Murphy-Hanrehan Park Reserve is popular with many outdoor enthusiasts. A challenging mountain bike trail draws riders from all over the metro. Horse trails weave through another part of the 2400-acre park. Hikers are the minority users. While all the trails are open to hikers, the hiking-only trail is the gem here and you can often have it all to yourself. The three-mile route is restless and will get your heart pumping. Hikers looking to ease along a flat path with solid footing might consider a different choice.
From the parking lot, walk past the ski warming building and turn left when the trees clear. The trail starts downhill towards Hanrehan Lake and quickly ducks into heavy woods. Off to the left, the lake will occasionally peek through, but you"ll need to leave the trail to reach the shore. Continue to junction 1 and go straight. A quick lake view signals the first of many hills. The trail climbs straight up the fall line on a loose gravel tread then rolls along to another climb. A third climb puts you up on a narrow ridge. Don't wander from the middle, it is a long way down! The route doesn't linger long and a winding, rocky descent puts you back on low ground. A short bridge eases the passage through a cattail marsh and (surprise!) the path climbs back into the woods. Swing left at junction 3 and relax through a short flat section. Head uphill again for a sustained climb. A gate greets you just past the top. Behind the gate is a wildlife sanctuary and the main reason why Murphy-Hanrehan is a DNR-acknowledged Important Bird Area. This access is always closed. Turn right onto the narrow singletrack and follow it to the next gate. This gate opens in August to allow visitors into the sanctuary hiking loop. For most of the summer, though, turn right onto the wide trail to continue the hike.
Go straight at junction 10 then ease right at 11. This is the longest flat section of the trail and a well-earned rest. At junction 22, start down the final long twisty hill. The road will appear to your left and the trail will parallel it back to the starting point.