5 Top-Rated Hiking Trails in Minnesota (2022)
The state of Minnesota is a hiker’s paradise. With landscapes that range from breathtaking shorelines to acres and acres of forests, the state is home to exposed bedrock, stretches of river valleys, and vast prairie systems. Minnesota is known as the land of 10,000 lakes, and rightly so as the state is known for an abundance of natural beauty. One of the best ways to explore all of Minnesota’s natural beauty and attractions is to take to one of the many hiking trails. From the confluence of two rivers in the very heart of the Twin Cities to the Boundary Waters up north, there are hiking trails in Minnesota that offer visitors a beautiful way to explore the heart of this Midwest state.
And that’s not all – there are many popular things to do while you explore the hiking trails of Minnesota. Admire historical lighthouses, hike to the highest point in the state, and climb the high-reaching fire towers, there you can even take out an entire afternoon to check out the half-mile Glacial Pothole Trail at the Interstate State Park. Or you can even spend several days hiking the entire North Country National Science Trail. No matter what strikes your fancy, there is something unique to be explored for every adventurer in Minnesota.
5 Top-Rated Hiking Trails in Minnesota
Here are the top-rated hiking trails in Minnesota.
1. Silver Creek Trail at Jay Cooke State Park
The Jay Cooke State Park serves as the point of origin for exploring the southern part of the Superior Hiking Trail. The park is home to many trekking opportunities, with the mesmerizing and scenic St. Louis River covering much of the landscape. Each trail at this state park in Minnesota lets you feast your eyes on some stunning sights. One of the most popular hiking trails amongst the 50 miles of hiking trails at this state park is the Silver Creek Trail. In fact, the Silver Creek Trail is one of the most stunning trails in all of Minnesota.
The Silver Creek Trail offers some of the most dramatic views of the magnificent slanted bedrock landscape that remains exposed by the St. Louis River. The trail starts by crossing the CCC Swinging Bridge over the St. Louis River. It is a 3.5-mile loop, but most hikers like to double back on the segment to follow the river.
If you want to explore further from the Silver Creek trail, there are several connections to the Lost Lake Trail and Summer Trail you will come across. These trails will take you to some of the popular backcountry camping sites within the Jay Cooke State Park.
2. Aiton Heights Fire Tower at Itasca State Park
The Itasca State Park is located just west of the Chippewa National Forest. The park is known for being home to the headwaters of the grand Mississippi River. This is a popular state park in Minnesota that sees the beginning of many adventures as there are many pristine lakes in the park, surrounded by old-growth forests and even an old fire tower to climb. There are 49 miles of trails spread out throughout the park.
Perhaps the best way to explore Itasca is to take the trail found on top of the 100 foot tall Aiton Heights Fire Tower located near the center of the park. This fire tower can be accessed with a half-mile hike from the Fire Tower parking area.
You can also make a three-mile loop beginning at the Douglas Lodge and following the Deer Park and Ozawindib trails. This three-mile loop takes you through hilly terrain, but it is not a very strenuous hike. The real challenge of the hike here is from climbing up the steps of the 100-foot fire tower.
3. Wolf Creek Falls Trail at Banning State Park
If you want to go on a real hiking adventure in Minnesota, you should head over to Banning State Park to explore the trails here. You begin on the Quarry Nature Trail, which takes you along the beautiful Kettle River. This route lets you explore the ruins of the historical sandstone quarry that was located here in the early 20th century.
You can spend a lot of time exploring areas near the Kettle River as you can see the exposed bedrock. There are some of the most challenging boating rapids in Minnesota located here. If you continue going south from here, you will find many other natural attractions that have made Banning one of the most beautiful state parks in Minnesota.
Very close to the Kettle River is the Wolf Creek Falls. The serene and cascading landscape here is well worth the hiking efforts. It is a four-mile loop that uses the Wolf Creek trail and Quarry Nature Trail to take you to Wolf Creek Falls and back. There are some sections of steep hiking you will encounter along the way. There is a 34-site camping ground located in the middle of this trail.
4. Superior Hiking Trail
The Superior Hiking Trail (SHT) is the crown jewel of hiking trails in Minnesota. This trail includes the entirety of Lake Superior’s North Shore, which is one of the most scenic places in the state. No other hiking trails in Minnesota will give you such breathtaking and stunning views as you get to take in the vast and open-water landscape of the Lake Superior shoreline. With pebble beaches, forested ravines, and majestically jutting cliff sides, there’s not a dull moment on this trail.
Stretching over 260 miles from Duluth to the US-Canadian border, the Superior Hiking trail will take you in and out of the shoreline. The trail allows you to get up close to the rugged landscape as you venture through some of the most beautiful state parks in Minnesota.
You will come across many beautiful attractions like the Split Rock Lighthouse, the charming towns of Lutsen and Silver Bay, and many other scenic sights. There are trailheads located along this trail every ten miles, and there are over 90 free backcountry campsites where you can pitch your tent. For the true adventurer, the average end-to-end hike of the Superior Hiking Trail will take around three weeks to accomplish.
5. Eagle Mountain Trail in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness
Eagle Point is the highest point in Minnesota. This has made it a popular peak and hiking destination. The summit is one of the top-rated attractions in the state that you can only reach by foot through the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. As you stand at an altitude of 2300 feet, you will be able to take in some stunning views of the entire area spread out in front of you.
The Eagle Mountain Trail takes you through a rocky and rutted terrain, and it is quite steep for some part of the way. However, the trail is well maintained, and you can easily make your way through the rugged terrain. As you make your way up, the magnificent views of the nearby Superior National Forest will serve as a big motivation to climb all the way to the summit. On a clear day, you can even see all the way to Lake Superior. It is best to choose a clear sunny day to hike the Eagle Mountain Trail.