As of autumn 2012, 112 miles of the Paul Bunyan State Trail (between Brainerd and Bemidji) are paved, making it one of the nation's longest paved rail-trails. When complete, the trail will run for about 120 miles between Crow Wing State Park (south of Brainerd) and Lake Bemidji State Park (north of Bemidji). The segment between Crow Wing State Park and Brainerd will be completed in 2013, and a new bridge was commpleted in Bemidji in late 2012 over State Route 197.
The multi-use 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.
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 OxVoyageur 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.
The northern trailhead is located in Lake Bemidji State Park. From Bemidji head north on County Road 21 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.