Paved trails for pedestrians and bikers abound in Minneapolis. More than 102 miles circle amazing natural amenities throughout our city (and that’s just the Grand Rounds trail mileage). And each year the city and the Park Board add more. We are very fortunate!
Do your knees, however, ask you for a slightly softer path to pursue? Are you looking for something off (or ON, maybe) a beaten path? Below are a few official and unofficial dirt paths to explore. And, please remember the “leave no trace” trail mantra… if a dirt path is muddy, please refrain from using it until it is sufficiently hard so as not to “leave a trace” of your use. Thanks.
1. Theodore Wirth
Photos courtesy MPRB (boardwalk), and The Loppet Foundation (trail running)
By far the big kahuna of unpaved trails in Minneapolis. The Loppet Foundation, housed at Wirth, is the leader in mountain biking and nordic skiing for the city and also organizes fantastic trail races. Their great running/hiking trail map of its 740 acre park (on par with NYC’s Central Park at 873 acres) lays out a wide variety of options: single track, natural, bike-free, advanced, etc. Get out there 4 times next year…once a season and you’ll find joy, I promise. For starters, park at the Trailhead and head southeast to the North Loop along Twin Lake. Extend your adventure to the south along Wirth Lake and Birch Pond. If you need to take a break, slow your pace and walk the paths of the Quaking Bog and Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden. Enjoy the rolling nature and solitude.
2. Winchell Trail (5 miles round trip)
This well-established but nicely hidden trail between Lake Street and Minnehaha Falls was featured as a Parks Foundation Walk & Talk. While biking or walking the paved paths of the river gorge (along Mississippi River Road), it can be hard to get a glimpse of the mighty river. Winchell Trail is about half way down the slope, and occasionally at the river’s edge. Trail access points are found throughout the route with basic starting and ending points near 27th Street to the north and 44th Street to the south.
3. Minnehaha Creek
From “the bunny” statue at Portland Ave to Lake Nokomis. (3 mile round trip) the south side of the creek hosts a maze of dirt trails between the paved walking trail and the creek. Wind your way toward Lake Nokomis … under Chicago Ave, across Bloomington Ave and under Cedar Ave before peeling off at the Weir that protects Lake Nokomis from any invasive species from the creek. Add the lake for another 3 miles.
4. Coldwater Spring (3+ miles)
Coldwater Spring is a restored oak savanna / prairie landscaped park of the National Park Service abutting MPRB’s dog park along the Mississippi, about 1.5 miles south of the round-about at Minnehaha Falls. Wonderful signage throughout gets you 3 loops totaling just over 3 miles and easy access to dirt paths heading down toward the riverfront for extra mileage and rougher terrain. Parking and entrance are just south of 54th Street and Hiawatha Ave.
5. Minnehaha Falls to the Mississippi (about 2 miles round trip)
Besides Theodore Wirth we don’t have a significant number of boardwalks in Minneapolis. This trail has its fair share. Take the stairs to the left of the waterfall overlook area. Head east (the only option) and you’ll have dirt trails or boardwalk on both sides of the creek as you make your way to a front row seat on the sandy beach of the Mississippi. Please be cognizant of your fellow park users, yield to those descending, and obey posted signage. Run happy!
Rock Steady Running offers trail-only events around the metro and on the Superior Hiking Trail. Highly recommend this organization for quality programming.