Whether you’re new to hiking with your baby or toddler, or you’re looking for a new trail to explore, the Hike it Baby community is a valuable resource for finding family hiking trails around the country. In this article, we share three kid-friendly hikes in Minnesota to explore with babies and young children.
If you’re thinking that a state known as “The Land of 10,000 Lakes” and that borders on Lake Superior is rich in natural beauty, you’re right! For families that enjoy the outdoors generally and hiking in particular, there is an abundance of destinations, parks and trails to choose from. Hike it Baby members have chosen three that are sure to satisfy with great adventures for familes with young kids in Minnesota.
Oberg Mountain Loop, Superior National Forest (Tofte, MN)
The Oberg Mountain Loop is one of the best day hike sections of the 310-mile-long Superior Hiking Trail. This trail begins from the trailhead with a short half-mile hike where you climb about 200 feet along a couple of switchbacks. Mud can be a common concern along this trail, so, thankfully, boardwalks have been put into place in an attempt to keep hikers’ boots a little less muddy.
At the top of the climb is a bench for you to rest or nurse if needed, but from there on out, it’s an easy 1.3-mile loop around the summit of Oberg Mountain. The trail features a series of eight overlooks, but it feels like you are seeing infinitely more as this hike provides almost constant breathtaking, sweeping views of one of the most scenic spots in the state. Highlights include Lake Superior, views across the rolling hills of Superior National Forest, and Oberg Lake nestled in the forest below you.
Fall is definitely the best time to visit, though it can be crowded. In late September, watch the Minnesota DNR’s fall foliage map on their website to time your visit for peak color. A summer visit offers spectacular views of Lake Superior and the bold green of the trees. And in winter, bring snowshoes and you’re guaranteed solitude.
- For more hiking in the same area, a second option begins from the same trailhead. From the west end of the parking lot, you can hike the 3.2-mile LeVeaux loop, which is also along the Superior Hiking Trail.
- Be cautious with young children as there is some steeper/more cliff-like terrain. Keep small children close or in a carrier during those sections.
After we moved back to Minnesota with our 7-month-old son, we knew we wanted to introduce him to the beauty of Minnesota’s North Shore. Oberg Mountain was the perfect place for him as we were able to capture almost all of the elements that make this area so spectacular in a single, short hike perfect for a morning or afternoon. The only thing that’s missing is a waterfall! – Bobby and Maura Marko
Richard T. Anderson Conservatory Overlook Trail (Eden Prairie, MN)
Richard T. Anderson Conservatory is 20 minutes from Minneapolis and offers trails that wander up and around hills, along prairie-laden ridges, through a big woods forest and into sedge meadows, providing an amazing amount of diversity in a short hike.
The 1.2-mile Overlook Trail takes you through some of the best parts of this park. Toddlers will love climbing the initial hill that overlooks the trees with views across the Minnesota River and Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge. It’s just steep enough and full of sandy big steps and tree roots to keep kids engaged while not being overly exhausting. And scattered throughout the park are several small creek crossings which provide great splashing opportunities.
Fall is the best time of year to visit for the bright reds and oranges of the sugar maples. The cooler temps also mean the mosquitos are nowhere to be found! Avoid hiking in summer as mosquitos are known to be overwhelming. In the winter, bring Yaktrax or Microspikes to help with traction as the trail can become ice-covered. And spring is muddy, so the hills can be tricky, so it’s best to let the trail dry out a bit.
- Be on the lookout for the natural spring flowing year-round near the parking lot for a geology lesson. It’s one of two natural springs maintained and tested regularly by the city for water quality.
- There is usually a bench or picnic table at the top of each hill to provide a great spot for snacks or to feed a baby.
- If you have time, check out the nearby small town of Chaska, Minnesota. Highlights include getting a milkshake at Tommy’s Malt Shop and playing at the amazing beach, playground and splash pad at City Square Park.
This is our family’s go-to hike for when we want to hit the trails quick and we’re short on time. It’s rarely crowded, and the interconnected trail system gives our toddler son the opportunity to feel in control as we let him pick which way he wants to go at each trail intersection. We know eventually the trails will lead us back to our car no matter which direction he chooses! – Bobby and Maura Marko
Fifth Falls Trail, Gooseberry Falls State Park (Two Harbors, MN)
Located on Minnesota’s North Shore along the western coast of Lake Superior, Gooseberry Falls State Park is a popular tourist destination for the many waterfalls that are easily accessible to visitors on the grounds. Before heading up to Fifth Falls Trail, three waterfalls (Upper, Middle and Lower Falls) – which make up the mile-long Falls Loop Trail – are just a brief walk from the Visitor Center and worth a quick visit. Falls Loop Trail is popular with visitors as it’s comprised mostly of boardwalk (with some stairs included) and is toddler-friendly. It offers breathtaking views of the three waterfalls that cascade under Highway 61 and continue down Gooseberry River before emptying out into Lake Superior.
North of Highway 61 is the trailhead to Fifth Falls Trail. You can access it by crossing the pedestrian bridge that runs parallel to the highway and heads away from the crowds. The loop trail is a little over 2 miles and connects with the Superior Hiking Trail. It meanders alongside Gooseberry River the entire time and is rugged and rooty in some areas and provides boardwalk relief from mud in others. A 3-walled shelter sits half a mile up for some reprieve from the sun or to give tired little legs a break. It’s a great spot to nurse or have a snack. However, if you can wait to eat, not far from the shelter is a bridge and the only bench on the trail near a nice landing that’s perfect for a snack break and where the kiddos can look for caves.
As with the other two trails mentioned above, fall is a great time to visit with its colorful display of changing foliage. However, spring is also a great time to hike the trails as snowmelt increases the likelihood of the waterfalls being at their best.
- Get to the park early as the parking lot fills up quickly, or risk the chance of adding another half mile or more to your hike by parking in the road.
- The only restrooms are in the visitor center, so make sure your party goes before your hike. And when you return, don’t forget to reward the kiddos with some ice cream from the shop inside.
- Make a weekend of it and stay in the campground, then enjoy the trails at your leisure.
- If you have time, stop by Split Rock Lighthouse State Park to visit the lighthouse and hike a short distance down to Pebble Beach and let the kids throw rocks into Lake Superior.
- There’s a one-day park entrance fee per car, but it can be used at all Minnesota state parks for that day.
Fifth Falls Trail was a great little hike for my 3-year-old. It wasn’t too technical, but offered enough of a challenge in some places to keep him on his toes. He also loved the variety of trees and evergreen he saw on trail; in fact, he wanted to touch and feel every tree. The hike itself was beautiful, and especially peaceful with the sound of rushing water to accompany your hike. It was breathtaking around every corner – I even found the root-covered grounds beautiful. – Vong Hamilton
MORE RESOURCES FOR FAMILIES WITH YOUNG CHILDREN
Minnesota offers an abundance of trails for families with young children. For more family hike ideas, see:
- Hike it Baby calendar (or connect with local branches)
- Hike it Baby Family Trail Guide
- Minnesota State Parks and Recreation Areas
- Hike it Baby: 100 Awesome Outdoor Adventures with Babies and Toddlers – New Book by Hike it Baby Founder Shanti Hodges
Looking for more information or recommendations on trails in Minnesota? Or looking to join a group hike? The nearest Hike it Baby branches are in Ely, Little Falls and the Twin Cities.
- 3 Hikes in Wisconsin to Explore With Young Children
- 3 Kid-Friendly Hikes in Iowa to Explore With Young Children
- 3 Trails to Explore in Missouri With Young Children
- 3 Trails in Nebraska Young Children Will Enjoy Exploring
What are your favorite hikes in Minnesota for families with babies, toddlers and young children? Leave a comment below!
Oberg Mountain Loop and Richard T. Anderson Conservatory Overlook Trail reviews and photos by Bobby and Maura Marko. Fifth Falls Trail photo by Vong Hamilton.