I would take a nice trail run any day over running the roads. Trails are my friend as this picture so elegantly shows! It is a little hard for me to hit the trails very often since we only have 1 car and I prefer to run in the mornings. However, Pike Island is easy to get to via public transportation and even via bike.
Part of Fort Snelling State Park, Pike Island sits at the confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers just south of Minneapolis and Saint Paul. On Pike Island itself you have a variety of options for running. See the maps here. The easiest is a 5k loop around the outer edge of the Island – but there are little cut through trails to make 1 and 2 mile loops.
It is pretty scenic as you run along the rivers. I think every time I’ve run there I’ve seen some wild animals – deers, squirrels, rabbits, but no pine martens! The trail is very flat and actually pretty wide too. It might narrow down in places but is wide enough to mostly run 3-4 wide throughout. The trail is a mix of soft surfaces but is pretty safe for the ankles and has no technical elements to it.
Another great thing about this run is that it can easily be extended. Want to go really long? You can head north up to Minnehaha Falls and connect into a variety of trails from there, although this is a paved trail. More of a mid-distance run, you can run around Picnic Island and Snelling Lake. Part of this segment is on pavement, but most is still trails and Picnic Island has grass stretches. You can also connect with bridges (with pedestrian lanes) that cross either river and connect with trails on the other side.
I enjoy running at Pike Island and have used it in the past to recover and reconnect with my reasons for running. The worst thing about running here is that it is so close the MSP Airport, with almost continual flights over-head.
Parking Note: You must pay to park if you enter through Fort Snelling State Park. It costs $5 to enter the park or a valid State Park Permit. Then follow the main road to the Visitor’s Center. However, if you enter from Historic Fort Snelling on top of the bluff there is no charge for parking. Park in the main lot and run towards the fort and then follow the trail down the hill to Pike Island.
There is also some interesting history associated with this area:
To the Dakota [Native American tribe], Pike Island in Fort Snelling State Park was and is a sacred place. It is where the waters of the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers meet and the Dakota believe it is the very center of the earth and arguably the place where Minnesota began. WCCO
During this time[Dakota War of 1862], more than 1600 Dakota women, children, and old men were held in an internment camp on Pike Island. Living conditions were poor, and disease struck the camp, killing more than three hundred. Wikipedia
Despite the mixed history I enjoy running here, what do you think?
[tags] Pike Island, Fort Snelling, Minneapolis, Running Routes [/tags]