Walks and Hikes
Mississippi River Visitor Center Walking Tour (Healthy River, Healthy You)
120 W Kellogg Blvd, St. Paul MN 55102
This self-guided walk provides an introduction to the geology, history, and nature of the Mississippi River. Print the map found on the Healthy River, Healthy You webpage and download the .mp3 files to your smart phone. Plan on spending about 90 minutes on this 1.5 mile walk starting at the Mississippi River Visitor Center. The Visitor Center (free) is in the lobby of the museum. We have the map available at the visitor center, but not the downloads. The Museum has restrooms and meals available in no-fee areas and parking is available at the ramp behind the Museum.
Mill Ruins Park (Google Map)
103 Portland Ave. S, Minneapolis, MN 55401
Mill Ruins Park lies southeast of the Stone Arch Bridge on the west bank. The suggested walk takes paved or hard surfaced trails past the ruins of the flour mills and beneath the historic Stone Arch Bridge. Stroll past the mill races and ruins being sure to stop and read the interpretative panels along the way.
Stone Arch Bridge (Google Map)
The Stone Arch Bridge once carried James J. Hill’s flour-laden trains to eastern markets. On the east end of the bridge relax at the gazebo in Father Hennepin Bluff Park.The ancient portage trail around the falls used by fur traders, soldiers, explorers and Native Americans ran through this park, although no traces of it remain.Father Hennepin may have first spotted the falls he named St. Anthony from near this location.
Water Power Park (Google Map)
206 Main St SE Minneapolis, MN 55414
Water Power Park celebrates the location of the first commercial hydro-electric plant in the United States. Visitors can get close to
Minnehaha Regional Park (Google Map)
4801 South Minnehaha Park Dr., Minneapolis, MN 55417
The Minnehaha Regional Park contains a series of easy paved trails take visitors around the gorge rim into which spills the beautiful Minnehaha Falls. The more adventurous walker can reach trails in the gorge itself via a series of stone staircases and walk trails along the swiftly flowing Minnehaha Creek as it winds its way towards the Mississippi River. There are both restrooms and restaurants in the area. There is a parking fee.
Winchell Trail (Google Map)
The 5 mile roundtrip Winchell Trail is a hiking-only trail on the west bank between Franklin Avenue and 44th Street. Unpaved trails break away from the main trail along the bluffs and cut into the woods, permitting additional exploration of the Mississippi Gorge. One section takes the hiker down to the river while another crosses an oak savanna restoration. Some sections are rugged and may be muddy after storms. There are also a number of stairs along the route. Between 38th Street and 44th Street the Winchell Trail is paved and is separated from the bike path.
Scientific and Natural Areas
Scientific and Natural Areas (SNAs) fall under the jurisdiction of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and are deemed to have special importance due to exceptional wildlife, botanical, or geological values. SNAs have special rules designed to preserve those values. See the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources web page on rules for visiting state scientific and natural areas. Typically, SNAs have few or no trails, but the lack of trails offer a certain sense of adventure as one is free to wander widely.
There are no restrooms or drinking water at either of these two locations at this time. Be sure to take sufficient water, especially during warm summer months. There are no admission fees at SNAs.
Grey Cloud Dunes Scientific and Natural Area (Google Map)
The dunes are covered with a fascinating plant community that makes plant identification both challenging and rewarding. Be sure to take along a flower book as flowers bloom here from early spring to late fall. Hikers also are rewarded by views of the Mississippi River from the top of the dunes. Watch for blue racer snakes and prairie skinks (lizards) during warmer months. Both of these species are unusual for this part of Minnesota.
A short hike will take the visitor to the top of the dunes, but there are many possibilities for both short and longer hikes. In some areas, loose sandy soils make for poor footing; use caution to avoid injury in this isolated area. It may be advisable to share your adventure with a partner.
The Mississippi River Companion provides maps and other information that will help you decide which trails you might enjoy.