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Carlton and Thomson Trail Loop is a 5.5 mile moderately trafficked out and back trail located near Esko, Minnesota that features a river and is good for all skill levels. The trail is primarily used for hiking, walking, trail running, and nature trips. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

Length 5.5 mi Elevation gain 334 ft Route type Out & Back
Dogs on leash Kid friendly Hiking Nature trips Walking Running Forest River Wildlife
Description
Waypoints (0)

Rugged and scenic trail with many amazing views

Weather
UV Index
Daylight
Reviews (113)
Photos (247)
Recordings (109)
Completed (103)
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Ashley Watermolen
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Hiking
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Steven Shega
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Hiking

Great trail! We may have gotten off the beaten path at the start - it definitely wasn't easy to start. Lots of rock and mud when we were here, but loved it nonetheless.

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Caitlin Bond
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HikingMuddyRocky

Mostly an excellent experience. Some of the trail was extremely muddy, but most of it was well maintained. Some sections are paved and too easy. The park was far too busy in the afternoon, would suggest arriving before 9.

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Sarah Hanson
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Hiking

Great trail. Half is muddy and rocky so wear good shoes and bring hiking poles.

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Bun Navigators
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HikingGreat!

oh yeah I've done this trail and almost forgot. views are good on one section, trail needs good signage though, would use a GPS app because theres a million ski trails that's hard to navigate lol

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Alicia Hunt-Welch
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HikingMuddyRockyScramble

Muddy in spots. This trail needs signage in a bad way. Lost the trail at the cemetery and ended up walking back along the highway until intersected with the CCC Trail.

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Kristin Hod
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Hiking

This was such a fun trail. I agree with other users that it’s not marked super well and cell service is a no go, but the sites make it so worth it! I ended up stopping at multiple points just to sit and take in the view (they have multiple benches to sit throughout as well as great rocks over looking the water) would definitely like to explore here more in the future.

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Jennifer Rivera
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HikingRocky

A trail with absolutely stunning views. Very rocky, with at least one point where you have to scramble down about 8 feet. Trail is not as well marked as I would like, and our internet was good on the “road” side of the river, nonexistent on the beautiful side. So download that map ahead of time!! If you aren’t used to rocky trails your feet might hurt at the end (mine did) but the views make this trail 100% worth it.

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Aracely Guevara
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HikingRocky

Not a lot of signs

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Samuel Wilson
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HikingOff trailRocky

Didn’t really hike the whole trail because it was so much fun just hopping around on the rocks in/along the River. Super beautiful and fun place!

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Lily Meyer
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HikingBugsMuddyRocky

This was a great trail! Overall pretty easy to follow and great for a sunrise hike!

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Drew Webb
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Hiking

spent a lot of time on all the sites. even spent about 15 minutes stopped to stay out of some good showers. don’t go straight to the bridge, start out heading to the right of the River Inn (Northwest) and up the river. save the playing on the rocks and bridge for last and it makes it the reward for all the hard work. some spots could b muddy. fortunately for us there was a workaround for every single spot of mud. my of this route is shaded so that was a plus!

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Corbin Heimsness
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HikingBugsMuddyRocky

Love love love! Little bit of everything! About almost half way is a water hole that leads to the falls. Great place to cool down on the rest of the back half! Bugs are out so spray your self down!

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Jamie Vang
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HikingBugsMuddyOff trailRocky
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Krista Panosian
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HikingMuddy

Beautiful! I jogged most of it and had a wonderful time. Stunning views of the river and really easy to navigate for the most part. As other reviews say, little confusing when it puts you out on the road but you’ll eventually find the path and be good to go!

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Jake Stendahl
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Hiking

Utterly breathtaking. Fun hike on the Carlton section that provides a good challenge. My dog loved it. You’re going to have to hike on the road a bit that has no shoulder to connect to Thompson Trail. You’ll hop back on when you see the sign that says Thompson cemetery. Don’t follow the trail that goes down to the shoreline, it’s a desire path and hard to get back up. Also there’s another path out the back of the cemetery that looks pretty convincing at first but this is how I got lost. I’m going to go camping here just so I can experience this beautiful area again. Took us 3 hours to complete.

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Lynnie Loucks
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Very beautiful! Going across the bridge is breathtaking and the sound of the falls is just relaxing. Lots of unevenness. I would give about 4 hours for a soft pleasure hike.

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julie_journeys on instagram
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Hiking

I really enjoyed this loop! Some varying terrains, the most scenic sections are by the bridges - crazy gushing water right now. Some wildflowers. A bit of mud, nothing too crazy You can park by the bike path on Thompson Road for free. Follow my instagram for more adventures @julie_journeys

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sam kossan
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MuddyRocky

The transition from Carlton trail to Thompson is a little strange. I wouldn't call this a loop. this is two trails that are connected by having to walk on the road. Still beautiful hike

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