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Hiking Trails

Minnesota Hiking Club Trails that you and your dog can hike all year round (including winter)

Glia and I joined the Minnesota State Park Hiking Club in December of 2019. This meant that our first official hiking club hikes all occurred in the winter when snow was on the trails.

We purchased our hiking club kit at William O’Brien State Park, so we were excited to complete the hiking club trail at this location. We parked near the visitor center and walked down the road to the Riverside Trail. We enjoyed a lovely hike on the snowy trail along the icy river. But when we returned to the car and started to log our hike we realized that the winter hiking club trail is not the official hiking club trail. Instead, it is a bonus trail. The official hiking club trail was groomed for cross-country skiing in the winter.

And so we began looking more closely at which state park hiking club trails are actually open to hikers in the winter. Of the 68 hiking club trails in Minnesota, 18 are closed or partially closed to hikers and dogs in the winter. And an additional five allow hikers on the hiking club trail but have several other trails that are closed to dogs.

So before you head out for a winter hike with your dog at a Minnesota State Park, make sure that you check the winter park map to ensure that your dog can still join you on the trails.

A January hike on the Hiking Club Trail at Sakatah Lake State Park.

Which MN State Parks have hiking club trails that are not groomed for skiing and are therefore open to dogs year-round?

We put together the following list of State Parks that are open year-round and do NOT groom the hiking club trail for skiing to make it easier to find winter hiking trails.

Use the following chart as a guide, but I highly recommend checking the website for the park you are planning to hike at prior to driving out. You can access the winter or year round maps online. The websites also allow you to check for any seasonal updates or road closures that may affect the accessibility of the park prior to starting your drive.

Parks in red with a strike-through have a hiking club trail that is not fully open to dogs in the winter. Parks in gray with a strike-through do not have a hiking club trail at all.

Afton State ParkKilen Woods State Park
Banning State ParkLa Salle Lake State Recreation Area
Bear Head Lake State ParkLac qui Parle State Park
Beaver Creek Valley State ParkLake Bemidji State Park
Big Bog State Recreation AreaLake Bronson State Park
Big Stone Lake State ParkLake Carlos State Park
Blue Mounds State ParkLake Louise State Park
Buffalo River State ParkLake Maria State Park
Camden State ParkLake Shetek State Park
Carley State ParkLake Vermilion-Soudan Underground Mine State Park
Cascade River State ParkMaplewood State Park
Charles A. Lindbergh State ParkMcCarthy Beach State Park
Crow Wing State ParkMille Lacs Kathio State Park
Cuyuna Country State Recreation AreaMinneopa State Park
Father Hennepin State ParkMinnesota Valley State Recreation Area
Flandrau State ParkMonson Lake State Park
Forestville/Mystery Cave State ParkMoose Lake State Park
Fort Ridgely State ParkMyre – Big Island State Park
Fort Snelling State ParkNerstrand Big Woods State Park
Franz Jevne State ParkOld Mill State Park
Frontenac State ParkRed River State Recreation Area
Garden Island State Recreation AreaRice Lake State Park
George H. Crosby Manitou State ParkSt. Croix State Park
Glacial Lakes State ParkSakatah Lake State Park
Glendalough State ParkSavanna Portage State Park
Gooseberry Falls State ParkScenic State Park
Grand Portage State ParkSchoolcraft State Park
Great River Bluffs State ParkSibley State Park
Greenleaf Lake State Recreation AreaSplit Rock Creek State Park *
Hayes Lake State ParkSplit Rock Lighthouse State Park *
Hill Annex Mine State ParkTemperance River State Park
Interstate State ParkTettegouche State Park
Iron Range OHV State Recreation AreaUpper Sioux Agency State Park
Itasca State ParkWhitewater State Park
Jay Cooke State ParkWild River State Park
John A. Latsch State ParkWilliam O’Brien State Park
Judge C.R. Magney State ParkZippel Bay State Park
*See chart at the bottom of this post with more details on the hiking club trails
Pausing to enjoy the view from an overlook along the Interstate State Park hiking club trail.

Why aren’t all the hiking club trails open to hikers and dogs in the winter?

Many of Minnesota’s state parks maintain groomed skiing trails in the winter. Dogs’ paws and hikers’ boots can ruin the groomed trail tracks, making it hard for skiers to use these trails. So if a hiking club trail is repurposed for skiing in the winter, typically dogs aren’t allowed to use them. There are a few exceptions to this rule, so again, please check the rules and trail designations at the specific state park that you are interested in visiting.

Are the hiking club trails that are open to hikers and dogs maintained or groomed at all in the winter?

In general, no. Most of the open hiking club trails are unmaintained. So if the snow back is deep, consider bringing along a good pair of trusty snowshoes for your winter hiking adventure.

If you would like to hike on a groomed hiking trail, consider some of the groomed hiking trails at the following state parks.

You may notice that many of the parks on this list are also the parks that do not have year-round hiking club trails. This is likely because the same equipment that grooms cross country ski trails can be used to groom hiking trails. But while the hiking club trail may not be open to your dog, this can be a great opportunity to hike different trails in the park. And a groomed winter hiking trail is a real treat when the snow gets deep.

A winter hike on the Hiking Club Trail at Fort Snelling State Park before the trails were officially groomed.

All-Season Hiking Club Trails

In order to make the chart at the beginning of this post, I opened up the map for each park and checked to see if the hiking club trail was groomed for skiing or if the map had a different designation for the hiking club trail. So if you want a little more detail than what the list above provides, here is my working chart that I made while looking through the park maps for all of the state parks with hiking club trails.

The park gets a yes if they have an all-season map and a no if there is a separate summer and winter map. The park gets a yes for groomed hiking trails if they are on the MN State Parks list of parks with groomed hiking trails. And finally, the park is assessed for whether or not the hiking club trail is open to hikers in the winter.

Please let me know if you see any errors.

Park NameAll-Season Trails?Groomed hiking trails in winter?Hiking Club Trail open to hikers in winter?
AftonNoYesPartially
BanningYesYes
Bear HeadNo; (map is all season)No; it is groomed for skiing
Beaver Creek ValleyYesYes
Big Bog SRAYesYes
Big Stone LakeYesYes
Blue MoundsYesYes, but most are notYes
Buffalo RiverYesYes
CamdenYesYes
CarleyYesYes
Cascade RiverNo; (map is all season)Mostly, but does overlap some ski trails
Charles A. LindberghYesYes
Crow WingYesYes
Father HennepinYesYes
FlandrauNoYesNo; it is groomed for skiing
Forsteville Mystery CaveYesYes
Fort RidgelyYesYes
Fort SnellingNoYes*An alternate hiking club trail is open in the winter
Franz JevneYesYes
FrontenacNoNo; can only access parts of the hiking club trail
George Crosby ManitouYesYes
Glacial LakesYesYes
GlendaloughNoYes? – unable to find winter map online
Gooseberry FallsNoYesYes
Grand PortageYesYesYes
Great River BluffsNo; (map is all season)Yes; small overlap with groomed skiin trails
Hayes LakeYesYes
InterstateYesYes
ItascaNoNo; hiking club trail is groomed for cross-country skiing
Jay CookeNoYesNo; hiking club trail is groomed for cross-country skiing.
Judge C.R. MagneyYesYes
Kilen WoodsYesYes
La Salle Lake SRAYesYes
Lac qui ParleYesYes
Lake BemidjiNoYesYes; partially multi-use, partially ungroomed boardwalk
Lake BronsonYesYes
Lake CarlosNoNo; hiking club trail is groomed for skiing in winter
Lake LouiseYesYes
Lake MariaNoNo; Hiking club trail is mostly groomed for skiing in the winter
Lake ShetekYesYes
Lake Vermilion-Soudan Underground MineYesYes
MaplewoodNoNo; trail is groomed for cross-country skiing in the winter
McCarthy BeachYesYes; although trail is partially multi-use
Mille Lacs KathioNoNo; hiking club trail is groomed for cross country skiing
Minneopa State ParkYesYes; ungroomed and shared with skiiers in winter
Minnesota Valley SRAYesYes
Monson LakeYesYes
Moose LakeYesYes
Myre-Big Island State ParkYesYesYes
Nerstrand Big WoodsYesYes
Old MillYesYes
Red River SRAYesYes
Rice LakeYesYes; trail is multi-use
St. CroixNoYesNo; hiking club trailis groomed for cross country skiing
Sakatah LakeYesYes
Savanna PortageNoNo; hiking club trail is a snowmobile trail in the winter
ScenicYesYes
SchoolcraftYesYes
Sibley State ParkNoYesNo; parts are not open or groomed for skiing
Split Rock CreekNo ?; unable to find winter map online
Split Rock LighthouseNoYesMaybe; hiking club trail is a shared fat bike/snowshoe trail in winter
Temperance RiverYesYes
TettegoucheNo; (map is all-season)YesYes
Upper Sioux AgencyYesYes
WhitewaterYesYes
Wild RiverNoNo; hiking club trail is groomed for cross-country skiing
William O’BrienNoYesKind of; there is a winter hiking club trail that is not the same as the summer hiking club trail
Zippel BayYesYes

Happy Hiking Everyone!

Kate, Glia, & Sasha

4 replies on “Minnesota Hiking Club Trails that you and your dog can hike all year round (including winter)”

I just wanted to say thank you for keeping your dog on a leash and showing photos with your dog on a leash! Much appreciated! ❤️

Of course! I think respecting leash regulations is a really important part of hiking with dogs. Thank you for your comment 🙂

Thanks for the great information! I was just about to go to William O’Brien and realized the same as you, and that it would only be open to skiers. Thanks for compiling the information in one place!

Thanks for the great information! I was looking for a concise summary on where I could take my dogs in the winter for the hiking club- and this was perfect 🙂

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