Paul Bunyan State Trail
At 112 miles, the paved Paul Bunyan State Trail is Minnesota’s longest continually paved trail. In the Brainerd Lakes Area, it connects a number of cities, including Brainerd/Baxter, Merrifield, Nisswa, Pequot Lakes, Jenkins and Pine River. Need to take a break between Point A and Point B? This 30-mile stretch of the heralded trail offers a substantial amount of extracurricular options in the immediate vicinity — not only for food and drink but also for shopping and lodging.
The trail links the communities and businesses the Brainerd Lakes Chamber serves to other trails and visitors all the way north to Lake Bemidji State Park outside Bemidji (see sidebar). Of course, there are a number of naturally occurring “distractions” to keep you from getting to your final destination too quickly: As the map below shows, the path of the Paul Bunyan State Trail takes guests past more than 20 readily accessible freshwater lakes.
Originally opened in 1988, the multi-use trail has grown from 50 miles (between Brainerd/Baxter and Pine River) to stretch to the more than 100 offered today. It is primarily for non-motorized recreation, save for snowmobiles in the winter and electric wheelchairs. On most days, you will encounter a mix of pedestrians, cyclists and in-line skaters.
The Paul Bunyan State Trail is visited by 650,000 people a year. Some of those visitors are geocachers. They flock to the trail because nearly 1,000 geocaches are hidden along the length of the trail. There are so many hidden items, in fact, that the Paul Bunyan State Trail has been deemed a “power trail” and even has a featured GeoTour on Geocaching.com.
The continuously paved trail follows the route of a Burlington Northern railroad line from the 1890s that was no longer used after the early 1980s. In 2011, the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy group inducted the trail into its Rail-Trail Hall of Fame.
The main trail systems that intersect the Paul Bunyan State Trail are the Heartland Trail and the Blue Ox Trail.
View Paul Bunyan State Trail in a larger map