Brainerd (0) to Merrifield (8.8)
Northland Arboretum in Brainerd
Start exploring the Paul Bunyan Trail at the trailhead located at the Northland Arboretum which encompasses over 500 acres in the heart of Brainerd/Baxter. Areas of interest at the Northland Arboretum include the Monet Bridge & Pond, the DNR Landscaping for Wildlife project, the Girl Scout Secret Garden and many flower beds maintained by volunteers.
Stop and listen to the beautiful sounds of nature. This swampy area is the perfect nesting and breeding grounds for red-winged blackbirds that make their home in the cattails.
Watch for turtles sunning themselves in the swamp and listen for frogs during their mating season.
Birds Eye Terrace
Enjoy the sights and sounds of numerous birds at Birds Eye Terrace. This area is also home to numerous bird houses.
Welcome to Merrifield! Take advantage of the water, bathroom, information kiosk and benches at the trailhead located in Merrifield. If your hungry, grab a bit to eat at one of the local dining establishments or if you need a break from biking, shop the local stores.
Merrifield (8.8) to Nisswa (16)
Train Bell in Merrifield:
Take note of the old bell hanging from scaffolding right out side of the entrance to Train Bell Resort. This was once a tranquil railroad station in which anglers would deboard for fishing on Long Lake which happens to be one of the larger lakes in the area.
Take note of beautiful Mollie Lake on your right. In the summer, the lake may be hidden due to the abundance of trees located alongside the trail.
The small town of Lake Hubert was once the home of several businesses which are now gone. But the pristine lake still remains as does the old depot.
Follow Clark Lake for over a mile, the water is in and out of view as you ride through this wooded area. Get another view of the lake at M 15.1 where you may hear water running under the trail through a culvert.
Nisswa (15.5) to Pequot Lakes (22)
You will come to a sign that welcomes you to Nisswa, but enjoy the woods for a little longer, downtown is a half-mile away.
If you choose to begin your ride in Nisswa, there is a paved lot available for parking.
Stop at the Nisswa Dairy Queen for some hot eats and cool treats. There is also a triangle gas station located right on the trail, just south of Main Street, to conveniently stock up or refill on the essentials.
Tune up your bike or pick up any needed biking gear at Trailblazer Bikes, located right on the edge of downtown Nisswa in the Nisswa Square “Pretty Good Shopping” area.
Nisswa Chamber of Commerce
Ride the trail right up to the chamber building that welcomes you to downtown Nisswa. Outside is a water fountain, newspapers and bike racks. A public restroom is connected to their main entrance. Step inside to fill up on water, grab a map of the area, or to visit with the friendly staff and find out “what’s going on: in Nisswa.
Nisswa is the perfect stop for eating, shopping and a stroll to stretch your legs!
North of the building is a restored railroad caboose, and to find out more about Nisswa’s rich history as a logging community, visit the Historic Pioneer Village across the street (open late May to early September).
If you happen to stop by on a Wednesday in the Summer, you won’t want to miss the fun of the weekly turtle races starting at 2:00 pm. This will be the 38th Summer in Nisswa. The turtle track is located right across from the chamber building in an adjacent parking lot, next to the Paul Bunyan Trail.
As you wander up and down main street, stop at The Chocolate Ox for a delicious ice cream treat, there are also numerous breakfast and lunch options in Nisswa. Grab a cup of java at Stonehouse Coffee or The Adirondack. Enjoy a hearty breakfast or lunch at Ganley’s Restaurant, Soup and subs are available at Mickey’s of Nisswa and legendary Rafferty’s Pizza aromas will entice your senses.
Spend an hour or the entire afternoon browsing the great shopping available in downtown Nisswa. You can pick up unique souvenirs, home decorating, fine wood furniture and much more in these shops.
Nisswa City Park
A city park on your right is perfect for kids who are ready to hop off bikes and run around for awhile. Parents can sit on a shaded bench to watch them and take in the serene feel of this quaint community. Restrooms and water are available.
One spin past the route to the city park is a butterfly garden next to the trail. It’s a joint project of the Nisswa Garden Club and the DNR. An information sign explains the four elements necessary to attract butterflies, bees and moths.
Enjoy all that Nisswa has to offer any day of the week or plan your trip around one of it’s annual festivals and/or events: www.nisswa.com
A View of Lower Cullen Lake
After Nisswa, the trail heads into the woods again and goes downhill (just a bit) through berry patches, lots of trees and near a marshland and lakes.
In fact, the trail couldn’t get much closer to Lower Cullen Lake, which could inspire you to stop and just enjoy the view and the cool breeze. Any anglers having any luck?
(Lakes will be in view for nearly two miles, though trees sometimes hide it from view.)
Note the mounds in the lake that can be used by nesting fowls. There may also be nesting platform for loons.
The trail has been going through the woods and lakes, but it will now hug Hwy 371 for about a mile, reminding you that civilization is nearby.
Hay fields replace the trees as the trail passes through an open area.
Pequot Lakes (22), Jenkins to Pine River (31.3)
“Pasties for Sale”
Grace Trail Side Park (next to a church) offers shelter and picnic tables. Watch for the sign promoting homemade pasties for sale at Grace Methodist Church.
Pequot Lakes Visitor Center emerges. There’s plenty of parking and a large visitor center with rest rooms, water and information. This could be your trailhead if you want to park here and ride up or down the trail. 218-568-8911.
The trail continues through the city's green space, past a gazebo, picnic area and many businesses.
Spend some time near the trail to visit various spots where Paul has made his mark:
Paul Bunyan’s Bobber – The unique water tower located in the heart of Pequot Lakes happens to be the bobber that Paul used on one of his fishing rods years ago. The bobber has become a recognizable symbol in the Pequot Lakes community. Located downtown Pequot Lakes.
Paul Bunyan’s chair – Just below the bobber in Pequot Lakes sits a larger-than life chair that tall Paul used to kick back and relax. Although the chair doesn’t look to be that comfprtable, Paul thought it was great because he fit in it just perfectly.
Paul’s engagement ring for Lucette - Merrits Jewelers – Have your picture taken with Paul Bunyan’s engagement ring to his girlfriend Lucette at Merrit Jewelers. According to legend, the ring is a size 144, the same size as one of Sourdough Sam’s flapjacks, and the stone was discovered in a giant clamshell in Clamshell Lake on the Whitefish Chain, weighing 2,500 carats. Located near the bobber in Pequot Lakes.
Paul’s bootprints – Paul has left his giant boot prints in Pequot Lakes. His 5 foot wide by 14 foot long boot prints can be found near Dru’s Garden at Trailside Park right along the Paul Bunyan Trail.
Pequot Lakes Shopping along or near the Paul Bunyan Trail
Spend a relaxing day browsing the distinctive shops in Pequot Lakes. Pequot Lakes area businesses offer customers everything from name brands to high-quality locally-produced items ranging from furniture to clothing to crafts and gifts.
Pequot Lakes Restaurants along or Near the Paul Bunyan Trail
The menu is wide open for dining in the Pequot Lakes area. Visitors can enjoy the atmosphere of the areas dining locations from Ice Cream Shops, Pizza Parlors and sandwiches to award winning gourmet specials.
Pequot Lakes Events right along the Paul Bunyan Trail
Market in the Park. Visit Pequot Lakes on Thursdays from July 1 to September 2 for Market in the Park. The all day event includes a craft market/Flea market and food concessions along the Paul Bunyan Trail at Trailside Park. For kids, Bobber Bowling and a find the bobber contest is offered at the chamber building.
Stars and Stripes July 3-4th: Pequot Lakes Stars and Stripes Days features a Fireman’s Rodeo, carnival games, musical entertainment, food vendors, flea market and fireworks as well as the annual Parade as floats wind their way around town.
Bean Hole Days July 13-14: Bean Hole Days and the Arts and Crafts Fair In Pequot Lakes features secret recipe beans baked in huge pots overnight in the ground right along the trail in Trailside Park. Free meal includes a bowl of beans, a bun and lemonade.
Taste of Pequot The event features local restaurants selling samples from their individual menus, as well as handmade crafts from more than 70 craft booths in Trailside Park.
The trail goes over a bridge crossing Hwy 371 and continues through wooded areas for another mile.
Enough of the solitude; the trail pops out along Hwy 371, which it will parallel for the next dozen or so miles. The trail becomes less crowded, which means you won't have to say or hear, "Passing on your left." If you're with someone, you can ride side by side most of the way, or, if you are alone and on the move, you can maintain your pace without having to slow down for casual riders.
Swamps on your left give some natural vibes.
OK, just a little uphill, but it's short and no sweat.
Jenkins is the next small town on your trail; it's one of the smallest on the Paul Bunyan but can handle any need for food, drink or Lodging.
Blue Ox Flea Market - There is a new flea market/craft fair taking place on the East Side of the Trail throughout the summer. For info go to www.blueoxfleamarket.com
Wildwedge Golf & Mini Golf – Par 3 golf, mini golf, driving range. Located Hwy 371, 2 miles north of Pequot Lakes, next to AmericInn on East Side of Paul Bunyan Trail.
AmericInn Lodge & Suites of Pequot Lakes/Jenkins – 2 miles North of Pequot Lakes on the corner of 371 and County Road 16. Northwoods décor located right across from the Paul Bunyan Trail next to Wildwedge Golf and Mini Golf and Movie Theatre. Meeting Room, 2 room Family Suites, Whirlpool Suites and large recreation area with Playground, Volleyball, Frisbee golf and Patio. Bike Rental available with Cycle Path and Paddle.
A-Pine Family Restaurant – Highway 371 & County Road 16 2 miles north of Pequot Lakes next to AmericInn. Take your picture with the Paul Bunyan Statue! Enjoy Mary Ettas’s Pies.
Sunset Cinema – Next to AmericInn just east of Hwy 371 and County Rd 16
Kendall Candles Tour – Free 15 minute factory tours of over 400 candle designs including pinecones, linen lights, lodge lights, and cabin scents. Located in Jenkins 2.7 miles north of Pequot Lakes stoplight – on east side of Highway 371 opposite side of Paul Bunyan Trail.
Pretend that water comes from a creek, even if it's just from a big culvert. Notice all the young popple popping up.
A message on a tire warns not to trespass, but you probably wouldn't want to bike through a swamp anyway.
Another slight incline.
You can see a long descent -- and a slight incline after that.
The ditch on the left, which will accompany you for about a mile, produces all kinds of interesting plants, including all those orange tiger lilies.
Neat little wood-planked bridges break up the bituminous as the trail crosses Pine River here and at 30.7.
Little yellow flowers (birdsfoot trefoil) border both sides of the trail for a few tenths of a mile.
Trail Break Restaurant is directly off the Trail just before arriving into Pine River.
Pine River (31.3) to Hackensack
The Pine River visitor center, near the highway at the intersection of Hwy 371 and Barclay Avenue. There is plenty of parking and all kinds of
amenities to make this a convenient trailhead for your ride. The log cabin-style visitor center has bathrooms, water, staff, information brochures, chairs for relaxing and a picnic table/shelter. Railroad and history buffs will want to explore the refurbished railroad building.
Hackensack to Walker
Enjoy the bustling town of Hackensack as the trail goes right through it. Stop for a picnic in the park, take a dip in the lake, stop in the Visitor’s
Center for free maps and water, or use the restrooms. If you want to take a break, there are restaurants and shopping along
the trail or one block off the trail. You can also visit with Paul Bunyan's girlfriend Lucette.
Through the trees is a lake view again of Birch Lake. While you can hear traffic on Highway 371, you are protected by woods that create a buffer from the traffic noise and sights.
County Road 6
The trail crosses a busy highway, Cass County 6, which becomes Hubbard County 12 and goes into Akeley to the northwest.
Ten Mile Lake
There’s a bench to stop and enjoy the view of one of the cleanest lakes in Minnesota – Ten Mile Lake.
County Road 50
The trail crosses this road and will cross it again at M60 as it passes through the Chippewa National Forest.
Chippewa National Forest
This part of the trail is secluded as it winds through the forest. Grades are up to 8% with steep slopes and numerous curves. Caution is marked for inexperienced riders. It is highly recommended that you have water (available in Hackensack or Walker but not between), a tube repair kit and air pump, especially if you have narrow road bike tires.
The trip through the woods is scenic and many riders see wildlife as they travel. Caution is strongly recommended as some bikers travel down hill too fast and lose control.
Shingobee Connection Trail
For those who are not up to the challenge of the ride through the Chippewa National Forest, a new cut-off trail exists and travels for two miles and connects to Highway 200, where you can ride on the shoulder to the east side of downtown Walker.
Connection to Heartland Trail
The trail meets the Heartland Trail between Akeley and Walker and the next six miles follow beside Highway 34 into the west side of downtown Walker.
Walker (64.7) to LaPorte (76.2) 64.7
Walker ‘The City on the Bay’
Walker is the hub of the Paul Bunyan and Heartland Trails which makes it a perfect destination for a cycling vacation. Whether you approach by the trail systems from the north, west or south, take some time to enjoy the views of Leech Lake from either the City Park or the City Dock. Stay at the historical Chase on the Lake Hotel or any of the other fine hotels, resorts or campgrounds and enjoy the fine restaurants and shops. Take to the water for excellent fishing and any watersport you can imagine!
Start your ride from the north end of the parking lot on Railroad Ave, just behind Main Street and follow the Paul Bunyan Trail as you head north along the shore of Leech Lake.
65.4 (Scheduled to be paved to mile marker 82.4 by July 1.)
Shortly after leaving Walker you will see a map at the junction where the Heartland Trail from the west joins with the Paul Bunyan trail. Continue to the north. In the spring and early summer months you will see Marsh Marigolds and Showy (pink) and Yellow Ladyslippers at the edges of the wetlands. At approximately 0.7 miles, the trails part and the Paul Bunyan Trail heads to the east, crossing Highway 371/200.
Kabekona/Lake Benedict Channel
This section of the trail follows the south shore of Kabekona Bay of Leech Lake. Once dotted with small family run resorts, this lovely stretch of trail still has an occasional small resort interspersed with new luxury lake homes and townhouses. As you move away from the lakeshore, you will ride through woods and wetlands until you reach the bridge over the channel between Lake Benedict and Kabekona Bay of Leech Lake.
The Kabekona River connects to Kabekona Bay of Leech Lake. Just to the north of the bridge is Embracing Pines Bed and Breakfast. The owners cater to bicyclists and can transport bikes and riders to a number of distant trail points so they can enjoy a one way ride back. Guests can relax on the porch or under the pines, hike, or canoe all the way to Leech Lake in addition to biking the trail. The trail from here is bordered by wetlands, fields and forests. Observe a variety of wildflowers, which change with the seasons, birds, waterfowl and a variety of mammals including deer.
Named for a local resident and once a stop on the railroad, Benedict is now a tiny hamlet where locals meet for coffee at the Fort Benedict store. Stop for a snack and beverage before you continue on to LaPorte.
The trail follows Highway 200 and skirts the SW shore of Horseshoe Lake. Horseshoe Lake is actually two round bays connected by a horseshoe shaped channel.
Laporte (76.2) to Bemidji (100)
LaPorte is tiny, but between the grocery store, gas station and two pubs you can get a beverage and bite to eat or take a dip in Lake Garfield. Another local attraction is the award winning Forest Edge Winery a few miles south on State Highway 64. Of course, Itasca State Park, south on Highway 71 is a destination onto itself.
Trail access/parking lot on MN Hwy 200
Founded with the arrival of the railroad in 1898, this community was originally called Ann by Nelson Daughters, first postmaster, in honor of his deceased wife. The growing town was given the French name of Laporte, which means "the door" or "gateway" in 1901. The community was incorporated as a village in 1908. Today, with a 1990 population of 101, Laporte is the smallest incorporated city on the trail route. In addition, Laporte is located on scenic Garfield Lake which has a DNR developed public access. Although small, the city offers services including a grocery store, cafe, service stations. No water/restrooms available until Bemidji.
Pokety Creek rest stop
Trail access/parking lot off Hubbard Country Road 16
This small community and township are named for Archibald Guthrie, the contractor who built the railroad in this area. As should be expected, the population of the settlement is much smaller than it was during the peak logging years. The community is characterized by a near level landscape and a mixture of forest and open countryside. A cluster of houses, former business buildings, and a vacant church identifies the center of development.
Limited access to trail off Hubbard County Road 9
Nary, a small unincorporated settlement, is located about six miles south of Bemidji. Nary consists of a few scattered houses in a gently rolling, predominantly open landscape. Wetlands and a few stand of pine also exists in the area. A former store building, the school (now used as the Helga Township Hall), and the vacant church are the only noticeable reminders of times past. The handsome church has been inventoried by the Minnesota Historical Society.
Entering Bemidji, the trail merges to Clausen Street bike lane to Shevlin Street with a street light crossing of Paul Bunyan Drive/MN Hwy 197. The Loop the Lake Trail intersects with the Paul Bunyan trail here, with easy access to the downtown area, Hampton Inn & Suites and many dining, retail and support services. Bemidji is the trail region's second largest city. From intersection the trail follows the south shore, skirting the east shore of Lake Bemidji returning to the rail bed.
Wildlife watching opportunities abound – from turtle crossings to deer sightings and a variety of water fowl and bird species- including bald eagles. The rail bridge over the Mississippi River as it flows out of Lake Bemidji offers an excellent view of Lake Bemidji. The northern most portion of the 2,552 river miles, exits the east side of the lake and shortly turns south to flow to the Gulf of Mexico. Interpretive signage.
Northern Trailhead at Lake Bemidji State Park off Beltrami County Road 20 Vehicle permit required Bicycles- no fee
The last segment of the Paul Bunyan Trail ends at the junction of the Blue Ox Trail and entrance into Lake Bemidji State Park. As the trail enters the park a beautiful, forested, winding route welcomes you, with benches to rest and listen to the wind in the pines and chorus of critters in the woods. Trail head parking, restroom facilities, gift shop, sand beach and camping with interpretive center and programming including summer performing arts at outdoor amphitheater are but a few of the amenities of this diverse state park.