The Big Rivers Regional Trail runs along the upper portion of what was originally a two-tiered section of railroad track built for one of the state’s oldest lines, the Minnesota Central Railroad. At several points along its 4.4 paved miles, trail users will enjoy some of the best views overlooking the convergence of the Minnesota and Mississippi Rivers. Vistas include broad views of both river basins and glimpses of Minnesota’s first military outpost and National Historic Landmark, Fort Snelling, situated just beyond Pike Island at the confluence of the two rivers. As the trail approaches its northern end near the Pool & Yacht Club in Lilydale, the view upriver toward downtown Saint Paul is equally impressive.
In the city of Mendota (one of Minnesota’s oldest settlements), the trail skirts through residential areas on a raised railroad bed, crossing D Street for easy access, and lies only one block from Sibley Memorial Highway/MN 13, which runs through the center of the city. Following D Street a few blocks past the highway and beyond the Sibley Historic Site leads to the start of the Snelling State Park Bottomlands Trail, a rough-terrain route best suited for serious mountain bikers.
The trail is accessible from several points along its route, including MN 55 in Mendota Heights, I-494 0.5 mile west of Pilot Knob Road in Eagan, and I-35E in Mendota Heights.
The Big Rivers Regional Trail is part of the extensive 72-mile Mississippi National River and Recreation Area, itself part of an even greater network consisting of hundreds of miles of trails throughout the Twin Cities area.
To access the Big Rivers Regional Trail in Mendota Heights, from the I-35E and I-494 interchange in Saint Paul, take I-494 W. to Exit 71. Turn right (north) onto Pilot Knob Road, and go 0.2 mile. Turn left onto Mendota Heights Road, and go 0.3 mile to the parking lot at the stone overlook.
A smaller parking lot is available at the north end of the trail just off MN 13, at the bottom of the hill on Lilydale Road, at the railroad trestle next to the Pool & Yacht Club. From I-35E N., take Exit 102. Head northeast on MN 13, and immediately turn right onto Lilydale Road. In 0.2 mile see the parking lot on your left.