Located only 10 minutes west from downtown Minneapolis, this 759-acre park is a trail runner’s paradise. Reminding you of the days of playing capture the flag in the forest, the trails weave you through hardwood forest, grassy prairie, lakeshore, and pine forest. There are miles upon miles of trails, all of which are countless depending on the loops you decide to take. You could easily spend a week running the trails a couple hours a day and not repeat the same trail twice.
What Makes It Great
South of Wirth Lake is the Quaking Bog and Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden and Bird Sanctuary. Though you cannot run within those areas, around the protected areas is an interconnected system of running trails that transcend hills and take you through hardwood forest. This is the most scenic part of the park as well as the most likely area to cross paths with wildlife. Keep an eye out for deer, foxes, or badgers. Also, since the area is a designated bird sanctuary, the birding opportunities are fantastic. When you’ve reached the top of one of the many hills in the local vicinity, take a breather and look up to the tree canopy. Downey woodpeckers, warblers, and other native birds seek refuge in Eloise Butler’s Sanctuary.
If you go north, there is an easy loop trail that follows along the Western side of Wirth Lake and then combines with the strenuous mountain biking trails just north of the trail exit. If you’re focusing on long distance, the paved multi-purpose trail follows Theodore Wirth Parkway all the way to Victory Memorial in North Minneapolis. Apart of the Grand Rounds National Scenic Byway, this trail offers 10 miles (round trip) of relatively flat trails. Except for the occasional climb here or there and the optional trail exit to dirt paths, this route is perfect for the long distance runner.
Who is Going to Love It
Perfect for runners of all skill levels, Theodore Wirth has trails that offer lung- bursting workouts to long-distance trail running. Depending on your preference, trails range from flat and paved to maze-like and steep. At times, especially near the mountain biking trails, the path makes quick twists and turns while simultaneously rising or declining in elevation.
It is obvious to see that the citizens of Minneapolis are fortunate to have such fantastic trail running opportunities so close to the city. Not only that, but Theodore Wirth Park also features a wide variety of maintained ski trails during the winter. A popular destination, expect to see Minneapolitans running, walking, biking, or skiing the trails during all seasons.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
The park is open daily from 6 a.m. - midnight (6a.m. - 10 p.m. in undeveloped areas). Theodore Wirth Park recommends visitors to park at the Wirth Beach parking lot, since the chalet parking lot is specifically meant for golfers. It is the better option anyway because at Wirth Beach, you are in the epicenter of the park’s running trails. The multipurpose bike and running trail passes just beside the parking lot and continues either north through Theodore Wirth or you can follow it east all the way to the Cedar Lake Regional Trail.