Hit the Trails! Our Guide to Biking & Hiking Adventures in Minneapolis Northwest
Home to hundreds of miles of trails and greenways, Minneapolis Northwest is the perfect place for hikers and bikers who want to enjoy the beauty of nature. The region has been named one of the country's most bike-friendly destinations thanks to its expansive network of trails and protected lanes, and the city’s parks offer pedestrians and hikers plenty of places to wander in nature. Here are five favorite destinations for hikers, bikers and those who simply want to soak in the scenery.
Brooklyn Center & Brooklyn Park
You’ll find almost 50 miles of pedestrian-friendly sidewalks in Brooklyn Center alone, as well as more than 20 miles of biking and cross-country skiing trails. Pedestrian-only overpasses and protected bike paths also keep you safe from the hustle and bustle of the city.
Perhaps the area’s most popular path is the Mississippi River Trail. This nationally designated route follows the mighty Mississippi from Coon Rapids Dam Regional Park (becoming Mississippi Gateway Regional Park) in Brooklyn Park all the way south to the Grand Rounds Scenic Byway in Hennepin County. Along the way, you’ll enjoy striking city views as well as the natural backdrop of spots like North Mississippi Regional Park and Riverdale Park.
Another popular Brooklyn Center destination for hikers and bikers is Twin Lakes Regional Trail. This path takes you from the Mississippi River to the shores of Twin Lake Park, where you can admire the picturesque view of Middle Twin Lake.
Finally, don’t miss the Shingle Creek Regional Trail. The trail follows the creek through multiple cities and regional parks, including Palmer Lake, Brooklyn Center’s largest environmental preserve. The lake’s 271 acres of marshes and wetlands is the perfect place to train for your next 5K. The 3.1-mile path that circles the lake is flanked by giant trees, offering shade on balmy summer days. Keep an eye on the branches as you jog. The park is home to several rare bird species, including the northern cardinal, rose-breasted grosbeak and gray catbird.
Coon Rapids Dam Regional Park
Bring your binoculars when you visit the trails that crisscross Coon Rapids Dam Regional Park, which offer plenty of opportunities to view wildlife. You may see hawks and ospreys in the trees surrounding the trail. The path along the river is often traversed by otters and mink—as well as hikers and bikers. After exploring the more than 150 acres of preserve, step onto the 12-foot-wide boardwalk crossing the dam. From here, you can enjoy amazing views of the river while listening to the roar of the water below. Refuel at the nearby Daily Dose Café & Espresso in Brooklyn Park where you’ll find an impressive collection of locally roasted coffee, seasonal lattes, baked treats, breakfast wraps and paninis.
North Mississippi Regional Park
If you venture just off the freeway, you’ll find a hidden captivating park with spectacular views of the Mississippi River and the surrounding woods and prairie, North Mississippi Regional Park. You’ll be amazed at the wildlife so close to the hustle and bustle - a Great Blue Heron nesting on an island, deer foraging, a beaver felling trees, and hawks and eagles soaring overhead. In summer, the prairie flowers provide ever-changing color.
Hiking and biking trails meander through the prairie and along the shores of the river. The trails traverse the park and connect with Webber Parkway and commuter routes into downtown Minneapolis. South of 57th Avenue, the park provides additional amenities including the Carl W. Kroening Interpretive Center, a play area, wading pool, picnic tables, grills, shelters, a fishing pier and a boat launch. Don’t miss out on paddling opportunities on the river throughout the summer with the Mississippi River Paddle Share program.
You’ll also find tons of trails in the nearby city of Maple Grove. From the area’s Town Green you can embark on a hike around the hills of Arbor Lake. Maple Grove’s Fish Lake Regional Park also offers miles of biking, hiking and running trails. From Fish Lake, you can hop on paths that will take you to all the way to Elm Creek Regional Park, almost 10 miles north. After you’ve worked up an appetite from exploring, visit The Shoppes at Arbor Lakes. You’ll find everything from casual cafes to high-end restaurants.
The city of Maple Grove is especially beautiful in the fall when you can admire the foliage from the Town Green lawn chairs by Arbor Lake. While the summer brings an abundance of outdoor movies, concerts and festivals.
Elm Creek Park Reserve
From Coon Rapids, it’s a 9.6-mile bike ride to Elm Creek Park Reserve, the largest park in the Three Rivers Park District. Test your biking skills on Elm Creek’s singletrack, which includes more than 10 miles of “more difficult” and “most difficult” rated trails. (Don’t worry, the trail also offers several miles of “easy” terrain.) For a less challenging ride, cruise the more than 20 miles of paved trails throughout the park.
The Elm Creek single-track trail was designed with cyclists in mind. Literally. During its construction, volunteers from the Minnesota Off-Road Cyclists group worked with the city to ensure the 12.7-mile trail would be ready for all roadsters, including riders using adapted, hand-powered mountain bikes. The trail’s sustainable design ensures less erosion and provides a closer, more intimate experience with the park’s natural surroundings.
In summer, you can cool off in the park’s swimming pond after your ride. Come November, the park turns into a winter wonderland with endless snowy fun at its Winter Recreation Area, complete with perfectly groomed cross-country skiing trails, downhill skiing and snowboarding, tubing and an all-terrain park. The winter weather also means it’s the season for the annual Frozen Forty fat tire biking competition. This one-of-a-kind event offers racers a great mid-winter challenge on a course composed of groomed single-track trails and the option to choose whether they prefer to ride solo or as part of a team amongst the distance options, 20-ish (2 laps), 30-ish (3 laps), and 40-ish (4 laps). Feeling extra adventurous? Enter for your chance to be one of the ten lucky, frozen souls chosen to race 10 full laps or well over 100 miles! If you complete this massive feat in less than 12 hours, you will get a big award!
No matter what time of year you visit, try to explore Elm Creek as much as possible, including the off-leash dog park and a massive playground. Added bonus: OMNI Brewing Co., one of the area’s most popular breweries, is a short ride away.
For more fun adventures the whole family can enjoy, check out our list of 25 Things Things to Do with Families In and Around Minneapolis Northwest, or take the fun inside on a rainy day with our picks for indoor fun!
About the Author
- Minneapolis Northwest CVB
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