When you’re ready for a great outdoors vacation, there’s no better place to do it than at Gull Lake! Widely renowned as one of Minnesota’s best outdoor recreation areas, the Gull Lake region is home to a huge variety of areas to explore. From family-friendly adventures to hardcore fitness challenges, you’ll find everything you’re looking for at Gull Lake!
Start Out Gentle
Warm up your outdoor explorations with a walk around the Northland Arboretum in the city of Brainerd. It’s a great place to visit in all seasons. See wildflowers blooming in the spring, enjoy the greenery of summer, view changing leaves in fall, and you can even enjoy the trails in winter! In fact, Northland becomes a prime spot for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing, with trails graded for beginner to intermediate levels. Leashed dogs are also welcome on Northland’s trails, and the wide, flat, and mowed trails are perfect for a jogging stroller.
Hop on Your Bike
Northland Arboretum also happens to be located at the beginning of one of Minnesota’s great wonders: the Paul Bunyan Trail. This incredible paved trail offers 120 miles of adventure to travelers of all ages, and is an ideal place for walking, rollerblading, and of course, cycling! Running from Brainerd to Lake Bemidji State Park, the Paul Bunyan Trail passes through numerous small towns (offering great spots for meals along the way), as well as alongside all sorts of gorgeous scenery in every season. You’ll also be pleased to know that there is an abundance of clean restrooms along the way, and that the trail is well maintained for easy riding. The southern section near Brainerd, Nisswa, and Gull Lake is mostly flat, so no one needs worry about kids complaining they don’t want to climb hills! Most of the trail is shaded by trees, except for a few sections that travel through marshes. Bug repellent is highly recommended in summer months.
You’ll cruise through lakes, forests, state parks, and more when you head out for a day trip along the Paul Bunyan Trail. It’s definitely the best place you could imagine for a cycling journey with a family, when you don’t want to take a chance of being near any cars. Another thing the kids will love is the abundance of geocaches to be found along the way; over 1000 are hidden along the length of the Paul Bunyan Trail! In winter, you can still enjoy the trail, as cross-country skiing and snowmobiling become options.
If you prefer mountain biking explorations, rather than a paved trail, check out the Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area. The lakes in this area are former mine pits, now stocked with fish, so you might hear this place called the Cuyuna Mine Pits as well. It’s popular for canoeing, fishing, and even scuba diving, but also for its network of mountain bike trails! With over 30 miles of trails to explore, you can easily have a great day here in this beautiful wilderness area near Ironton.
Lace Up Your Hiking Boots!
When you’re ready for a walk instead, a great spot for it is the Crow Wing State Park in Brainerd. Start with a visit to the Old Crow Wing Town Site, at the confluence of the Mississippi and Crow Wing Rivers. Informational signs share the history of the area and the frontier town that once stood here; then head up to Chippewa Lookout for some amazing views above the river. Then head out on the Crow Wing Confluence Trail, a 5.5-mile loop that is absolutely perfect from March through October. Bring your binoculars if you’re into birding, and enjoy wildflowers or changing leaves, depending on the season. This beautiful trail is great for kids, as it’s pretty flat, and dogs on leashes are also welcome.
Another fun place to hike is at Mille Lacs Kathio State Park, on the shores of Mille Lacs Lake. This lake is a bit to the east of Gull Lake and is much larger. The Mille Lacs Loop is a beautiful trail that’s just over 5.5 miles and includes river scenery as well as being near Mille Lacs. It’s also great for kids and dogs! If you want to do a shorter version, you can take the Landmark Loop trail for a 3.5-mile version.
For an easy forest walk that’s right on the shores of Gull Lake, head to the west side of the lake, and Pillsbury State Forest. Though not as picturesque for some, because it’s actually an old logging road, the trail here is three miles in each direction, and is popular for trail running. And it’s also dog-friendly, just like the other trails in the area.
Have fun planning your outdoor adventure trip to the Gull Lake area!