It can be a bit unsettling for me in the winter when my world is covered by a thick blanket of snow. There’s a strange “all or nothing” approach to getting around on foot. I feel trapped, boxed in by the snow unless I strap on my snowshoes or skis. Then, suddenly everything is accessible and I can zig zag across the area in almost any direction. I don’t know about you, but after a few months of haphazard travel I’m ready for order and reason.
That’s why my favorite spring moment in northern Minnesota is when the snow melts and familiar trails reemerge. Suddenly everything feels back in place and foot travel feels organized and with purpose. I know when I’m going the right direction and I know when I’m off the beaten path. I’m not picky. I have the same level of affection for secluded nature trails and more heavily traveled paved trails.
Northern Minnesotans are a community of active nature lovers, so it’s no surprise that trail systems are plentiful across this part of the state. I am fortunate to live near some fantastic trails that I can access on a daily basis. Here are a few of my favorites:
- North Country National Scenic Trail: Once completed, the NCT will be the longest continuous hiking trail in the United States. The trail cuts across northern Minnesota, offering hikers spectacular views of our forests, lakes, and rivers. I enjoy both hiking and trail running on the sometimes challenging terrain of the NCT. There’s no time to get bored when you’re navigating the twists, turns, and hills of the forest.
- Paul Bunyan & Heartland State Trails: This paved system of trails stretches from Brainerd to Bemidji and from Park Rapids through Walker to Cass Lake. It is a popular trail for walkers, runners, and cyclists; however it’s not uncommon to see wildlife making use of the trail as well. I’ve spotted deer, fox, porcupine, and too many squirrels to count. Sometimes I stop to observe and sometimes I move a little quicker in the opposite direction.
- Itasca State Park: My favorite state park offers an abundance of trail opportunities. From a paved bike trail to numerous nature trails more suited to foot travel, there’s something to suit everyone’s style. You can even experience a section of the NCT where it cuts across the south end of the park.
As a runner and yogi, you’ll often find me logging miles on foot or just stopping to stretch out and enjoy nature at a beautiful spot along the trail. On my more adventurous days, when I want to step out of my routine, you might find me cycling, rollerblading, or hiking. What about you? What are your favorite trails and how do you enjoy them? Do you stay on the route laid out before you or do you prefer to sneak off the beaten path? Do you enjoy meeting others along the way or are you more likely to savor the sights and sounds of nature in a more remote area? I’d love to hear about your favorite trails and how they inspire you to keeping moving. Share your stories and pictures on social media using #LTMinMotion.
Happy trails to you!