The Minnesota Hiking Club: 68 Dog-Friendly Hiking Trails

Do you and your dog love to hike? Are you the type of hikers that like to explore a variety of trails? Do you enjoy setting goals for your hikes?

If so, the Minnesota State Parks and Trail Hiking Club is perfect for you and your pup.

What is the Minnesota State Parks and Trails Hiking Club?

The Hiking Club is run by the Minnesota DNR, the organization that manages the state parks and recreation areas. The goal of the Hiking Club is to help Minnesotan’s get outside and explore new destinations within the state.

The Hiking Club will take you to 68 trails at state parks and recreation areas throughout Minnesota. You’ll go past waterfalls, through woods and prairie, discover wildflowers, and maybe even spot wildlife.

Designated Hiking Club Trails

While there are 75 Minnesota state parks and recreation areas, only 68 of them have a designated hiking club trail. The hiking club trails are designated on each state park’s (or recreation area’s) trail map. They are typically well-labeled on the trail itself also.

The trails cover a wide range of difficulty and length. Some are wheelchair accessible, like the one at Big Bog State Recreation Area. Others, like the trail at Goerge H. Crosby-Manitou State Park, offer an alternate trail due to the strenuous nature of the hiking club trail.

The shortest trails are those at Grand Portage and Monson Lake State Park – both are 1.0 mile in length. But if you go to Grand Portage, hike past the hiking club trail. The Middle Falls Trail is spectacular.

The longest hiking club trails are 6.2 miles in length. These longer hiking club trails are located at Beaver Creek Valley, Blue Mounds, Maplewood, and Myre -Big Island State Parks.

Recording Your Hikes/Finding the Password

When you join the Hiking Club, you receive a booklet with trail descriptions and a hiking club log section. To earn credit for a hike, you must hike the entire hiking club trail and watch for a sign with the password for that hike.

The password signs can be located anywhere along the hiking club trail. They are well labeled and hard to miss.

When you complete a hike, just record the park you hiked at, the password, and the distance you hike. Only hiking club trail miles count.

Hiking Club Rewards

Each member of the hiking club gains awards as miles of hiking club trails are completed.

Patches are awarded for completion of every 25 miles (from 25 to 175 miles). At 100 miles, you also earn a free night of camping. When you have hiked all miles/all 68 hiking club trails, you received a final patch, another free night of camping, and an engraved plaque commemorating your achievement.

How to Join

To join the Hiking Club, you must purchase your hiking club book. Mine was about $15 and we purchased ours at the William O’Brien State Park office. But you can purchase your Hiking Club book at any Nature Store.

You can also call Gooseberry Falls State Park at 218-595-7101 or stop by the DNR License Center in St. Paul.

For more information about joining the Minnesota State Parks and Trails Hiking Club, visit the MN DNR website.

All 68 Minnesota Hiking Club Trails

If we haven’t convinced you to join yet, maybe you just need a little more information about the amazing hiking opportunities in Minnesota. Below is a list of all 68 of Minnesota’s Hiking Club Trails.

Glia and I joined the Minnesota Hiking Club in December 2019, so if you are reading this post in 2020, you will see a list of state parks and trail lengths with minimal information about each trail. However, as we complete each trail we will add pictures, our favorite parts of the trail, overall dog-friendliness, and more.

All 68 trails allow dogs, but factors that we consider for dog-friendliness include:

  • How wide is the trail? A wider trail makes it easier to pass other hikers and dogs.
    • A 1 equals a narrow or steep trail with little ability to avoid directly passing other hikers. A 3 equals a trail that is wide and flat with plenty of space to pull off to the side to allow others to pass.
  • How busy was the trail? A busy trail means that your dog will have to stay in heel position for a large part of the hike in order to politely share the trail. Since most dogs love sniffing, I consider a more dog-friendly trail to be a less busy trail. How busy a trail is can change depending on the season/weather and what day of the week you are hiking on.
    • Since this factor is so variable, it will be scored in half points. 0 = a very busy trail. 1 = equals we passed several other hikers but still had an opportunity to extend the leash and let the dogs sniff. 2= a quiet trail where we passed less than 3 other groups of hikers.
  • How many stairs/steep inclines are there? It isn’t always the easiest to hike up and down steps with a leashed dog. It is especially difficult if there are other users on the stairs.
    • A score of zero = the trail was over 50% stairs. A score of 1 = there were a few easy to navigate stairs. A score of 2= no stairs or steep difficult to navigate portions of the trail.
  • How was the trail terrain?
    • If the surface is rocky, rough or likely to inure paw pads, the trail will score a zero here. Soft surfaces will gain 1 point here.
  • Are there any places to cool off? In the winter this isn’t a big deal, but in the summer it can be nice to hike a trail with shade or water sources to help a dog cool off. Dogs can overheat easily, so regardless of the trail you hike, make sure to carry plenty of water. If you don’t have a dog hiking water bowl yet, check out this blog post to help you choose the best dog hiking water bowl for you and your dog.
    • In this section 0 = no significant shade or water sources. 1 = well shaded or offers water sources. 2= shade and water available (when water is not frozen).

For easier navigation of this blog post, state parks and recreation areas are in alphabetical order. If you want to skip to a specific park, use the table below to help you figure out what page of this post to jump to.

Afton – Buffalo RiverPage 1
Camden – Great River BluffsPage 2
Hayes – MaplewoodPage 3
McCarthy – SchoolcraftPage 4
Sibley – Zippel BayPage 5

So without further ado, here are the trails.

Minnesota Hiking Club Trails

Afton State Park: 2.5 miles

A popular state park located on the St. Croix River at the eastern edge of the Twin Cities metro area, Afton State Park offers several miles of hiking trails. We recommended waiting to visit this state park until the spring, as portions of this hiking club trail are groomed for skiing in the winter.

Afton is included in our 5 Dog-Friendly MN State Park Hikes along the St. Croix River post.

Banning State Park: 2.6 miles

Banning State Park is one of my favorite state parks in Minnesota. The hiking club trail offers beautiful views of the wild Kettle River. If you want to read more about this park, follow one of the links below:

The hiking club trail at Banning starts at the main parking lot and first heads away from the Kettle River. When Glia and I visited on a warm winter day, the snow was slushy and wet and the first part of the trail was lightly trafficked. This meant that the snow wasn’t packed down well. Luckily the trail was relatively flat and soon we emerged on the heavier use portion of the hiking club trail.

The next part of the hiking club trail follows the Quarry Loop Trail which takes you down into the site of the old Banning Quarry. This is a lovely part of the trail, offering views of scenic rocky quarry walls and interesting historical buildings. In the winter, the ice on the quarry walls look like frozen waterfalls.

Once you turn to head back to the parking lot, the trail nears the banks of the Kettle River. For me, this is where the real beauty starts. Take your time and stop at overlooks as you head back to the parking lot.

We did not hike to Wolf Creek Falls at this visit, but we recommend that you do. The falls in the town of Sandstone is also lovely and typically there are very few other hikers at that location.

Banning State Park Hiking Club Trail Dog-friendly Score

  • Trail width: 2
  • Trail Business: 1
  • Stairs/Steep Inclines: 1
  • Trail Terrain: 1
  • Shade/water: 1
  • Total Score: 6/10

Completed: 3/8/2020

Bear Head Lake State Park: 3.0 miles

The Bear Head Lake State Park hiking trail passes through 100-year-old white and red pine stands, past Norberg Lake, and to views of Bear Head Lake. The hiking club manual notes that this is a rugged trail in the North Woods with exposed rocks and tree roots.

Beaver Creek Valley State Park: 6.2 miles

Beaver Creek Valley State Park is located in the bluff lands of southeastern Minnesota and is known for its clear spring-fed trout streams. A brief review of this park is included in our 5 Great Dog-Friendly State Parks in Southeastern Minnesota post.

Big Bog State Recreation Area: 2.0 miles

Big Bog State Recreation Area is located in northern Minnesota. This hiking trail leads to many of the bog’s most fascinating features. This trail is one of the few handicap accessible hiking club trails.

Big Stone Lake State Park: 2.2 miles

One the western border of Minnesota, Big Stone Lake State Park follows along the shore of Big Stone Lake. It passes over spring-fed creeks and even travels past a small waterfall. The trail is reported to provide great views of the lake and South Dakota’s rolling hills.

Blue Mounds State Park: 6.2 miles

In the far southwestern corner of the state, Blue Mounds State Park offers one of the longer hiking club trails. From a bison viewing area to Sioux quartzite formations and areas of preserved prairie, there is plenty to see at this state park.

Buffalo River State Park: 2.5 miles

Another western Minnesota State Park, the hiking club trail at Buffalo River State Park provides both riverside and prairie hiking.

Camden State Park: 2.4 miles

In the southwestern corner of Minnesota, the Camden State Park hiking trail follows Indian Creek before hiking the wooded valley’s rim. This trail is reported to provide views of the Redwood River Valley. It is also supposed to be a refreshing place to find spring wildflowers and spectacular fall colors.

Carley State Park: 1.8 miles

Carley State Park offers a short hiking club trail, but there are a total of 5 miles of trails in this state park if you want to hike further. The park recommends hiking in the spring to see Virginia bluebells. This park is also included in our 5 Great Dog-Friendly State Parks in Southeastern Minnesota post.

Cascade River State Park: 3.5 miles

Cascade River State Park is the first of the spectacular North Shore State Parks to make this alphabetical list. This hiking club trail follows the Cascade River Trail to the Superior Hiking Trail and offers amazing views of river cascades. Then the trail traverses up to Lookout Mountain for a great view of the forests on the shore Lake Superior.

Charles A. Lindberg State Park: 2.8 miles

Located in central Minnesota, Charles A. Lindberg State Park offers a hike through hardwoods and grand white pine forests and along the banks of Pike Creek.

Crow Wing State Park: 2.3 miles

Crow Wing State Park’s hiking trail follows the Mississipe River through the Old Crow Wing Village site. The trail also follows a segment of a segment of the Red River Oxcart Trail, that was used in the mid 1800s. For history and good views of the Mississippi River, head to Crow Wing State Park.

Father Hennepin State Park: 2.0 miles

Located in east-central Minnesota, the trail at Father Hennepin State Park winds along Mille Lacs Lake.

Flandrau State Park: 2.8 miles

At Flandrau State Park in southern Minnesota, you will have the opportunity to hike through a forest of towering cottonwood trees. The trail then passes through prairie, oak savanna, and a preserved maple and basswood forest.

Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park: 2.0 miles

Back in southeastern Minnesota, is a state park with a unique combination of history and underground wonders. The hiking trail at Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park is all above ground in mostly forested terrain. It is reported to be especially beautiful during the fall.

Fort Ridgley State Park: 2.6 miles

The trail at Fort Ridgely State Park meanders through fort grounds before heading to the battleground that has been replanted with native prairie grasses and flowers. The trail also offers some bluff overlooks of the Minnesota River Valley.

Fort Snelling State Park: 3.0 miles

Fort Snelling State Park is the second most visited state park in Minnesota (just behind Gooseberry Falls). This likely has as much to do with its location in the heart of the Twin Cities (Minneapolis and St. Paul) as it does with the lovely riverside hiking trails.

The hiking club trail at this state park is a loop around the perimeter of Pike Island, where you can view the confluence of the Minnesota and Mississippi Rivers.

Normally, the outer perimeter loop is only open to hikers in the spring/summer/fall, as it is groomed for skiing in the winter. Happily, on January 1st, 2020, this trail was not yet groomed. So Glia and I were able to enjoy the river in all its winter splendor.

The park does offer an alternate route for those looking to complete this hiking club trail when the perimeter loop is groomed for skiing. However, the winter alternative keeps to the center of the island and you miss many of the stunning river views.

Fort Snelling State Park Hiking Club Trail Dog-friendly Score

  • Trail width: 3
  • Trail Business: 1
  • Stairs/Steep Inclines: 2
  • Trail Terrain: 1
  • Shade/water: 2
  • Total Score: 9/10

Completed: 1/1/2020

Franz Jevne State Park: 1.3 miles

Way up north, on the border of Canada, Franz Jevne State Park offers a short hiking trail. But in the short 1.3 miles, this trail meanders along the rainy river, with a view of Canada on the opposite side, and offers scenic vistas, a set of rapids, and rock outcrops.

Frontenac State Park: 2.6 miles

Frontenac State Park is a beautiful state park with fantastic views of the Mississippi River as it cuts a natural border between Minnesota and Wisconsin. The hiking club trail is a little more challenging at this park compared to others, as you will hike up and down the bluffside with some narrow natural steps along the way.

We haven’t completed this trail since joining the hiking club, but we have been to Frontenac before. And we loved it enough to dedicate an entire blog post to this park.

George H. Crosby State Park: 4.2 miles, Alternate is 1.2 miles

Back on the North Shore, is George H. Crosby State Park. The DNR describes this park as a wilderness park where waterfalls cascade through a volcanic canyon surrounded by majestic forest. If that doesn’t make you want to visit, I don’t know what will. The trails are steep and challenging, offering spectacular views as you gain elevation.

Due to the strenuous nature of the hiking club trail, the Benson Lake Trail is offered as an alternative. On this trail. you will walk around a pristine wilderness lake.

Glacial Lakes State Park: 4.7 miles

Glacial Lakes State Park is located in the western half of Minnesota. This park is located in a region comprised of a band of glacial hills. Along the hike, you will see examples of the highest glacial till deposits in Minnesota.

Glendalough State Park: 3.3 miles

The hiking club trail at Glendalough State Park loops through a hardwood forest and around pristine Annie Battle Lake. It also crosses two creeks and passes by the Historic Glendalough Lodge.

Gooseberry Falls State Park: 2.2 miles

Gooseberry Falls State Park has the honor of being the most visited state park in Minnesota, with 756,704 visitors in 2019 (per the MN DNR). This stunning state park on Minnesota’s North Shore is the closest North Shore State Park to Duluth and offers waterfalls and stunning vistas of Lake Superior.

Grand Portage State Park: 1.0 miles

Want to hike to the tallest waterfall in Minnesota? Then the hiking club trail at Grand Portage State Park is the perfect hike for you. But if you really enjoy hiking, don’t stop at High Falls. Finish hiking the rest of the parks 5 miles of trails as you head to Middle Falls. Once you are past High Falls, the hiking becomes a little more rugged, offering stunning views of Lake Superior, the Pigeon River, and even some glimpses into Canada. This state park was our first (and favorite) stop on a recent dog-friendly weekend on the North Shore.

Great River Bluffs State Park: 2.5 miles

From the North Shore, back to southeastern Minnesota, Great River Bluffs State Park offers an entirely different hiking experience compared to Grand Portage State Park. Instead of views of Lake Superior, Great River Bluffs offers panoramic views of the Mississippi River Valley and the Wisconsin bluffs in the distance.

When Glia and I lived in La Crosse, this was one of our go-to hiking locations, although we slightly preferred Perrott State Park on the Wisconsin side. For more information about Great River Bluffs State Park, check out our blog post dedicated to this state park.

Hayes Lake State Park: 2.0 miles

Hayes Lake State Park is another state park in the North Woods of Minnesota. In fact, the hiking club trail description states that “some days it’s just you, loons and moose while you traverse around Hayes Lake State Park.” The trail follows along the north shore of Hyes Lake with scenic views of forest and lake.

Interstate State Park: 3.0 miles

Interstate State Park is included in our blog post of the 5 state parks along the St. Croix River. This is a smaller state park, but it still offers some unforgettable features. For example, one of the world’s largest glacial potholes is located at the north end of the park, and the hiking club trail takes you right to it.

How did this glacial pothole form? When 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 the glacial potholes. In addition to the largest, there are over 400 examples of various sized glacial potholes in Interstate State Park.

The hiking club trail description starts at the northern end of the park, but when we visited, we started at the south end (near the park office and picnic area). So we enjoyed Interstate’s highlights in a different order.

First, we encountered views of gorgeous rocky cliffs created over thousands of years as glaciers melted and the St. Croix River flowed through this valley. Second, we enjoyed the glacial pothole area. Finally, we hiked back to our care along the Railroad Trail, taking a quick side hike not included in the hiking trail route to a frozen waterfall along the Sandstone Bluff Trail.

The day we officially obtained our passport stamp and completed the hiking club trail was Glia’s and my second trip to Interstate. Our first visit took place on a gorgeous 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.

Be aware if you visit in winter, that Interstate does not maintain any of its trails at all during the winter. 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. (Most of the stairs were on the Sandstone Bluff Trail.)

Interstate State Park Hiking Club Trail Dog-friendly Score

  • Trail width: 2
  • Trail Business: 0 (in the summer), 3 (in the winter)
  • Stairs/Steep Inclines: 1
  • Trail Terrain: 0
  • Shade/water: 1
  • Total Score: 7/10

Completed: 1/8/2020

Itasca State Park: 3.5 miles

Itasca State Park protects the headwaters of the mighty Mississippi River. However, the hiking club trail does not bring you to this feature of the park. Instead the trail passes through forest stands and past Myrtle Lake

Jay Cooke State Park: 3.5 miles

Jay Cooke State Park is located south of Duluth along the rushing rapids of the St. Louis River. The hiking club trail will take you over the river, through a northern hardwood forest, and to an overlook of Silver Creek (a spring-fed trout stream.

Judge C.R. Magney State Park: 2.5 miles

Back on the North Shore, Judge C.R. Magney State Park is home to the famous Devil’s Kettle waterfall on the Brule River. The hiking club trail heads upstream along the Brule River to the falls, where half of the river plunges 50 feet landing at the base of the falls and continuing downstream. The other section vanishes into a huge pothole known as Devil’s Kettle.

Kilen Woods State Park: 2.0 miles

Kilen Woods State Park brings us back down south where Minnesota borders Iowa. Here, the hiking club trail heads to the sunny river bottom meadows of the Des Moines River Valley and then up to the Dinosaur Ridge Overlook for a grand view of the river valley.

La Salle Lake State Recreation Area: 2.9 miles

La Salle Lake State Recreation Area provides a hiking club trail with beautiful views of the Mississippi River Valley and through regenerating forests of pine and aspen.

Lac qui Parle State Park: 2.0 miles

Located along the Lac qui Parle River, Lac qui Parle State Park highlights wooded areas adorned with various trees, flowers and wildlife.

Lake Bemidji State Park: 2.0 miles

Lake Bemidji State Park‘s hiking trail is located among a mix of mature jack pine, bit-toothed aspen, and second-growth oak forests before a boardwalk takes you into a bog.

Lake Bronson State Park: 3.4 miles

Head to Lake Bronson State Park to hike through aspen and oak woods and an exquisite prairie.

Lake Carlos State Park: 2.9 miles

Located in central Minnesota, Lake Carlos State Park has a hiking club trail that travels through maple/basswood and aspen/oak forests, grassy meadows, and around a shallow lake. Near the end of the trail, it also borders Lake Carlos, a deep clear lake noted for its walleye, northern pike, bass, and crappie.

Lake Lousie State Park: 1.3 miles

Lake Louise State Park offers a shorter hiking club trail that winds through a mature hardwood forest before returning along the Little Iowa River and Lake Louise.

Lake Maria State Park: 2.0 miles

Lake Maria State Park is another forest and lake combination hike. This time it is through oak and maple old-growth forest and to an overlook of Bjorkland Lake.

Lake Shetek State Park: 1.0 miles

Did you know that the word “shetek” is Ojibwe for “pelican”? It should come as no surprise then that Lake Shetek State Park is a fantastic location to watch for birds, especially birds who live near the water. The Hiking club hike at Lake Shetek takes you to Loon Island where, surrounded by water, you can relax and watch the sun set or photograph wildlife.

LakeVermilion-Soudan Underground Mine State Park: 2.5 miles

Lake Vermilion-Soudan Underground Mine State Park is a unique park with a lot of mining history. The hiking club trail begins at the former Miner’s Dry House and passes the rim of open mining pits for a historically interesting hiking experience.

Maplewood State Park: 6.2 miles

As its name implies, Maplewood State Park is known for its hardwood forests, including sugar maple, basswood, and oak. This makes fall the perfect time of year to head to this hiking club trail.

McCarthy Beach State Park: 3.0 miles

Be aware that the hiking club trail trailhead at McCarthy Beach State Park is located on a minimum maintenance road. But the park declares that the extra navigation is worth it. The hiking club trail features forest landscape with vantage points that look down on a “kettle” pond of glacial origin. You will also be able to walk along the shores of Pickerel lake before you wind back to your starting point.

Mille Lacs Kathio State Park: 3.2 miles

Mille Lacs Katho State Park has trails that range from flat to hilly. The hiking club trail takes you to the shoreline of Ogechie Lake and then heads through the hilly hardwood forest of the Mille Lacs moraine.

Minneopa State Park: 2.7 miles

One of the most visited features at Minneopa State Park is Minneopa Falls. Unfortunately, there is not a lot of hiking in this portion of the park. So you will have to drive to the other section of the park to find the hiking club trail and bluffs that provide scenic overlooks of the Minnesota River Valley.

After visiting Minneopa Falls, I maintain that the falls are the highlight of the park, but the hiking club trail didn’t disappoint either.

The hiking club trail is sandwiched between a bison enclosure and river bluffs. So as you head out on the trail, you can catch glimpses of bison on your left while various overlooks of the river valley appear on your right. If Glia and I had had more time (and it was warmer) we would have hiked the entire loop around the bison enclosure and made our way up to Seppman Mill (an old grain mill) also.

Minneopa State Park Hiking Club Trail Dog-friendly Score

  • Trail width: 3
  • Trail Business: 2 (but we visited on a cold winter day)
  • Stairs/Steep Inclines: 2
  • Trail Terrain: 1
  • Shade/water: 1
  • Total Score: 9/10

Completed: 1/11/2020

Minnesota Valley State Recreation Area: 4.0 miles

The Minnesota Valley State Recreation Area has a hiking club trail that winds through a mix of floodplain vegetation, including oak savanna, bottomland hardwoods, and wet meadows.

Glia and I visited the Minnesota Valley SRA on a Wednesday in the middle of February on a cold but sunny day. The park was quiet with no other hikers that we encountered.

The hiking club trail is located in the Lawrence Unit and begins right from the picnic area parking lot. For the first mile of this lollipop style trail, the trail follows the river. During our visit, this part of the trail was relatively packed down and easy to hike.

After the trail leaves the river to make the loop, the snow was fresh with only a few ski tracks hidden under the snow. Despite the flatness of the trail, hiking through the snow was a good cardio workout. So if you visit in the winter, come prepared and dress in layers that you can remove as you warm up.

Although this trail was beautiful in the winter, we hope to visit again when the snow is gone and the river is flowing.

Oh, and the hiking club stamp pad was dried up during our visit, so you may want to bring your own ink, just in case.

Minnesota Valley State Recreation Area Hiking Club Trail Dog-friendly Score

  • Trail width: 3
  • Trail Business: 2 (at least in the winter)
  • Stairs/Steep Inclines: 2
  • Trail Terrain: 1
  • Shade/water: 2
  • Total Score: 10/10

Completed: 2/19/2020

Monson Lake State Park: 1.0 miles

For walk among the shores of West Sunburg Lake and Monson Lake, head to the hiking trail at Monson Lake State Park.

Moose Lake State Park: 2.0 miles

Moose Lake State Park is reported to be popular with hikers. This park features rolling hills surrounded by fields, woods, ponds, and lakes.

Moose Lake State Park is only about 15 minutes north of Banning, so we hiked these two hiking club trails on the same day. While Banning is one of our favorite Minnesota state parks, Moose Lake had its own quiet beauty.

The hiking club trail starts from the main parking lot, heads across a two-lane highway (watch for traffic), and back into the woods on the other side where it makes a loop through the forest.

Glia and I enjoyed the hiking club loop, but we liked the hiking trail along the lake the best. So don’t forget to explore other areas of this park once you have completed the hiking club trail.

Moose Lake State Park Hiking Club Trail Dog-friendly Score

  • Trail width: 3
  • Trail Business: 2
  • Stairs/Steep Inclines: 2
  • Trail Terrain: 1
  • Shade/water: 1
  • Total Score: 9/10

Completed: 3/8/2020

Myre-Big Island State Park: 6.2 miles

Myre-Big Island State Park is home to one of the longest hiking trails. The hiking club trail at this park starts in the forests of Big Island before exiting to the mainland. Hikers should be aware that there is a short distance where they must walk on the shoulder of the road. Once on the mainland, the trail offers views of Alber Lea Lake, prairie restoration, wetland, and lakeshore.

Nerstrand Big Woods State Park: 2.2 miles

Nerstrand Big Woods State Park is located south of the Twin Cities metro area. It is home to Hidden Falls, which made my list of best frozen waterfalls within 90 minutes of the Twin Cities.

In addition to the lovely Hidden Falls, this hiking club trail takes you through a maple/basswood forest that is the largest remaining stand of the Big Woods in Minnesota.

Old Mill State Park: 1.4 miles

Old Mill State Park is located in the northwest corner of Minnesota. The hiking club trail takes you to overlooks of the Middle River and past landscapes seen b the first European settlers more than a century ago.

Red River State Recreation Area: 2.2 miles

The hiking club trail at Red River State Recreation Area takes you to varying levels of elevation to experience the vistas of the river valley before following a levee for about a mile.

Rice Lake State Park: 2.4 miles

Rice Lake State Park offers a mix of lakeshore, grassland, and forest hiking.

St. Croix State Park: 4.0 miles

One of five Minnesota State Parks along the St. Croix River, St. Croix State Park offers a medium length hiking club trail. On this trail, you can enjoy river overlooks, forests, prairies, and the historic ruins of an old CCC camp from the 1930x.

Sakatah Lake State Park: 2.2 miles

Sakatah Lake is a natural widening of the Cannon River, which forms a boundary between the Big Woods of the Minnesota and Mississippi River valleys and the oak barrens south of the park. Sakatah Lake State Park is located along the southern shores of Upper Sakatah Lake.

We completed this hiking club trail in January. On a wintery Sunday, the park was quiet and peaceful (except for the small portion of the hiking club trail that passes close to the two-lane highway on the park’s border.

While we enjoyed the gently rolling hiking club trail through forests and around ponds/small lakes, our favorite trail was the Wahpekute Trail along the shores of Upper Skatah Lake.

Sakatah Lake State Park Hiking Club Trail Dog-friendly Score

  • Trail width: 3
  • Trail Business: 2 (when we visited in the winter)
  • Stairs/Steep Inclines: 2
  • Trail Terrain: 1
  • Shade/water: 2
  • Total Score: 10/10

Completed: 1/12/2020

Savanna Portage State Park: 5.3 miles

Savanna Portage State Park has a hiking club trail over 5 miles in length. Starting at a boat landing, the trail follows the Continental Divide Trail for 2 miles before arriving at the Wolf Lake Overlook. The trail heads back through a mix of hardwood forests and along a historical trail once used by fur traders, American Indians, and voyageurs.

Scenic State Park: 2.9 miles

At Scenic State Park, you will be treated to a hiking club trail that runs between Coon and Sandwick lakes on a narrow pine-covered geologic formation, believed by some to be an esker.

Schoolcraft State Park: 1.8 miles

Schoolcraft State Park offers another hiking club trail from which you can view the elegant and serene Mississippi River in northern Minnesota.

Sibley State Park: 4.0 miles

At Sibley State Park, you can experience beautiful vistas of wetlands, preserved prairie, several surrounding lakes, and forest terrain from the hiking club trail.

Split Rock Creek State Park: 2.6 miles

Down in the southwestern corner of Minnesota, Split Rock Creek State Park offers another hiking club trail along a lake. Starting at the lake, the trail proceed to the Split Rock Creek Stream, from which the park takes its name. Further on in the hike, you can cross the dam to a small trail loop that offers a splendid view of the lake.

Split Rock Lighthouse State Park: 5.8 miles

Almost kitty-corner from the other split rock state park, Split Rock Lighthouse State Park is located along the North Shore. The hiking club trail offers exceptional views of the Light Station and Lake Superior.

Temperance River State Park: 1.9 miles

The exciting hiking club trail at Temperance River State Park begins and ends at the wayside rest area on Highway 61. The hiking club trail takes you through the Temperance River Gorge, past numerous waterfalls, cascades and cauldrons.

Tettegouche State Park: 2.0 miles

Tettegouche State Park is another state park on the North Shore. At Tettegouche, the hiking club trail follows the rugged shoreline of Lake Superior out to Shovel Point, which just more than 1,000 feet into Lake Superior.

Upper Sioux Agency State Park: 4.3 miles

Upper Sioux Agency State Park‘s hiking club trail follows the edge of the top of the Yellow Medicine River Valley along high vistas and hillsides covered with native prairie before winding down into the valley itself. The trail then climbs partway up the Minnesota River Valley before concluding at the state parks picnic area.

Whitewater State Park: 2.2 miles

Whitewater State Park is potentially the premier park of southeastern Minnesota. The hiking club trail crosses the Whitewater River and climbs to the bluff top for spectacular views of the Whitewater River Valley.

Glia and I completed the hiking club trail on an unseasonably warm February weekend. We had been to Whitewater State Park several times before but had always hiked the Chimney Rock trail and the trails at the southern end of the park.

The hiking club trail is located opposite the Chimney Rock trail. It starts at the Visitors Center and follows the Coyote Point trail across the river and up the bluffs for fantastic views of the Whitewater River valley and Whitewater State Park. We even got some great views of Chimney Rock and could clearly see how it got its name.

The view from Coyote Point was equally as beautiful as the one from Inspiration Pont. This is definitely a trail that we will return to.

There was just one problem with our visit and that was the stairs heading down from Coyote Point. Since the snow was melting and refreezing that weekend, the stairs were icy. If you visit in the winter, a pair of ice cleats/traction would be beneficial.

Additionally, for those hiking with dogs, be aware that a short portion of the stairs down from Coyote Point are steep enough to be classified as a ladder. I had to help Glia walk slowly down these by holding the handle of her Ruffwear Flagline harness. It is a short portion but may difficult for those with larger dogs. If you want to hike up the ladder instead of down it, start the Coyote Point trail from the south end of the park instead of from the visitor center.

Whitewater State Park Hiking Club Trail Dog-friendly Score

  • Trail width: 2
  • Trail Business: 1 (most hikers were on the other half of the park)
  • Stairs/Steep Inclines: 0.5 (just because of the ladder)
  • Trail Terrain: 0
  • Shade/water: 2
  • Total Score: 5.5/10

Completed: 2/23/2020

Wild River State Park: 3.3 miles

Wild River State Park is located along the St. Croix River. The hiking club trail takes you through hardwood oak forest and upriver along the St. Croix.

William O’Brien State Park: 6.0 miles

William O’Brien State Park is also along the St. Croix River. The official hiking club trail is not next to this river but instead takes you through wetlands, forest, and prairie.

When we visited in late March, the hiking club trail was a mix of ice and mud. But that didn’t stop this from being an enjoyable hike.

William O’Brien has one of the longest hiking club trails and we hadn’t hiked the entirety of it before, even though William O’Brien is one of the closest state parks to our house.

Now that we have hiked this trail, we will definitely make a point to hike it again. The trails are wide and rolling, with a few goods hills to get your heart rate up. The hiking club trail passes through prairie grasses, forests, and a couple of small lakes/ponds complete with beaver huts.

There are also a few good views of the surrounding valley. But note that if you really want to see the St. Croix River, hike the bonus hiking club trail instead of (or in addition to) the official summer hiking club trail.

William O’Brien State Park Hiking Club Trail Dog-friendly Score

  • Trail width: 3
  • Trail Business: 1
  • Stairs/Steep Inclines: 2
  • Trail Terrain: 1
  • Shade/water: 2
  • Total Score: 9/10

Completed: 3/15/2020

William O’Brien State Park Bonus: 2.6 miles

The bonus hiking club trail (Riverside Trail Loop) is not required to earn the All Miles patch, but you should hike it anyway. This is my favorite trail at William O’Brien State Park and is open year-round (unlike the true hiking-club trail which is groomed for skiing in the winter).

This trail is mostly flat and makes a loop around the campground right along the St. Croix River. (The hiking trail is mostly far enough away from the campsites that you won’t notice them much.)

In addition to the views of the St. Croix River, you will also walk by Lake Alice. Fall colors are normally fantastic on this hiking trail.

William O’Brien State Park Bonus Hiking Club Trail Dog-friendly Score

  • Trail width: 3
  • Trail Business: 0.5 (can be very busy on nice days)
  • Stairs/Steep Inclines: 2
  • Trail Terrain: 1
  • Shade/water: 2
  • Total Score: 8.5/10

Completed: 12/29/2019

Zippel Bay State Park: 1.5 miles

Zippel Bay State Park is another state park in northern Minnesota. The hiking club trail runs along the shoreline of Lak of the Woods and then between the lake and an inland open marsh to the Zippel Bay channel.


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.

4 thoughts on “The Minnesota Hiking Club: 68 Dog-Friendly Hiking Trails

  1. I don’t usually leave comments on these types of things, but this is such a fantastic and informative article about the hiking club and how accessible the trails will be for dogs! I did the hiking club trail at Cascade River State Park yesterday with my dog and it got me interested in completing more hiking club trails with her and luckily I stumbled across this great guide! Thank you so much for writing it!

    1. Thank you for commenting. It should be adjusted so you can see them all again now. And thank you for reminding me that I need to update this post.

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