It’s hard to narrow down a list of best places to run in the Twin Cities, for the excellent reason that there are so many choices. So much of the metro area acts as an outdoor playground, and runners have myriad opportunities for trying new routes and exploring different parts of the Cities. Here are some of the gems in the Twin Cities’ runner’s world.
The Minneapolis Lakes
Downside: they’re often crowded. The reason is the upside: great views of Lakes Harriet, Calhoun, and Lake of the Isles, and the surrounding homes and parks. If you do all three lakes, you’ll have run about 10 miles.
St. Paul has lake views too. The distance around Lake Como is only 1.5 miles, but that gives runners the choice of multiple laps to extend length while enjoying the pretty, and often quiet, trail around the lake. Bonus: you can cool down by visiting the Como Zoo and Conservatory.
Fort Snelling State Park
For a less urban running experience, check out Fort Snelling State Park, which has 18 miles of trails open in the summer, 7 in the winter (mostly for skiing). Most of the trails are gravel, although there are some paved trails leading (steeply) to the fort itself. Within the park itself, you have the option of running Pike Island, which is about 3 miles. Pike Island has the Mississippi River on one side and the Minnesota River on the other, with the two rivers converging at the island’s end, making it a scenic and geographically significant route.
Murphy-Hanrehan Park Reserve
Located in Savage, this park is fairly undeveloped and will really give runners a sense of getting away from it all. There are 21 miles of trails in all, with varying levels of hills and rises. Runners will get to explore untouched nature and perhaps even spy eagles, owls and osprey.
Afton State Park
Southeast of the Twin Cities is this popular state park, which offers 20 miles of trails, some of which are available in winter. These are unpaved trails that wander through prairies, woods, and along the river. There are some challenging hills along with a steep wood-framed staircase.
A perennial favorite among runners is Minnehaha Parkway, which is slightly over 4 miles one way, and longer if you circle Lake Nokomis or extend the run into Minnehaha Park. Besides seeing the beautiful Lakes Harriet and Nokomis, you’ll see some of the most lavish homes in the Minneapolis area.
Speaking of gorgeous homes (not to mention historic), running St. Paul’s Summit Avenue will give you plenty to gaze at, with almost 4.5 miles of running time. If you run towards downtown St. Paul, you can extend the route slightly by running to the State Capitol.
Mississippi River Road
You have a choice of distances here, anywhere from 3-12 miles. You can enjoy following the river’s curves all the way to the U of M’s Washington Avenue Bridge. Northrop Mall at the U makes a great resting (and people-watching) point.
Amy C. Rea lives with her family in the Twin Cities. She’s the author of “Backroads & Byways of Minnesota and Minnesota, Land of 10,000 Lakes: an Explorer’s Guide.” She can also be found chatting about Minnesota travel topics at www.flyover-land.com.