Heartland State Trail is a 22-mile trail set in the heart of northern Minnesota. This asphalt trail was previously a railroad, one of the first railroads to be converted into a public-use trail as part of the Rails-to-Trails program. The trail is known for its expansive path across numerous lakes and rivers which provides scenic views of the gem-like bodies of water. It also runs through majestic pine forests that serve as a natural habitat for a variety of wildlife. Most importantly, the trail’s calm atmosphere makes it a great place for a walk or hike with your pooch!
The trail has endpoints in Park Rapids and Cass Lake, and there are a number of trailheads along the way. Its grade is almost completely level, except for the four-mile stretch north of Walker. If you begin your journey at Park Rapids in the south, you’ll find parking, a picnic area, and restrooms as you enter. The trail passes by waypoints at Dorset and Nevis as you head north, both of which also have picnic areas and restrooms. About halfway through the trail, you will cross the Paul Bunyan State Trail, which is even longer than Heartland State Trail! This trail is a great place to explore in its own right, but if you continue along, there are two more stops with restrooms before you reach the northern endpoint at the beautiful Cass Lake. Cass Lake also has parking, making it an alternative starting point for a walk or hike.
It is important to follow the trail’s guidelines, and Heartland State Trail requires dogs to remain leashed at all times. You’ll also have to bring bags to clean up after your canine companion.
Heartland State Trail provides a breathtaking experience of the Land of 10,000 Lakes, and you’ll see why if you come visit!