The best day hikes in Minnesota typically have water nearby, alongside or even running through the trails. With 11,842 lakes, 6,564 natural rivers and streams (69,200 miles) and 10.6m acres of wetlands, it’s fairly easy to find a Minnesota hiking trail associated with water.
The top-ranked Minnesota hiking trails and nature walks near Lake Minnetonka
This post is a second in a series of the top-ranked Minnesota hiking trails and nature walks. My first post focused on the best hiking trails in and within 50 miles of the Twin Cities – more specifically, the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. And why 50? Because there is at least one state park within 50 miles of every single Minnesota resident. My list of the best MN hiking trails also includes regional parks, county parks and city parks.
For my second post in this series, I’ve curated a list of the best hiking trails and nature walks within 50 miles of the Lake Minnetonka in Minnesota. Now this is a list of the best MN trails that I’ve visited so far. I’ve discovered that I’ve neglected to hike in the northwest Twin Cities area so will need to change that in 2021. I will add additional hiking trails to this post as I hike within 50 miles of Lake Minnetonka.
My third post in this day hike series features the best hiking trails in and near Rochester, Minnesota.
Best hiking trails within 50 miles series
- Best hiking trails within 50 miles of the Twin Cities – Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota
- Best hiking trails within 50 miles of Lake Minnetonka, Minnesota
- Best hiking trails within 50 miles of Rochester, Minnesota
- Best hiking trails within 50 miles of Duluth, Minnesota
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Hiking in Minnesota tips: Check Minnesota park websites before you go hiking
Before I list the best Minnesota hiking trails within 50 miles of Lake Minnetonka, here’s a helpful tip. It’s always a good idea to check the websites of Minnesota state parks, regional parks, county parks and city parks for the latest updates especially in light of the pandemic and any weather-related or seasonal closures. Most Minnesota state parks also offer summer maps and winter maps that you can download from home or on your mobile device.
Please note that some parks host deer hunts November through January. Please check each park’s website to see if the park is closed or has limited access to non-hunters. Additionally, some parks shut off water and close facilities and/or trails in the off-season (generally November through March).
Best hiking trails in and near Lake Minnetonka Regional Park
While I’ve toured Lake Minnetonka on the water (see my related post: 20 things about Lake Minnetonka that may surprise you – features historical and fun facts like what Rolling Stones’ song was inspired by Lake Minnetonk), I have not hiked at Lake Minnetonka Regional Park yet. Once I do, I’ll update this post and include my review of the best hiking trails in Lake Minnetonka Regional Park on social media.
Although we did stop briefly at Big Island – an island on Lake Minnetonka – to take a few photos, I did not get the opportunity to explore or hike. Big Island Nature Park is a 56-acre nature preserve with informal hiking trails and is open to the public – accessible only by boat.
Lake Minnetonka Regional Park; Excelsior, MN
My hiking experience at Lake Minnetonka Regional Park in Excelsior, Minn. is TBD. There is a 16.2-mile paved trail for hiking and biking; however, reviews on AllTrails say the biking and hiking trail is not very scenic and not near views of Lake Minnetonka. So I will check it out and report back as well as review some of the other nearby trails that run along the other Minnesota lakes in the area.
Until then, here are reviews of hiking trails within 50 miles of Lake Minnetonka.
St. Anthony Falls Heritage Trail; Mississippi National River and Recreation Area in Minnesota; Minneapolis, MN
One of my favorite urban green spaces to hike near Lake Minnetonka and in the Twin Cities is the St. Anthony Falls Heritage Trail. It’s located in the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area near Mill Ruins Park in downtown Minneapolis. This recreation area is actually about 72 miles along the Mississippi River so many more hiking trails for me to explore.
The St. Anthony Falls Heritage Trail was near the starting point for several of my favorite Twin Cities walking tours with the Minnesota Historical Society. Here’s the path I typically follow when I give friends and family members a tour of this historical neighborhood in Minneapolis.
- Start behind the Mill City Museum (on West River Parkway facing Mississippi River).
- Hike across the Stone Arch Bridge (pedestrian and non-motorized vehicles only) to Father Hennepin State Park.
- Take a left near the historic Main Street – the oldest street in Minneapolis.
- Seasonal: For most of the year, you can take a short spur trail in Water Power Park that leads you up to St. Anthony Falls on the Mississippi River. You’ll find a couple of great photo ops of both the falls and the river.
- Then loop back to the main trail and take a left toward the Third Avenue Bridge.
- Before reaching the bridge, I recommend taking a quick detour to see Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church – the oldest church building in Minneapolis that’s been in continuous use since the 1850s.
I also recommend checking out the nearby Mill Ruins Park, Gold Medal Park and the I-35W Bridge Remembrance Garden. For more details about this area, please see my related posts: Riverfront disasters walking tour: I-35W Bridge Remembrance Garden and Top 10 walking tours in the Twin Cities – Minneapolis and St. Paul.
Distance from Lake Minnetonka: Minnehaha Regional Park is located in Minneapolis, approximately 26 miles from Lake Minnetonka
Trail length: 3.2 miles
Trail difficulty: Easy
Admission: Admission to Mill Ruins Park and most attractions along this trail (other than the Mill City Museum) is free.
Pike Island Hiking Trail; Fort Snelling State Park; Bloomington, MN
Another favorite hiking trail near Lake Minnetonka and in the Twin Cities metro area is Pike Island Hiking Trail at the historic Fort Snelling State Park. It’s only a couple of miles from the airport in Bloomington, Minn. so don’t be surprised to see a low-flying plane overhead during your hike.
The coolest feature of the Pike Island Hiking Trail is the confluence of the Minnesota River and the Mississippi River. Confluence means the meeting of two bodies of water. This flat hiking trail loop at Fort Snelling State Park runs along a sandy beach, wide paths, beautiful lush woods in the spring and summer and wildflowers.
Distance from Lake Minnetonka: Fort Snelling State Park in St. Paul / Bloomington, MN is 28 miles from Lake Minnetonka, Minn.
Trail length: 3.7 miles
Trail difficulty: Easy
Admission: Admission to all Minnesota state parks is $7 per vehicle per day or $35 for an annual vehicle pass (unlimited visits to all 66 Minnesota state parks and 9 Minnesota recreation areas for 12 months from the month of purchase).
Minnehaha Creek Trail; Minnehaha Regional Park; Minneapolis, MN
And as long as you’re in the neighborhood, you must visit one of my favorite places in Minneapolis. Minnehaha Regional Park in Minneapolis is less than 30 miles from Lake Minnetonka.
And the 53-foot Minnehaha Falls waterfall is beautiful in any season. While the waterfall – frozen or flowing – is only a short hike from the parking lot, you can take the Minnehaha Creek Trail that runs right alongside the creek. However, the steps leading down to this trail may be closed during the winter.
During the summer, I highly recommend following the trail through Minnehaha Regional Parks’ three gardens, which include Longfellow Gardens, Minnehaha Falls Pergola Garden, Song of Hiawatha Garden. Here you’ll also see the historical Longfellow House, Princess Depot and John H. Stevens House.
Distance from Lake Minnetonka: Minnehaha Regional Park is located in Minneapolis, approximately 28 miles from Lake Minnetonka
Trail length: 2.1 miles
Trail difficulty: Moderate
Admission: Admission to Minnehaha Regional Park in Minneapolis is free; however, you’ll need to pay for parking in the paid lots (which is sometimes difficult to find an open stall). Parking on nearby neighborhood streets is free.
Sculpture Tour Trail; Caponi Art Park; Eagan, MN
If you love a little art to go with your nature, then I highly recommend the quirky Caponi Art Park. This sculpture garden in Eagan, MN is 31 miles from Lake Minnetonka, MN. The 1.4-mile loop is super easy and winds through more than 30 pieces of art by Anthony Caponi and other artists. You’ll find additional hiking trails in in this 60-acre woods in this Twin Cities suburb. Here’s a map on the Caponi Art Park website.
Distance from Lake Minnetonka: Caponi Art Park in Eagan, MN, is 31 miles from Lake Minnetonka, Minn.
Trail length: 1.4 mile loop
Trail difficulty: Easy
Admission: Admission to the Caponi Art Park is free; however, donations are appreciated.
Lebanon Hills Loop Trail; Lebanon Hills Regional Park; Eagan, MN
I love the Lebanon Hills Loop Trail at Lebanon Hills Regional Park in Eagan, MN. It was a bit muddy with snow and ice patches when I visited so greatly appreciated the boardwalk trails. Highly recommend wearing boots during any wet season and to check the website for conditions and any park notices. I’m glad I checked because the one day I was planning to hike I learned there was a deer hunt scheduled – so I waited to hike Lebanon Hills until the following week.
While Lebanon Hills is pretty popular, you’ll find lots of solitude in this 2,000-acre regional park and 15 miles of hiking trails. It’s the larges park in Dakota County, Minn. The 5.3-mile Lebanon Hills Loop hiking trail hugs several lakes and runs through beautiful wooded areas.
Distance from Lake Minnetonka: Lebanon Hills Regional Park in Eagan, Minn. is located 32 miles from Lake Minnetonka, Minn.
Trail length: 5.3 mile loop
Trail difficulty: Moderate
Admission: Admission to Lebanon Hills Regional Park in Eagan, MN is free.
Summit Ave Historical District; St. Paul, MN
Another urban hike that I highly recommend is the Summit Ave Historical District in St. Paul, Minn. You’ll be in awe of the beautiful mansions and Victorian-era homes – one right after another for nearly five miles. You can certainly take a scenic drive through Summit Ave., but I highly recommend walking this neighborhood and follow the footsteps of F. Scott Fitzgerald and other famous Minnesotans. Learn more: Prettiest street in the Lake Minnetonka – the historic and beautiful homes of Summit Ave.
Distance from Lake Minnetonka: The Summit Ave Historical District is 34 miles from Lake Minnetonka, Minn.
Trail length: 4.5 miles
Trail difficulty: Easy (although some of the paved sidewalks may be uneven, cobblestone, brick, etc.)
Admission: No admission.
Ritter Farm Park Trail Loop; Ritter Farm Park; Lakeville, Minn.
I must include my very own neighborhood park, Ritter Farm Park in Lakeville, Minn. It’s only 35 miles from Lake Minnetonka, Minn. This park includes a popular dog park as well as a 3.2-mile hiking trail that loops through beautiful woods and near Lake Marion.
Distance from Lake Minnetonka: Ritter Farm Park in Lakeville, MN is located 35 miles from Lake Minnetonka, Minn.
Trail length: 3.2 mile loop
Trail difficulty: Easy
Admission: Admission to Ritter Farm Park in Lakeville, MN is free.
Lake Maria State Park; Monticello, MN
Talk about a hidden gem. If you’re looking for solitude and a beautiful hike, then visit Lake Maria State Park (pronounced Ma-rye-uh – like the singer) in Monticello, MN. I was so pleasantly surprised by the number of beautiful trails.
I especially loved the short Zumbrunnen Interpretative Trail along Little Mary Lake (Maria), which included interpretative signs to educate you about the local wildlife at Lake Maria State Park. I also hiked the Bjorkland Trail, which offers a scenic trek through woodlands, and along backpacker campsites and Maria Lake. You can also go horseback riding on some of the trails or kayaking or canoeing on the lakes.
Distance from Lake Minnetonka: Lake Maria State Park in Monticello, MN is 39 miles from Lake Minnetonka
Trail length: 3.8 miles (interpretive trail is only 0.5 miles)
Trail difficulty: Easy to Moderate
Admission: Admission to all Minnesota state parks is $7 per day or $35 for an annual Minnesota State Park pass (unlimited visits to all state parks and recreation areas for 12 months from the month of purchase).
Schaar’s Bluff Trail; Spring Lake Park Preserve, MN
If you’re a fan of scenic bluff views of the Mississippi River, then you must hike Schaar’s Bluff Trail at the Spring Lake Park Preserve in Hastings, Minn. The 2.1-mile loop is an easy hiking trail through wildflowers in the spring, summer and fall and also includes a bridge that takes you to a wooded area. My favorite part of the Schaar’s Bluff hiking trail is, of course, the panoramic views of the Mississippi River.
Distance from Lake Minnetonka: Spring Lake Park Preserve, MN, located in Hastings, MN, is 46 miles from Lake Minnetonka, Minn.
Trail length: 2.1 mile loop
Trail difficulty: Easy
Admission: Admission to Spring Lake Park Preserve in Hastings, MN is free.
Bucket list of hiking trails within 50 miles of Lake Minnetonka
Here’s a list of the Minnesota hiking trails within 50 miles of Lake Minnetonka that I’d like to hike in 2021.
Chain of Lakes Regional Park, Minneapolis
I’ve driven by the Chain of Lakes many, many times, but I’ve yet to hike or bike around the shorelines of several urban lakes in Minneapolis and surrounding cities. The lakes include Brownie Lake, Cedar Lake, Lake of the Isles, Bde Maka Ska and Lake Harriett. And the trails connect with Lyndale Park, which is 24 miles from Lake Minnetonka.
Louisiana Swamp Trail; Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge; Shakopee, MN
The Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge in Shakopee, Minn. offers miles of multi-use trails in its 14,000 acres. I’m particularly interested in checking out the Louisiana Swamp Trail that is about 14 miles from Lake Minnetonka. However, it will depend on trail conditions as this area is frequently washed out.
Minnesota Landscape Arboretum Loop; Chanhassen, MN
The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum in Chanhassen Minnesota is a perfect destination in any season. I’m especially looking forward to checking this out in 2021. For the first time ever, the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum will maintain the Three-Mile Walk pedestrian-only hiking trail throughout the winter of 2021.
Additionally, the Arboretum offers groomed ski and snowshoe trails when there is at least six inches of snow. Snowshoeing is one of my 90 things to do in the winter in Minnesota (aka MinneSNOWta).
The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum requires reservations and is located less than 5 miles from Lake Minnetonka.
And I’m sure I’ll discover more trails near Lake Minnetonka and the Twin Cities as my day hiking staycation continues in 2021. If you’re not from the Twin Cities, please check out my collaboration post with more than 30 travel bloggers who recommended the best 60+ state parks in America. I partnered with more than 30 travel bloggers.
The best day hiking apps
My all-time favorite app for day hikes in Minnesota or anywhere is the AllTrails app. Check out my related post: The best day hiking apps.
What to pack for a day hike
Learn what I never leave home without when going on a day hike – the best day hiking packing list.