The Heartland State Trail was one of the first rail-to-trail projects in the country. It is a 49 mile, multiple-use trail between Park Rapids and Cass Lake. The trail is located entirely on a level, abandoned, railroad grade, except for a four-mile segment north of Walker which is on a low-volume traffic road. Snowmobiles use the sharply rolling terrain in this area. Both the 27 mile segment between Park Rapids and Walker and the 22 mile segment between Walker and Cass Lake are paved. The Park Rapids to Walker segment also has a second grassy trail for horseback riding and mountain biking. The Heartland State Trail also connects with the Paul Bunyan State Trail system and other regional trail systems.
Bridge repairs scheduled during summer 2018
The Paul Bunyan State Trail bridge over the Mississippi River east of Lake Bemidji is scheduled to be closed for repairs July 9 through the end of August. The deck, railings and certain substructure elements on the bridge will be replaced. While repairs are made, the trail will be closed at the bridge, and there is not a safe option for an alternate route.
(Updated Jan. 22, 2018)
Check out the Heartland and Paul Bunyan State Trail video!
Views of lakes, rivers and streams are numerous, and many are accessible from the trail. The trail passes through northern hardwood forests and stands of jack, red, and white pine, as well as the spruce fir forest community. The occasional majestic white pine can be seen towering over the trail. Common mammals noticed along the trail include whitetail deer, raccoon, red fox, porcupine, beaver and muskrat. The observant trail user may spot coyote, weasel, mink, bobcat or black bear. Many varieties of birds can be seen along the trail including the bald eagle, which has a large population in the Chippewa National Forest and surrounding area.
You will need a horse pass if you will be horseback riding, a ski pass for cross-country skiing, and for snowmobiling, a snowmobile must be registered or have a snowmobile state trail sticker. No other fees or passes are required to use the trail.
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- Trail uses
Accessible Outdoors (electric wheelchairs allowed)
Do not leave valuables in your vehicle!
Parking is available at the following trail accesses:
- Park Rapids: Heartland County Park - North 0.25 mile on Mill Street from Highway 34.
- Dorset: North 1.4 miles on Highway 225 from Highway 34.
- Nevis: At intersection of County Road 18 and Village Road off Highway 34.
- Akeley: North from Highway 34 travel 0.1 miles on Hillside Avenue.
- Walker: South on County Road 12 0.25 miles from Highway 371 to Lake May Drive and Heartland Place south.
- Erickson's Landing: Two miles north of Walker on highway 371.
- Steamboat Landing: West off Highway 371 travel 0.3 mile on 130st Street northwest.
- Cass Lake: On the north side of Highway 2 at rest area 2 miles east of Cass Lake and across the highway on south side.
Most communities provide public restrooms nearby with some in local parks in proximity to the trail. Organizations such as chambers of commerce or tourism agencies provide restroom facilities within some larger communities. Local businesses provide restroom facilities for customers. Portable toilet facilities are often provided in the larger and often used trail rest areas. See the trail map for these locations.
- In the area
Nearby DNR recreational areas include:
State Water Trails
- Foot Hills State Forest
- Huntersville State Forest
- Paul Bunyan State Forest
- Smoky Hills State Forest
- Two Inlets State Forest
- Welsh Lake State Forest
Wildlife Management Area
Public Water Accesses
- Cass Lake (Cass Lake, near rest area)
- Lake Belle (Nevis)
- Leech Lake (City park, south Walker Bay)
- Steamboat Lake (South shore)
- Shallow Lake (South shore)
Attractions and points of interest
Mississippi River Trail, Inc. The Mississippi River Trail, follows the Mississippi River, from its headwaters in Itasca, Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico.
North Country National Scenic Trail
U.S. National Park Service: Did you know that the North Country National Scenic Trail passes through three National Parks, nine National Forests, and one National Grassland?
All users must yield to horses. Stop and dismount if requested.
- Stay on the trail.
- Keep to the right.
- All pets must be on a leash.
- Clean up all pet waste.
- Obey traffic signs and rules.
- Respect private property adjacent to the trail.
- Camping and campfires are not permitted on the Heartland State Trail.
- Enjoy the beauty of wild plants and animals, but leave them undisturbed for all to enjoy.
- Minnesota Rules, 6100.3000 apply on the Heartland State Trail.
Studded tracks are allowed on the Heartland State Trail. The trail also provides connections to many miles of groomed snowmobile trails in the Hubbard and Cass counties through the Grant-in-Aid trail system. A snowmobile must be registered or have a snowmobile state trail sticker. Learn more about snowmobiling in Minnesota and don't miss the interactive snowmobile trails map.
You will need a ski pass if you will be cross-country skiing.