Note: As of January 2016, trail users should use caution on the Paul Bunyan State Trail between Nisswa and Jenkins due to the State Highway 371 realignment project, which is expected to last through the fall of 2016. Although the trail will remain open during construction, a new section of the trail will be built in that area during summer 2016 and will become a permanent reroute due to the highway’s expansion to four lanes. For updates on trail conditions, please visit the Minnesota DNR website and the state’s DOT website.
The Paul Bunyan State Trail, spanning nearly 120 miles from Bemidji to Baxter, is one of the longest rail-trails in the country. This distance includes its newest segment, completed in 2014, that extended the trail south to Crow Wing State Park.
The multi-use, fully paved trail is mainly for non-motorized use, however, snowmobiles are permitted during winter. The Paul Bunyan State Trail follows an abandoned railroad corridor built in 1893 and last owned by Burlington Northern. The corridor passes through Boreal forests, along more than 20 lakes and 10 rivers/streams, and among meadows sporting colorful wildflowers in spring. You'll also encounter wildlife along the way.
For those using the trail for the long-haul, you'll find towns situated every 8 to 10 miles. Many of the towns have a long history in the railroad and timber industries, and before that, Native Americans of the Ojibwe and Dakota nations lived in the region.
Those wishing to camp during their trip can do so at either end of the trail: Crow Wing State Park in Brainerd or Lake Bemidji State Park in Bemidji.
The Paul Bunyan State Trail intersects with the Heartland State Trail at Route 34 northeast of Akeley and north of Walker near Routes 200/371. The Paul Bunyan Trail also connects with the Blue Ox–Voyageur Trail at Paul Bunyan's northern end in Lake Bemidji State Park (at County Road 20).
Parking and access for the Paul Bunyan State Trail is available in every town along the way. The southern trailhead is located on Excelsior Road in Baxter. From the intersection of State Highway 210 and the State Highway 371 bypass in Baxter, go north 1 block to Excelsior Road then east 0.75 mile to Conservation Drive; the parking lot is on the left.
On the southern end of the trail, you can also park in Crow Wing State Park (3124 State Park Road, Brainerd).
The northern trailhead is located in Lake Bemidji State Park (3401 State Park Road Northeast, Bemidji). From Bemidji, head north on County Road 21 for about 4 miles, then east on the same road for 2 miles to the park's entrance.
You can also park in Merrifield, Nisswa, Pequot Lakes, Jenkins, Pine River, Backus, Hackensack, and Walker.