14 Breathtaking Hikes near Minneapolis & the Twin Cities Area
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You might not think of Minneapolis as an “outdoor city,” but you might be surprised how much nature you can find here if you look closely enough. Believe it or not, the Minneapolis area has plenty of incredible trails and parks to explore! From swamps and lakes to cliffs and mountains, there is no shortage of incredible hikes near Minneapolis to tackle on your own or with loved ones. Hiking in Minneapolis caters to all levels of experience, from first-timers to advanced hikers wanting a challenge. We created this guide with many of the best hikes in Minneapolis and the Twin Cities area to help you plan your next adventure.

Photo Credit: Kent Landerholm (Flickr CC)

Easy Hikes in Minneapolis

Jensen Lake Trail

  • Trail Length: 2.1 miles
  • Location: Lebanon Hills Regional Park

For a peaceful trail to surround yourself with nature, Jensen Lake is one of the best hikes in Minneapolis. Situated in scenic Lebanon Hills Regional Park, this easy hike features wooden boardwalks, beautiful wooded areas, and picturesque views of the lake. Additionally, there are picnic areas, canoeing areas, and ski routes for year-round outdoor adventures! Hikers who want a slightly longer route can take the 3.1 mile trail that includes Sedge Pond and Bridge Pond Loop. Local visitors report an abundance of brown ticks, so be sure to check yourself for them after your hike and avoid bringing pets if you can help it.

Luce Line Trail

  • Trail Length: 75 miles total
  • Location: Greater Minneapolis area

For those looking to hike, run, or bike, the 75 mile urban Luce Line Trail offers a fantastic long-distance outdoor area that extends throughout the Minneapolis area. The trails are a mix of gravel and paved, and they run through forests, urban areas, and more rural sections, offering hikers a variety of options depending on where they start and end the hike. With flat, wide pathways, it’s a great place for hiking in Minneapolis for families or dog owners who seek an accessible urban long distance trail.

Photo Credit: Nature Nerd (Flickr CC)

Louisville Swamp Trail

  • Trail Length: 2 to 7 miles
  • Location: Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge

A true escape from the urban bustle, the Louisville Swamp Unit is actually a combination of several different trails weaving through the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge. Located around a sizable swamp area, the trail runs through flat grasslands and along the swamp for prime wildlife and waterfront views. With mostly flat trails, this is a peaceful and scenic place to go hiking near Minneapolis for all experience levels.

Photo Credit: Tony Webster (Flickr CC)

Pike Island Trail

  • Trail Length: 3.7 miles
  • Location: Fort Snelling State Park

As one of the more popular hikes in Minneapolis, the Pike Island Trail offers hikers 3.7 miles of exceptional scenery where the Minnesota and Mississippi Rivers meet. Located in Fort Snelling State Park, this beautiful island is full of tall deciduous trees, gravel paths, picturesque bridges, and colorful wildflowers. While hiking here, be on the lookout for local bird species and other wildlife along the trails, especially in the earlier hours of the day! In the wetter, rainier months, the trails here can get muddy, but it’s well worth the trek through the mud to enjoy the serenity of nature here.

Mississippi Gorge Loop Trail

  • Trail Length: 5.9 miles
  • Location: Mississippi Gorge Park

Nature meets history at the Mississippi Gorge Loop Trail, which is one of the coolest urban hikes in Minneapolis for families and all levels of hikers. This loop trail circles around the banks of the Mississippi River, passing by some beautiful rock formations (where you can scramble, if you wish), as well as the St. Anthony Falls and the surrounding forests. You’ll also be treated to some of the most picturesque views of the Minneapolis skyline from the trail here. Locals love this trail because it feels like you’re entering a nature area, even though it’s located just minutes from downtown.

Photo Credit: _quintin_ (Flickr CC)

Minnehaha Creek & Falls

  • Trail Length: 1.8 miles
  • Location: Minnehaha Park

Waterfall lovers, rejoice! Minnehaha Creek is an easy, accessible, and totally breathtaking waterfall trail located on the outskirts of the city. With its flat terrain and beautiful photo opportunities, Minnehaha Creek is one of the most popular hikes in Minneapolis. The waterfall features a 50 foot drop, with a wide, powerful cascade that will fill you with awe. Because of its popularity, you’ll usually find others on the trail, but if you go early in the morning or on weekdays, you’ll enjoy much smaller crowds.

Hidden Falls Trail

  • Trail Length: 2.6 miles
  • Location: Hidden Falls Park

We’ve saved the best (in our opinion) for last, and the Hidden Falls Trail is certainly one of our favorite spots for hiking in Minneapolis. With beautiful, tree lined trails located a quick drive from downtown, the hike to a magical set of falls in the forest is nothing short of breathtaking. Here, you’ll find Mississippi River views, scenic woodland bridges, eerie warped trees and roots, and of course, the Hidden Falls themselves. As one of the more beloved hikes in Minneapolis, we’d recommend arriving early to be able to fully enjoy the peaceful and spellbinding vibes Hidden Falls has to offer.

Photo Credit: MPCA Photos (Flickr CC)

Moderate & Hard Hikes in Minneapolis

Pleasant Valley Lakelet and Lower Bluff Trail Loop

  • Trail Length: 6.6 miles
  • Location: Frontenac State Park

If you’d like to escape the city for a day and head to somewhere for some peace and quiet, the Pleasant Valley Lakelet and Lower Buff Trail at Frontenac State Park is an incredibly scenic trail located just over an hour away from the Twin Cities area. With historic buildings, quiet woods, spread out prairie, and sweeping views of the bluffs surrounding the Mississippi River, there aren’t many hikes near Minneapolis that offer this much variety. It’s a moderately difficult hike, but is accessible to less experienced hikers looking for more of a challenge!

Mount Tom Trail

  • Trail Length: 3.9 miles
  • Location: Sibley State Park

As a lesser-known trail in the Twin Cities area, the Mount Tom Trail is a one of the quieter hikes near Minneapolis, with lots of nature and beautiful views to soak in along the way. The trail is rated as moderate and features a gradual incline to an overlook tower at the very top. If you choose to climb the overlook tower, you’ll be rewarded with views of the nearby Shakopee Creek and Mount Tom itself. Many visitors love this trail, but warn that during wetter times of the year, it’s a good idea to bring extra bug spray and wear long pants/sleeves to avoid getting bitten.

Photo Credit: Michael Janke (Flickr CC)

Hidden Falls Loop

  • Trail Length: 8 miles
  • Location: Nerstrand-Big Woods State Park

We know, we know, there’s already a Hidden Falls trail on our list! However, the Hidden Falls Loop in Nerstrand Big Woods State Park is another worthwhile hike near Minneapolis to try out if you’re looking for a bit more of a challenge! There are plenty of trails surrounding Hidden Falls that can connect to form a large loop, and the ones we’re referring to are the Fawn, Hope, Beaver, Maple, Big Woods and Fox trails within the park. Locals love this trail, with many saying that the hike is totally gorgeous and has plenty of terrain diversity if you do the whole thing.

Prairie and Deer Valley Loop

  • Trail Length: 19 miles
  • Location: Afton State Park

Don’t tell, but the Prairie and Deer Valley Loop in Afton State Park might be experienced hikers’ favorite trail in the Twin Cities area. Many locals call this one of the few sites where people can go “actual” hiking near Minneapolis, a rare treat for those looking for a more rugged, backwoods feel on the trails. As a moderately difficult trail, you can except some more challenging terrain here than in some of the other hiking areas on our list. However, its vantage point by the St. Croix River provides hikers with stunning views basically the entire 19 miles of the trail – the prairies, forests, wildflowers, and waterways will be a treat for all of your senses!

Photo Credit: Doug Kaye (Flickr CC)

Devil’s Kettle

  • Trail Length: 2 miles
  • Location: Judge C.R. Magney State Park

With its powerful waterfalls and amazing photo opportunities, the Devil’s Kettle trail is one of the most popular hikes near Minneapolis. Lots of stairs and a moderate incline take you from the trail head to the viewpoint for this magnificent set of falls. The picturesque wooden boardwalks and stairs provide an easy-to-navigate trail that leads right past the majestic falls. While this trail definitely isn’t easy, the views are definitely worth the several stairs you’ll have to climb!

Pincushion Mountain Trail

  • Trail Length: 9 miles
  • Location: Superior National Forest

Forests, lakes, and creeks collide at the scenic Pincushion Mountain Trail, which is located in Superior National Forest. While it’s over 4 hours from Minneapolis, the terrain and the forests here offer an opportunity to feel transported to a completely different environment. Unlike many of the hikes near Minneapolis, the forests surrounding this trail are largely composed of evergreen trees, giving the trails a Pacific Northwest-type vibe.

In our opinion, the Pincushion Mountain trail is one of the more scenic places for hiking near Minneapolis, especially for those with some experience under their belts. The path winds through breathtaking, green forests and gives hikers a few peeks out at Lake Superior, as well as the surrounding rocky cliffs and flowing creeks. Locals especially love the wide, sweeping views of Lake Superior, with the green of the forest stretching all the way to its shores.

Photo Credit: Justin Meissen (Flickr CC)

Eagle Mountain

  • Trail Length: 6.3 miles
  • Location: Superior National Forest

Also located in Superior National Forest, the Eagle Mountain trail is noteworthy because it brings you right up to the highest point in Minnesota, at 2,301 feet. While that might not seem like much to those who have hiked out West, the mountain offers hikes that are on the more difficult side, a rarity in the Midwest. Locals love the challenge and the beauty of the hike, especially from the several viewpoints scattered along the way up to the summit.

The beautiful Minnehaha Falls

Additional Resources for Hiking in Minneapolis

What to Bring

  • Hiking boots – You can’t hike without appropriate footwear, period. For most trails, we recommend an all-purpose waterproof boot with ankle support. We recommend Salomon hiking boots or Keen hiking boots for a comfortable hike.
  • Breathable hiking clothes – For warmer hikes, you’ll want to stay cool in a sweat-wicking shirt/tank top and breathable pants, like these PrAna hiking pants for men and women. For cold-weather hikes, we recommend dressing in layers, including merino wool baselayers, an insulated puffer jacket, and a waterproof outer shell. And don’t forget a pair of the best hiking socks in the world!
  • Trekking poles – You won’t need these for every single hike, but we recommend throwing them in your car anyway just in case. We recommend the Black Diamond foldable trekking poles, which are lightweight and easy to transport.
  • Water bottle – Having water available at all times is a huge must. To spare disposable plastic, we recommend bringing your own refillable water bottle. We’re obsessed with Hydro Flask bottles because they keep water cold for hours, but a good old Nalgene works very well too.
  • Sunscreen and bug spray – This should be self-explanatory, but sweatproof sunscreen and DEET bug spray can help you avoid sunburn and bug bites, two of hiking’s most annoying after-effects.
  • A brimmed hat or cap – The sun can be brutal in open hikes, so always pack a brimmed hat or cap for day hikes in the sunshine.
  • Emergency blanket and first aid kit – We’d strongly recommend bringing a first aid kit and a lightweight emergency blanket on every hike. Why? Because the unfathomable can happen, and it’s always best to play it safe.
  • Durable day pack – A durable day pack is the perfect spot to stash all your hiking gear. While any backpack will do, we recommend Osprey day packs because they’re comfortable and breathable for long hikes.

Wondering what exactly you should pack for your next hike? Visit our Complete Day Hiking Packing List for our full list and our top gear recommendations.

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Kay Rodriguez is the Chicago-based travel writer and photographer behind Jetfarer and Skyline Adventurer. When she's not blogging furiously on her laptop or editing photos, you can find Kay running, hiking, or paddling in a new city.

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