Big Rivers Regional Trail


Big Rivers Regional Trail Facts

States: Minnesota
Counties: Dakota
Length: 4.4 miles
Trail end points: Interstate 494 and Lillydale Road
Trail surfaces: Asphalt
Trail category: Rail-Trail
ID: 6016245
Trail activites: Bike, Inline Skating, Wheelchair Accessible, Walking, Cross Country Skiing

With Unlimited:

  • Export to My Trail Guide
  • Create Guidebook
  • Download GPX
  • Download Offline Maps
  • Print Friendly Map
Upgrade Now

Register for Free with TrailLink Today!

View over 30,000 miles of trail maps
Share your trail photos
Save Your Favorite Trails
Find New Trails Near You
Leave reviews for trails
Submit new trails to our site
Register Now

Big Rivers Regional Trail Description

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.

Parking and Trail Access

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.

Big Rivers Regional Trail Reviews

A good chunk of the trail along the river is bordered by limestone cliffs on the south and a black chain link fence on the north river side. Previous fallen rock near the trail makes for interesting thoughts. Biffy at trail beginning and end. Rides past two restaurants midway of Lucky 13 and Axel's. Easy trail without many inclinestudents of much degree.

I walked the paved trail two days in a row and saw lots of rabbits, pigeons, chipmunk, gorgeous dragonflies, heron flying overhead, and a mother turkey with her brood of babies. There's a tiny flowing stream in one section and water trickling down rocks at one point. Lots to notice and appreciate at a walking pace.

The trail is really flat and accessible. There are a couple of sections where it's crossed by roads - one of which traffic moves at about 55 mph. If you have a member of your party with mobility concerns, I suggest starting at the northern end, otherwise you'll have a short walk or need to risk crossing a highway. There's not a lot of traffic, but it does move fast.

Rode the trail last weekend with my five-year-old grandson. We had a great time and can't wait to go back


Started in Lillydale and skated to the Lower River crossing overview. I'd say 70% of the trail was so rough it made my feet numb. Beautiful scenery but the asphalt needs a coat of sealant.

I was on the trail this weekend, I don't know when it reopened, but I am so happy that it is open again!

It is a shame that almost after a year we do not have this gem of a trail reopened. Life and weather happen, but that does not mean that we cannot or will not engineer a new trail. It is my hope of hopes that this beautiful trail is reopened this biking season.

The section between Lilydale and City of Mendota is still closed - but if you are a bandit and want to circumvent orange mesh fencing the trail is clear and passable. This section remains closed due to reported unstable cliffs along side the trail. One wonders if they ever work on it - never any workers there - sign promises it to be done in October!

The orange barrier usually completely blocks access to the trail but was moved to the side one Saturday morning last month so I bike the trail to see if it might be open again. It was nice up to where the orange fence blocked the trail and the mud slide is still on the trail,a couple miles in. Unfortunately, when I turned around and bike back out an power hungry park ranger gave me a $120 dollar citation for biking on a closed trail even though I didn't slow down under 20 mph or cross any barrier or anything. Supposedly the barrier was moved by the construction workers. A warning would have been appropriate but some people just don't understand community policing. I sure hope this trail opens again someday it is the only way to get from Lilly Dale to Mendota without having to bike on the road that is rough and doesn't have much of a shoulder.

Update from Dakota County Parks Department - the section of Big Rivers Regional Trail along Highway 13 between Mendota and Lilydale is closed indefinitely to pedestrians and bicyclists due to a mudslide. Check back for updates.

This is a spectacular trail all the way thru. We usually take it into St Paul to Harriet Isl area for lunch and back to the overlook in Mendota. Cant say enough about the Parks crew and everyone else involved that maintains this trail

Every time I ride this trail I love it more. On the hot summer days it is shady and cool all the way to the Mendota bridge. I wish more people used it, but I have to admit that I like it when I don't see a soul on my ride. There is some uneven pavement on the trail when crossing Hwy 13 in Mendota. It's not the end of the world, but the ruts are unpleasant.

"Starting just NE of the 35E Bridge, you run up hill until you reach the %% Bridge and run back to the beginning. "

This is among the very finest trails in the Twin Cities area.
The views are spectacular and the trail surface is smooth and rut-free.

You'll hardly believe that you're near the center of a metropolitan area as you ride this smooth trail cut into the side of the bluffs at the confluence of the Minnesota and Mississippi rivers and extending through the marshlands in Lilydale and now out to end of Harriet Island (about 7 miles) in downtown St. Paul. Scenery is varied and beautiful all the way. Urban trails don't get any better than this one.

Nearby Trails

Minnehaha Trail

Minnesota - 5 miles

Minnehaha Trail connects two popular parks in the Twin Cities as it follows the course of the Mississippi River through a corridor that is a mix of woodland ...

Samuel H. Morgan Regional Trail

Minnesota - 9.3 miles

A quintessential part of St. Paul's extensive trails system, the Samuel H. Morgan Regional Trail offers a variety of sights and sounds along its nine-mile ...

River to River Greenway

Minnesota - 7.5 miles

The mighty Mississippi and Minnesota River are the two waterways connected by the River to River Greenway. (The project was formerly known by the less ...


West River Parkway Trail

Minnesota - 8.9 miles

The West River Parkway Trail, also known as the Mississippi River Gorge Regional Trail, extends between Plymouth Avenue North opposite Boom Island and ...

Grand Rounds Scenic Byway

Minnesota - 50 miles

At the heart of Minneapolis’ world class trail system in the Grand Rounds Scenic Byway, a series of interconnected parks and parkways that loop around ...

Hiawatha Trail (MN)

Minnesota - 4.7 miles

Minnesota’s Hiawatha Trail (also known as the Hiawatha LRT Trail) runs along a north-south route paralleling both Hiawatha Avenue and the Metro Transit ...

Midtown Greenway (MN)

Minnesota - 5.5 miles

The 5.5-mile Midtown Greenway follows a former railroad corridor through the heart of south Minneapolis, heading due west from the Mississippi River to ...

Mississippi River Regional Trail (Dakota County)

Minnesota - 19 miles

This Mississippi River Regional Trail running through eastern Dakota County is a segment of a larger regional trail system that is itself part of the National ...

Bruce Vento Trail

Minnesota - 7.5 miles

The trail is named in honor of Bruce Frank Vento, a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1977 until his death in 2000, representing Minnesota’s ...

Gateway State Trail

Minnesota - 18.3 miles

The Gateway State Trail is an 18.3-mile-long pathway that offers an urban link to the countryside. The western end of this paved trail begins on the north ...

Dinkytown Greenway

Minnesota - 1 miles

Although only 1 mile long, the Dinkytown Greenway provides an important link in a biking network connecting Minneapolis and Saint Paul. The trail begins ...

St. Anthony Falls Heritage Trail

Minnesota - 1.8 miles

The St. Anthony Falls Heritage Trail is a 1.8-mile loop along the Minneapolis riverfront within the St. Anthony Falls National Register Historic District. ...

Explore by City

Explore by City

Explore by Activity

Explore by Activity

Log in to your account to:

  • View trail paths on the map
  • Save trails to your account
  • Add trails, edit descriptions
  • Share photos
  • Add reviews

Register for free!

Join TrailLink (a non-profit) to view more than 30,000 miles of trail maps and more!