We can't think of a better way to explore Minnesota than hiking alongside your four-legged BFF and heading to the nearest local brewery afterwards. Here are seven park-and-patio combos for the ultimate dog-friendly 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. Sip one of the artisan brews while your pooch slurps from a water dish. Then turn to the rotating lineup of food trucks for snacks. They even have bingo every Sunday. Opposable thumbs are required, 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” — perfectly aligned with Minnesota’s fickle forecasts, in other words. Try a refreshing kettle sour ale or heritage lager while you partake in a game of giant Connect 4 or cornhole 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 — everything from the bold smashed burgers of Angry Line Cook to the fiery fried chicken of Nashville Coop.
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 Castle Danger Brewery in Two Harbors. Sip on seasonal beers like a Maple Märzen or Mosaic Fresh Hop IPA while you and your bestie listen to live music and take in the scenic overlook from the sizable 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 this peaceful park.
The convenient location makes it easy to treat yourself to refreshments at nearby Forager Brewery. Not only is the dog-friendly patio here gorgeous, the decorative plants double as ingredients for the hearty wood-fired pizzas that pair rather perfectly 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, head a few miles north to Jack Pine Brewery in Baxter where they’ll sweep you off your paws with a long list of exceptional craft beers and sunny patio.
Rock climbers have lots of craggy Sioux quartzite to grab onto at Blue Mounds State Park, a historic quarry that'll also appeal to hikers, bikers, and stone hunters — not to mention families, photographers and four-legged friends that'd appreciate a walk through the native tallgrass prairie near the park's 533-acre bison pasture. It can be explored up close during the DNR's 90-minute "buggy tours," which can be booked here.
Take 16 Brewing Company is just 10 minutes away and named after the popular 1,600-mile highway that once took intrepid travelers to Detroit, Yellowstone National Park and Southwestern Minnesota. Aside from everyday beers like its Country Mile Kölsch, Luverne Copper Lager, and Kick the Can IPA, Take 16 specializes in boundary-pushing beers like barrel-fermented wild ales in the spirit of international pioneers like Mikkeller and Jester King.
Know Before You Go
A vehicle permit is required to enter Minnesota state parks and many regional parks. Save time by ordering one online before you arrive at the park.
For comfort and safety on the trail, be sure everyone has appropriate footwear (tennis shoes, not flip-flops).
Bring a water bottle for each hiker as well as plenty of sunscreen, bug spray and snacks.
Pick up a paper map at the park office or load a GeoPDF map before you leave (don’t rely on your phone to navigate because cell and Internet service may not be available in the woods).
The accessible trails at Minnesota state parks are stroller friendly as well as wheelchair friendly.
If your dog will be hiking with you, keep it on a leash and clean up after it.
Don't pick wildflowers or otherwise disturb the landscape. "Take only photos, leave only footprints."
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.
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