How to Find Local Parks & Trails

how to find local parks and trails

2020 is the perfect year to find local parks, trails, waterways and campgrounds that are new-to-you.

You know how most of us think we have to go on a road trip or hop on a plane to get to the cool places, while ignoring most of the cool places in our local area?

Well, with COVID, social distancing, limited park services, and close-to-home campaigns happening, there’s never been a better time to discover those local spots.

Here are some ways to do that…

Research Your County’s Parks & Rec Website Section

I live in the Twin Cities are of Minnesota, so there are several counties in my local area, each with its own Parks & Recreation department. I’ve found they each have various levels of thoroughness in their online information—from hardly any to wonderful.

But even the least helpful web pages give you a decent place to start: your local regional and county parks. At the very least, they’ll be listed with an address and the types of activities available at each one.

The good ones will have plenty of helpful information including trail mileages, gear rental details, any fees and how to get permits, etc.

crosby farm regional park hiking trail
Sometimes the only information you get on a local park is its address—then it’s time to go explore for yourself!

Dig into Your City’s Parks & Rec Department

Larger cities have their own Parks & Rec department, so that’s another place to dig in. City parks, regional bike trails, canoe and kayak launches, ski trails—if they’re funded by your city instead of the county or state, they’ll be here.

Check Out Your State’s State Parks Website

For Minnesotans we have the Minnesota DNR (Department of Natural Resources) and Explore Minnesota (the state tourism entity).

Your state will have something similar. Research both your state government’s natural resources department and your state’s tourism department to find parks and trails in your local area.

Look at the National Park Service Website

Do you have a national park, monument, water trail or natural area near you? You may be surprised at what’s close by that you never knew about!

Go to the National Park Service’s website to search and learn about specific areas near you.

hiking afton state park
It was my sister-in-law who put me onto this hiking trail in one of our local state parks

Ask Your Local Outdoors Retailers & Outfitters

Outfitters are in the business of knowing the best outdoor destinations in their area to bring their guests. You may find plenty of info on their website.

A super way to get to know more about your area is to sign up for a tour, then talk to your guide and ask for his or her suggestions of favorite places.

Local outdoors retailers are another good resource since most of their employees will be outdoor lovers, too. Next time you’re in the store to make a purchase, ask the staff for ideas.

Find Local Clubs and Groups

Many metropolitan areas host local clubs and groups that are outdoors based: biking clubs, hiking clubs, paddling clubs, climbing clubs.

You can find these in a few different ways:

  • Online search for club/group websites
  • Social Media search (Facebook, especially)
  • If outdoors retailers have a bulletin board in their store, you’ll likely find info about outdoors clubs and groups there
kayaking a local creek, saint paul
A local group website gave the best details about kayaking this urban creek near me

Search for Facebook & Discussion Groups

Sometimes an online discussion group will be your best source of information. If you can find one near you that covers the activity/activities you enjoy, join it and jump in.

Most outdoor lovers take delight in sharing their photos, adventures and suggestions!

Ask Your Outdoorsy Friends (and invite yourself along!)

And of course, if you have friends and family members who are active outside, invite yourself along! Or at the very least, ask them for their favorite trails, parks, waterways and campgrounds.

Sometimes it’s hard to match up schedules, but you can always get ideas and head out on your own.

If you live in the Twin Cities area of Minnesota like I do, I’ve done the work for you! Head to Twin Cities Outdoors to find loads of local trails, parks, waterways and campgrounds!

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