|Distance||5 miles roundtrip|
|Terrain||A few hills|
- Pass multiple scenic lakes
- Enjoy beautiful forest not far from the city
Lebanon Hills Regional Park is one of the premier hiking destinations in the Twin Cities, and the Voyageur Trek is the hallmark hike of the park. I previously visited this park in March but was unable to hike because all of the trails were covered in thick, slippery ice. I'm glad I finally had a chance to return because this is one of the better hikes in the Twin Cities, and it is clear that Dakota County has recently invested in maintaining this park with several new boardwalks and bridges. This is an excellent place to spend an afternoon in any season.
Dogs are allowed on leash. This hike is too long to be family friendly, but most of the trails here connect to form shorter loops. The Visitor Center Trailhead has the best family friendly options, though there is a playground at this trailhead. You can hike this entire route all year round. When I visited, it was the first sunny day in a week, and it seemed like everyone had the same idea as me. Expect to see plenty of people on the weekends, and possibly even on weeknights when it's still light outside.
From the parking lot, follow the paved trail down past the playground to Jensen Lake. Navigation here is easy thanks to the numbered poles placed at each intersection with maps interspersed throughout the park. Even better, the Voyageur Trek has green placards on those poles pointing you in the right direction. Once you reach intersection 4, turn right as indicated by the green placard. This section of trail hugs the lake, giving you views like pictured at the top of the page. Soon you'll see evidence of the major investment this park has received as you walk on brand new boardwalk, which wiggles around to make it more exciting than your standard straight boardwalk -- see the picture below.
At some point ahead, there will be an unmarked split in the trail. Follow the narrower path (the other path looks like a road); if you reach another unmarked intersection and something feels off, turn around (I did this myself). You'll eventually run into another intersection post if you're on the right path. Shortly after intersection 24, you'll pass O'Brien Lake, pictured below. After passing O'Brien Lake, the trail winds by Cattail Lake. A short uphill climb will take you to the elevated view of Cattail Lake pictured below, one of the nicest overlooks on the trail. Once you pass Cattail Lake, the trail will soon bend to the south. You'll see what looks like a major trail intersection, but technically this trail does not connect to the other trails at this point (near intersection 34 on the map). At intersection 33, continue heading south; the trail heading left is a spur of the Voyageur Trek that leads to the Visitor Center Trailhead. In the next section of trail, you will encounter another unmarked intersection with a wider, roadlike trail. This time, you will walk on the "road" for a short time, but follow the narrow trail when it splits again. Eventually, you'll see O'Brien Lake again on your right. At intersection 31 ahead, you'll cross a dirt road (actually a horse trail), then you'll reach Bridge Pond. You can see more evidence of the money spent on this park with the sturdy bridge over Bridge Pond. Soon after crossing the bridge, the trail will meet intersection 8 where the loop started earlier. Simply retrace your steps back to the parking lot from this point. What a hike! I bet there are very few other places in the U.S. where you can hike past this many lakes while being inside a metropolitan area. Let me know what you think in the comments section below, and be sure to use #nocoastbestcoast on Twitter and Instagram!
From St. Paul, take Interstate 35E south and take the exit for Pilot Knob Road. Merge onto the road and continue heading south. Look for the sign for Lebanon Hills Regional Park, then turn left onto Carriage Hills Drive. Turn right into the parking area.
From Minneapolis, take Interstate 35W south then exit for Minnesota Highway 62 east. Take the exit for Minnesota Highway 77 south, cross the bridge, then take the exit for Cliff Road. Turn left, then turn right on Pilot Knob Road. Look for the sign for Lebanon Hills Regional Park, then turn left onto Carriage Hills Drive. Turn right into the parking area.
Google Maps Directions
Parking, Fees, and Facilities
Parking is free! There are flush toilets as well as a picnic area and playground near the lot.