TOP 6 HIKING TRAILS NEAR ST. PAUL
No need to drive for hours—fresh spring air is waiting at these nearby hiking trails
Image by Dudarev Mikhail/fotolia
By Charles Brandt
Spring has come early this year, and the world outside is calling. Plenty of us get stuck inside during Minnesota’s colder months, but now that we’ve survived the winter, it’s time to get back outside and enjoy some fresh air. For those who live near St. Paul, opportunities to get out in nature are aplenty. Many of these locations have both paved walking paths and unpaved hiking trails that can be enjoyed year round. Below are six hiking spots near St. Paul that you can get to in no time.
Crosby Farm Regional Park
Just down West 7th Street from downtown St. Paul, where the southern tip of Highland Park meets the Mississippi River, is Crosby Farm Regional Park. The park offers almost seven miles of paved pathways for walking, biking and running, many additional trails for hiking, BBQ pits, fishing and a marina. When you’re surrounded by the tree-covered lowlands that surround the Mississippi, and the generous amount of recreational open space that surrounds Crosby Lake, it’s easy to forget that you’re still in the middle of the Twin Cities.
Lebanon Hills Regional Park
A little over 20 minutes south of downtown St. Paul, Lebanon Hills is the perfect afternoon retreat from city life. With almost 2,000 acres of land, the park has a number of paved pathways, over 12 miles of hiking trails, scenic lakefronts, picnic areas, equestrian trails, camping, mountain biking, designated swimming and bonfire areas, canoeing, kayaking, paddle boarding, and even opportunities for hunting.
Fort Snelling State Park
What better place to spend a nice weekend day than where two rivers meet? Fort Snelling State Park is ideally located where the Minnesota River meets the great Mississippi, and is still within the heart of the Twin Cities area. Though no camping is allowed in the park, it is has five miles of paved trails and 18 miles of unpaved hiking trails, along with historical interpretive exhibits at the Thomas C. Savage Visitor Center. The paved walking/biking trails also connect to the Minnehaha Regional Park trail system, which reaches over to the Nokomis area of the Minneapolis.
Battle Creek Regional Park
Only 15 minutes east of downtown St. Paul, the park is sectioned into three parts: the northern section is dedicated to picnic areas, playgrounds and amenities, while the western and southern sections are filled with trails for walking, hiking and mountain biking. Battle Creek also has a dedicated dog park, if you are looking for a good place to give your pooch a chance to run off-leash for a while.
Hidden Falls Regional Park
The park rests on the western-edge of St. Paul where the city meets the Mississippi, and includes approximately seven miles of paved trails for walking, running and biking. Though not extensive, there are a number of hiking trails in the area as well, many of which follow the shoreline of the Mississippi. Even though these aren’t the longest hikes in Minnesota—or even the Twin Cities—it’s a fun park to visit on a nice day. If you’re looking to spend more time outside, Hidden Falls Regional Park also offers BBQ grill pits, a boat launch, fire pits and picnic areas.
Afton State Park
Jump on 94 eastbound, and then cut down south toward Afton for some great hiking within 30 minutes of the St. Paul. Afton State Park is the perfect way to escape the city and still be home in time for dinner. The park has beautiful bluffs that overlook the St. Croix River, 20 miles of hiking paths, four miles of paved biking trails, camping areas, a swimming beach and horse trails. If you’re going to spend a few hours hiking the area during the spring, I’d recommend wearing boots, as it can get a little muddy in places.