Sections of the Dakota Rail Regional Trail, which extends westward from the Minneapolis suburbs situated along Lake Minnetonka, have been opening since June 2009. The trail occupies the former Dakota Rail corridor, which ran for a total length of 44 miles to Hutchinson, Minnesota, before being abandoned in 2001. That same year, the Hennepin County Regional Railroad Authority (HCRRA), Carver County and McLeod County jointly purchased the corridor with the goal of establishing a rail-trail.
The 13-mile Hennepin County section of the trail begins at the lakefront in downtown Wayzata, an idyllic suburb of Minneapolis. Lake views are never far away for much of the trail's journey through Hennepin County. In fact, many of these communities were developed in the late 19th century as popular resort towns due to their stunning views of the clear water and convenient location along the expanding railroad lines. These towns—which are now largely residential—include Orono, Minnetonka Beach, Spring Park and Mound.
After passing through the town of St. Bonifacius, the trail enters Carver County. The section of trail from the border with Hennepin County in the east to the small city of Mayer in the west was constructed in 2010. Like the first portion of the trail, striking lake views—now of vast Lake Waconia—make up much of the scenery. After the lake, the trail passes through an equally beautiful mix of open fields and forest.
Another section of the Dakota Rail Regional Trail opened in early 2013. Running from Mayer to the Carver–McLeod county line, the trail parallels a lightly-used rural road. Trail users pass through the tiny town of New Germany before reaching the McLeod County line.
The addition of a short gravel extension in 2015 allows trail users to continue to Pine Street in the small city of Lester Prairie. The former Dakota Rail corridor is intact even farther west; some day, the trail may extend all the way to Hutchinson, the largest city in McLeod County.
Parking for the Dakota Rail Regional Trail can be found in Wayzata at the small parking lot for the beach on Grove Lane E. In Mound, park at the downtown transit center adjoining the trail between Lynwood Boulevard and Commerce Boulevard. Parking is available in St. Bonifacius at City Hall, located on Bell Street just off State Route 7.
Additional parking can be found at many other locations along the trail's route; refer to the TrailLink map for these exact sites.