Three Minnesota Hike and Brewery Day Trips You Probably Hadn't Thought Of
Updated: Dec 4, 2022
We're on a journey to visit each of Minnesota's 66 state parks! In 2021, we made it to 30 unique parks (and a couple of repeats), and we've set a goal to see another 15 in 2022. It's been so fun to see parts of the state that we wouldn't have otherwise explored via these little road trips, and we've discovered some great craft breweries for post-hike refreshments too! Here are three day trip itineraries for hikes and breweries, all within a couple hours drive of the Twin Cities.
Glacial Lakes + Monson Lake + Sibley State Parks = Goat Ridge Brewing Company
At a little over two hours northwest of Minneapolis, Glacial Lakes State Park is a great place to start this day trip. The park features a unique landscape of rolling hills and prairies along with some interesting landforms like kames and kettles which were left behind when glaciers moved through the area over a million years ago. There are three named lakes in the park as well as a few smaller bodies of water. We enjoyed the varied terrain of the Hiking Club trail and the High Peak trail and paused for a photo when we reached the top of the peak!
Monson Lake State Park is about 40 minutes southeast of Glacial Lakes State Park, and it's the smallest state park we have visited yet! The park is on an isthmus - it's a spit of land that sits between two lakes. There are a handful of campsites, but the only trail at this park is the Hiking Club trail and it's just a mile long! This bite-sized park is perfect for visiting in conjunction with Glacial Lakes, or nearby Sibley State Park.
When we visited Sibley State Park over the summer, we knew our day hike was only scratching the surface of all there is to do at the park. With a couple of interpretive trails and wildlife viewing areas, a large swimmable beach with kayak and canoe rentals, lots of camping, and extensive hiking trails, there is something for everyone. We enjoyed the Mount Tom Trail (also the Hiking Club trail) for its varied terrain, great viewpoints, and fun elevation. On the day we visited, Bert and Ernie both managed to pick up a ton of burrs from plants along the side of the trail, so be careful! We'd recommend you tackle Sibley State Park on its own, or maybe in conjunction with little Monson Lake. You're a super hiker if you can cover all three of these parks in a single day trip!
Whichever combination of these parks you choose to visit, you'd be remiss to pass up a visit to Goat Ridge Brewing Company after your hike(s). Right in downtown New London, Goat Ridge is about 20 minutes from Monson Lake State Park and just 5 minutes away from Sibley. If you're a hungry hiker, you're in luck since Goat Ridge has an in-house kitchen serving pizza, chili, and warm chocolate chip cookies. When the weather is nice, pups are welcome on the patio.
Jay Cooke + Moose Lake State Parks = Moose Lake Brewing
Jay Cooke State Park, one of the most popular parks, sits about two hours north of the Twin Cities. Beautiful to visit all year round, Jay Cooke is the closest state park to Duluth and acts as a gateway to the beauty of the North Shore and its many state parks and scenic areas. Be sure to take a picture on the park's iconic swinging bridge and keep an eye out for the blue blazes that mark places where the Superior Hiking Trail crosses through the park. If you visit in winter, be sure to be keep an eye on which trails are marked for skiing vs. snowshoeing, and take advantage of the trail shelters to have a rest and refuel!
Thirty minutes south towards the Twin Cities, you'll find Moose Lake State Park. This smaller park was established to provide more campsite availability in the area, so it has a quieter feel. Somewhat interestingly, Moose Lake itself doesn't actually fall within the park's bounds! We enjoyed snowshoeing along the Echo Lake Trail to the Rolling Hills Trail (the Hiking Club trail at this park) - the trails were mostly forested so would make for a nice, shady summertime hike. Unique to this park (although closed when we visited) is the Agate and Geological Interpretive Center, which showcases the Lake Superior agates found in the area and notable for their red, orange, and yellow colors caused by the high concentration of iron in the quartz.
Just a short 5 minute drive away from the park is Moose Lake Brewing Company. The cabin-cozy brewery has lots of games available along with an extensive tap list. Check out the walls and see if you can find a sticker from your favorite brewery - they have stickers from all over the state and country! We had fun spotting stickers from breweries we'd visited as far away as North Carolina and Alaska! Dogs are welcome on the patio outside.
Sakatah Lake + Nerstrand Big Woods = Tanzenwald Brewing
Head about an hour south of Minneapolis to reach Sakatah Lake State Park. This park is gorgeous in the fall as the woods turn to gold. We covered the Hiking Club trail, the Big Woods loop, and a section of the Wahpekute trail that took us right along the lakeshore. Sakatah Lake isn't actually a true lake at all, but a widening of the Cannon River (similar to how Lake Pepin is actually part of the Mississippi River). The park is bisected by the Singing Hills State Trail, a paved trail that runs 39 miles from Mankato to Faribault.
Drive about half an hour east of Sakatah Lake to Nerstrand Big Woods State Park, a gorgeous park known for its waterfall! When we visited in the summer, we were in the midst of a drought so the falls were down to a dribble. The big woods are cool and shady to hike through, which made this a great place to bring the dogs during the summertime. A highlight of our visit to Nerstrand was when we walked right up to two baby racoons climbing a tree near the trail!
Tanzenwald Brewing is a great spot to grab a beer or lunch after your hikes are complete. It's about a half hour north of both parks in Northfield, the cute college town home to both St. Olaf College and Carleton College. Tanzenwald has a full menu and they even take reservations on OpenTable if you want to schedule your day out ahead of time. Dogs are welcome on the patio - we really appreciated that the tables were well-spaced so Bert and Ernie had plenty of room to relax without being underfoot.
We'll keep exploring and be sure to share more day trip recommendations soon!