Kate and Glia’s 52 Hike Challenge

It’s a new year and a new decade… so we had to set some new year’s resolutions this year. What better resolution for a girl and her dog than a hiking challenge! This year Glia and I are attempting to complete the 52 Hike Challenge.

What is the 52 hike challenge you ask? The 52 Hike Challenge was designed to help introduce people to hiking. This movement is a challenge to hike once a week for a year. There is an official website – https://www.52hikechallenge.com/ – where you can sign up to be part of the official challenge.

The website has a few simple guidelines. A hike must be a mile or longer in length to count. It has to occur outdoors in nature, but both wilderness areas and city parks will count. Also, you can only count one hike per day. So the fastest you can complete this challenge is 52 days and the longest you can take to still officially complete the challenge is 365 days (or 1 year).

If you know me and Glia, then you probably know that we already hike weekly. So, even though the official rules of the original challenge allow you to repeat a trail, we are personally challenging ourselves to hike 52 different trails for our 52 hike challenge. (This is listed as the explorer series on the website. There is also a pet series for those dogs, like Glia, who are joining their humans on this challenge. )

We will log each of our hikes, with descriptions and pictures, in this blog post as they occur. But if you want, you can also follow us on Instagram for faster updates on our hiking challenge. Find us at https://www.instagram.com/pawsitivelyintrepid/ . We post lots of pictures of our pups out hiking.

Join us in completing this challenge in 2020

Sign up for this challenge and join us in complete 52 hikes with your pup this year. There are options to sign up and receive badges and finishing medals. But if you just want to sign up for free, scroll further down on the official sign up page.

Once you sign up, we would love it if you would comment below and let us know that you are joining us on this adventure. And if you are on Twitter or Instagram, we would love to follow your #52hikechallenge2020 journey. Leave your handle below or add the hashtag #pawsitivelyintrepid to photos of your dog hiking so we can find you.

Okay, time to get out there and start hiking. So without further ado, here is our list of hikes in 2020.

Kate and Glia’s 52 Hikes

For easier navigation, we added this table list of our hikes. That way, if you are interested in a specific hiking location, you know how far to scroll down into this post to find the information you are looking for.

Hike #LocationDateHike #LocationDate
1Fort Snelling State Park
(St Paul, MN)
1/1/202027George Crosby Manitou State Park7/2020
2Sunfish Lake Park
(Lake Elmo, MN)
1/4/202028Lake Maria State Park8/2020
3Katherine Abbott Park
(Mahtomedi, MN)
1/5/202029Eagle Mountain (BWCA)8/2020
4Interstate State Park
(Taylors Falls, MN)
1/8/202030Grand Portage and Judge CR Magney State Parks8/2020
5Minneopa State Park
(Mankato, MN)
1/11/202031Cascade River State Park 8/2020
6Sakatah Lake State Park
(Waterville, MN)
1/12/202032St. Croix State Park9/2020
7Oakdale Nature Preserve
(Oakdale, MN)
1/15/202033Lake Louise and Forestville/Mystery Cave State Parks9/2020
8Minnesota Valley State Recreation Area
(Jordan, MN)
2/19/202034Superior Hiking Trail- Hike to Devil’s Track Campsite9/2020
9Lebanon Hills Regional Park
(Eagan, MN)
2/22/202035Superior Hiking Trail – Oberg Mountain Loop9/2020
10Whitewater State Park – Hiking Club Trail
(Altura, MN)
2/23/202036William O’Brien State Park – River Loop10/2020
11Moose Lake and Banning State Parks3/8/202037St. Croix Boom Site10/2020
12William O’Brien State Park – Hiking Club Trail3/15/202038Great River Bluffs and John A Latsch State Parks10/2020
13Afton State Park (North Side)3/202039Battle Creek Regional Park10/2020
14Afton State Park (South Sie)3/202040Quarry Hill Nature Center11/2020
15Lake Elmo Park Reserve (Eagle Point Lake Loop)4/202041Whitewater State Park – Dakota Trail11/2020
16Lake Elmo Park Reserve
(Brown’s Pond Loop Side)
4/202042Whitetail Woods Regional Park11/2020
17Wisconsin Interstate State Park4/202043Spring Lake Park Reserve11/2020
18St. Croix Bluffs Regional Park 4/202044Essex Park11/2020
19Hells Gate Trail at Banning State Park4/202045Winchell Trail11/2020
20Frontenac State Park
and Carley State Park
5/202046Prairie Ridge Park12/2020
21Nerstrand Big Woods State Park5/202047Crosby Farm Regional Park12/2020
22Wild River State Park6/202048Vadnais-Snail Lake Regional Park12/2020
23Jay Cooke State Park, Lake Vermilion-Soudan Underground Mine, and Bear Head Lake State Park6/202049
24Rainy Lake Visitors Center Trail at Voyageurs National Park6/202050
25Temperance River and Tettegouche State Parks6/202051
26Bear and Bean Lake Loop on the Superior Hiking Trail7/202052

Hike #1: Fort Snelling State Park – Jan 1st, 2020

We started 2020 off right, with a local hike at one our nearby state parks: Fort Snelling. Fort Snelling State Park is located in St. Paul, MN. Despite its urban location, this park actually provides a much more remote feel as you hike in the area of the confluence of the Minnesota and Mississippi Rivers. Well relatively remote, if you can ignore the sounds of the airplanes flying overhead.

January 1st, 2020 was a warm (for January in Minnesota) and sunny day. The high for the day was above freezing at 34 F. Due to the nice weather, we definitely weren’t the only ones enjoying the trails at Fort Snelling State Park.

Glia loved the warmer weather and was full of energy for the whole hike. It was still cold enough that she needed to wear her sweater though, and she protested that by rolling and scratching her back as often as possible throughout the hike.

We choose to hike the hiking club trail, which is a loop around the perimeter of Pike Island. (Note: You may see a lot of MN state park hiking club trails in this list, as we joined the MN State Park Hiking Club at the end of 2019.)

Normally, this hiking club trail is groomed for skiing in the winter, so we were lucky that it hadn’t been groomed yet. Technically an alternate hiking club trail is available to hikers in the winter, but we much prefer the summer trail that hikes along the perimeter of the river island. The winter alternative keeps to the center of the island and you miss many of the stunning river views.


Hike #2: Sunfish Lake Park – Jan 4th, 2020

If you have followed us on Instagram long, you may have noticed that Sunfish Lake Park is one of our most visited hiking locations. Located in Lake Elmo, MN, only 15 minutes from our house, this park offers several miles of hiking trails and is very lightly trafficked on weekdays.

We love this park so much, we even featured it in our 7 Dog-Friendly Hiking Trails in the Twin Cities East Metro article.

The day of our official #hike2 was another sunny and warm winter day. Despite the nice weather and the fact that we visited on a Saturday, we still had the trails mostly to ourselves. Only passing three skiiers during our hike.

One of our favorite parts of this park is that, although it is groomed in the winter, they do not close the trails to hikers. Please take care to walk to the side of the groomed trails as much as possible to leave the trails in good condition for skiers. This is one of the few multi-use trails we have found in the Twin Cities and we hope it stays this way for a long time, as it is one of the few trails we can skijor on.


Hike #3: Katherine Abott Park – Jan 5th 2020

Katherine Abbott Park is a small park of 76 acres located in Mahtomedi, MN. We typically have to make two loops of this park to feel like we got a full hike in, but despite its small size, the park offers a nice escape from the city around it.

The park’s trails are mostly wooded, but also offer some pretty little lake views.

Glia and I hiked with a friend on this overcast Sunday and were happy to find the packed down trails still provided good traction. The temperatures were starting to drop this day and the trails can get icy when it cools down after above freezing temperatures.


Hike #4: Interstate State Park – January 8th, 2020

Our #hike4 turned out to be my favorite hike of the year so far. And I almost didn’t go as the temperature when I woke up that morning was below zero. Fortunately, by 11am, the temperature had risen to 5 degrees F. So I packed Glia, her sweater, and dog booties in the car and hit the road.

Our destination for our Wednesday day-hike was Interstate State Park. Only 50 minutes away from our house, I had chosen this location as one of our winter hiking destinations as this park does not groom any trails for skiing. This means that the hiking club trail is open-year round.

To be fair, Interstate does not maintain any of its trails at all during the winter, so heed the signs that warn hikers that trails may be icy or slippery.

The trails were in pretty good condition when we visited, but there were still a few spots where I was thankful to be wearing my snow-trax traction cleats. They were specifically helpful when navigating the stairs coated in packed down snow.

It was cold enough that Glia was on the border of needing boots, but we left them off at the start of the hike to give her more traction on the trail.

Interstate State Park has a few highlights. The first is the gorgeous rocky cliffs created over thousands of years as glaciers melted and the St. Croix River flowed through this valley. Second, when these melting glaciers carved the river valley, within that water were fast-moving whirlpools of sand and water. These whirlpools wore deep holes into the rock resulting in holes called glacial potholes. There are over 400 examples of glacial potholes in Interstate State Park. Finally, there is also a frozen waterfall to be found along the Sandstone Bluff Trail

This was our second visit to Interstate State Park. Our first was on a sunny and warm fall day. On that day, we also visited the Wisconsin Interstate State Park and enjoyed the Wisconsin side a lot better. But most of that was due to the crowds we encountered on the Minnesota side and the fact that the trails were further from the highway in Wisconsin.

While the location of the highway in Minnesota hasn’t changed, Glia and I enjoyed the trails so much more on a cold winter day without the crowds. We could soak in the views to our hearts’ content, meander around the glacial potholes by ourselves, and admire the frozen Curtain Falls in the peaceful quiet of winter.

We hiked all 4 miles of trail and would have stayed longer, repeating part of the River Trail if it had been a bit warmer. As it was, Glia’s paws started to get cold after 4 miles, so we called it a day. But we added this state park to our good winter hiking list so that we can return and enjoy this park again.


Hike #5: Minneopa State Park – January 11th, 2020

Last year, I had read a blog post titled “10 Gorgeous Frozen Waterfalls In Minnesota That Must Be Seen To Be Believed.” Minneopa Falls was on that list. Since then, I have been itching to get to Minneopa State Park to see this waterfall in person.

The falls didn’t disappoint, and while not my favorite winter waterfall, Minneopa Falls does deserve its place on this list. This is an especially nice waterfall for those looking for a handicap/stroller accessible falls, as the picture above was taken from a paved path less than a mile from the parking lot. There are stairs that head down to the river level below the falls, but Glia and I didn’t hike down during this visit. The stairs were a little too snow-packed and icy.

Minneopa State Park is split into two sections, so after viewing the falls, you will have to drive to the other portion of the park. This second portion contains most of the hiking trails. Although the highlight of the park is Minneopa Falls, the second part of the park has several of its own highlights. From a trail around a bison enclosure to river views and riverside trails to overlooks near an old grain mill, there is plenty to see and do at Minneopa State Park.


Hike #6: Sakatah Lake State Park – January 12th, 2020

We had driven by Sakatah Lake State Park a couple of times, but this is the first time we had stopped here to hike.

During our winter visit, we hiked along the frozen lake’s edge and through the quiet forest. Well, the forest was mostly quiet anyway. A portion of the trails do track pretty close to the two-lane highway on the park’s border and traffic noise was a little loud on that side of the park.

Overall, we enjoyed our visit the chance to hike somewhere new, but after the waterfall and river overlooks at Minneopa, Sakatah Lake didn’t hold quite as much magic for us.


Hike #7: Oakdale Nature Preserve – January 15th, 2020

Oakdale Nature Preserve in Oakdale, Minnesota is a 220-acre outdoor recreation area. The trails here are a mix of paved and unpaved, and since Glia and I both prefer unpaved hiking trails, we don’t often visit this nature preserve.

However, the proximity to our house can’t be beat. So we decided to make this park the 7th hike of our 52 hike challenge. And when the paved trails are covered in snow it didn’t really feel like we were walking on pavement.

we got in a few miles of hiking and felt much further away from the city than we really were.


Hike #8: Minnesota Valley State Recreation Area – February 19th, 2020

Glia and I had gotten used to hiking the packed down snowy trails in and around the Twin Cities metro area, so it was both a bit refreshing and exhausting to arrive at Minnesota Valley State Recreation Area and find the trails very lightly traveled.

Minnesota Valley SRA is located in Jordan, MN off of Highway 169 just southwest of the Twin Cities metro. Even though the park is not that far from the densely populated suburbs, on a winter Wednesday, we couldn’t have felt much further away from city life.

We hiked the four miles of the hiking club trail. The flat trail is a lollipop and starts along the river banks and then loops through some forest before returning along the river.

The trail along the river was lightly traveled and moderately packed down, but once we left the river, we hiked through some fresh snow with just one covered cross-country ski track to help guide us. If you haven’t hiked through soft snow before, be aware that this is a great aerobic exercise (especially if you are trying to complete the trail in a normal length of time).

While we enjoyed this winter hike, we can’t wait to return when the river is flowing and the trees are green. I expect this is a beautiful hike in the spring, summer, and fall also.


Hike #9: Lebanon Hills Regional Park – February 22nd, 2020

Lebanon Hills Regional Park is located in Dakota County and offers miles of trail throughout the parks nearly 2,000 acres.

Our hike in February was the first time we had hiked at Lebanon Hills. It was a busy and unseasonably warm Saturday and we encountered many other hikers (both with and without dogs). But the trail around Jenson Lake was wonderful and very scenic.


Hike #10: Whitewater State Park – February 23rd, 2020

Whitewater State Park is one of the premier state parks in southeastern Minnesota and is included in our post “5 Great Dog-Friendly State Parks in Southeastern Minnesota.”

While we have hiked at Whitewater State Park numerous times, this was our first time hiking the official hiking club trail. At previous visits, we hiked up to Chimney Rock and down around the south end of the park. The hiking club trail starts from the Visitor Center and heads up the bluff across the park from Chimney Rock.

As it turns out, the Coyote Point Trail is equally as amazing as the Chimeny Rock Trail. River crossings, elevation change, and stunning overlooks made this trail one of our favorite hikes of the year so far.

If you haven’t been to Whitewater State Park, you should add it to your list of excellent dog-friendly hiking destinations in Minnesota.



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.

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