Minnesota prides itself on being known as the Land of 10,000 Lakes. So on your next trip to the Minneapolis-Saint Paul metro area, go beyond its thriving sports and theater scenes, fantastic shopping, and Fortune 500 companies. Instead, slather on some sunscreen and escape city life with one of the many outdoor activities in the beautiful region.
It’s easy to find outdoor adventure in the Twin Cities. Often, there’s a wooded trail just a short walk (or drive) from your hotel. So, lace up your boots and hike through a variety of ecosystems using one of the winding trails below.
- Explore 10 miles of hiking trails along the banks of the Mississippi River at the 193-acre Minnehaha Park in Minneapolis. Start your hike at its 53-foot waterfall (Minnehaha means “falling water” in Dakota). There’s a great off-leash area where your dog can plunge into the river to fetch a stick along with sandy beaches to shake off on. Listen to water rushing over the falls as you eat at the always buzzing, seafood-focused Sea Salt Eatery.
- Get a glimpse of 1820s military life at Fort Snelling State Park while hiking 18 miles of trails. At Pike Island, where the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers converge, choose your own adventure: Either take the path through the woods, or the one that follows the banks of the rivers. You may get lucky and see wildlife like white-tailed deer, as the park is adjacent to the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge.
- If going big is your style, check out Minneapolis’s largest park, Theodore Wirth Regional Park. Its trails take you everywhere – through woods, wetlands, two golf courses, and a fishing pier. But its most unique stroll is over the floating boardwalks in its Quaking Bog, an area of land that drains poorly.
- Water lovers should check out the 5,500-acre park, Rice Creek Chain of Lakes Park Reserve, in Lino Lakes. It features 25 Native American historic sites, including a burial mound, and a 22-mile “water trail” that leads all the way to the Mississippi River.
- Learn about the history of Minneapolis and visit the remains of its flour mills at Mill Ruins Park. From there you’ll see Saint Anthony Falls, the only natural falls on the Mississippi River, and the stunning Stone Arch Bridge, which once carried flour-laden trains east.
- See Goldenrods bloom on the grass prairie as you wander 18 miles of trails – some of which are wooded to shade you from the heat – at Hyland Lake Park Reserve in Bloomington. For a relaxing hike, do the two-mile Lake Trail, which is lit at dusk during the fall.
Live life in the bike lane. The Twin Cities boasts 200 miles of dedicated bike paths and designated on-street bike lanes.
- Enjoy the convenience of easy bike rentals. Check out Nice Ride MN in Minneapolis and St. Paul, and dockless Lime Bikes in suburbs like Edina and Golden Valley.
- Speed up your heart rate on the 5.7-mile mostly flat Midtown Greenway, which connects the Mississippi River to the Chain of Lakes. Follow the former railroad lines using the 4.5-mile Cedar Lake Trail to the western burbs where you can cool off in the lake. For a true thigh burn, pedal up and down the breathtaking hills of the West & East River Parkways along the Mississippi River (East will take you to the University of Minnesota).
- Cut loose on the 12 miles of one-way mountain bike trails in Lebanon Hills Regional Park in Eagan.
Minnesota is known as the Land of 10,000 Lakes, and in Hennepin County alone (which encompasses Minneapolis), you’ll find 104 of them. So, escape the noise of modern life on one of the Twin Cities’ calming waterways. Many offer public access.
- At most of its urban lakes, you can rent pedal boats, kayaks, canoes and stand-up paddle boards.
- Or try kayaking down the Mississippi River.
- For a relaxing afternoon, try a cruise like a Magnolia Blossom Cruise down the Mississippi River in St. Paul.
It’s not just what’s above the water that makes the Twin Cities unique, but what’s below it too. The lakes are full of fish, from walleye (the state fish) to largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, and trout. But hold your line tight: Minnesota has an impressive list of state-record fish that includes a 70-pound flathead catfish.
- Cast your reel from a dock or pier (on most urban lakes, you can drive right up to park near the shore – no need to hike in).
- Rent a boat to scour the lake and fish in areas unreachable from shore.
- Go fly fishing on the Mississippi River. You may just haul in a Minnesota prize – the elusive Muskie, known as the Fish of 10,000 Casts. (Be wary of its razor-sharp teeth!)
Once the snow thaws, Minnesotans break out their clubs, with the Minnesota Golf Association reporting that nearly one-third of the state’s households include a golfer. Here are three courses where you can swing your clubs as some of the greats did.
- Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska has hosted several major tournaments like the US Open, and will host the Ryder Cup for the second time in 2028.
- Challenge yourself at Interlachen Country Club, known for its sand traps and slick greens – as well as Bobby Jones’s 1930 Grand Slam (it’s where he won the US Open, his 4th major championship that year).
- The Minikahda Club – the oldest country club west of the Mississippi – has hosted several national tournaments as well, including the 1916 US Open. It’s centrally located in Minneapolis near Lake Calhoun and the course underwent a multi-million-dollar renovation in 2001.
Grab your binoculars, an identification book, and maybe even a notebook for sketching, then, check out some of these Twin Cities bird-watching sites.
- The Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge covers nearly 70 miles of the Minnesota River – that adds up to more than 14,000 acres! Start at the Bloomington Education and Visitor Center and breathe in the fresh air while you search for more than 250 bird species.
- At the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden and Bird Sanctuary, birds come and go – during migration season, that is. Every year, more than 130 resident and migratory bird species flap their wings within the garden.
Enjoy urban living at a Twin Cities Hilton and then stay a few extra days to get your nature fix – the perfect antidote to travel fatigue.