Climbing & Hiking Trails - 11 min read

15 Minneapolis Hiking Trails (Waterfall Views & Pet-Friendly)

Alex Frick

Alex Frick, Updated September 23, 2022

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Derived from the Native Dakotan phrase, Mni Sota Makoce, translating to “land where the waters reflect the clouds”, Minneapolis is sacred land abundant with life’s natural resources.

From beautifully reflective chains of lakes and powerfully cascading waterfalls, Minneapolis is the quintessential choice for outdoor enthusiasts and avid hikers of all abilities.

Minneapolis Hiking Trails You Don’t Want To Miss

1. Old Cedar Avenue Bridge, Log Meadow Lake, and Bluff Trail


Directions: From Bloomington, head east on W 90th Street toward Fremont Ave South and drive for 2.5 miles. Turn right onto Old Cedar Avenue South and drive for 0.7 miles before making a slight right into the parking area for this hike.

This wonderful collection of stunning hiking trails takes you along the shores of Long Meadow Lake and the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge. Enjoy a walk in the remote wilderness before approaching this trail’s main attraction – The Cedar Avenue Bridge.

The Cedar Avenue Bridge is a historic steel swing bridge that was in commission nearly 100 years later. Today, it is a non-motorized path that is a symbol of early Minneapolis.

Difficulty: Moderate
Distance: 7.0 Miles
Elevation Gain: 236 Feet

2. Lake Harriet Loop


Directions:
Take I-35W South for 1.3 miles and take exit 14. Drive for 0.1 miles and turn left on Nicollet Avenue and drive for 0.4 miles. Turn right onto W 38th Street and drive for 0.5 miles before turning right onto Lyndale Ave South.

Continue for 0.2 miles and turn left onto W 36th Street. Drive for 0.8 miles and turn left onto Richfield Road and drive for another 0.2 miles. Then, turn right onto W Lake Harriet Boulevard. After 0.3 miles, make a left at W 42nd Street and the trailhead will be on your right.

The loop around Harriet Lake is a comfortable journey along the shores of one of Minneapolis’s most iconic lakes.

The level dirt path hugs the shores before reaching two relaxing beaches and a picturesque pathway through a blooming rose garden. The trail can be very popular on the weekends, but during the week, is a peacefully secluded journey along the tranquil shores.

Difficulty: Easy
Distance: 2.8 Miles
Elevation Gain: 29 Feet

3. Bde Maka Ska Loop

Credit: Chad Davis / Flickr


Directions:
Head west on E Lake Street and drive 0.9 miles and merge onto Lagoon Avenue. After 0.6 miles, merge onto Grand Rounds Scenic Byway and drive for 0.6 before turning left onto W Bde Maka Ska Parkway. After 0.2 miles, turn left followed by an immediate right and the parking area will be on your left.

Another body of water along the chain of lakes is the Bde Maka Ska Loop, a wide and comfortably paved trail that follows the shoreline of the incredibly scenic Bde Maka Ska Lake.

The elevation of the wheelchair-friendly path is level for the entirety of the loop and is perfect for cyclists and hikers. It’s also great if you’re looking for just a pleasant afternoon stroll along the calm and peaceful shores.

Difficulty: Easy
Distance: 3.2 Miles
Elevation Gain: 26 Feet

4. Nine Mile Creek Loop


Directions:
From Bloomington, head south on I-35W South for 0.8 miles and take exit 6 to merge onto County Road 1. Drive for 0.2 miles and turn left onto W Old Shakopee Road and drive for 0.1 miles. Turn left onto Irving Avenue South and continue for 0.2 miles and turn left onto W 100th Street followed by an immediate right onto Humboldt Avenue South. Continue for 0.7 miles and turn right onto W 106th Street and the parking area will be on your left.

This pathway is a pleasantly paved trail that follows the calmly flowing Nine Mile Creek. Passing through lush wetlands and shaded woodlands, this trail takes you into the depths of the Minnesota River Bluffs away from the busy sights and sounds of the city.

Through the wetlands, you will enjoy a mile-long wooden boardwalk with beautiful overlooks of the mossy lowlands.

Difficulty: Easy
Distance: 4.0 Miles
Elevation Gain: 295 Feet

5. Winchell Trail

Credit: T-Bone Sandwich / Flickr


Directions:
From downtown Minneapolis, head southeast on W River Parkway for 5.5 miles and turn left into the parking area for this trail.

Winchell Trail is a secluded hiking-only trail that brings you to the banks of a trickling river through beautifully peacefully dense woodlands. The trail begins as a paved pathway but breaks away and transforms into a packed dirt trail.

Follow along the bluffs until reaching an astonishing overlooking vantage point of the iconic Mississippi Gorge.

Difficulty: Easy
Distance: 5.4 Miles
Elevation Gain: 413 Feet

6. Bloomington Ferry Trail

Credit: Doug Wallick / Flickr


Directions:
From Bloomington, head east on W 90th Street for 1.5 miles, turn right onto Portland Ave S. Drive for 1.6 miles and turn left onto E 103rd Street. Continue for 0.3 miles and turn right onto Columbus Road followed by an immediate left onto Columbus Circle – the trailhead will be on your left.

The Bloomington Ferry Trail is a joyful hike that follows along the shores of the Minnesota River. The hike is a multi-use dirt path that is popular with hikers and mountain bikers.

The path continues through the scenic Mound Springs Park with an offshoot along a lengthy boardwalk. This leads across lush marshlands before overlooking Long Meadow Lake.

Difficulty: Moderate
Distance: 16.9 Miles
Elevation Gain: 275 Feet

7. St. Anthony Falls Heritage Trail and Pillsbury Islands


Directions:
From downtown Minneapolis, head north onto Portland Ave S and drive for 0.4 miles into the Stone Arch Parking Lot.

The hike is an interpretive walk through the St. Anthony Falls Historic District with signage that tells the rich history of downtown Minneapolis in real-time.

You will pass a disabled lock before you wander across the Hennepin Avenue and the Stone Arch Bridges to Nicollet Island. This also known and named after the marketable and famously pokable dough manufacturer – Pillsbury Island.

Difficulty: Easy
Distance: 1.7 Miles
Elevation Gain: 95 Feet

8. Eloise Butler Wildflower Trail in Theodore Wirth Park


Directions:
Head west on I-394 W for 1.9 miles and take exit 7. Turn left onto Penn Ave S and drive for 0.6 miles and turn left onto Wayzata Boulevard Ext followed by an immediate right onto Theodore Wirth Parkway. After 0.7 miles, turn right onto Butler Garden and after 0.3 miles, you will reach the parking area.

The trail through Elouise’s Garden is a lovely walking path through dense fields of blooming wildflowers in a garden of more than 500 plant species and more than 130 bird species.

With the healthy natural conditions, the trail is an abundant butterfly community and is home to the rare “showy lady’s slipper,” the state flower of Minnesota.

Difficulty: Easy
Distance: 1.8 Miles
Elevation Gain: 157 Feet

9. Lake Nokomis Trail

Credit: Joe Passe / Flickr

Directions: From Nokomis, head north on Cedar Avenue S toward E Lake Nokomis Parkway for 0.5 miles and turn right onto Grand Rounds Scenic Byway. After 0.2 miles, turn right into the Lake Nokomis Parking Area.

The Lake Nokomis Trail is an excellent stroll around the shores of a massive lake in the heart of Minneapolis. This comfortably paved pathway leads past a relaxing beach before encircling the lake.

The trail is pet friendly and an opportunity for kids to blow off some of their limitless energy with access to a playground and dog park along your journey.

Difficulty: Easy
Distance: 2.5 Miles
Elevation Gain: 22 Feet

10. Minnehaha Falls Loop


Directions: Head south on I-94 E for 0.9 miles and take exit 235A. Turn right onto 25th Avenue S followed by an immediate left onto 26th Avenue S. After 1.0 miles, merge onto Minnehaha Avenue and continue for 2.5 miles and take the third exit at the roundabout onto Godfrey Parkway. Make a quick right and the parking area will be on your right.

The most iconic natural feature in Minneapolis is the strikingly powerful Minnehaha Falls. In an urban setting, Minnehaha Falls is just a short walk down a moderate dirt path through a lush forest before reaching the 53-foot-tall roaring waterfall.

From the basin, you can witness the cascading falls along limestone bluffs with the Mississippi River as your canvas.

Difficulty: Easy
Distance: 0.8 Miles
Elevation Gain: 82 Feet

11. Lake of the Isles Trail


Directions: Head west on I-94 W for 0.7 miles and take exit 231B. Drive for 0.5 miles and turn right onto W Franklin Avenue and drive for 0.9 miles before turning left onto Penn Avenue S. Continue for 0.3 miles and turn right onto W Lake of the Isles Parkway. After 0.6 miles, the parking area will be on your right.

Located just north of Uptown Minneapolis, the trail is a multi-use dirt pathway that follows along the shores of the Lake of the Isles. Part of the chain of lakes, this trail is popular with hikers, mountain bikers, and dog walkers.

In the winter, the trail becomes an incredible snow-shoeing trail. When the ice freezes over, the surface becomes an ideal place for ice-skating or even a pick-up hockey game.

Difficulty: Easy
Distance: 2.7 Miles
Elevation Gain: 26 Feet

12. Long Meadow Lake Trail

Credit: Bolobilly / Flickr

Directions: From Bloomington, head west on W 90th Street toward Fremont Street Avenue S for 2.5 miles and turn right onto Old Cedar Avenue S. After 0.7 miles, slight right into the parking area for this trail.

The Long Meadow Lake Trail is an urban wilderness oasis. The trail leaves the city lights behind and enters the depths of the Minnesota Valley Natural Refuge, a beautifully lush green forest that traverses multiple wooden footbridges.

The trail quickly opens to the narrow banks of Long Meadow Lake and the Minnesota River, flanking you on both sides before reaching the Old Cedar Bridge.

Difficulty: Easy
Distance: 4.0 Miles
Elevation Gain: 167 Feet

13. Quaking Bog Loop

Credit: Audra Urbanski / AllTrails

Directions: Head west on I-394 W and drive 1.9 miles and take exit 7. Turn left onto Penn Ave S and drive for 0.6 miles and turn left onto Wayzata Boulevard Ext followed by an immediate right onto Theodore Wirth Parkway. After 0.5 miles, turn left into the parking area for this hike.

The Quaking Bog Trail is a unique wetlands landscape tucked away in the woods of Theodore Wirth Park, only minutes from the city.

This trail brings you along a floating boardwalk through a rare bog, remaining buoyant atop a bed of soggy mosses. This is an ideal habitat for a large colony of frogs and other aquatic creatures. You may want to skip the flip-flops, this is a fun, but muddy slog of a pathway.

Difficulty: Easy
Distance: 1.2 Miles
Elevation Gain: 88 Feet

14. Medicine Lake Area Trail


Directions: From Plymouth, head north on I-494 N for 1.0 miles and take exit 23 for County Road 9. After 0.6 miles, use the right two lanes to turn right. Continue for 0.6 miles and turn right into Clifton E. French Regional Park. Drive for 0.6 miles and take a left. After 0.2 miles, the parking area will be on your right.

The Medicine Lake Regional Trail is a smoothly paved trail that explores the marshy wetlands of the Clifton E. French Park.

The trail walks around the shores of massive Medicine Lake before wandering through the lush and mossy wetlands. The lake branches off into several calm finger lakes that is an abundant amphibian habitat, just off the trail.

Difficulty: Easy
Distance: 2.3 Miles
Elevation Gain: 134 Feet

15. Mississippi Gorge Trail

Credit: Wikipedia

Directions: From St. Paul, head west on I-94 W for 5.6 miles and take exit 237. After 0.5 miles, merge onto Cretin Avenue N and drive for 0.3 miles before turning right onto Marshall Avenue. Take an immediate right onto Mississippi River Boulevard followed by a quick left and the parking area will be on your right.

The Mississippi Gorge Trail is a dirt offshoot of the paved pathway that runs along the perimeter of the expansive gorge.

The trail wanders along the banks of the gorge on a level surface that is comfortable for adventurers of all skill levels. Have your cameras ready, the views from atop the gorge are incredibly scenic and well worth remembering.

Difficulty: Easy
Distance: 3.0 Miles
Elevation Gain: 164 Feet

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