Some friends and I were thinking of doing a one day hike somewhere in Minnesota. I have looked online for places but nothing I have found really gives me a sense of the place.

My requirements are that it needs to be within an hour or two of Minneapolis but that time is a little flexible, is a six to eight hour hike, unpaved for much of it, and either woods or water views work.

Any help will be much appreciated.

Thank you in advance

  • This might be a bit beyond your range, there are some great trails around Lutsen.
    – TGnat
    Jul 17, 2018 at 14:32
  • First you say somewhere in Minnesota, but then you say near Minneapolis. Which is it? Because many of Minnesota's best hiking trails are a little more than 2 hours from Minneapolis, but not a ton further. Jul 21, 2018 at 4:45

5 Answers 5


If you're looking for anywhere that's a close drive away from the Twin Cities, I would recommend checking out some of the Dakota County and Three Rivers Distrct Parks. Lebannon Hills Regional Park is a personal favorite of mine, and a hike around all the lakes within the park will be a solid day hike.

Otherwise, most of the best unpaved trails out there-at least the ones that are upwards to two hours way-are going to be located North of Minnesota. The Lake Superior trail tends to divide itself into multiple pathways allowing you to either take a light easy hike or a more moderately intensive hike.

If you are fine with some smaller trails as well, I would recommend taking some time traveling a bit north of Duluth to take a short walk around Silver Creek Cliff and Fifth Falls located at Goosebury Falls. Both are pretty short hikes, but both are worth the trip! They are not very well known compared to the main waterfall area in Goosebury falls, so they do not get visited by very many people.

A little closer away to the Twin Cities is the Ice Age Trail, in St. Croix Falls. The total trail is 1,200 miles, stretching all the way through Wisconsin. The length of the trail, however, crosses into a lot of popular state parks, so there are segmented trails you can do in a day's hike. If you have time after the hike, I would also recommend checking Taylor's Falls located across the riverside. It's a popular rock climbing spot and has some "Bottomless" potholes that offer an interesting view.

Traveling a little down South East, you can head towards Red Wing and check out Frontenac State Park. This park has two loops on the North and South end of the park. I would recommend getting there early if you want to go to this park, because by mid-day, a lot of people tend to fill up here.

Traveling a little to the South West side, towards Mankato, is a lot of different trails across the Minnesota River. My favorite spot to visit is the Minneopa State Park. The trail crosses the popular Minneopa falls and is also close to the famous Bison Drive Road, where you can take a driving tour to see buffalo(That is, if you are lucky enough to see them out of hiding!). If you have some time, I would also recommend checking out Dairi King, about half an hour away from the park. They have some awesome slushee floats!


It will be tough to find a full six to eight hours of hiking on unique trails that close to the cities.

I would check out Whitewater State Park. It's located in the river bluffs area in southern Minnesota, should be less than a 2 hour drive from Minneapolis. There are quite a few long trails that follow along the bluffs over the Whitewater river. The DNR website lists it as having 10 miles of hiking trails, if you walked the entire perimeter of the park along the trails it would likely take between 2-3 hours.


I think that you could go for the Duluth area and in particular for the superior hiking trail, depending on you goals. It is a historic touristic area, with plenty of nature, on the lake, and with some nice hills (usually not the forte of Minnesota to my knowledge; I do not live in the US, but I have been going there for years because of family reasons). Duluth is about 2h30' from Minneapolis, if I am not mistaken.


Coming too late for OP, but I'm surprised nobody has mentioned Nerstrand Big Woods State Park, about an hour south of Minneapolis near Northfield. You can likely make six hours of hiking from it with a lunch stop (there are 11 miles of slightly hilly trail).

This is the last remaining old-growth forest in southern Minnesota and it's just gorgeous, especially in the spring (wildflowers, including the endangered Minnesota trout lily) and fall (colors everywhere). It's also remarkably quiet for a park in a relatively populated area.


Coming a little late to the party, but I'm surprised nobody has mentioned Afton State Park or William O'Brien State Park. Afton should be much closer to you than William O'Brien, and has a longer trail system. Afton is a great walk with sections along the river, buttes, prairie, hardwoods, and more. William O'Brien is about 15-30 minutes away from Stillwater, and might be closer to a 2hr drive, depending on where exactly you are, but also has a lot of variety. On the other hand, if you are on the western side of the cities, you could look at Lake Maria SP. I've not been there yet, but I'm looking at going there soon.

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