It’s hard to go wrong with urban running in Minneapolis. With its countless miles of flat running trails in such close proximity to downtown, it’s obvious why Minneapolis is considered one of America’s top ten running cities.
In 2012, Forbes Magazine recognized Minneapolis as one of “America’s 10 Best Cities for Runners.” And for good reason, you can’t really go wrong with running in Minneapolis. Since the Mississippi River is in close proximity and there are over 50-miles of pedestrian only trails, Minneapolis is a haven for runners.
If you were to ask any Minneapolitan what their favorite running route is, there would be many different answers, but there will probably be a common theme: the Mississippi River. For over 10-miles on each side of the river, the Mississippi offers well-paved trails, each of which take you through different neighborhoods of Minneapolis.
What Makes It Great
In the heart of the Mill District, the Stone Arch Bridge features beautiful vistas of the Minneapolis skyline. From here, the world is your oyster. In either direction you take, you can find trails following the Mississippi River. A popular running route is the short 1.8 to 2.8-mile loop that takes you through the mill ruins, St. Anthony Falls, and Nicollet Island.
From the west side of the bridge, begin running east across the bridge. To your left, soak up the views of St. Anthony Falls and then take a left through Father Hennepin Bluff Park. The cobblestone Main Street parallels the park and hosts many well-reviewed restaurants. Cross the Merriam Street Bridge and check out the views of St. Anthony Falls from the back side near the University of Minnesota Laboratories. It is a must see.
Continue north, crossing underneath the Hennepin Ave Bridge. You have entered Nicollet Island, which features some of Minneapolis’ oldest homes. There is a trail loop within the island, but cutting across the residential roads and seeing the old houses is much more fun. On the east side of the island, there is a trail that leads to Boom Island, which could add another mile to your run. Backtrack to Hennepin Ave Bridge, run up the ramp on the south side of the bridge and loop back down to the Mississippi trail on the western side. Within a short time, the trail returns you back to the Stone Arch Bridge.
If you continue south, you bypass the Mill City Museum, which hosts a farmers market each Saturday morning, and the world-renowned Guthrie Theater. A great place to rest after a workout is at Guthrie Theater’s “The Bridge to Nowhere.” A cantilevered walkway with an outdoor viewing platform, this bridge gives you a different perspective of the city.
Who is Going to Love It
This is just one of the countless urban running trails Minneapolis offers. Some other local favorites are the trails along the Minnehaha Creek and the Chain of Lakes. For the urban runners looking for dirt trails, just south of University of Minnesota’s East River Flats Park is a 2.5-mile long trail that hugs the Mississippi River and takes you through hardwood forest, an elevated boardwalk, and a mile of quiet beaches.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
With metered parking nearby and free parking hidden away in the neighborhoods, it is easy to find your way down to Minneapolis. It is even more accessible by bike, since most of the trails all lead to the Stone Arch Bridge, which is a common start-off point for urban runners. These trails don’t have designated hours and are generally safe, even in the late evening, but plan accordingly before going on a night run. Some sections of the trail are not well lit, especially on Hennepin Island.