Hiking Sugar Loaf Bluff in Winona

Hiking Sugar Loaf Bluff in Winona Minnesota

Sugar Loaf Bluff is an iconic landmark in Winona Minnesota. It towers 580 feet above the lake below. The landmark can be seen from most places in the historic downtown.

The trail Sugar Loaf Bluff is used for hiking, walking, and running. Climbers often will use the trail to make their way to the summit.

This hike, while short, is one of the coolest summits you’ll ever get to. Hiking Sugar Loaf Bluff in Winona MN should be on everyone’s list this summer.

Just the look of Sugar Loaf Bluff had me intrigued. This massive rock formation shoots out of the bluff side out of nowhere. For some reason, this trail completely intimidated me.

When planning my Day Trip to Winona, I had a few hikes in mind. When my first hike to Garvin Overlook turned out to be a bust, we decided, why not try Sugar Loaf Bluff?

Sugarloaf Overlook

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History of Sugar Loaf Bluff

Sugar Loaf Bluff, originally called Wapasha’s Cap after the local Dakota chief. When early explorers came, they thought it looked more like a loaf of sugar that you can buy at the general store.

Soon after Winona was founded, the town started to quarry the limestone for city sidewalks and buildings. Quarry operations were shut down when the limestone was removed.

What is left is Sugar Loaf Bluff’s unique shape. Today the main use is for recreational hiking and rock climbing.

Hiking Sugar Loaf Bluff

Getting to the parking area, we got the kids ready and headed up the hill to the summit trail. The first few feet were straight up. With no idea how long the trail was, I was having second thoughts.

Thankfully my husband kept on pushing me. This seems to be a recurring trend for me. At 8am, my ability to climb hills is nonexistent. By 11am, you can put 585 steps in front of me and I’m ready to run up them all.

It wasn’t long before the trail switched back and we started going toward the bluff again. Surprisingly, the first .3 miles is the steepest.

The trail is mostly a gradual incline the rest of the way and pretty easy. The trail itself is a mix of dirt with a few rocky sections at the top.

One on top, you’ll see a great view of the downtown, the river valley and Lake Winona!

Summit to Sugarloaf
Hiking Sugar Loaf in Winona MN

Birds Eye View of Winona MN

Getting to the summit, you’ll find a great view. There is a cool rock formation to enjoy. But that is only the teaser. The real fun is around the back of the tower.

From there the trail gets narrow with steep drop-offs. It’s not long before you get to the top. From there you can explore all the nooks and crannies of Sugar Loaf Bluff.

You can still see the scars left over from the quarrying on the rock face. The trail in total is 1.3 miles, there and back.

View of Winona From Sugar Loaf Bluff
Birds Eye of Winona
Sugarloaf Scars on Rock in Winona

Common Questions about Hiking Sugar Loaf Bluff

Where to park for sugar Loaf Bluff in MN?

There is parking on E Lake Blvd near the front of the Edina Realty. There are official signs for trail parking on the road. Do not park in the parking lot of the businesses. The trailhead is right behind the parking lot for Edina Realty.

Parking at Sugar Loaf Bluff
Sugar loaf bluff trailhead

How long does it take to Climb Sugar loaf Bluff?

We spend an hour 30 minutes getting to the base of the bluff. Another 30 minutes of enjoying the view and exploring all the areas around the base.

It took less than 15 minutes to get back down. Depending on your fitness level, and how much time you want to photograph stuff, the hike can be done in an hour.

Love epic views? You need to check out Barn Bluff in Red Wing with its amazing view of the Mississippi River.
Barn Bluff in Red Wing MN: The Best Hiking Trail with a view

Is Sugar Loaf in Winona family-friendly?

Yes, I think it’s very family-friendly. I was hiking with a 7- and 10-year-old. I did get a little nervous at the top with them at the ledge.

There is one section if you hike around the backside of the Sugar Loaf Bluff that’s a bit narrow with a drop-off on the other side.

As long as you keep an eye on younger kids, they’ll be fine. You know your children best. It’s a short hike that even the little legs can do.

Family Friendly Hiking
Steep Trails at Sugar Loaf

What to bring with you?

Bring at least one bottle of water for your group. If it’s a hot day, consider bringing one for each person. The elevation can zap your energy quickly.

I like to take a Hydro Flask with me because it’s insulated, keeping my drinks cool. You can also bring with you a pair of binoculars to check out the birds. At this level, there is a good chance you’ll be looking down on them.

Make sure you stay hydrated. While it’s not a long way, on a hot day, water with a little electro-light powder can make all the difference.
Blue Rasberry Electro Light Powder
Hydro Flask

Hydrating on the trail

Would I hike Sugar Loaf Bluff Again?

I had more fun hiking sugar loaf bluff in Winona than I have at most hikes. That could be because I was least prepared to do it. The look of the bluff intimidated me right from the start.

After the initial climb, it wasn’t bad at all. What I loved was most about the hike was it was covered in trees, keeping you cool.

Getting to the top, at 8:30 am on a Saturday, we had the bluff to ourselves. I’d do it again in a heartbeat. There are tons of other great things to do in Winona MN while you are there.

Selfie at Sugar Laof

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