Tallgrass prairie region provides a Minnesota hiking alternative

While wooded hikes are popular in Minnesota, the woods are not required, as the tallgrass prairie region in the southwestern corner of the state offers unique places to get out and view the diverse landscape.

Getting lost in the woods while on a walk is a common problem in fairy tales, and in renowned horror stories. Even if you leave bread crumbs behind, in the style of Hansel and Gretel, if you venture off the trail, all of the rocks and trees start to look the same, eventually.

Minnesota is renowned for its big woods hiking, even though roughly one-third of Minnesota is tallgrass prairie, not forests, that dominate the landscape. And when hiking there, one quickly realizes that superlative hiking in Minnesota is not dependent on tree trunks surrounding you and a canopy of leaves or needles overhead.

Much of the swath in the middle of the country collectively known as the Great Plains was covered with a sea of tall grass two centuries ago, before the first Europeans arrived. One of the most onerous tasks the first prairie pioneers faced was breaking up those vast oceans of grass (and their underlying root systems) with their plows so they could grow crops for sustenance and to establish the American agrarian economy.

Like the vast forests of virgin timber that once covered all of northern Minnesota, before the loggers arrived, the uncut tallgrass prairie is all gone. Almost.

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