Carve a path: Exploring Bemidji area trails

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Steep portions of trail appear throughout Ozawindib Trail in Itasca State Park. (Bria Barton | Bemidji Pioneer)

BEMIDJI -- Of all the impressive features that life in the Northwoods has to offer, one of the best is the abundance of hiking destinations right at your fingertips.

With 66 state parks in Minnesota, as well as 25 state trails, 35 water trails, and 62 state forest campgrounds and day-use areas, our backyard is brimming with possibility, and our only job is to discover it.

Luckily, there’s no need to go far from home to find what you’re looking for.

If you prefer a paved hiking trail, there’s sure to be an option just minutes from home. And if you’re one who prefers diving into the great, unrestrained wilderness, then there’s bound to be a nearby hiking opportunity for you, too.

So, if you’re looking for a sign to get out on the trail, look no further. Here’s a small taste of what Bemidji and its surrounding areas have to offer both the novice and experienced hiker.


The occasional rest area can be found along trails in Itasca State Park. (Bria Barton | Bemidji Pioneer)

Itasca State Park

Itasca is Minnesota's oldest state park, having been established in 1891. It totals more than 32,500 acres and has more than 100 lakes, which makes it a premiere hiking destination for those looking to experience the preserved beauty of the Northwoods.

The park has a variety of trails to match individual needs and skill levels and has six miles of paved trails that hikers can share with cyclists.

Mississippi Headwaters Trail: The trail is 0.5 miles with multiple loops, and the first quarter-mile of trail is along the river and offers views across Lake Itasca. This is an excellent hike for those interested in birding.

Dr. Roberts Trail: The trail is a two-mile loop, and hikers can travel through a bog, visit Old Timer’s Cabin, and climb a ridge overlooking Lyendecker Lake. This is a great hike for those interested in wildflower photography.

Ozawindib, Red Pine, and Deer Park Trails Loop: If you’re looking for more of a challenge, this trail is for you. Depending on the route you take, you can easily hike anywhere from five to 10 miles. Although you’ll be trudging up steep sections of trail along the way, the path takes you through a mix of pine, birch, maple and aspen, as well as various wildflowers.


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Throughout Itasca State Park, trails meander past various lakes and ponds. (Bria Barton | Bemidji Pioneer)

Lake Bemidji State Park

The result of the last stage of glaciation in Minnesota, Lake Bemidji State Park offers two miles of wheelchair accessible trails, one mile of self-guided trail and 11 miles of easy to moderate trails that take you through areas of maturing pine, aspen and hardwoods.

Bog Walk Trail: This trail is 1.25 miles one-way and takes hikers along a winding boardwalk through a spruce/tamarack bog. While on the boardwalk, hikers can view some of the bog’s more unusual plants, such as the carnivorous insect-eating pitcher plants.

Rocky Point Trail: This trail is a 1-mile loop, and it takes hikers to an overlook that is the highest point on Lake Bemidji. When making your way back, hikers can take a self-guided interpretive trail through a maple/basswood forest.

Paul Bunyan State Trail: Although the park only has 1.3 miles of paved trails, it doesn’t mean your hike has to be short. These trails connect with the Paul Bunyan State Trail, which is the longest of Minnesota's state trails.

Old Logging Trail: This 2.75-mile loop is considered the challenging trail of the bunch. Longer than the rest, the trail carries hikers to the far reaches of the park, taking them up and down various hills along the way.

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Lush greenery can be found along Ozawindib Trail in Itasca State Park. (Bria Barton | Bemidji Pioneer)


Other trails around Bemidji

Movil Maze Loop: Located approximately 5 miles north of Bemidji, the Movil Maze Recreation Area has a 1.6 mile loop trail that is great for most skill levels. The trail offers a number of activity options, from horseback riding, hiking, sightseeing and mountain biking.

Three Island Park North Trail: Located approximately 12 miles north of Bemidji on Three Island Lake, Three Island Park features a 3-mile low traffic trail that offers lake views and appeals to nearly all skill levels.

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It's important to pay attention to signage while hiking because trails can often split. (Bria Barton | Bemidji Pioneer)

Interested in getting out on the trail? Here are some hiking tips from the Minnesota DNR:

  • Stay on designated roads and trails, or in permitted areas.

  • Hike with friends. It's more fun and you have someone to help you if you need it.

  • Leave a copy of your itinerary with a responsible person.

  • Allow for bad weather and the possibility you may be forced to spend a night outdoors unexpectedly.

  • Pace yourself.

  • Do your part by leaving the area better than you found it.

  • Learn about pests such as deer ticks and poison ivy.

Bria Barton covers travel and tourism for Forum News Service and is based at the Bemidji Pioneer. A South Carolina native and USC grad, she can be found exploring Minnesota’s abundance of towns, food and culture. Follow her on Instagram @briabarton.
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