Current Problem- there are so many hikes I want to do and not enough weekends in the year to do them all. With the government encouraging us to #HikeLocal, people have been finding great hidden locations in their own backyard.
The Best Hikes near Minneapolis and St Paul | Hidden From the Public
As always, the State of Minnesota has some magnificent parks, but since the start of Covid, they have become so busy, some have had to close their parking lots. Others are turning people away when they arrive because they’ve already reached capacity on the trails.
Visit during off-peak times, weekdays, or early on the weekends to explore. Or do what I’ve been doing, and Hike Local. Pick up your Hydration Backpack and join me on the trail!
Schaar’s Bluff | Hastings
The park is broken into two sections, the Bluff and the River Bottom. My favorite place to hike is the lower section, along the archery area. You’ll have the place completely to yourself.
Murphy-Hanrehan Park Reserve | Savage
This underdeveloped area of Savage is a great opportunity for hiking in Minneapolis and St Paul. The Murphy-Hanrehan Park Reserve has a lush forest and is hilly.
For this reason, it is one of the most challenging places to Cross-Country Ski in the winter. Thankfully, it’s not a problem for hikers! Because of how little it’s traveled through, birdwatchers love to visit.
Minnesota Valley State Recreation Area | Shakopee, Carver and Jordan
Stretching from Shakopee to Jordan, the Minnesota Valley State Recreation Area is a great hiking location. The flat trails along the MN River make it easy enough for anyone to do it.
Hiking in the Louisville Swamp or the Lawrence Unit where you’ll see what floods can do to the forest floor after the waters recede. Stay closer to town in Shakopee’s Huber or Memorial Park for paved trails.
Carver Nature Reserve | Victoria and Waconia
The Carver Nature Reserve comprises parks, lakes, and woodland. Between Highway 5 and 7, it includes almost all land off of Victoria Drive in the Nature Reserve.
My favorite hiking trails are at the Lower Nature Center. Acorn Trail is the most traveled. For a little space, take the loop around Crosby Lake.
Don’t forget to visit with the raptors on display outside. They house a few birds that were rescued. It’s always the highlight of the trip.
Crosby Farm Park | St Paul
An amazing area to hike in the Twin Cities is Crosby Farm. The farm is a secluded hiking location that sits along the Mississippi River.
Crosby Farm is a beautiful hiking location. If you go in winter, make sure you have a pair of Ice Cleats to hike in! It can be incredibly dangerous without them.
The 10 Best Ice Cleats for Hiking You Need This Winter
Unbelievable Hidden Slot Canyon in St Paul at Crosby Farm Regional Park
Chanhassen Nature Reserve | Chanhassen
The Chanhassen Nature Reserve comprises hidden locations throughout Chanhassen. Every unclaimed area of land containing streams, marsh, and a lake is preserved as part of the nature reserve. They include forested areas, woodland, marshy boardwalks.
This is a great place to break out your Field Guides to Wildlife, Birds, Trees & Wildflowers of Minnesota your family will enjoy identifying all the wildlife you encounter.
Wolsfeld Woods Scientific and Natural Area | Long Lake
Wolsfeld Lake, Oaks, Maples, and more. There are many hiking and horseback riding trails within the Wolsfeld Woods Scientific and Natural Area. The Wolsfeld family settled in this area in the 1850s.
Every spring, they tapped the trees for Maple Syrup. The maple syrup saved the big woods from being chopped down for farmland.
Today, it’s managed by the DNR and has been left natural. This is a great place to hike in Minneapolis and St Paul for those that love hiking up north in the big woods.
Gale Woods Farm | Minnetrista
Gale Woods Farm is part of the Three Rivers Park District. The hiking is only a couple miles, but it has a small lake and beautiful farm views. The best part is getting to see all the animals. They are super friendly and out year-round.
Big Willow Park | Minnetonka
Big Willow Park is a recent discovery of mine, that the locals of Minnetonka have been hiding. There are great trails and offshoots to explore.
It winds between wetlands, woods, and streams. This spring we found painted rocks that someone put along the trail. It’s beautiful at all times of the day. The best paths to explore are on All Trails.
Trout Brook Nature Sanctuary | Saint Paul
One of the lesser-known areas in St. Paul is the Trout Brook Nature Sanctuary. The sanctuary connects to the larger Trout Brook Regional Trail. The sanctuary has a nature trail, hiking, biking, and restrooms.
St Croix Boom Site | Stillwater
The St Croix Boom Site is an amazing little hike. Only about a mile and a half. But it follows along the St Croix River. On the trail, you’ll find people fishing, a cave used by loggers, and a hidden waterfall.
This hike is amazing and not well known. Every time I go, there are only a few other people on the trail.
I first did this hike with my husband, then took my kids back there the next day. I’ve got all the details on the hike here: Exploring the St Croix Boom Site in Stillwater MN + Hidden Waterfall
Richard T Anderson Conservation Area | Eden Prairie
The hiking trail goes up and down the bluff a few times, but it rewards you with beautiful overlooks of the Minnesota River.
At the bottom, next to the parking lot, is a natural spring to fill up your water bottle at. It is a challenging hike, but worth it!
There are tons of great hikes in Eden Prairie. Make sure to check out their full selection of Nature Trails! Amazing Eden Prairie Hiking Trails: You’ll Forget You Are in the Suburbs
Lost Valley | Hastings
A mix of Dry Bedrock, Bluff Prairie, Woodland, and Prairie reconstruction. The Lost Valley hiking area is a beautiful area to explore, perfect for photographers. There is a field road going through the middle of the scientific and natural area.
Lake Maria State Park | Monticello
One of the small state parks in the Twin Cities, Lake Maria State Park has a few smaller hiking trails and some camping. The hiking is primarily through woodlands and alongside Lake Maria. Even with its proximity to water, be prepared to climb a few hills.
Shadow Falls | Saint Paul
A hiking trail I love to do is Shadow Falls. Think Minnehaha, but without the crowds. On the river, there are tons of trails and ways to explore the small park.
Just about everywhere on the hike, you’ll have amazing views. Bring your boots because this one will get you wet!
Make sure to stay hydrated. Even on the smaller hikes, always carry some water with you. I love my hydro flask. It keeps everything at the temperature, hot or cold!
Minnehaha Falls | Minneapolis
I know what you are thinking, isn’t Minnehaha Falls always crowded? Yes, but once past the waterfall, things get a lot quieter. The waterfall is the epicenter of all the traffic. On a nice summer day, it feels like a summer festival is going on.
Taking the trail running along Minnehaha Creek and back it’s super quiet, plus it has some great views of the Mississippi River. The hike is about 2 miles long. Part of the hike is considered challenging because of the uneven terrain.
During the winter the trail is officially closed, but I have heard that there are ice caves that form along the riverbank. Check out the map for all the details.
Brickyard Hike in Lilydale Regional Park | St Paul
The Brickyard Hike is a challenging one on the banks of the Mississippi River in St. Paul. Located at the side of the West Side Flats (described in detail in This Tender Land), it has some rich history.
After parking, about a quarter mile in, you’ll see the remnants of an old brickyard oven. There is also a cave nearby. After that, it’s straight up the cliffside for a great view of Down Town St Paul!
Make sure to check out the full review of the Brickyard Hike before you go! Brickyard Hike in St Paul: History Comes Alive in Lilydale Regional Park
More Popular Hikes in Minneapolis and St Paul
These trails on a normal day can be busy. During social distancing, the crowds have doubled or tripled from their normal size. These are still doable, but you need to get there early. I’m talking before 10 am if you want to park.
Afton State Park | Hastings
Probably the most popular on the list. Afton State Park has some great trails to explore. The trail is hilly, rocky, and goes through prairie, woods, and along the river shoreline.
Get here early, and maybe on a cooler day as the hills at the end can feel like they go on forever.
Fort Snelling State Park | St Paul
Their trail connects to Minnehaha Regional Park. During the springtime and into summer, areas of the park often flood, so check before you leave.
There are also interpretive centers, beaches, and other places to explore in the park. If you want a good example of a Minnesota State Park, this is it!
Lebanon Hills Park | Eagan
A great area to explore is Lebanon Hills Park. The park is close to Minneapolis making it super easy to get to, plus it’s free. They have a great set of trails to explore, including bike trails.
During winter you’ll find cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. Fall the leaves are stunning. If you get a chance to hike, make sure you get there early. Otherwise, you might be fighting for a parking space.
Hidden Falls Park | St Paul
Hidden Falls is a short hike, along the Mississippi River in St Paul. Similar to Minnehaha, most people go for the waterfall and struggle to get there.
Make sure to park on the North side if you are hoping to find it for yourself. There is a short path directly to the waterfall. If you want more of a hike, follow the trail around as it goes to the river.
It’s not as busy, but you’ll still run into people.
Looking for all the details on how to find the falls? Check out: Visiting St Paul’s Hidden Falls Regional Park in Winter
Other Hiking in Minneapolis and St Paul
For more hidden hiking trails in Minneapolis and St Paul that are part of the DNRs Scientific and Natura Area, check out: https://www.dnr.state.mn.us/snas/list.html.
There are tons of hidden locations around the state. Not all have developed trails. There are many more in Minneapolis and St Paul area that does not have developed trails.
They are worth checking out. You can also visit your hometown’s website and see what your local parks are nearby. Or do what I did this past weekend, and visit places you explored when you were a kid!