry Unit offers two one-mile trails on the north side of the Minnesota River. The Black Dog Unit offers a 1.9-mile trail south of Black Dog Lake and an observation deck on the north side. See maps of all the trails on the link above or visit either of the two Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge visitor centers in Bloomington and Carver for an overview of the multiple habitats within the refuge and to learn about current conditions of the trails.

Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area
307 3rd St.
Ironton, MN 56455
(218) 546-5926
www.dnr.state.mn.us

Mainly undeveloped, the 5,000-acre Cuyuna Country is among the newest of Minnesota’s Recreation Areas. Recreational hikers can stroll eight miles anywhere along the paved trail between Crosby and Riverton. Avid deep-woods hikers can explore twenty-five miles of natural shoreline and fifteen deep, deep lakes, filled with clear water and born from cavernous pits from which iron ore was extracted.

Related: 5 Most Scenic Walking Trails In Minnesota

Robin Johnson was born in Annandale, Minn. and graduated from Richfield High School and then the University of Minnesota where he studied Political Science, Business and Industrial Relations. A writer for Examiner.com, he also consults with a variety of organizations and individuals helping them develop and grow. His work can be found at Examiner.com.

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