One of my newer favorite places to run is along the Minneapolis Riverfront. It is about 1.5 miles from my house which makes it a good place to run for any distance run, plenty of scenery with the Mississippi River, cobblestone streets, dirt trails, mill ruins, and much more. From my house I also get to run by the Metrodome – where the Vikings and Twins play.
The official riverfront website describes the area:
The Minneapolis Riverfront District is many things to many people. To some, it’s a giant archaeological dig. To others, its a playground of dining and nightlife. And to yet others, it is a maze of beautiful parks and trails.
The picture is from a recent 10 mile run and you can see a more detailed map of the area. I often run this route in the other direction crossing over the Stone Arch Bridge first. On this particular run I never actually crossed the bridge since I extended it and ran through the University of Minnesota.
Surface Type Before I take you on a tour of the above route a quick note about running surface. Most of the run is on some type of hard surface – road or sidewalk. Along much of the West River Parkway you can find a single track cow path that has been worn into the dirt between the walking and biking trails. There is a section on the west side of the river there is a short section of dirt trail that follows a small cove. Crossing the bridges provides some elevation change, otherwise it is mostly flat. After crossing over the river you can run on grass and dirt trails for awhile as you jump onto Boom Island and cross over onto Nicollet Island. After a short period of dirt trails at the beginning and end of the Island the rest of the run is on sidewalks or roads. This might be one of the best runs from my house for getting off the hard surfaces.
Step-by-Step Guide to the Sights and Trails There are a ton of things to see along the way. The downtown skyline is always present in your view. But my route mostly skirts the downtown area running by the Metrodome, before turning onto West River Parkway. From here the trail splits, you can go straight down to the river (and come back up later) or stay up on the top of the bluff. Either way you see the Guthrie Theater and Mill City Museum. You can cross the pedestrian/bicycle only Stone Arch Bridge or continue on the West side as we will do here. You are now running along the St Anthony Falls Heritage Trail, which takes you into First Bridge Park before the trail crosses the Hennepin Ave Bridge. We’ll stay on the West River Parkway and run past the Federal Reserve Building and through a stretch of turtle trail. Lots of turtles are scored into the sidewalk on this stretch. From here you begin to run under a lot of trees and a more natural scenery. You can stay on the paved trail or take a short detour on a dirt trail that follows the little inlet with two bridge to choose from (I prefer the shorter one because it makes a better loop) and can continue along the trail until it forces you back up into a little park area. A nice benefit of running the Riverfront is the ample supply of water and occasional port-a-potties! Both have come in handy. Finally, we get to cross the river via the Plymouth Ave Bridge which drops you onto Boom Island.
Unfortunately, Boom Island is no longer an island, but hosts a nice park which includes a lighthouse and access to several riverboats. There is a paved trail that cuts through the park, but I prefer running in the grass along the river, this adds distance and also keeps you on softer surfaces longer. You’ll eventually get to the Boom-Nicollet Island Pedestrian Bridge which is a cool old-school bridge onto Nicollet Island. Follow this dirt trail until it comes out on the road. Here you can complete the short side of the island or double backon the road to get a longer and more scenic section. Running along Island Ave will take you along the river but also through some very nice residential sections before going under the Hennepin Ave Bridge and into Nicollet Island Park. I recommend continuing along the river’s edge around the tip of the island and crossing over the wooden Merriam St Bridge. As you cross over this bridge you almost enter another time period as you enter the cobblestone streets of Historic St Anthony Main. Running along this bridge also puts you back onto the St Anthony Falls Heritage Trail. If you want you can go explore the Hennepin Island Hydro-electric plant, but I’d save it for another day. I’ve never noticed signs for Pillsbury Park, but it is on the map, Father Hennepin Park is well marked and takes you back away from the road. Somewhere along this stretch you have the option of following the “Lower Trail” section which takes a lot of stairs down to the river. (I wouldn’t recommend taking the lower trail, it is a bunch of steps that lead down to the river – it is neat, but not really worth the effort on a run). As you come up to the Bandstand grab a quick drink of water and make an important decision. You can cross over the Stone Arch Bridge and complete the loop or head up 6th Ave SE and do some other running. I’ve seen runners do multiple loops along the Riverfront so give that a thought too. As of this writing you can see the finishing touches being put on the new 35W Bridge from the Stone Arch Bridge or by running up to the 10th Ave Bridge which is just south of where you are currently contemplating.
Whatever you end up deciding this is a fun run to do and gives you a good taste of Minneapolis. The route as I’ve described it is approximately 4.5 miles long starting at 11th Ave S and W River Parkway and ending at the parking lot on the West end of the Stone Arch Bridge.
All of this is also part of the Mississippi National River Park and Recreation Area.
I should give credit to AEngelsrud for pointing this loop out to me via Twitter.
[tags] Minneapolis, Riverfront, Minneapolis Riverfront, Mississippi River, Tourism, Running [/tags]