The Paul Bunyan State Trail is 115 miles long, not including a couple of short on-road connections through the cities of Baxter and Bemidji. Extending all the the way from Crow Wing State Park to Lake Bemidji State Park, it is the longest of Minnesota's state trails and the longest continuously paved rail-trail in the country. It connects with the 8 mile Heartland State Trail, and at Lake Bemidji State Park it connects to the Blue Ox Trail, an unpaved motorized trail for snowmobiling and off-highway vehicle riding that extends northeast to International Falls.
Primarily located on a former Burlington Northern Railroad grade, the trail is generally level and wheelchair accessible with the exception of the nine mile segment that passes through the Chippewa National Forest. This segment has many rolling hills and curves with grades reaching 8%, and may be challenging to some users. The Shingobee Connection paved trail is an easier route to Walker, although there are a couple of short, very steep hills and some paved road shoulder sections of trail.
The Paul Bunyan State Trail runs through a region rich in history. There are thirteen recorded prehistoric sites near the trail. Before European explorers arrived, the area was home to Dakota and Ojibwe people. The Dakota lived on these lands until the 1700s, when the Ojibwe migrated east from the Great Lakes. Minnesota is home to Indigenous Peoples to this day.
Towns along the trails have a rich railroad, logging and cultural history and now they are popular vacation destinations that provide trail access points, rest areas and other services.
The Rails-to-Trails Conservancy inducted the Paul Bunyan State Trail into the 2011 Rail-Trail Hall of Fame based on merits such as scenic value, trailside amenities, and excellence in management and maintenance. Come check out this Hall of Fame trail for yourself!
- Trail uses
Accessible Outdoors (electric wheelchairs allowed)
- Trail events
Events CalendarScroll table right to see more »
There are currently no event listings.
Do not leave valuables in your vehicle!
Parking is available for the following trail segments:
- Akeley: A parking area is located southwest of Walker on State Highway 34 just south of the intersection of the Paul Bunyan and Heartland Trails, approximately 4 miles east of Akeley.
- Backus: Parking is available in Backus.
- Baxter: The southern trailhead of the Paul Bunyan State Trail is located on Excelsior Road. From the intersection of State Highway 210 and the State Highway 371 bypass in Baxter, go north 1 block to Excelsior Road, then go east 3/4 mile to Conservation Drive; the parking lot is on the left.
- Bemidji: Parking is located at the corner of Fifth and Gould by the Lincoln Elementary School, west on First Street 0.5 mile from Bemidji Avenue (Highway 197) to Gould, then north 0.2 mile.
- Brainerd: (See "Baxter.")
- Chippewa National Forest: The National Forest Service parking lot is located off of County Road 50 near the Shingobee Creek crossing. This lot is roughly at the mid-way point on the Chippewa section of trail.
- Crow Wing State Park: Parking available within the park.
- Guthrie: Parking is available in Guthrie.
- Hackensack: Parking is available in Hackensack.
- Jenkins: Parking is available in Jenkins.
- La Porte: Parking is available in La Porte.
- Lake Bemidji State Park: The northern trailhead is located in the park. From Bemidji, go north on County Road 21 about 4 miles, then east on County Road 20, 2 miles to the park entrance.
- Lavinia: On east side of Lake Bemidji north on County Road 12 about 3.5 miles to Wild Plum Lane Northeast.
- Merrifield: Parking is available in Merrifield.
- Nary: Parking is available in Nary.
- Nisswa: Parking is available in Nisswa.
- North Country Trail: Parking is located 5 miles west of Highway 371 on Cass County Road 50.
- Pequot Lakes: From Highway 371, exit onto County Road 11, and go west into Pequot Lakes to the stoplight at the intersection with Patriot Avenue. Turn left (south) onto Patriot Avenue, then take the next left (east) onto Woodman Street for 1/2 block. The parking lot is on the left.
- Walker: A parking area is located southwest of Walker on State Highway 34 just south of the intersection of the Paul Bunyan and Heartland Trails, approximately 4 miles east of Akeley.
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.
Studded tracks are allowed on the Paul Bunyan State Trail. The trail provides connections to many miles of groomed snowmobile trails in the Hubbard County Grant-in-Aid trail system.