Trail Running in Minneapolis and St. Paul
If I see one more treadmill, I might just throw up my protein shake. Spring is one of my favorite times of year. It allows me to get back out on the running trails I love so dearly, and leave behind fighting for an empty treadmill at a crowded gym. Spring also gives me the opportunity to breathe some fresh air instead of the BO from the people on both sides of me, and I can even work on my tan. And fortunately for others such as myself, the Twin Cities is filled with trails snaking their way throughout the metro.
Luce Line State Trail
My personal favorite, and one you can often find me running on most of the year, Luce Line State Trail winds its way for 63 miles from Plymouth to the small town of Cosmos in west-central Minnesota. Once an old railroad line, the trail now consists of a crushed limestone path and an adjacent trail for horseback riding that treats runners, walkers and cyclists to forest and lake views.
Fort Snelling State Park
As a runner myself, I know all too well how much of creatures of habit we can be. And if the thought of trail running has you too intimidated to leave the familiarity of the treadmill or sidewalk outside your home, Fort Snelling State Park has just what the doctor ordered. The Pike Island Trail is on, you guessed it, Pike Island, and consists of 1-,2- and 3-mile loops that are flat and made of gravel, and give runners views of the Minnesota and Mississippi Rivers. The Snelling Lake Trail is a flat, gravel 2.5-mile loop that showcases the beauty of Snelling Lake. The Picnic Island Trail is a flat, gravel 1-mile loop that makes it easy for beginners to get into the sport. And veterans can find a challenge in a 6-mile one-way, uneven, gravel trail along the Minnesota River.
Elm Creek Park Reserve
I’d be doing an injustice if I didn’t include the largest park in Hennepin County. More than 50 miles of trails can be found nestled inside the park’s 4,900 acres, and feature views of woodlands, wetlands, old farm fields, and plenty of wildlife.
Afton State Park
This 1,600-plus-acre patch of green is a trail runner’s dream. The 20 miles of maintained trails will take runners on a rollercoaster ride up and over hills, through prairie, forests and ravines along the St. Croix River. Afton State Park is also home to one of the most challenging and beautiful trail races around—Afton Trail Run—that runners from all over the country consistently flock to every year.
Theodore Wirth Regional Park
For some of the best trail running in the immediate city, look no further than the largest regional park in the Minneapolis park system—Theodore Wirth Regional Park. With miles upon miles of trails in its 759 acres, there’s scenery for every branch of trail runner, including hardwood forest, prairie, lakeshore and pine forest. It’s also a prime spot for wildlife such as deer, foxes, badgers and a wealth of a bird species, thanks to the bird sanctuary located within the park.