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Hiking the Midwest: Best Trails Near Minneapolis

The Best Off-The-Beaten Paths for Hiking, Snowshoeing, or Cross-Country Skiing in the Twin Cities Area

Minnehaha FAlls in Minneapolis Minnesota is entirely frozen over in this photo, leaving a beautiful array of icicles

Minnehaha Falls: Minneapolis, MN - Photo Credit: Lorie Shaull


Wintertime may not leave you feeling inspired to get outdoors to go hiking or camping, but it's the perfect time to start planning trips for the warmer months! Pathloom is here to help - Use our All-in-One outdoor adventure travel planning app to discover new hiking trails leading to new developed and dispersed campsites throughout the entire country! Click the link to join thousands in our open BETA testing today!


The Twin Cities of Minnesota – Minneapolis and St. Paul – are bustling metropolises, home to millions of people and thousands of businesses. These cities are a popular destination for travelers, largely due to attractions like the Mall of America or the Minnesota State Fair. This urban area may not seem like an ideal location for outdoor activities such as camping and hiking, but the bountiful lakes and winding rivers throughout the surrounding area, and a local commitment to outdoor recreation have brought about numerous opportunities to hit the trail – places for locals and tourists alike to enjoy!

We’ve explored many of the different parks the Twin Cities area has to offer, and have identified several hiking destinations that are sure to please hikers of all experience levels. Although these locations may not be as well known as other parks in Minnesota, many of them offer the chance to get away from large crowds and enjoy nature without noise and traffic.

From beautiful trails in the heart of Minneapolis to secluded State Parks nestled on the Wisconsin border, these beautiful areas offer many unique and refreshing outdoor experiences - even throughout the cold Northern Winter!


Wood Lake Nature Center – Richfield, MN

A boardwalk stretches across a river at Richfield Wood Lake Nature Center near Minneapolis, Minnesota
Wood Lake Nature Center - Photo Credit: Kyla Helwig

Just ten minutes from Minneapolis, and twenty from St. Paul, Wood Lake Nature Center has two miles of hiking trails that pass through marshland and over floating boardwalks, which are open year-round. At Wood Lake, you can spot over twenty-five species of birds, as well as painted turtles, coyotes, raccoons, deer, and foxes.

Although the available trail mileage is short, you’ll want to take your time as you hike, snowshoe, or cross-country ski to spot birds and other wildlife – you may even want to traverse the trail a second time as well!

An added bonus to this beautiful destination is how kid-friendly it is. Parents can bring their children to the free-access Nature Center. Inside the building, visitors can observe live animals on display, such as snakes and turtles, and peruse an interactive museum room.


Interstate State Park – Taylor Falls, MN

A river runs through a beautiful fall foliage landscape outside Minneapolis Minnesota
St. Croix River - Photo Credit: Kyla Helwig

Interstate State Park is located an hour to the east of the Twin Cities, but the extra commute is well worth it. It costs $7 to enter the park, but once you do, you have access to nine miles of summer trails, or twelve and a half miles of winter trails, when the park remains open for cross-country skiers and snowshoers.

Interstate State Park is located on the border of Wisconsin and Minnesota, so the park is a popular place for hikers from both states to visit. However, a visit in the fall or spring usually ensures lightly trafficked trails and more solitude than during summer months. The park features unique geological rock formations known as potholes, which were formed millenia ago by glacial erosion. In addition to hiking, the park provides access to many rocky cliffs which are a popular spot for climbers. Many miles of trails wind along the St. Croix River, which feeds into the Mississippi, meaning visitors enjoy stunning water views year round.

Another bonus of this park is that it’s home to thirty-seven campsites, which require extra fees and reservations. An overnight stay is an excellent addition to your visit to Interstate State Park, allowing you to explore the miles of trails, returning to your campsite for a night under the brilliant Minnesotan stars when finished.


Wild River State Park – Chisago County, MN

A well-worn trail follows a riverbank through green forests and fields outside Minneapolis, Minnesota
Riverside Trail - Photo Credit: Kyla Helwig

Also nestled along the St. Croix River, Wild River State Park has over thirty miles of hiking trails and numerous campgrounds, as well as snowshoeing and cross-country skiing trails. The park requires a $7 entrance fee to access all of these amenities. Due to the many miles of trails, the hikes at this park generally offer light foot traffic and serene solitude.

There are plenty of beautiful overlooks where you can view the river, which winds its way alongside the miles of trails. The hour-long drive it takes to get here from the Twin Cities is well worth it for the seclusion and unobstructed views of nature this beautiful park has to offer.


Reservoir Woods Park – Roseville, MN

A trail winds through a meadow as the sun begins to set outside Minneapolis Minnesota
Trail in the Meadow - Photo Credit: Kyla Helwig

This hidden gem nestled in the suburbs of St. Paul is just fifteen minutes from the heart of the Twin Cities. Offering nearly three miles of trails, Reservoir Woods Park is a great destination for city-dwellers who want to escape the urban rush. It’s not uncommon to spot deer prancing through the open meadows, or hear an owl calling at dusk.

This park has both paved trails and more rustic, dirt paths that wind through woods and meadows. Although the park is smaller than many of the others, the emptiness of the trails and close proximity to the Cities make it the perfect place to take a beautiful hike when you’re in a time crunch.


Minnehaha Falls – Minneapolis, MN

Minnehaha Falls, frozen solid in the wintertime, has a vast array of caves and passages behind it
Frozen Minnehaha Falls - Photo Credit: Kyla Helwig

One of the most popular natural wonders in the Twin Cities area is Minnehaha Falls. This rushing waterfall cascades down a carved cliff within the city limits of Minneapolis, and freezes midstream during the cold winter months. Although the two miles of trails that surround this beautiful waterfall are usually quite busy, making time for a hike is worth your time, especially if you don’t have the opportunity to drive outside the cities.

If you visit in the winter, make sure to wear shoes with grippy soles - the ice that coats the stairs gets extremely slippery! However, the chance to explore the crevices and tunnels behind the frozen falls is certainly worth the precarious hike down. Behind the sheet of frozen ice formed by the waterfall, tunnels form, completely enveloping you in ice.

This frosty-blue wonderland is worth adding to your winter bucket list! However, just to reiterate, be advised that wearing spiked shoes will greatly improve your ability to climb around on the ice.


Mississippi National River and Recreation Area – Minneapolis, MN

A man hikes along a tree-lined path in the Fall, traipsing through fallen leaves near Minneapolis, Minnesota
Fall Hiking on a Trail - Photo Credit: Jennifer Helwig

One of the most beautiful places to hike in the Twin Cities metro area is the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area. This nationally protected land hosts seventy-two miles of trails that stretch along the banks of the Mississippi River. There is no shortage of spectacular views; the trails hug the cliffs of the river valley, offering numerous outlets to climb down to the bank of the river.

This park is within the metro area, so it is often busier than the State Parks that are further away from the cities. However, the vast mileage of trails and the beautiful scenic views of the river can’t be beaten. You can easily make your hike throughout this recreation area as long or as short as your schedule allows.

Despite the park’s proximity to the city, there is a real feeling of being deep in the woods, with trees blocking any evidence of commercialism or industry.


A female deer emerges from the forest and looks at the camera curiously outside Minneapolis, Minnesota

Minnesota Resident Jane Doe - Photo Credit: Robin Lyon

Hiking Minnesota’s Trails

The Midwest is often overlooked by hikers because of the lack of mountainous terrain. However, Minnesota’s many rivers and lakes host plenty of parks that provide hikers with cliffs to climb, hills to trudge, and beautiful views to soak in.

While winter conditions may seem severe, many see that massive accumulation of snow as an opportunity to bring out the skis or snowshoes, and explore an entirely different side of the same areas!

Whether you’re a Twin Cities native or a tourist passing through, you don’t want to miss out on these fantastic trails for hikers, skiers, or snowshoers of all levels of experience.


Guest Blogger Kyla Helwig is a junior Writing major at the University of Northwestern–St. Paul in Roseville, MN. She loves getting outside and exploring the world. Some things that excite her are good coffee, tall mountains, and new camping gear.


Wintertime may not leave you feeling inspired to get outdoors to go hiking or camping, but it's the perfect time to start planning trips for the warmer months! Pathloom is here to help - Use our All-in-One outdoor adventure travel planning app to discover new hiking trails leading to new developed and dispersed campsites throughout the entire country! Click the link to join thousands in our open BETA testing today!


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