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At the heart of Minneapolis’ world class trail system is the Grand Rounds Scenic Byway, a series of interconnected parks and parkways that loop around the city, acting as a key connector to the entire network of city parks and trails and more than 300 miles of regional trails. The 7 segments are connected by 50 miles of paved pedestrian trails and mostly separated bike paths, as well as 55 miles of driving parkways that give the Grand Rounds its status as a national scenic byway.
From the Grand Rounds, travelers can access the city’s numerous parks and trails. It is this connectivity that allows residents to use the Grand Rounds trails not just for recreation but for daily travel. The Grand Rounds trails are cleared by six o’clock every morning in the winter as many commuters depend on them to walk and bike to work.
The Grand Rounds travels through 7 districts: Chain of Lakes (13.3 miles), Minnehaha (12.6 miles), The Mississippi River (9.2 miles), Downtown Riverfront (1.2 miles), Northeast (6 miles), Victory Memorial (3.8 miles) and Theodore Wirth Park (4 miles).
The Chain of Lakes trail loops around the four major lakes in this park system (Cedar Lake, Lake of the Isles, Lake Calhoun, and Lake Harriet) as well as some smaller ones. A wonderful place to while away a few hours walking, riding, swimming and boating in pristine lakeshore surroundings. Catch live music at the Lake Harriet Bandshell, or stop by the nearby bird sanctuary, rose and Peace gardens.
The Minnehaha Creek provides a quieter contrast to the bustle of the Chain of Lakes. South of Lake Harriet, the route follows the waterway, with deciduous trees screening the trail from the surrounding suburban neighborhoods. Minnehaha Falls and Longfellow House are noteworthy features as the creek winds its way to the Mississippi River.
The Mississippi River district links to downtown Minneapolis. Take a quick detour on the Winchell trail, an ancient Native American path, or stick to the trail for riverine greenery. The Downtown Riverfront district continues up the Mississippi. Here, explore the historic Milling District, take in the Minneapolis cityscape, and enjoy diverse restaurants, theaters and other cultural amenities.
The Northeast segment of the trail follows the St. Anthony Parkway, passing Deming Heights Park, which provides a good vantage point to appreciate the downtown skyline. Continuing across the 42nd Avenue Bridge brings you to the Victory Memorial Parkway in northwest Minneapolis, which commemorates the contributions of World War I servicemen from Hennepin County. Five-hundred and sixty-eight perfectly spaced trees line the boulevard as memorials to the fallen soldiers.
Theodore Wirth Parkway is the seventh segment in this extensive system. The Theodore Wirth Park stretches in the nearby suburb of Golden Valley and at 740 acres is the largest regional park in Minneapolis. The area is bountiful in both wildlife and plant life. Here trail users may connect to a number of local and regional trails.
You can access the trail at any number of points. For those driving to the Grand Rounds, if approaching from the north, take I-35W south into Minneapolis, exit on Stinson Boulevard and make a right on Stinson Boulevard heading north. Turn left onto St. Anthony Parkway. If you’re approaching from the south, take I-35W north into Minneapolis, exit at 46th Street and take a left on 46th Street to East Lake Harriet Parkway or right on East Lake Harriet Parkway heading north. From the west, take I-394 east into Minneapolis, exit at Penn Avenue and make a left on Penn Avenue to Glenwood Avenue. Turn left on Glenwood Avenue to Theodore Wirth Parkway. From downtown Minneapolis, take East Hennepin Avenue to West River Parkway.
The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board offers numerous options for parking throughout the parks system. There are many free parking lots (including neighborhood parks), bays on parkways and on-street parking on nearby neighborhood streets. Pay parking areas are in regional park lots, on-street meters on parkways, contract lots, and event parking.
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