Trail: Paul Bunyan Trail, Brainerd to Hackensack

Description: This trail, with nearly 50 paved miles, is located on an old Northern Pacific railroad grade. It visits a lot of scenic areas in central Minnesota's resort country.

Getting there: There is a trailhead in Baxter, just off Excelsior Road. (We didn't start skating from the trailhead, so I don't remember the directions to get there. There should be signs around, though.) There are also trailheads in the small towns along the trail.

Length: The portion from Brainerd (actually, Baxter) to Hackensack is 46.4 miles long, according to the DNR. That's a lot of skating, but the intermediate towns on the trail are about 6 to 9 miles apart.

Difficulty: Easy. This trail is mostly flat, smooth, and relatively straight.

Popularity/number of other users: Since the trail isn't in the metro area, it isn't as busy as other trails. Expect to see other bikers, hikers, and inline skaters along the trail, though.

Surface condition: For the most part, the trail is in good condition. There are occasional cracks which have been sealcoated, but not to the point of being sticky.

Scenery: This trail is very scenic. It's tree-lined on either side, except for the occasional wetlands where you can see birds flying around. It wouldn't be resort country without the scenery.

Nearby restaurants: Baxter has a number of restaurants, thanks to their fast development. There are also restaurants in the small towns along the trail, including a Dairy Queen in Nisswa.

Water:  I didn't check to see if there's water at the Baxter trailhead, but there's water available at a stop in Merrifield and at the Dairy Queen in Nisswa. There are signs along the trail pointing out the restaurants and water.

Comments: If you go up to a resort anywhere in the area, be sure to bring your skates. This trail is definitely worth the trip. The scenery is outstanding.

Minnesota DNR - Paul Bunyan Trail

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