Dakota Rail Trail

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About

Summary

Linking the western suburbs of Minneapolis with the rural communities in Carver and McLeod Counties, Dakota Rail Regional Trail features 44-miles of paved, relatively flat trails for long-distance walkers, runners, in-line skaters, and bicyclists.

Written by

Molly O'Connor

Distance

44.0 miles

Destination Distance From Downtown

23.3 miles

Difficulty

2 of 5 diamonds

Time To Complete

4 hours

1/2 hour to 4 hours

Seasonality

Spring, Summer, and Fall

Spring-Fall

Dog Friendly

On Leash Only

Yes

Fees Permits

No

None

Topographical Map

Dakota Rail Trail Map

Land Website

Dakota Rail Trail

Review

Intro

With rolling cornfields and little traffic, Dakota Rail Regional Trail is a great option for cyclists who just want to ride fast and glide. Formally an old railroad corridor, this rails-to-trails conversion offers 44-miles of non-motorized pathways that pass through Hennepin, Carver, and McLeod Counties.

What Makes It Great

The best part of the Dakota Rail Trail is the 9-mile section that follows Lake Minnetonka's shores. The road slowly twists and turns through the watery landscape, offering its riders awe-inspiring views. This area is also renowned for its big homes and this trail does give you a chance to see some of Lake Minnetonka's most prosperous neighborhoods. 

Who is Going to Love It

Cyclists needing to get out of the city and stretch their legs will enjoy the Dakota Rail Regional Trail.

Directions, Parking, & Regulations

The hours for the Dakota Rail Regional Trail are from 5 a.m.to 10 p.m.

This flat, paved trail starts in the posh little lake town of Wayzata and ends just west of New Germany. If you start in Wayzata, Three Rivers Park District recommends to park in the small parking lot just off of Grove Lane E. Take a moment to visit the quaint downtown, and if you’re feeling peckish, there is an incredible selection of restaurants and ice cream parlors near the trailhead.

The first 13-mile section of the trail lies in the lakeside county of Hennepin. The trail begins with a 9-mile stretch that follows along refreshing lakeshore, lined with young trees and gorgeous views of Lake Minnetonka. From time to time, the shrubs and trees open up, showcasing Wayzata’s luxurious lake homes. An especially magical moment is when the road thins and you are flanked on both sides by Lake Minnetonka’s aquamarine waters. As you look out to the water, you will see a rainbow display of sailboats surfing atop its waves. This creates a beautiful juxtaposition between the vibrant colored sail and the blue lake waters.

During this section, please make sure to make complete stops at all road intersections. It is important to note that cross traffic does not stop for trail users and that this section has many road intersections.

If you want to bypass almost all the road crossings, instead drive west to Mound and park at 5515 Lynwood Blvd. From here, it is all smooth sailing. Once you leave the city of Mound, the trail will meander through hearty hardwoods and marshlands where great blue herons show off their wings and turtles stick out their heads as cyclists pass by. During those 5.5 miles, before you reach the small town of St. Bonifacius, you will pass by rolling pastures and picturesque farmland. If you need to refill your water bottle, Westonka Recreational Center is just off the trail and has a water fountain and restrooms.

Once you pass St. Bonifacius, you will notice there is a remote quality to the trail. The scenery transforms from farmland into tranquil grassland and young hardwood forest. As you pedal along, you do pass by a few farms, where you can catch glimpses of cows, goats, and horses grazing about. Sometimes you can see farmers tending to their fields. Also, since this trail is not popular among foot traffickers, you can crank up your gears and fly down the trail for an uninterrupted 9 miles.

Upon approaching the quaint town of Mayer, the rest of the trail is a straight shot till the end. On this portion, the trail follows lightly used rural roads, which pass through the tiny town of New Germany and then finally to the trail end at Lester Prairie. After cycling for 20 miles, you may be running low on water. If so, there is a water fountain and restroom just off the trail near the ball fields in New Germany.


Location

Dakota Rail Trail

Minneapolis, MN,
44.906749, -93.736614

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