We can think of no better way to explore Minnesota than a hike along some of its fabulous trails with your four-legged BFF by your side. Fresh air and a furry friend are a match made in doggy heaven. And after you’ve both worked up a thirst, head to the nearest dog-friendly brewery patio for some food, fun and locally made suds.
Before you set out on your excursions, remember the two cardinal rules of dog-friendly life: Keep your pets on a leash at all times, and always BYOPB (poop bag, that is). Now go forth to the good life, dog lovers, at these six park-and-patio combos we sniffed out for the ultimate dog-friendly Minnesota adventure.
With a diverse mixture of rugged and paved trails for seasoned hikers and novices alike, Eagan’s Lebanon Hills Regional Park is a favorite of many Twin Citizens. And at 2,000 sprawling acres, you’ll find yourself coming back again and again. Start at the visitor center to check out its sustainable vegetative roof and head any direction from there. You and your pal will enjoy weaving around lakes at every turn.
There’s no charge to visit Lebanon Hills, so you can probably afford a beer or two at nearby Bald Man Brewing Company afterward. You and your pooch can slurp one of the artisan brews or from a water dish (respectively), and snack from the rotating lineup of food trucks. They even have bingo every Sunday from 2-4 p.m. (opposable thumbs required for bingo, but your pup can relax in the sunny ambiance of the patio while you play).
Smack dab in the middle of the Twin Cities, Fort Snelling State Park boasts 18 miles of hiking trails to give you and your buddy those middle-of-nowhere feels without leaving town. Be sure to make the trek to Pike Island: A mile and a half of gravel trails will take you to the eastern end, where Spot can dip his toes in the place where the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers meet. If your pal wants another view of the park, he can even join you in a rented canoe from the park office.
Although Minnesotans will insist “there’s no such thing as bad weather,” St. Paul’s Bad Weather Brewing Company begs to differ. Here the ales are “untethered and unpredictable” — in other words, perfectly aligned with Minnesota’s fickle forecasts. Try the refreshing lemon hibiscus radler (similar to a shandy) while you partake in a game of giant Connect 4 or corn hole on the patio. (Bonus points if you can train your dog to fetch stray bags.) If the hike made you hungry, you’re in luck: They’ll hook you up with some of Minnesota’s finest food truck fare.
With five waterfalls and 18 miles of hiking trails through aspen, cedar, spruce and pine forests, Gooseberry Falls State Park is a definite bow-wow. The rocky shoreline of Lake Superior is a can’t-miss, too. If you’d like to take more than one day to soak up this memorable area of our state, dogs are welcome at Gooseberry Falls’ campsites. (Fido will thank you for packing enough weenie-roast supplies for two.)
Following your stay, reward yourself with post-adventure libations at the newly remodeled Castle Danger Brewery in Two Harbors. Sip on seasonal beers—like the fruity, balanced spring Double Crossing IPA—while you and your bestie listen to live music and take in the scenic overlook from the sizeable patio.
Quarry Hill Nature Center features paved and natural trails through restored prairie, quarry, man-made caves and an oak savanna. And even though you’re only a few minutes away from downtown Rochester, you and your pup will feel miles away from everything within the 300 acres of peaceful park.
The convenient location makes it easy to treat yourself to refreshments at nearby Forager Brewing Company. Not only is the dog-friendly patio here gorgeous, its decorative plants double as ingredients for the hearty wood-fired pizzas that pair oh-so-well with Forager’s small-batch beers. Both are made on-site with as many locally foraged elements as possible.
Go west, young pup! To Buffalo River State Park in Moorhead, that is. Your pooch will relish her romp through one of our state’s largest prairies, known for its variety of birds and other wildlife. Its 12 miles of hiking trails take you along the lovely Buffalo River, where water-loving pups can cool off on hot summer days.
Just down the road, your companion will be lavished with attention from the pup-loving staff at Junkyard Brewing Company. Slide into a seat at the picnic table to sip on the wag-worthy selection of experimental beers. Food trucks are ready to fill your belly on some days; at other times, carry-ins are encouraged.
BRAINERD LAKES AREA
Nestled within 540 acres of wilderness, Northland Arboretum in Brainerd features nearly 12 miles of jack-pine savannah, marsh and prairie terrain for all skill levels. Rover will love sniffing his way through the designated doggy trails of this peaceful park. Enjoy the arboretum for just $5 (human kids will cost you $1, and fur kids are free).
After spending an active day at the arb, you’re going to need a Gull Dam beer. Head to Gull Dam Brewing in nearby Nisswa, where they’ll sweep you off your paws with a long list of exceptional craft beer. Not only is the patio spacious enough for your whole squad, you’ll also be treated to live music most weekend evenings.
Sidewalk Dog is the #1 resource for Minnesota dog owners, bringing you everything you need to enjoy life with your pup: dog-friendly patios, off-leash parks, events and so much more. Learn more at SidewalkDog.com.