Minnesota does not lack places to hike. The bigger problem when we have with small children is the fear we will get a mile away from anywhere and have a child who suddenly has to go number 2 or can’t walk another step and now needs to be carried.
How do you help develop your little adventurers into bigger kids who can traverse acres of trails? We went on a search for kid-friendly hikes that are one mile or less. This way, we should never be more than half a mile from our car or a building with bathrooms. Luckily we found several places and many of them have more than one option for short hikes.
10 Kid-Friendly Hikes
1) Springbrook Nature Center, Fridley
100 85th Ave NW, Fridley, MN, USA 55432
All together, Springbrook’s offer three miles of hiking trails, but grab or print a map, and you will find several loops that are shorter than a mile. In fact, only the outer hiking trail is over a mile, and it is still only a mile and a half – something I would definitely risk with grade-school kids. The other four trails are less than half a mile each. You could take a different trail every day for a week, culminating with the “long” hike.
Parking: Free public parking is available on the North side of the park off of 85th Avenue.
Strollers: Note that some portions of these trails are woodchip. We did manage to navigate the long trail with a stroller, but there were two of us and we had our toddler walk when we hit terrain that was difficult for wheels.
- Oak Savanna Trail – 0.3 mile
- Creekside Trail – 0.3 mile
- Forest Trail – 0.3 mile
- Beaver Pond Trail – 0.4 mile
- Outer Hiking Trail – 1.5 miles
Restrooms: Restrooms in the Interpretive Center are open from 9am-5pm daily. Restrooms are sterilized once daily.
Natural aspects to watch for: You’ll hike through aspen and oak forests, native prairies and ponds. We saw plenty of turtles and frogs and pollinators on our walk. Springbrook tells us that more than 2,000 species of wildlife and flora call this park home.
2) Fort Snelling State Park, St. Paul
101 Snelling Lake Road, St. Paul, MN 55111
Fort Snelling has 18 miles of hiking trails. You don’t need to go far from the visitor’s center to find nature. There are a couple trails that are a one-mile loop, If you want to try a different trail, you can always make a shorter hike by turning around after you’ve explored a little.
Parking: You will need a vehicle permit. There is parking near all the trails.
Strollers: Most of the hiking trails are gravel. If you have thicker wheels on your stroller, it would probably handle the gravel trails fine. However, you could choose to walk along the bike trails if you are bringing a stroller. The bike trails run through the park, so you will need to decide when to turn around if you do this.
- Picnic Island Trail – 1 mile
- Pike Island Hiking Trails – 1, 2 and 3 miles
- Snelling Lake Trail – 2.5 miles
- Minnehaha Trail – 3 miles
Print the Summer Map for trails and tips.
Restrooms: Facilities in the Visitor Center and at the Park Office during business hours. Portable toilets are available at the Visitor Center, Picnic Island, Snelling Lake beach parking lots, and the Ranger Station.
Natural aspects to watch for: The Pike Island Trails might give you a glance at beavers, heron, egret & river otters, but all of the trails will have some nature and views.
3) Indian Mounds Regional Park, St. Paul
10 Mounds Boulevard, Saint Paul, MN 55106,
Indian Mounds Regional Park can be a good choice with small kids because you can take advantage of their Tree Trek, which is a one-mile path with 28 unique trees to find. Find a printable map here.
Parking: The parking lot is very close to Tree #1. It is actually located between Tree #5 and #6, but Tree #1 & #5 are adjacent to each other.
Strollers: This is not a particularly stroller-friendly path as some of it is across grass.
Trail Length: 1 mile.
Natural aspects to watch for: 28 unique trees, this park has good views of the Mississippi and you might see an eagle if you are lucky. Look for kittentails, which are a rare and threatened wildflower.
4) Alimagnet Park, Burnsville1200 Alimagnet Park Drive, Burnsville, MN 55337
211 Ridgeview Dr, Apple Valley, MN, 55124
Alimagnet Park is home to Burnsville’s off-leash dog park, making this park a good option if you want to bring your dog on the hike. The shortest trail is only about 1/3 of a mile and it can begin and end at the playground. All three trails hike through mature woods and are considered very easy terrains. Find a trail map here.
Parking: Parking is off Alimagnet Drive and there are parking spots right off the playground.
Strollers: These are natural surface hiking trail and may not be great for strollers.
- Deer Run Trail – 0.39 miles
- Muskrat Trail – 1.28 miles
- Lakeside Loop Trail – 1.68 miles
Natural aspects to watch for: Wetlands, mature woods and prairie areas
5) Tamarack Nature Center, White Bear Lake
5287 Otter Lake Rd. White Bear Township, MN 55110
One thing that makes Tamarack’s trails particularly good for the smallest is hikers is the fact that bikes or dogs are not allowed on the trails. No need to worry about your tot stepping in front of a bike or getting scared by a big dog. The shortest loops are approximately half a mile. Normally, kids could play at Discovery Hollow to wind down from the hike, but it is closed for construction in 2020. Find a trail map here.
Parking: There is off-street parking by the nature center building and near the trailheads.
Strollers: The 1/2 mile Bluestem Loop is paved. However, if you want to add a 1/4 mile (unpaved), you can take the Turtle Pass trail to Tamarack Lake to look for turtles. You may need your tot to walk 1/10 of a mile there and then back.
- Chickadee Trail Loop 0.42 miles
- Bluestem Trail Loop – 0.5 miles paved
- Turtle Pass – 0.12 mile addition to Bluestem (not a loop) – approximately 0.75 miles total
- Acorn Loop – 1.25 miles (access through Bluestem or Turtle Pass – approximately 2 miles total)
- Dragonfly Loop – 2.5 miles
- Deer Pass Trail – 0.8 miles addition to the dragonfly loop. (approximately 3.3 miles total)
Natural aspects to watch for: The trails run through woods and wetlands.
6) Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden & Bird Sanctuary, Minneapolis
Theodore Wirth Park, 1 Theodore Wirth Parkway, Minneapolis, MN 55422
Within the EBWG Gardens itself, you’ll find narrow, winding trails that are matted with straw. For more seasoned hikers, there are woodlands surrounding the garden. Grab a map to navigate through the different habitats along hilly terrain. Plan the length your route based on your child’s walking ability. Find the map here.
Parking: There is a pay parking lot near the visitor center.
Strollers: This is not a great walk with strollers.
Trail Length: The total trail length is just over one mile
Natural aspects to watch for: Visit for the beautiful flowers and birds — 600 plant species and 130 bird species. With bigger kids, you could also walk to the quaking bog, the Trailhead, or the JD Rivers Children’s Garden in the larger Theodore Wirth Park.
7) Mill Ruins Park, Minneapolis
102 Portland Ave S, Minneapolis, MN 55401
The Mill Ruins are so much fun to explore. Stay on the paved paths or traverse some more wild areas in search of fairy homes. Print a copy of the Mill Ruins Quest Activity Guide to make it a more exciting quest.
Parking: Pay parking lot.
Trail Length: The walking paths are just under 5 miles total, but it is easy to walk a portion and turn back to your parking spot or bus stop.
Restrooms: The St. Anthony Falls Lock & Dam offers public restrooms when it is open (9:30am-5pm; late May through early September)
Natural aspects to watch for: The Mississippi River is beautiful along this park, although the highlights of this park are mostly manmade.
8) Minnehaha Regional Park, Minneapolis
4801 South Minnehaha Park Drive, Minneapolis, MN 55417
Besides the waterfall, there is a playground, wading pool and picnic table area that make Minnehaha Park a great family outing with small children. Keep your walk short.
Parking: Pay Parking Lot.
Trail Length: The walk from the waterfall to the playground is about 1/2 a mile, not matter which of three paths you take.
Natural aspects to watch for: The Minnehaha Falls, two public gardens, limestone bluffs, Minnehaha creek & the Mississippi River.
9) Long Lake Regional Park, New Brighton
1500 Old Highway 8 New Brighton, MN 55112
Description. Never far from the parking lot, trails are paved or boardwalk. Print a map here.
Parking: Off-street parking lots.
Trail Length: Stay under a mile by walking the circular trails around the pavilion, parking lot and playground area.
Restrooms: Yes – near the playgrounds, beach and picnic areas.
Natural aspects to watch for: The trails travel through somewhat woodsy areas and wetlands. Look for turtles, frogs, and other wetland creatures. This is also a good place for birdwatching.
10) Central Park in Roseville
A Bonus Close Call Kid-Friendly Hike:
Lake Elmo Park Reserve, Lake Elmo
1515 Keats Ave N, Lake Elmo, MN 55042
Lake Elmo Park’s shortest trail is just a tad too long for this list at 1.1 miles. I also learned the hard way when hiking with my dog that it has some very long trails. Thank goodness this was pre-kids because we were miles in before we realized we had miles to go. Learn from my mistake and grab a trail map before just heading out.
If you do choose to go to Lake Elmo to hike with small kids, Choose the Northern Lights Trail only 1.1 miles or just call the walk between the beach and the playground a “hike”.
- Anne has ideas for Kid-Friendly Hiking in Duluth and the North Shore
- National Get Outdoors Day
- Snowshoes Making “Hiking” Fun in January
- Lebanon Hills Regional Park, Eagan
- The Best Minneapolis Bike Trails for Families
- Family Fun Idea: StoryWalk
- Rhoda’s Rock Hunt
- One North Star
- Hike It Baby – Twin Cities Branch