Winona is such a great place for walks any time of the year! The city itself is mostly flat and lends itself to casual strolls down tree-lined streets or in gorgeous city parks. Of course, if you are after a more strenuous adventure, the majestic bluffs that rise above the Mississippi River valley offer all the nature and exercise you could hope for on miles upon miles of beautiful trails.
Emily Kurash Casey knows Winona. She serves on the board of Visit Winona and is an ‘Ask a Local’ expert, has worked with the Great River Shakespeare Festival, the Winona Area Chamber of Commerce as the Main Street coordinator, and now with Rethos (formerly the Preservation Alliance of Minnesota) as its rural program coordinator. She’s also an avid walker around Winona. Odds are if you’ve strolled around town, you’ve seen her and her husband David Casey out and about with their friendly pup, Fergus.
We asked Emily for her recommendations of great places to amble in Winona, and she put together a top five list of casual routes that are suitable for anyone who wants to stretch their legs. Her choices are the subject of our latest installment of Visit Winona’s Short List!
1. Lake Winona
The trail around Lake Winona is most generally referred to around town as ‘the bike path’, but you’ll find folks jogging, rollerblading, skateboarding, and of course, walking on these beautifully maintained paved lanes that circle lovely our lovely lake. The path measures about 5 and a half miles all the way around, but you can walk any length of it you’d like. Huff Street separates the two sections of the lake, with East Lake Winona’s section of path coming in at about 3.7 miles, and West Lake at 1.8 miles. And there’s so much to see on your walk! There are great views of the bluffs, a rose garden, numerous piers and docks, a frisbee golf course, a lodge that rents equipment, the beautiful Winona Bandshell, Visit Winona’s Information Center, and so much more!
2. Woodlawn Cemetery
Woodlawn Cemetery was established in 1862, making it the oldest cemetery in the area. It’s a huge estate, resting in a cradle of bluffs, and is interwoven with beautiful tree lined roads. Many of the notable families of Winona are buried within this cemetery including the Watkins Family, the Lamberton Family, the Huff Family and the Wanek Family. The cemetery contains many beautiful and elaborate mausoleums, headstones, and obelisks. It’s also the final resting spot of the only known Revolutionary War soldier buried in Minnesota!
3. Holzinger Trails
The Holzinger Trails are made up of winding curves as they fork and wander about 12 miles through a mature hardwood forest and blufftop. There’s walks for all levels of hikers here, with plenty of flat, well groomed trails, to steeper climbs up to incredible vista points. These trails are beautiful in any season- wildflowers abound in spring, and they are lovely in their fall colors. The hiking paths are shared with cyclists, and with skiers and snowshoers in the winter, so its best to use reasonable caution.
4. Downtown Winona
If a more urban setting is what you’re after, a stroll through downtown Winona will delight you! Large swaths of our city center are designated as a National Historic District, and you’ll find everything from grand Victorian-era buildings, to masterpieces of Prairie School architecture- like Merchant’s and Winona National Banks. Independent retailers fill the quaint storefronts, and there are a plethora of coffeehouses where you can stop for a delicious treat.
5. Aghaming Park
Bring your hiking boots and long pants for a trek through Aghaming Park, 1,950 acres of some of the best preserved floodplain forest in the country and a pristine destination for bird watching. Start your walk on Latsch Island, just across the interstate bridge from downtown Winona, go over the old Wagon Bridge (be sure to stop and take in the views of Winona’s famous boathouse community), and continue down a road with a gorgeous tree canopy, or veer off to the right to find trails that meander through the lush riverside forest.
Of course, Emily’s list is only the tip of the iceberg of walks in the area. Winona has more places for fantastic saunters than we could possibly name here. It’s a treat to stroll through the lovely neighborhoods of Winona, or through the Winona State or St. Mary’s Universities Campuses. Levee Park stretches across the riverfront in downtown Winona, and Prairie Island also offers gorgeous views of the Mississippi. There are also many natural parks within a short driving distance of town. Check out the Trempealeau Wildlife Refuge and Perrot State Park, Great River Bluffs State Park, Whitewater Sate Park, and many many more beautiful spots! Happy Walking!
More resources for safe walking can be found here