Located in the southern part of Minnesota, Minneapolis is the most populous major city in the Midwestern US state of Minnesota.
The city straddles both banks of the mighty Mississippi River and is located just north of the point where the Mississippi River meets the Minnesota River.
Because Minneapolis borders Saint Paul – the state capital of Minnesota – and shares common educational, cultural, and political institutions, together both are commonly known as the Twin Cities, which also refers to the cities themselves and surrounding metro area. The two cities share a familial rivalry and fierce loyalty.
Minneapolis is known for its vibrant arts, performing spaces, enticing museums, wonderful food and incredible nightlife. However, the city has plenty of natural sites that offer a breath of fresh air to locals and tourists alike.
Minneapolis’ natural attractions including lakes, mountains, cliffs, and parks have many incredible hiking trails.
Whether you’re a seasoned hiker looking to take up a challenge or simply want to get out and explore, the best hikes near Minneapolis caters to all levels of experience.
As such, hiking near Minneapolis is great for adventurous souls seeking fun, thrill, and delight.
This guide will explore some of the best hiking trails near Minneapolis.
Table of Contents
- The Best Hikes Near Minneapolis
- 1. Lebanon Hills Regional Park
- 2. Minnehaha Regional Park
- 3. Hidden Falls Regional Park
- 4. Afton State Park
- 5. Fort Snelling State Park
- 6. Cannon Valley Trail
- 7. Murphy Hanrehan Park Reserve
- 8. Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden and Bird Sanctuary at Theodore Wirth Regional Park
- 9. Normandale Japanese Garden
- 10. Summit Ave Historic District, St. Paul
- 11. Mississippi National River and Recreation Area in Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN
- 12. Lakewood Cemetery Minneapolis, MN
- 13. BONUS! Other Incredible Trails In Minnesota
The Best Hikes Near Minneapolis
Minnesota consists of 17.6 million acres of forest land and well over 10,000 lakes. It’s a great place to enjoy the great outdoors, and luckily for the residents of Minnesota, literally everyone lives within 50 miles of at least one state park.
In other words, discovering and exploring the hiking trails near MN is pretty easy. With these many forests and nature trails, residents can rarely claim to have seen all the best hikes near Minneapolis.
If you’re looking to explore new lands for recreational purposes or break free from the monotony of quarantine, hiking is the way to go.
It offers a wealth of benefits for the mind, heart, and body. Don’t forget to get your travel insurance for safety at World Nomads and book accommodations near your desired trail at Booking.com. Then, you can get ready to plan your outdoor adventure today with these incredible hiking trails near Minneapolis!
1. Lebanon Hills Regional Park
Made up of almost 2,000 acres of land, Lebanon Hills Regional Park is home to many lakes and miles of trails for year-round hiking, sports, and outdoor recreation.
It is one of the most popular hiking places in the Twin Cities and the largest park in Minnesota’s Dakota County.
Some of the most popular hiking trails include Lebanon Hills Loop, Jensen Lake Trail, Holland and O’Brien Lakes Trail, and McDonough Lake Loop.
The Lebanon Hills Regional Park is roughly 10 miles from the MSP, located within the Twin Cities metro area. You’ll see several wooden areas, snowshoeing trails, ski routes, and picnic areas.
The trail difficulty is moderate, which is good news for advanced trailers looking for paths less traveled.
If you plan to take this route for the first time, be prepared to come across several hills, inclines, and elevation changes. It’s a bracing walk, however, it’s a suitable trail if you’re a novice looking for a challenge.
Do note that depending on the time of year there are brown ticks within the forest. These can easily transmit bacteria to you and your pets which can lead to severe illness. So, you might want to avoid taking pets when hiking – particularly for first-time hikers.
Regardless of who’s going, make sure you all do a head-to-toe tick check after your hike!
2. Minnehaha Regional Park
If a breathtaking river and waterfall site tickles your fancy, Minnehaha Regional Park is a perfect place to explore. The park is located in the metro area on the shores of the Mississippi River and, roughly 4 miles from MSP.
The beautiful hiking trail is pretty relaxing for family hikes.
Once you reach the Minnehaha waterfall, the stunning limestone bluffs are just a few steps away. If you’re hiking during the winter season, you’ll get to see frozen spires that complement the beauty of the waterfall, turning it into a natural sculpture.
Kids would love to hike along Minnehaha Creek in the summer and dip their toes in the water.
You can also take walk through the beautiful gardens of Minnehaha Regional Park: Song of Hiawatha Garden, Minnehaha Falls Pergola, and Longfellow.
Further, the area provides several playgrounds and dining options to add more fun to your hiking experience. If you’re here in the spring or summer season, we highly recommend you eat at the Sea Salt Eatery. The delicious shrimp and Mahi Mahi Taco of the restaurant are most palatable.
This hike takes you to the final portion of Minnehaha Creek and the Mississippi River valley. You may stumble across wildlife from painted turtles to Blue Herons during the summer and spring seasons.
Because of its popularity, you’ll come across a lot of people on the Minnehaha trail. However, if you visit on weekdays or early in the morning, you’ll enjoy it a lot due to less crowd.
The trail difficulty is moderate, but the admission is free. The parking in nearby neighborhood streets is free too. There are paid lots available nearby.
3. Hidden Falls Regional Park
The Hidden Falls trail is one of the favorite hiking trails among locals in Minneapolis. Hidden Falls is around 6.7 miles of dirt trails and paved paths at Hidden Falls Regional Park, Minneapolis.
This park is located within the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul (technically it’s in St. Paul) and is roughly 4.1 miles away from the Minneapolis-Saint Paul Airport. You’ll come across breathtaking views of the Mississippi River and woodland bridges.
Due to the ease of hiking trails, it is great for hiking, biking, equestrian riding, and running.
If you plan to hike with your family, there are plenty of restrooms and picnic areas, which is a plus for recreational activities.
Nonetheless, during summer, make sure you bring a lot of drinking water because hot temperatures will dehydrate you in a flash. Besides, a few trails are pretty steep, and you’ll be grateful for an extra drop to wet your whistle. So, along with your water, it’s best to come with proper hiking gear, including comfortable attire, hiking shoes, snacks, and sunscreen.
The trail is closed for equestrians and cyclists during the rainy season to maintain the stability of the trail. So make sure you plan your visit accordingly if you plan to bike or ride your horse.
Also, it’s best to confirm the reservation because Hidden Falls Park remains closed during the extreme fire weather – to reduce wildfire risk.
Being one of the best hikes in Minneapolis, it is crowded on weekends. So, if you want to enjoy the spellbinding vibes of the park, try visiting on weekdays.
See Related: Best Hotels in Minneapolis, Minnesota
4. Afton State Park
The Afton State Park is just forty minutes east of Minneapolis and St. Paul. The park was established in 1969 for tourists and locals alike to experience enticing the natural sites of the region and enjoy recreational activities.
Locals report it to be extremely hot and humid during the summer season. So, make sure you carry enough water for yourself, your family, and your pets.
Because the Afton State Park consists of several trails, a few residents consider it an area where people can “actually” go hiking near Minneapolis.
The North River Trail is a 1.2-mile one-way loop. As you head north, follow the St. Croix River. The trail is moderately difficult – you can expect a few challenging elevations and rough terrains.
Then, pass through a lower picnic area and floodplain forest. Next, you’ll come across two railroad bridges; as you pass through these bridges, head straight to the top of the bluff to catch picaresque views of the river valley.
Prairie Loop is another hiking trail to take. You can roam around the open area of the park and imagine what prairies were like in the past – when European settlers arrived for the first time.
The incredible views of the Afton Alps Ski area and river valley are really pleasing to the eyes. You can set out on this hiking trail on skis in winter and on foot in the summer season. It is a roughly 2 to 3-mile loop.
South River Trail is among the popular flat trails. It’s a 2-mile one-way loop away from the park visitor’s center and offers uninterrupted views of St Croix River. If you visit during the fall season, you’ll come across countless red maple leaves – a site great to stop by and click memorable photos with family.
If you’re a seasoned hiker, we recommend taking the Trout Brook Loop – a slightly steep terrain. It’s a 5.7-mile loop and takes a lot of effort to head over the bluff top. But you are rewarded for your hiking efforts by seeing amazing views as you hike. Make sure you wear comfortable hiking shoes!
Horse riders and bikers should stay on their designed trails. Also, be wary of the wildlife as you hike – there are one or two larger critters like bears, moose, and coyotes that might take an exception to you being there if you’re not careful! If they do, you can call 911 in emergencies.
5. Fort Snelling State Park
Fort Snelling State Park offers one of the most popular Minneapolis hiking trails to the locals and tourists. The Pike Island trail is accessible year-round and is primarily used for bird watching, walking, and running.
If you’re willing to escape from the hustle and bustle of city life, the hiking trail circling Pike Island is a place to go.
The hiking trail is relatively flat and has eye-catching trees on the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers.
In fact, as you walk through the trail, you come across the confluence of Minnesota and Mississippi rivers – where both river bodies meet. When the water level is low, the sea also unveils the sight of a beautiful white sand beach.
Further, the trail takes you through colorful wildflowers and picturesque bridges. If you want to catch a sight of wildlife and local bird species, we recommend you take the trail in earlier day hours. However, avoid visiting the trail during the rainy season as it gets muddy, which might put a damper on your visit.
The trail length is approximately 3.7 miles, and because it’s fairly flat, it’s easy to hike. You can bring your pets on the trail too. The park is almost two miles from MSP Airport, lying within the Twin Cities metro area.
However, note that Fort Snelling State Park is subject to frequent closures due to harsh weather conditions. So, make sure you check for the updates before planning a visit. Further, you are required to pay $7 for parking a vehicle per day. You can also purchase an annual vehicle pass for $35.
6. Cannon Valley Trail
Cannon Valley trail is one of the best bike trails near Minneapolis and St. Paul. In 2018, it officially became a National Recreation Trail. Visitors consider it one of the most-maintained and amazing trails for hiking in Minnesota.
The trailhead is also located at Red Wing and Welch Village, but we recommend starting your hiking journey in Cannon Falls as it extends along the waterfall. You’ll come across a small lake with ducks, swans, and a few other wildlife species.
Besides, the wooden areas, Cannon river, farmland, wetlands, and river bluffs offer a breathtaking view alongside the trail. This trail is approximately 35 miles from the twin cities and is 20 miles in length from Cannon Falls to Red Wing.
What else is good? You are not required to pay for parking or take a pass for walking, biking, or snowshoeing in the area.
The trail also has some nifty rest stops; you’ll come across several picnic benches and tables. There are also many restrooms in the Anderson Memorial Rest area, Cannon Falls, Welch station, and Bay Point Park in Red Wing. That means you can plan a trip with your family more easily, too.
Note that pets are not allowed on this trail for maintenance purposes, and as not to disturb the wildlife. You’ll likely see several animals on your way, including foxes, chipmunks, squirrels, deer, and several species of birds.
7. Murphy Hanrehan Park Reserve
This hidden area is another great place for hiking in Minneapolis and St. Paul – and hardly anyone outside the Twin Cities knows about it! The Murphy Hanrehan Park Reserve features lush forest, glacial ridges, and hilly terrain. Therefore, it is a relatively challenging trail to take as a beginner.
You’ll come across several woodland songbirds – amazing news for birdwatchers.
This park reserve is one of the favorite spots for bikers to go mountain biking in the Twin Cities. Because the trail has a single track, it gives them an incredible off-road quality.
However, note that bike trails are frequently closed during wet conditions. So before you plan your trip, make sure you check the trail conditions on the mountain biking page of the official website.
For winter bikers, it’s recommended that you reduce tire pressure before you ride when temperatures are below freezing – which they are almost exclusively in a Minnesnowta winter!
If you’re tackling the trail on foot, do not forget to wear comfortable hiking shoes and bring the necessary travel accessories.
8. Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden and Bird Sanctuary at Theodore Wirth Regional Park
The Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden and Bird Sanctuary is 12 miles from the Twin Cities MSP Airport.
The Butler Wildflower garden is one of the three gardens at Theodore Wirth Regional Park. It includes more than 130 bird species and 500 plant species.
Just a mile walk takes you through stunning wildflowers, woodlands, and prairies. The path further extends to three distinct ecosystems: hardwood forest, wetland complex, and oak savannah.
Each of these sections contains varying bird and plant species. For instance, the wetland complex has redwing blackbirds and several plant species like the famous “Touch-me-not” and Red TurtleHeads!
As you continue to walk, you’ll enter a hardwood forest surrounded by hemlocks. There are several benches here to sit and catch a breath.
As the trail begins to incline upwards, the hemlocks will disappear, and you’ll find yourself surrounded by oak savannah and a sunny prairie. Here, you’ll see many honey bees collecting nectar from wildflowers.
9. Normandale Japanese Garden
If you’re short on time and want to take a smaller hiking trail, Normandale Japanese Garden in Bloomington is the way to go.
The Normandale Japanese College Community Garden is open year-round and allows outside visitors free of charge, except for special events. The garden has over 300 trees, plants, and shrubs along the path, and is one of the most mesmerizingly beautiful gardens in the state.
As you continue your walk, you’ll come across several footbridges, a waterfall, and a tiny pond. The park features several plant and tree species that you’d be surprised would survive the harsh winters of Minnesota – the quintessentially Japanese cherry blossom being one.
You can catch the sight of captivating cherry blossoms in the spring when they are fully bloomed.
If you’re looking for a tranquil botanical garden to hike, the Japanese garden is one of the best Minneapolis hiking gardens.
It is roughly 10 miles from the MSP Airport, located within the Twin Cities metro area.
10. Summit Ave Historic District, St. Paul
If you love hiking and history alike, Summit Ave Historic District, St. Paul, is one of the best urban hikes near Minneapolis for you. Each path of this trail highlights the history of the city.
The path is smooth and easy. If you are looking for the best hikes near Minneapolis to visit with family, do not forget to visit the streets of Summit Ave Historic District.
Located 8 miles from the MSP International Airport within the Twin Cities, it is home to the largest stretch of Victorian houses on a single street in the country. Here, you’ll come across nearly 400 historic homes, built in the late 1800s.
The 4.5 miles of Summit Avenue holds impressive mansions, grand churches, vintage luxury townhouses and apartments, and several small, beautiful parks. Each property depicts a rich history and has its unique style.
As you hike around, do not forget to catch a glimpse of the most famous buildings, including the Cathedral of St. Paul, The “Hitching Post” House, James J. Hill House, Blair Flats, and Shelby Ave.
If you’re looking for a bite to eat or a cheeky dose of retail therapy, walk over to neighboring Grand Avenue, home to some of Saint Paul’s finest dining and independent retailers.
11. Mississippi National River and Recreation Area in Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN
The 72 mile Mississippi River and Recreation Area has several hiking trails.
One of the best places to hike along the recreation area and Mississippi River is right in downtown Minneapolis!
You can begin at the back of the Mill City Museum. Then, you can hike through the stone arch bridge to the oldest and historic main street in Minneapolis.
On your way, you’ll also come across the famous Father Hennepin Bluff Park. Though this trail is not as popular as other hiking trails, the area offers a peaceful and calming atmosphere to trail on sunny days.
12. Lakewood Cemetery Minneapolis, MN
Walking in a cemetery? Really?
All hikers know that one of the easiest places to find real peace and quiet for a walk is a cemetery, and Lakewood Cemetery in Minneapolis is hands down among the most peaceful places to enjoy a calming walk in the Twin Cities.
Though this place is open to locals and tourists, visitors should never forget that it’s a sacred eternal resting place and should always be respected.
The cemetery has charming flower gardens, stunning sculptures, mesmerizing monuments, and memorials. You’ll also see several wildlife and bird species. Blue jays, ducks, wild turkeys, woodpeckers, and loons are the most commonly seen animals in the cemetery.
The cemetery is 11 miles from the MSP Airport and is located within the Twin Cities. The pathway extends throughout the Lakewood Cemetery, and it takes around 5 hours to walk through the entire park at a leisurely pace.
The outdoor gallery is the burial ground for many Minnesotans, including Huber H. Humphery – the former Vice President who was once the Mayor of Minneapolis. Tiny Tim (the beloved entertainer of Tiptoe Through the Tulips fame), Senator Paul Wellstone, his family, and several other respected historical figures are also buried here.
The beautiful and well-maintained cemetery is one of the best hiking in Minneapolis. The paths are clean and well-paved and hence offer a smooth trailing experience for novice hikers.
13. BONUS! Other Incredible Trails In Minnesota
Once you plan to go backpacking near Minneapolis, you’ll have plenty of options to choose from. However, if you go just 50-miles outside the radius of the Twin Cities, you’ll find even more options.
For instance, South Trails in Red Wing, Barn Bluff, Nerstrand Big Woods State Park are all the places to go hiking.
Further, Frontenac State Park (64-miles away) and Taylor’s Falls (57-miles away) are other popular places to visit with your family.
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