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, north of Bemidji, it is the longest of Minnesota's state trails and the longest continuously paved rail-trail in the country.
The region is rich in history, having been inhabited for centuries before French explorers came to the area. Thirteen recorded prehistoric sites have been identified near the Paul Bunyan State Trail alone. The Ojibwe and Dakota were present in the area until explorers entered the region and the logging and railroad industry took over. Most towns along the trails have a rich railroad and logging history. Now they are popular vacation destinations and provide trail access points, rest areas and services. They also provide a major part of the regional identity and sites of historic interest.
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!
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- Trail uses
Accessible Outdoors (electric wheelchairs allowed)
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, although parking in the state parks does require a daily or annual pass.
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.
- In the area
Nearby DNR recreational areas include:
- Heartland State Trail
- Blue Ox Trail
- Soo Line North ATV Trail: Shovel Lake - Cass Lake
- Lake Bemidji State Park
- Itasca State Park
- Crow Wing State Park
- LaSalle Lake State Recreation Area
- Paul Bunyan State Forest
- Foot Hills State Forest
- Mississippi Headwaters State Forest
- Pillsbury State Forest
- Mississippi River State Water Trail
- Crow Wing River State Water Trail
- Pine River State Water Trail
Attractions and points of interest
Shingobee Connection Trail (Walker area)
Gull Lake Recreation Area US Army Corps of Engineers
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 Paul Bunyan 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 Paul Bunyan State Trail.
Studded tracks are allowed on the Paul Bunyan State Trail. The Heartland State Trail also provides connections to many miles of groomed snowmobile trails in the Hubbard County Grant-in-Aid trail system.