Heartland State Trail
The Heartland State Trail is another must-see destination in the heart of Minnesota’s lake country. Numerous towns, resorts and parks provide amenities to the rider on one of Minnesota’s most visited recreational trail systems. Read more …
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Along the Trail
Park Rapids to Dorset
The official start of the Heartland Trail is at Park Rapids’ Heartland Park, which has shelters, restrooms, a swimming beach and a bridge across the Fish Hook River. Your six-mile journey to Dorset will take you through scenery ranging from thick woods to grasslands dotted with lakes. The popular trailhead in Dorset has access to shops and restaurants, a large parking lot, outdoor toilet, playground and shaded picnic areas. The corral on the other side of the trail is for those on horses who use the unpaved trail parallel to the paved trail.
Dorset to Nevis
The next five miles to Nevis are quite pleasant. The trail travels through the woods with glimpses of an occasional pond. Pines and poplar trees are plentiful and birch stand out nicely from the green background. Just before you get to Nevis, enjoy views of Shallow and Belle Taine Lakes as you cross over the channel connecting the two.
Nevis to Akeley
The rest area in Nevis has water and restrooms. Stop and see a statue of the World’s Largest Tiger Muskie. In Akeley, stop and sit in Paul Bunyan’s hand for a picture.
Akeley to Walker
The Heartland Trail and the Paul Bunyan Trail share a trail segment from just northeast of Akeley to Walker. At a parking lot a few miles outside of Akeley, riders can turn onto the Paul Bunyan Trail and ride through the Chippewa National Forest. This 8-mile segment on paved logging roads-turned-trail has a grade of up to 8 percent. It hooks up to the Shingobee Connection Trail into Walker. Alternatively, you can continue on the shared segment and access the town of Walker that way. Just outside of town, the Paul Bunyan and Heartland Trails part ways. The Paul Bunyan Trail continues northwest to Bemidji, while the Heartland Trail continues northeast to Cass Lake.
Walker to Cass Lake
North of Walker, you’ll need to ride two miles on a paved road shoulder to get from one section of the trail to the other. The trail skirts the west side of Leech Lake, then cuts through some woods and marshland and parallels Highway 371 for 10 miles to Cass Lake. At 41 miles, there is a large steel bridge, which once carried trains across Steamboat River.
In Walker, connect to the Shingobee Trail near Chase on the Lake Resort. This 7-mile combination of road routes and standalone trail crosses Shingobee Bay on the south end of Leech Lake and will take you to the Paul Bunyan Trail. Go south at this intersection toward Hackensack or west through the Chippewa National Forest and loop back to Walker via the Heartland/Paul Bunyan Trail.
Near Cass Lake, where the trail intersects with County Road 76, connect with the Mi-Gi-Zi Trail by riding about a half a mile east on a signed road route. Follow the 14-mile trail counterclockwise around Pike Bay’s beautiful shores and the Chippewa National Forest and arrive at a trailhead north of Pike Bay after about ten miles. From there, a signed bike route will take you back to the Heartland Trail on quiet city streets through Cass Lake.
Future expansions of the Heartland include an 86-mile segment from Park Rapids west to Moorhead and a 20-mile extension north from Park Rapids to Itasca State Park.