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 falling out of use in 2001. That same year, the Hennepin County Regional Railroad Authority, 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 because of 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.
The newest 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 current western endpoint. Work to upgrade and gravel the section of the trail extending from the McLeod–Carver county line into the town of Lester Prairie was in progress in the fall of 2015. Funding is being sought to pave this section. Development plans extend the paved trail all the way to Hutchinson, the largest city in McLeod County. Currently, the trail west of Lester Prairie is used primarily as an all-terrain vehicle/snowmobile trail.
To begin in Wayzata, from the intersection of I-494 and I-394, follow US 12 W. 1.6 miles, and take the exit for County Road 101 S. (toward Wayzata). Continue onto Bushaway Road/Gleason Lake Drive, and take the first right onto Wayzata Blvd. E. In 1.1 miles turn left onto Barry Ave. and in 0.2 mile continue onto Grove Lane E. In 0.2 mile designated trail parking spaces will be on your left in Shaver Park (175 Grove Lane).
In Mound, park at the downtown transit center adjoining the trail at the intersection of Lynwood Blvd. and Commerce Blvd. From the intersection of I-494 and I-394, follow US 12 W. 3.3 miles, and take the CR 15 W. exit. Merge onto CR 15/Shoreline Drive, and go 7.7 miles. The transit center will be on your left.
Parking is available in St. Bonifacius at Don Logelin Memorial Lions Park, located on Bell St. just off MN 7. From I-494, take Exit 16B. Follow MN 7 W. 15.8 miles. Turn right onto Bell St., and the trail is on the right.
Parking is also available in downtown New Germany on Broadway St. From I-494, take Exit 16B. Follow MN 7 W. 22 miles. Turn left onto MN 25, and in 1.8 miles turn right onto CR 30/First St. N.E. In 3.7 miles parking will be on the left.