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LENGTH 8 miles
DATE November 4, 2017
MAIN FEATURES Forests, grasslands, marshes, and wetlands
Lebanon Hills Regional Park is located in the Minnesota cities of Eagan and Apple Valley. The 1,869-acre park, the largest in Dakota County. This park has been on my list for a while since it’s fairly close to home and has come highly recommended for hiking, mountain biking, paddling and all sorts of winter activities. It offers longer trails than some of the other regional parks with 14.6 miles of hiking and ski trails and another 12 miles of mountain biking trails.
We started the morning at the epic REI 3 day Tent sale, and scored some upgraded gear options for our SHT hike. I will post those plus my tips for making the most out of the Garage Sale/Scratch n’ Dent sale in a separate post.
We started out at the Jensen Lake Trail headed and walked along the South side of Jensen lake. We had a couple of inches of snow on the ground on the West side of the city when I left in the morning and there wasn’t even a speck of it at the park. So much for needing my yak tax.
A trail runner passed us, and then we saw a Fairy House with lots of “treasures” in it. I love little surprises like this and can imagine it makes this park even more special for little ones and families.
Our hike continued winding along Bridge Pond, OBrien Pond, and Lily Lake and found a bridge that looked brand new and a couple of curvy boardwalks.
We got back onto the thick forest just before Portage Lake, and it felt like we were days away from the city. This was my favorite section of the trail. The trees were covered in plush green moss and the trail carpeted in spongy leaves. I had my mileage tracker on during this hike, but really had no expectations on distance….just to explore and enjoy these last warm days before we shift to Snowshoeing and Winter Gear.
We stopped quick at the Visitor Center on the East side of the park and started making our way back. We ran into some Cub Scouts on a hike and found the most awesome boardwalk on McDonough Lake!
Near the end of our hike, we found another little surprise on the trail, a painted rock that stood out so beautifully on a drab gray day. The temperature started to drop a little and look like rain, so we picked up the pace for the last leg and managed to get back to the car RIGHT before it started raining. Perfect timing.
Overall, this is a regional park that has a lot of recreational options and deserves year round exploring. It is accessible for all levels and you can even practice portaging your canoe here for that BWCA trip you’ve been thinking about! Check out their detailed map for more info.