10 of the Best Hikes in Minnesota to Try Right Now

While it may be commonly known as the Land of 10,000 Lakes, Minnesota’s hikes are scenic enough to give the lakes a run for their money. Going up the best hikes in Minnesota doesn’t only involve leg work but also stunning visual experiences. 

From seeing the state from its highest point to marveling at the sight of lighthouses and fire towers, Minnesota hiking trails offer plenty of variety. Being a local, I’ve hiked on pretty much every terrain Minnesota has to offer. 

Think: getting up before sunrise to hike up the majestic Eagle Mountain Trail and experience the sunrise over the Superior National Forest. Yes, that’s me. 

So, when it comes to writing about the best hikes in Minnesota, I’m confident about my knowledge on the subject. 

Having said that, let’s talk about the best hiking trails for beginners, pros, scenic nature-lovers, and everyone else who wants to replace leg day at the gym with a hike. 

Easy Minnesota Hikes for Beginners 

If you’re not a pro at hiking yet, these Minnesota hiking trails are a great place to start. Here’s a look at the best hikes in Minnesota for beginners. 

1. Magnetic Rock Trail

The Magnetic Rock Trail starts at the Gunflint Trail and goes to a 25-foot-tall rock that has magnetic properties. While the trail doesn’t have many scenic views, it’s definitely one of the best hikes in Minnesota for its historic appeal. 

Hikers will come across remains – mostly burnt tree trunks – of the 2002 burning, 1999 blowdown, and the Ham Lake wildfire of 2007. 

Once you get to the outcrops of barren rock, go along the rock cairns. After an hour of hiking, you’ll come to Magnetic Rock, which resembles the monolith of Stanley Kubrick’s A Space Odyssey minus the apes. 

Mileage: 3 miles for round trip
Elevation gain: 130 feet 
Difficulty: Easy
Estimated time: 1.5 hours 
Dog friendly: Yes 
Highlights: Experience unique rocks with magnetic characteristics. 
Red tape: None 

2. Silver Creek Trail

Jay Cooke State Park has about 50 miles of hiking trails, but the Silver Creek Trail is the most beautiful of them all, which means you need to look out for crowds as Jay Cooke is one of the best state parks in all of Minnesota. It’s best to head out early in the morning to avoid crowds and enjoy the peacefulness of your surroundings. 

It’s a 3.4-mile trail that is open year-round for hikers and bikers. Offering stunning views of the spectacular bedrock landscape, the trail crosses the CCC Swinging Bridge in the beginning section, going over the St. Louis River. 

If you want to make the trail longer, connect your hike to Lost Lake or Summer Trails, both of which fall along the way. Additionally, if you have extra time, you can take on the Carlton Trail Trip or camp at the Jay Cooke State Park. 

Mileage: 3.4 miles 
Elevation gain: 292 feet 
Difficulty: Easy
Estimated time: 1.5 hours 
Dog friendly: Yes, on leash 
Highlights: Connects to multiple trails and offers views of the St. Louis River. 
Red tape: None 

3. Riverview Trail

The Riverview Trail in Gooseberry Falls State Park is just six miles from the Split Rock Lighthouse State Park and boasts waterfalls as its major attractions. 

The Lower, Middle, and Upper Falls are the most popular waterfalls in the state park and are probably the most popular waterfalls in Minnesota

Fortunately, you can view them all from the Riverview Trail. Although the trail ends at the Upper point, hikers who’re in for an extended adventure can continue to the Superior Hiking Trail and camp overnight. 

Mileage: 0.5 miles 
Elevation gain: 39 feet 
Difficulty: Easy
Estimated time: 1 hour
Dog friendly: Yes 
Highlights: Upper, Lower, and Middle waterfalls in Gooseberry Falls. 
Red tape: None 

Minnesota hiking trails

4. Mazomani Trail

As one of the best hikes in Minnesota for wildlife viewing, you’ll want to visit this trail year-round. The trail is named after a Dakota leader from the 19th century and takes you adjacent to the Minnesota River. Along the loop, the Mazomani Trail follows a wetland complex called Louisville Swamp. 

Moreover, you’ll come across many rocky outcrops and uplands. Meanwhile, the wetland offers exposure to wildlife, including wading birds, mink, beavers, raccoons, waterfowl, and raptors. 

Local Tip: Check the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge’s website to learn about the wildlife you can encounter along the way. 

Mileage: 5.6 miles round trip 
Elevation gain: 60 feet 
Difficulty: Easy
Estimated time: 2.5 hours 
Dog friendly: Yes 
Highlights: Experience local wildlife and Ehmiller home’s ruins 
Red tape: None

5. Lake Superior Shoreline Trail

Snaking through the Cascade River State Park, the Lake Superior Shoreline Trail takes you along a mile of the lake’s shoreline. Along with offering scenic views of the lake, it’s also perfect for cross-country skiing in case you want to give all that walking a rest. Don’t forget to take in all of the magical forest views.

Local Tip: Park your car at the parking lot, half a mile west of the Cascade River State Park’s entrance from the Highway 62 side. Make sure you go early in the day, or you won’t get any parking space. 

Mileage: 1.3 mile
Elevation gain: 602 feet 
Difficulty: Easy
Estimated time: 3 hours 
Dog friendly: Yes 
Highlights: Overlooks the Lake Superior with birch forests serving as a spectacular background. 
Red tape: Fire restrictions in the Cascade River State Park. Plus, the park closes at 10 pm. 

Best hikes in Minnesota

Moderately Difficult Hikes in Minnesota 

If you’re planning to take on a longer hike with more challenging terrain, here are some Minnesota hikes you’ll want to add to your list. 

6. Eagle Mountain 

Don’t be overwhelmed by the name since ‘mountain’ is somewhat hyperbole in this case. However, Eagle Mountain is nearly 2,301 feet above sea level, which makes it the highest point in the state. 

Interested individuals can hike three miles from the trailhead since it’s the easier section. But if you want to give your legs a challenge, you can hike another mile where the altitude rises a steep 400 feet. 

The summit of Eagle Mountain is one of the top attractions in the Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Going up there isn’t exactly a walk in the park since the terrain is rugged and the altitude steep. 

Additionally, the trail hasn’t been as well-maintained as some other Minnesota hiking trails. But it’s all worth it in the end since you can see Lake Superior from the top on a clear day. On most days, the Superior National Forest is also visible easily from the summit. 

Mileage: 7 miles for round trip
Elevation gain: 554 feet 
Difficulty: Moderate 
Estimated time: 4 hours 
Dog friendly: Yes 
Highlights: Bird’s eye view of the Superior National Forest and Waters Canoe Area Wilderness
Red tape: None 

7. Superior Hiking Trail 

The Superior Hiking Trail is one of the longest in Minnesota, but you can divide it up into smaller segments and divert from it to go on the Little Two Harbors trail and view the Split Rock Lighthouse. 

The trail spans 240 miles from Two Harbors and has segments through Jay Cooke State Park and Duluth too. Simply put, there’s sufficient distance to ensure you’re on your feet for weeks. 

But if you only plan on taking a day hike, the trek from Silvery Bay to Highway 1 is a beautiful Minnesota hiking trail, giving a view of the Palisade Valley and Beak Lake. 

Local Tip: Drive to the endpoint of the trail in your car. Then, take the Superior Shuttle from there to the start point. The shuttle is operational on weekends and Fridays from May to October. Then, hike from the starting point to the endpoint where your car is waiting for you. 

Mileage: 11 miles one way 
Elevation gain: 600 feet from the lowest to the highest point in the trail 
Difficulty: Moderate 
Estimated time: 7 hours 
Dog friendly: Yes 
Highlights: Multiple segments. Silver Bay to Caribou Falls State Wayside is perfect for mountain top views, while Duluth to Two Harbors is ideal for backpacking. 
Red tape: Duluth section of Superior Hiking Trail closed during wet weather 

8. Shovel Point Trail 

The Shovel Point trail is a 1.2-mile segment in the Tettegouche State Park that connects to other trails in the region, including the Raven Rock Lookout and the Tettegouche Lake Overlook. 

Park your car and walk to the visitor center at the park. 

The trail starts from behind this park and runs through three microclimates. On the way, you’ll come across terrain that has been crafted due to ancient lava flows. 

The Tettegouche State Park only remains open till 10 pm. If you plan on hiking here often, purchase a $35 annual permit. 

Mileage: 1.1 miles
Elevation gain: 413 feet 
Difficulty: Moderate 
Estimated time: 2 hours 
Dog friendly: Yes 
Highlights: Overlooks the Baptism River and has four waterfalls. 
Red tape: None

Hiking trails in Minnesota

9. Pine Loop Trail 

Pine Loop Trail is a 1.6-mile adventure through the Frontenac State Park that’s ideal for all skill levels. Along with hiking, the trail is also used for nature trips. 

Park your car at the Frontenac State Park and head over to the starting point. You can also extend the hike by connecting it with the Sand Point Trail or divert to the Lake Pepin Overlook Look. Lake Pepin also offers other activities, such as water sports, boating, fishing, and swimming. 

However, the latter is comparatively longer and suitable for moderately expert hikers. 

Mileage: 1.6 miles 
Elevation gain: 275 feet 
Difficulty: Moderate
Estimated time: 1 hour 
Dog friendly: Yes, on leash.
Highlights: Beautiful views of the Frontenac State Park and the adjacent Mississippi River. 
Red tape: None

Best hikes in Minnesota

Difficult Hikes in Minnesota 

Owing to its wide range of terrain types, Minnesota has its fair share of hard hikes too. Here are some difficult hikes in Minnesota. 

10. Kadunce River Canyon 

Without a doubt, the Kadunce River Canyon is not a regular hike since it’s only possible when the North Shore water is low. So, if you want to go on this trail, mid-summer is the best season for it. 

Park your car in the parking lot from the Highway side and make sure you wear shoes that have excellent traction. Start hiking from the stream and go through the water if you have to. 

It’s good to take a map along since the path can be tricky to navigate. In some places, the rocky walls are so close to each other that you can barely see the sky. So, keep a torch or headlamp with you at all times. 

Since the hike is risky, don’t go alone. Plus, call the Cascade River State Park’s visitors center for weather updates before you go on. 

Mileage: 2 miles round trip 
Elevation gain: 260 feet 
Difficulty: Hard
Estimated time: 2 hours 
Dog friendly: No 
Highlights: Goes along the Kadunce River and features many waterfalls along the way. 
Red tape: None

Top hiking trails in Minnesota

Best Time to Hike in Minnesota 

Although Minnesota has year-round hiking options, some times are better than others to enjoy the scenic views of the state from up above. 

March is the best month to hike in Minnesota since the weather is getting warmer but isn’t too hot yet. Plus, there’s no risk of facing snow or harsh winds on the trail.

As for the time of the day, it’s best to head to the trail early in the morning. The later in the day you go, the more crowds you’ll see because Minnesota is popular among tourists. In 2018, the twin cities region alone attracted 34.5 million visitors. 

If you want to hike during the winter months, it’s best to stick to national parks since they have additional resources in case of unprecedented weather situations. Plus, the crowds are thinner during winter, so you’ll have the trails to yourself if you start early in the day. 

Hiking Tips for Minnesota 

Hiking is all fun and games until you realize there are certain hazards in the way and you’re not appropriately prepared. That’s why it’s important to go through these tips and keep them in mind before setting on a hiking trail in Minnesota. 

  • Summers in Minnesota are warm and wet, while winters are snowy. So, if you’re going for a hike late in the day, make enough provisions in case you have to spend a night in the outdoors. 
  • If you’re going on a certain trail for the first time, leave your itinerary with a friend or someone you trust. 
  • Check the weather before heading out. If it’s going to snow later or the wind speed is too high, postpone the hike. 
Hiking in Minnesota

Local Tip: Beware of pests. Minnesotan wilderness has certain pests, such as poison ivy and deer ticks. Learn about them beforehand by seeing their pictures on Google. In this way, you’ll be sure to avoid them when you’re on a hike. 

Hiking Checklist for Minnesota 

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has issued the following checklist for hiking in the state: 

  • Cell phone
  • Matches or firestarter kept in waterproof tins 
  • Food 
  • First aid kit 
  • Foil (can be used as a signaling device or a cup)
  • Headlamp or flashlight 
  • Insect repellent 
  • Hat 
  • Pocket knife 
  • Pocket mirror 
  • Prescription medication, if any 
  • Sunscreen
  • Sunglasses
  • Water 
  • Trash bag 
  • Water purification tablets 
  • Whistle (can be used as a signaling device to ward off animals) 
  • Space blanket 
  • Rain gear or warm clothing 

Meet Kyle

Kyle Kroeger is a travel blogger for his site ViaTravelers.com. ViaTravelers is a modern travel blog providing the best tips, hacks, and itineraries to ensure you have an amazing adventure. Follow us on Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, and YouTube to get our latest travel updates in real-time.

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Wondering where to hike in Minnesota? Here are 10 of the best hiking trails in Minnesota that you can't miss whether you're a local or someone visiting Minnesota in search of nature!

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Meg aka Fox is a 30-something who's born to explore. Her mission is to get you out on your greatest adventure. She'd rather be dirty than done up.