7 Great Dog-Friendly Hiking Locations in the Twin Cities East Metro

When a dog-loving, avid hiker moves to a new city, the first thing she has to do is find the local hiking trails. Every city has a great hiking trail within an hours drive, but the ones you really have to search for are the trails within 20 minutes of your house. The ones that you can hike on a weekly, if not daily basis and not grow tired of them. So now that the Pawsitively Intrepid crew has been in Minnesota for over 4 months, we have found several great dog-friendly hiking trails. So we compiled this list of y great places to hike with your dog in the Twin Cities east metro.

1. Sunfish Lake Park

Make your way over to Sunfish Lake Park in Lake Elmo, MN to enjoy 284 acres of woodland, wetland and prairie. With a little over 8 miles of well-maintained trails just waiting for you and your pup, this park is well worth the visit.

This park makes a great stop for those looking for a short hike that still has an off-the-beaten-path feel. Glia and I typically spend 45 minutes to 1.5 hours at this location and if we are hiking on a weekday, we may only see one other person in the parking lot. Oftentimes, we don’t see anyone on the trails themselves. The weekends can be busier, but the trails are wide, making it easy to pass other people and dogs enjoying the trails.

As for the terrain, the trails at the back of the park are rolling hills that can get a little steep, while the front of the park is a little flatter. Overall, this is a relatively easy hike in the fall, just watch out for ice on the hills in the winter.

Additionally, in the winter, the trails may be groomed for skiing. Hikers are still welcome, just stay off of the groomed tracks please.

2. Oakdale Nature Preserve

Another public park with over 200 acres of woodland mixed with lake views, Oakdale Nature Preserve is located just inside the 694 circle below highway 36. This makes the Oakdale Nature Preserve a convenient drive for many citizens of the Twin Cities east metro.

The park itself contains over 4 miles of trails. The trails are a mix of paved all-purpose trails and classic dirt hiking trails. The unpaved trails pass across the paved trails multiple times, allowing a hiker the opportunity to mix and match as desired.

The trails are mostly flat, and just like Sunfish Lake, they offer easy pull-off locations to pass by other dogs and people. We typically run into more hikers at Oakdale Nature Preserve than Sunfish Lake, as Oakdale Nature Preserve is surrounded by neighborhoods.

3. Battle Creek Regional Park

Just a few minutes from downtown St. Paul, Battle Creek Regional Park is located in the city of North Saint Paul. This park contains a series of trails and open spaces that all totaled cover over 1000 acres.

Again, some of these trails are paved, while others are unpaved. In the winter, some of the unpaved trails are specifically marked for cross-country skiing. I have yet to find a total of the trail miles available for walking/hiking, but Glia and I typically cover 2-3 miles while we are explore Battle Creek Regional Park. And we typically only explore the trails on the east side of McKnight Road. 

The trails do change some in elevation, but are mostly easy hiking trails through wooded and open prairie spaces. The trails at this park are normally not too busy, but the dog park located at Battle Creek is one of the best in the area. So just be aware that you may encounter lots of other dogs (some off-leash) near the dog park parking lots.

4. Katherine Abbott and Wildwood Parks

A smaller park this time, Katherine Abbott Park covers 76 acres and contains approximately 3 miles of hiking trails. The trails are dirt or crushed gravel. The crushed gravel trails are nice, wide, and well groomed. Some of the dirt trails are more narrow, classic hiking trails, but they are all less than 1 mile in length.

For Glia and I, this park is a little small for a good hike. However, if the 3 miles of trails aren’t enough for you, this park connects via paved trails to Wildwood Park. And if you continue walking along the paved path, you can even connect these parks to the Gateway Trail.

Katherine Abbott Park is located north of 694 in Mahtomedi, MN. As with most of the parks in this location, the terrain is woodland, prairie, and lakes. Trails are light rolling hills (except for a couple short steeper connecting trails) and the park is moderately trafficked. Just like Oakdale Nature Preserve, this park is in the middle of neighborhoods, making it an ideal walking location for many local residents.

5. Lake Elmo Park Reserve $

With over 2,000 acres of protected space, you can find plenty of hiking trails at Lake Elmo Park Reserve. This is one of our favorite locations for a longer hike that isn’t too far of a drive (for us it is about 15 minutes from home). However, be aware that Lake Elmo Park Reserve charges admission. You and your pup can either buy a day pass ($7) or get an annual car pass ($30). The annual pass covers entrance fees to all Washington County Parks, as well as to parks in Anoka and Carver Counties.

In the summer, Lake Elmo Park Reserve offers over 25 miles of trails at this fantastic location in the Twin Cities East Metro. As per most hiking trails in this region, these trails meander through trees, prairie grasses and around lakes. Most of the trails are dirt, but there are some paved multi-purpose trails also.

In the winter, trails available to you and your pup are reduced, as dogs are not allowed on groomed ski trails. This year, we haven’t had much appreciable snow yet, so Glia and I have been able to utilize the trails off and on all winter up to this point.

It is important to note that many of the dirt trails are also utilized by mountain bikers and horseback riders. So please follow leash regulations and respect other users of the trails. Trails are clearly labeled as to what users are allowed on which trails.

6. Afton State Park $

If you travel to the very edge of the Twin Cities east metro area, you will reach the St. Croix River. The St. Croix river is the border between Minnesota and Wisconsin, and there are several Minnesota state parks located along this river. Within driving distance of the Twin Cities metro (just 25 minutes from St. Paul) is Afton State Park.

Afton State Park contains approximately 20 miles of hiking trails. You can hike through the classic prairies and forests of this region of Mineesota. Or, for a slight change from the hiking locations listed above in this post, you can hike along the river. While the river bluffs here are not quite as impressive as those found in Great River Bluffs State Park or along the trails in La Crosse, Wisconsin, they are still pretty. And hiking along the river in the summer offers great natural beauty and a chance for the dogs to cool off.

Please note, that as for all Minnesota state parks, entrance fees are required. Daily permits for Minnesota state parks are currently $7, while annual passes are $35.

7. William O’Brien State Park $

The final hiking location on our list of favorite dog friendly hikes in the Twin Cities east metro, is William O’Brien State Park. While this park is 40 minutes from St. Paul, for those of us living in the northeast metro, this park is still relatively convenient.

With 12 miles of hiking trails ranging from easy to intermediate, there is plenty to explore at William O’Brien State Park. Our favorite trail loop is the 1.6 mile loop near the campground along the river. I always find it soothing to walk along the waters edge. And there were some fantastic fall colors along that trail this year.

But just because that loop is lovely, don’t skip the short walk along the road to connect to the other hiking trails. Once you drive out to this state park, you are going to want to spend the afternoon exploring. And if whether you start or finish with the river loop, if you take advantage of all the trails, you can happily spend several hours at this state park.

Final Thoughts

There are many amazing hiking locations within an hours drive of the Twin Cities (Minneapolis/St. Paul) in Minnesota. For those of you living or visiting the east metro, I hope these great trail locations inspire you to get out and spend some time hiking with your dog. If you head out today, we recommend bringing some foot traction wear to help navigate the ice. But whether you hike today or wait for the ice to melt, these are wonderful trails to explore. And who knows, maybe we will see you out there.

Do you hike with your pup around the twin cities metro area? What are your favorite dog-friendly hiking trails?


Kate is the writer of Pawsitively Intrepid. She has spent the last 9 years working full-time as a veterinarian, treating dogs and cats. But as of June 2023, she is taking a year to travel with her dog, volunteer, and work on some passion projects.

2 thoughts on “7 Great Dog-Friendly Hiking Locations in the Twin Cities East Metro

  1. Hi! This is great valuable information! Recently I’ve read an article about someone who tried to hike with his dog but found out that dogs weren’t allowed. This happened on multiple hiking trails. Having a place where you can find spots where they allow dogs is genius! Thank you for sharing! I’ll forward this site to the respective dog owner, my social pages and others who might need this information!

    1. Thank you! I agree it can be a challenge finding good dog-friendly hiking trails. I feel blessed that Minnesota has so many options open for dogs to hike.

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