There’s never been a better time to head into the woods for a hike. Following a summer of social distancing and ever-changing health and safety protocols, hiking remains a low-risk activity according to experts. With temperatures cooling off, leaves beginning to change color, and that familiar crispness in the air, fall in Minnesota is prime hiking season. What’s better than spending some regenerative time in the great outdoors, you ask? Doing so with your dog, of course. Hiking with your pup is a great chance to burn off steam and bond amid nature. Here are seven beautiful hikes across Minnesota you can explore with your pooch—just don’t forget the leash and poop bags.
Fort Snelling State Park: Nature Nestled Right in the Twin Cities
Region: Twin Cities. You don’t need to venture out of the Twin Cities to immerse yourself in nature. Fort Snelling State Park is home to 18 miles of hiking trails to explore with your four-legged friend. Start out with the Pike Island Loop, a 3.7 mile loop that sees the point where the Minnesota River and Mississippi River meet. Keep an eye out for bald eagles and blue herons, both well known for making the island home.
Inspiration Peak: One of the Best Views in the State
Region: Central MN. The seemingly endless Leaf Hills Moraines north of Alexandria, MN are the result of glaciers that moved through the area thousands of years ago—and they make for excellent hiking. Inspiration Peak is the highest point in the area at 1,750 feet above sea level (and rising some 400 feet above the surrounding landscape). With fall colors and an open ribbon of single track for you and your pack, this hike is perfect for a sunny clear day.
Glacial Lakes State Park: Rolling Hills on the Kettle Lakes Loop
Region: West. If you’re yearning for wide open prairies to run free this fall, head to Western Minnesota’s Glacial Lakes State Park. The undulating hills are punctuated by placid lakes connected by winding pathways through a mix of grasslands, forest, and wetlands. Try the 6-mile Kettle Lakes Loop hike, where you’ll catch a great view of the park and a perfect spot for watching the sunset over the prairie.
Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge in Bloomington: A Haven for Animal Lovers
Region: Twin Cities. The Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge is a 14,000 acre nature lover’s oasis right in the Twin Cities, and best of all, your dog is welcome. Home to a wide array of birds and wildlife, the massive refuge also boasts a variety of landscapes and hiking options from dense river bottom forests to steep bluffs. While every trail here is worth a walk, check out the five-mile Mazomani Trail, where you’ll pass from wetlands to prairie with water views almost the entire way. Bonus? It has less foot traffic than some of the heavier traveled paths.
Tettegouche State Park: Stunning Fall Foliage by Lake Superior
Region: North Shore. Venturing to Minnesota’s North Shore along Lake Superior is fall bucket list entry. Expect leaves to change color earlier in the season and the cold wind off the lake to pack a bit more of a punch than it does in summer months. North of Beaver Bay, MN lies the crag-filled, cliff-laden Tettegouche State Park with more than 23 miles of hiking trails. Warm up on the short but beautiful hike to Shovel Point on Lake Superior. For a workout, head to the Bean and Bear Lake Loop, where you’ll climb 1,066 feet over six-and-a-half miles through untouched north woods forest.
Frontenac State Park: Prairie Gives Way to Bluffs Along the Mississippi
Region: Buff Country, Southeast. Just 55 miles southeast of the Twin Cities lies Frontenac State Park on the Mississippi River. Home to beautiful bluffs, wildflower-filled prairies, and a lush canopy forest, this park features a robust network of trails you’ll want to revisit again and again. Don’t miss the overlook of Lake Pepin—a 40-mile wide naturally occurring lake that forms the widest part of the Mississippi—where you’re likely to spot bald eagles soaring in the breeze looking for their next meal in the pristine waters below.
Banning State Park's Wolf Creek Trail: A Rocky Scramble to an Epic Waterfall
Region: Central. For a north woods experience that’s just over an hour from the Twin Cities, check out Banning State Park. Start out with a short half-mile shot on the Wolf Creek Trail for a hidden gem of a waterfall. Then take your pup along the Kettle River along the Hell’s Gate trail, where you’ll run right alongside rapids before ascending through the old sandstone quarry on the Quarry Loop Trail. Just be sure to keep a close eye on your four-legged friend, as rapids and waterfalls in this area are not to be taken lightly. With fall colors and rushing water, this will quickly become a go-to for city dwellers seeking a dose of outdoor adventure.