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Find the top rated hiking trails in Brainerd, whether you're looking for an easy short hiking trail or a long hiking trail, you'll find what you're looking for. Click on a hiking trail below to find trail descriptions, trail maps, photos, and reviews.
|Trail Image||Trail Name||States||Length||Surface||Rating|
The Cuyuna Lakes State Trail winds its way through northern hardwoods and spruce/pine forests along the shores of 6 natural lakes and 15 clear, constructed lakes that were former mine pits. The...
As fans of public radio can tell you, this trail’s namesake is the fictional town of Lake Wobegon, made famous by author and radio personality Garrison Keillor of A Prairie Home Companion. Along the...
Paul Bunyan State Trail, stretching 119 miles from Bemidji to Brainerd, is one of the longest rail-trails in the country. The multiuse, fully paved trail is mainly for nonmotorized use; however,...
The Shingobee Connection Trail, spanning nearly 7 miles, offers a key link between two much longer rail-trails—the Paul Bunyan State Trail and Heartland State Trail—making it possible to travel more...
The Soo Line Recreational Trail is a continuation of the Soo Line Trail (southern route) just north of Royalton, Minnesota. This 10-mile segment, however, does not permit motorized uses, unlike its...
The Soo Line North Trail travels for 113 miles through forest and bog between Moose Lake in the south and Cass Lake in the north. The trail, which is popular with ATVs in the summer and snowmobiles in...
|MN||113 mi||Ballast, Gravel||
The Soo Line Trail Southern Route is more popularly known as the Soo Line South ATV Trail. The converted rail-trail runs for 105.6 miles in Minnesota between Royalton and the Minnesota–Wisconsin state...
|MN||105.6 mi||Ballast, Gravel||
We ride the Lake Wobegone trail at least annually. This year we've been riding twice! We usually start in St. Joseph at the the trailhead, and bike to Albany, and then turn and ride to Holdingford. The trail and towns along the way have nice resting areas with bathrooms and drinking fountains to refill your water bottle. This route is very peaceful-small towns, lakes, and countryside. The Lake Wobegone trail also continues from Holdingford to Bowlus. At one point, the trail switches to the Soo Line trail. This route goes on to just north of Royalton. We've started at the Royalton (Soo Line) access off Highway 10 and ridden the trail in reverse. We've also been on the trail starting at Sauk Center and biked to Osakis where it links to the Central Lakes Trail. More beautiful views of Minnesota. Minnesota is not just the Land of 10,000 lakes, but the home of many great biketrails!!!
My friend and I biked from brainerd to pine river . 64 miles round trip. The trail is flat which is awesome. Also most of the trail from Brainerd is straight for miles. Easy to bike and lots forest. Scenic from nisswa.
I started on the northeast side of Crosby on the paved trail. This was flat and easy to do, mostly shaded with trees & bushes. The west end trailhead was nothing but a paved parking lot--no biff, no water, no shade, no signs. From this point you can supposedly get on "Easy Street" the beginner mountain trail but there were no signs or indications, so I just turned around and headed to the main trailhead.
This is a huge, amazing trail head for the mountain trails--lots of people and activity. But finding a trail suitable for novices like me was impossible. So I gave it a shot on a more difficult mountain trail without the right equipment or skills. I made a short loop but it wasn't much fun. There needs to be a place for novices and kids with easy access to practice on and acquire some basic skills.
This whole layout is really impressive but there needs to be updated maps and signs.
Toured this trail and was shocked at how poorly maintained it was. Heaved pavement everywhere and overall bad surface. I broke 3 spokes and gave up the trail halfway through in favor of riding the roads. Roads in Minnesota are beautifully maintained. The trails should be too. The state does not live up to its bicycle friendly reputation.
We are from Missouri in our 60's and look for rails-trails (preferably paved) where we can stay comfortably along the trail and park our car in a safe location. In Sept 2017 we stayed at a resort in Backus MN before riding and arranged a 4 day ride from Backus to Bemidji and back, which would result in about 30 miles per day. Weather was unusually warm on day 1, but misty for the rest of our tour. Fortunately it rained only at night while we were under a roof. Day 1 we biked to Walker, a town on shore of Leech Lake with a brief stop in Hackensack for breakfast. On the way to Walker, rather than taking the Shingobee shortcut, we took the Paul Bunyan trail through the Chippewa Forest, which is not a rail-trail- it is a paved mountain bike trail with some steep sections for 9 miles before joining up with the Heartland rail-trail into Walker. But that Chippewa stretch was well worth it, beautiful scenery. We stayed at Walker Hotel, nice facility with good breakfast about 3 blocks off the trail. Anyone interested in outdoor sports must go to the Reeds sports store in Walker! (about 6 blocks from hotel but no biking stuff) And there are nice tourist shops and a brewery in Walker. Then on to Bemidji on day 2, with a brief stop at the LaPorte grocery, as there aren't many places to stock up on that stretch. Contrary to previous reviews, we found the trail in Bemidji to be well marked all the way to the new bridge over highways to our hotel, which is close to the lakeshore park where statues of Paul Bunyan and Blue Ox and downtown stores are. Lots of good shopping and restaurants in downtown, check out the cooperative store and the Bemidji Brewery, maybe also the Minnesota Nice Café. Day 3 was back to Walker with a stop for pizza at the PoppleBar in LaPorte. Day 4 we took the Shingobee shortcut out of the southeast corner of Walker, to connect with the Paul Bunyan back to Backus. Note that the Shingobee also has some short but very steep sections. Overall, the trail was well maintained, no bugs, only a few sections of bumpy roots, and we met some nice folks. Will come back to do the southern section of the PB trail someday.
We used panniers to carry our things and did laundry along the way. But if you don’t want to do that you can use the shuttle service Dennis at Embracing Pines provides. He also has a terrific B&B right along the trail you can stay at and get shuttled to a different stop each day.
Flew to Minneapolis / St Paul and took the Executive Shuttle to Brainerd / Baxter MN. Shuttle driver was great though and dropped us at LifeCycles where we rented bikes (pre-arranged since their rentals are in Nisswa) – call and talk to Zach the owner. We rode the 2 miles to our hotel and stayed at the Baymont Inn. Dinner was at the Boulder Tap House the first night and they have 36 beers on tap and have avocado fries – so delicious. Staying at the Arrowhead Lodge would have been better since the shuttle drops there. Hunt around for the trail on Google Maps – you have to cross 371 – be careful. Rode 10 or 15 miles on the trail and checked out the small town of Brainerd. Lots of food establishments.
Rode 47 miles from Baymont Inn in Baxter to Crow Wing State Park and on to Nisswa. Walked around a little bit of the tourist shops and saw a Barbie collection and other nostalgic items. Drank a flight at Axe Brewery and learned that they play 18 holes of golf on the lake here in the winter. Each hole has a restaurant or brewery to taste and there are thousands of people. Ate pizza at Raffertys. Stayed in the Nisswa Hotel right there and the owner is Bob. Right after you leave Nisswa there is a Laundromat literally feet from the trail in Pine River about 5 miles north of Nisswa. There is another one in Backus just after Pine River.
Rode 32 miles to Hackensack.
Stayed in Hackensack at the Owl’s Nest hotel. Right in town there is a statue of Paul Bunyan and his girlfriend Lucette. Also a beautiful etched marble bench. Owls Nest motel is small but clean and generally ok. Ate spaghetti at Lucette’s Pizza of course. Dinner was at Udom Thai and then breakfast the next day was supposed to be at Joe's Vittles. Those are the three best restaurants here and there are only like 5. One is called Butts and Buns and the other is Char Broiled. At Char Broiled the food looked really good too and they have lots of beer on tap and allow you to try them with a flight. We also keep seeing signs for a meat raffle. Weird. Also in every town there is a water tower with the town name on it. This is a very small town and not nearly as nicely kept as Nisswa.
Rode 39 miles to Park Rapids
Left Owls Nest at 8:30 after skipping Joe's Vittles due to a steady drizzle of rain. We rode 38 miles through the Chippewa state forest. The forest section is 9 miles or so and slightly hilly and very beautiful and remote. Made our way to Park Rapids by turning onto the Heartland Trail. We made a point of stopping in Akeley to see the memorial to veterans and an enormous statue of Paul Bunyan. Arrived in Park Rapids at the Red Bridge Inn and host Chris was there to meet us. You can see this B&B from the trail. Chris and Robyn are the hosts. Chris was so wonderful and brought our bikes and us inside. Let us do laundry and helped us with getting settled. This is definitely the place to stay in Park Rapids. We ate a quick lunch at Subway and ate a terrific Mexican dinner at Vallartes. Relaxed the afternoon away with tea in this beautiful B&B.
Rode 28 miles to Walker MN after an enormous breakfast at the Red Bridge Inn. Stopped in Dorset (lots of restaurants) and Nevis (giant fish statue) and Akeley (home of the largest Paul Bunyan statue and a museum. We saw a small beaver swimming in one of the many lakes. Arrived in Walker and stayed at Chase on the Lake. The resort is beautiful with flowers and the town is kept up. We found three tall cryptmaria like bushes against a bank where there were a hundred or so finches chatting. Very cool. We went to Portage brewery and had a sampler flight and a stout pint. They use wild yeast and this is the best beer ever. Then we went to the Superone grocery store and got dinner. There are a lot of restaurants in town – but we were tired out.
Rode 32 miles
Next day we rode the Shingobee connection trail and then came back to town. We got a Subway sandwich and rode an hour or so towards Cass Lake. Turned around at mile 38 or so (11 miles from the lake) and came back. Took great photos of purple martins. Ate dinner at Zona Rosa. It was definitely only one or two stars. Got more breakfast and snacks at SuperOne. Walked around town and looked in the little shops – but this town closes up early.
Rode 32 miles to Bemidji
After leaving Walkter we stopped in LaPorte and bought water and ate snacks and the grocery there makes lunch and is very good. Rode to Bemidji and rode through the college town and along the lake. Stayed at the Country Inn and Suites literally 20 feet from the trail. Had beer in the hotel bar called JJ’s (great) and rode bikes to Dave’s pizza for a veggie pizza and spaghetti and it was super. There is a brewery and Tara Bemidji restaurant we really wanted to try but they were closed that day. There is also a very cute B&B in town called Lake Bemidji B&B but we didn’t stay there. Rode back and after sunset the bugs were horrible so we used the guest laundry. Tomorrow we go back to Brainerd on the shuttle with Dennis from the Embracing Pines B&B.
Rode the 26 miles again to Crow Wing State Park from Baxter / Brainerd.
Used the Executive Shuttle service to return to Minneapolis Saint Paul airport.
I parked next to Paul Bunyan and Babe in downtown Bemidji. Very nicely kept park, much improved from the abandoned amusement park that was there when I first saw them many years ago. I rode up the west shore of Lake Bemidji to the northern end, then through the state park and down the east shore of the lake.
I didn't have any issues with signage on the trail, although part of it just south of where I parked was closed for sidewalk construction. From the city trail 2 blocks west I made the connection to a trail bridge over the highway and continued on my way. The only confusion came on the north side of the bridge, where the trail loops back in the opposite direction before looping again at the lakeshore in an exaggerated "S" shape.
There were occasional views of the lake through the trees before lakeshore development took over and bumped the trail further away. The surface was excellent throughout. At the abrupt end of the trail I doubled back for a short while to the turnoff into Lake Bemidji State Park. This route had some ups and downs and fast curves before ending at a campsite. I then took the road straight through to the park entrance and turned left on the marked bike route, a county highway with a wide paved shoulder.
This is when I encountered the only less than ideal riding conditions. The paved shoulder disappeared and I had to continue a while longer until turning left again to head south on a rather busy state highway. But it wasn't long until I reached the turn to a quiet side street that took me the rest of the way to the college campus and a separate bike trail through the parks to Paul and Babe.
I then headed south through a well-signed on road section and back to dedicated trail south. I intended to stop at Guthrie and head back, but turned around sooner when Guthrie didn't show up where I expected, but threatening weather did. It was a very nice ride, and a little work to separate the full lake circle route from traffic would have made it perfect.
I had been on the Lake Wobegon trail many years ago to where it dead-ended north of Holdingford. Now I finally made it back to ride the extension to the Mississippi River and back. For added thrills I also rode to Albany for lunch and returned.
There seem to be at least 3 trails in Minnesota that use the Soo Line name so it gets a little confusing. This one is an extension of the spur line of the Lake Wobegon trail, starting a little north of Holdingford, which is itself north of Albany, which is on I-94 west of the Twin Cities.
Holdingford has a nice trailhead with all the facilities and a real-life boxcar for added atmosphere. The transition from Lake Wobegon to Soo Line trail is seamless.
The trail is wide, smooth, and has only a couple road crossings of any consequence. The Mississippi River bridge is quite spectacular; I stopped and took in the views of the river and dam for a while. Shortly after that I came to the end of the paved trail where it changes to ATV use. There's one highway bridge where both kinds of vehicles are allowed, but I didn't see any ATVs while I was there, and I doubt that there are many conflicts.
The northern trailhead was not as well-appointed as Holdingford, but still had the basic facilities. There was also a nice trailhead mid-trail in Bowlus.
Smooth, flat, scenic. A very nice ride.
Rode the Paul Bunyan from Crow Wing State Park to Pine River in late June 2017. Agree with other comments regarding signs in Baxter/Brainerd. Poorly marked. Once you get north of Baxter and the trailhead at the Northland Arboretum (mile marker 13), the route is well marked. Problem is all the large cracks in the pavement that feel like you've just hit a 2 by 4. And there are hundreds of them! Also rode the stretch from Pine River to Hackensack last year. It was worse than the section from Baxter to Pine River. Won't ride it this year because of those nasty cracks. Pavement is much better in the Walker area where the Paul Bunyan meets the Heartland to present MANY interesting and enjoyable combinations of trail, towns, hills, flat and scenery. In fact, all of the trail north of Hackensack (all the way to Lake Bemidji State Park) is in good shape with some minor bumps here and there. Apologies to Nisswa, Jenkins, Pine River and Backus who have very nice bike-friendly towns, but their section of trail is TERRIBLE (with the exception of the four miles from mile 37 to 41 which are excellent). No, I'm not with the Walker Chamber of Commerce, just a bike enthusiast who came up here from Florida to spend the summer away from the sweltering inferno that is the Sunshine State this time of year. (Florida is great from December to February... don't work for them either.)
I started near Royalton on a fully loaded plus tire bike. Morrison counties portion is good trail of smaller gravel. Lots of open farmland. Mille Lacs county the trail turned nasty with bigger ballast and rough. Onamia to Isle is paved. I stayed at Father Hennepin State Park in Isle. Stocked up on snacks at the small grocery store. Farmland changed to wetlands. Carlton County the trail was good again. A couple miles of off the rail bed trail with mud and hills. A fun distraction. I stayed another night at Moose Lake State Park outside of town. There to the Wisconsin line is good trail. Wisconsin line to the end is horrible. Thick layer of ballast rock. A foot deep in places making it harder to pedal through than sand. All across the trail the road crossings, bridges and generally the trail through wetlands were very rough. I rode late June and the deer flies were out in abundance as was a wide variety of wildlife. My trip was mid week so the atv traffic was very light. The trash cans along the trail are full of beer cans and the posted speed limit is 50mph. I was on a week long ride and was loaded with gear, the plus tire was the right choice for me.
My husband came up from Missouri and rode the trail from Crow Wing to Lake Bemidji. It is a beautiful ride. However, the signs are very confusing in places. In Brainard there were Paul Bunyan signs and then you would come to an intersection and there would be a MTR trail signs. Being unfamiliar with the trail we were quite confused. Then in Bemidji they need to distinguished between the main trail and the city connection routes. Overall, it was a great ride.
Rode from mile 90 to 85 and back on a cross country car trip. A very pleasant break and a trail I would like to come back to and ride more.
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