Walks and Hikes

A woman on a hike stops to examine a tree.
Walks
These selected walks are generally on hard-surfaced trails, relatively level and generally shorter than hikes. They also usually have amenities, such as restrooms and drinking water and easy access/parking.

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 Science Museum of Minnesota. The Museum has restrooms and food available in no-fee areas and parking is available at the ramp behind the Museum.

Mill Ruins Park (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. The Mill City Museum is a great stop to learn even more about this fascinating area and has a small cafe as well.
Extend the Walk: Walk along the Stone Arch Bridge for great views of the river. The locks were closed in 2015 to prevent the upriver movement of Asian Carp.

Stone Arch Bridge (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. We recommend parking on the streets on the east end of the bridge. There are also restaurants near here as well.
Extend the Walk: For the more adventurous, take the stairs down into Pillsbury Park. Off to the left are the massive tunnels that once powered the Pillsbury mills. Watch for great blue herons fishing in the Mississippi River, and the many other species of birds that live and migrate through here.

Water Power Park (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 St. Anthony Falls and feel its power. Numerous interpretive exhibits are located along the trails. The trail is approximately .7 miles and is hard-surfaced. There is no fee to visit, but hours are limited. There are restaurants located within easy walking distance along the east side of the river.
Extend the Walk: Walk along the Stone Arch Bridge for great views of the river.

Minnehaha Regional Park (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.
Extend the Walk: Walk along the Stone Arch Bridge for great views of the river and the lock system, which was closed in 2015 to prevent the upriver movement of Asian carp.

Coldwater Spring
5601 Minnehaha Drive South, Fort Snelling, MN 55111
Coldwater Spring has had a rich and varied history. It was here in the early 1820s that US soldiers camped while constructing nearby Fort Snelling, that solidified US claims to the area. The soldiers were followed by a rapidly developing community that included Metis, fur traders, blacksmiths and adventurers and eventually tourists. The area was then abandoned for a time, served as a park, and eventually was the home of the Bureau of Mines--Twin Cities. The quarter-mile long accessible trail leaves the parking lot and traverses restored prairies and oak savannas to the spring house and reservoir that at one time provided water to the Fort and Upper Post. There are no restrooms or restaurants at this location, but both exist seasonally at the nearby Minnehaha Falls Regional Park.
Extend the Walk: This becomes more of a hike, although not a long one (about a mile). Continue on past the spring house. The trail crosses the creek, runs up a gentle grade into another prairie area before turning to the left and continuing down into the woods. The footing is rough and steep towards the end of this section. Turn left onto the blacktopped bike trail and head back towards the parking lot. Watch for a wooden stair case on the left. Take it up the slope where you will break out of the forest and see the parking lot in the distance.

Hikes
Generally these selected hikes will be more strenuous than a walk. Suggested hikes often include unpaved paths, uneven footing, steeper grades, generally longer distances, and lack of amenities such as restrooms. They are chosen for their exceptional historic and natural values.

Winchell Trail (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.

Hikes in 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 (Map)
7501-7593 110th St S Cottage Grove, MN 55016 (Drive to end of road and park in lot.)
GPS: 44.790029, -92.955061
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.

Pine Bend Bluffs Scientific and Natural Area
3501-3599 111th St Innver Grove Heights, MN 55077
GPS: 44.788175, -93.032623
Pine Bend Bluffs SNA is a great short hike with wonderful views--some think the best views--of the Mississippi River within the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area. It is more removed from the noise and bustle of the Twin Cities than just about any place within the park. The hike begins at the parking lot that is located on the left side of the road just a short distance in from Courthouse Boulevard. Walk back out of the parking lot and turn left on the road. Watch for a steel gate and no parking sign on the right and go through, or around, this gate. Continue on the woodland path past the barn on the left. Eventually you will break out of the forest into a bluff top goat prairie from which you can find great views of the floodplain river below. From here one can hike on down to the river or turn around and retrace one's steps back to the parking lot. This is a remote area that is infrequently visited. Use caution to avoid injury. It may be advisable to share your adventure with a partner.

Resources
The Mississippi River Companion provides maps and other information that will help you decide which trails you might enjoy. You can also call the Mississippi River Visitor Center at 651-293-0200 and talk to a ranger than can give you other recommendations.

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

111 E. Kellogg Blvd., Suite 105
Saint Paul, MN 55101

Phone:

(651) 293-0200
This is the general phone line at the Visitor Center, which is staffed every day except Mondays. Please leave a voicemail if we miss your call and expect a return call within 1-2 days.

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