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The Lake Minnetonka LRT Regional Trail begins in the vicinity of Eighth Avenue North in downtown Hopkins, just a few blocks north of the eastern endpoint of the Minnesota River Bluffs LRT Regional Trail. Currently, there is only a short paved section (from Eighth to 11th Avenues) in the entire 15-mile trail that skirts the edge of Lake Minnetonka on its run through the communities of Minnetonka, Excelsior, and Victoria.
The trail cuts diagonally northwest across residential neighborhoods in the Minneapolis suburb of Hopkins before turning due west at Minnetonka Boulevard. Paralleling the road for about 2 miles, the trail passes under busy I-494. Construction of a light rail segment from 11th Avenue northwest to Shady Oak Road, scheduled for completion in the next three to four years, will include paving that section of the trail as well. From Shady Oak Road to the western trailhead in Victoria, the trail will remain hard-packed crushed gravel as it is for the entire route now.
In the city of Minnetonka, the landscape changes to dense forest, although housing developments are never far away. The trail runs directly behind the large campus of Minnetonka’s Middle School East and provides a safe route to school for a number of students.
About halfway into the trek, the trail rejoins Minnetonka Boulevard to cross the Carson Bay inlet of Lake Minnetonka; be sure to stop nearby to check out the stunning views. The trail skirts the shoreline for a short while before passing the former site of the famous Excelsior Amusement Park and entering the city’s downtown area. The small city is a great place to stop for a bite to eat.
The rest of the journey to Victoria takes you through a now-familiar mixture of local residential properties and dense woodlands. Victoria is home to the large Carver Park Reserve, which includes horse trails, hiking trails, and a nature center. The park is accessible directly from the Lake Minnetonka LRT Regional Trail on the eastern side of Steiger Lake, just west of the intersection at Park Drive.
To start in Hopkins, park at the lot at the intersection of Eighth Ave. and Excelsior Blvd. Take I-394 to Exit 3, and follow US 169 4.2 miles south. Take the Excelsior Blvd./County Road 3 exit. Turn right onto Excelsior Blvd. and go 0.3 mile to Eighth Ave. S., where a lot is located. Take Eighth Ave. north a few blocks to reach the trail.
To start in Victoria (west end), take I-494 to Exit 11C. Merge onto US 12, and head 1.2 miles west. Take the MN 5/Arboretum Blvd. exit. Follow MN 5/Arboretum Blvd./W. 78th St. 9.6 miles, and turn right onto Steiger Lake Lane. Park off Steiger Lake Lane in the downtown area.
Parking is also available in Carver Park Reserve. Immediately after turning onto Steiger Lake Lane, turn right to reach parking by the lake.
Another option for parking is in Minnetonka. From I-494, take Exit 17 for Minnetonka Blvd. If coming from I-494 S., turn left onto McGinty Road W., and then turn right onto Minnetonka Blvd. in 0.1 mile. If coming from I-494 N., simply turn right onto Minnetonka Blvd. Head west on Minnetonka Blvd. 0.5 mile. Turn left onto Williston Road, and take an immediate left onto Minnetonka Drive. Parking will be on the left in 0.1 mile.
This is one of my favorite trails in the Twin Cities. You get on in downtown Hopkins and ride through some relatively dense urban area. It quickly transforms into beautiful green space with lakes and nice homes. Passing through Excelsior and Deephaven, you get the full feel of Lake Minnetonka as well. The trail ends in Victoria after a nice ride through some rural prairie land. The trail is well kept, hard-pressed gravel, with good crossings.
This is a great ride _except_ there are no public water stops. Carry all you'll need. That said, the 318 cafe in Excelsior (roughly half way between Hopkins and Victoria) is a fine stopping point. Good food and drink and a cool patio. It's right on the trail. Excelsior has many good restaurants and at least one brewery as well, but they're off trail a little. Victoria is the next place (west) for refreshments at the end of the trail.
The round trip (Hopkins Depot to Victoria and back) is about 30 miles. It's flat and shady--mostly crushed limestone over old rail bed.
You can branch off to Carver Park just before you get to Victoria which has its own paved bike trails, water, restrooms and campsites and is delightfully scenic.
Some numbskull rated it 1 star based on xcross country ski use...they plow the trail in winter for walking and winter biking. if you want to ski you should go to a park with groomed trails.
I ran about 6.5 mile of this trail, entering near Wayzata Community Church. It was a beautiful section, fairly flat, winding near the golf course, lakes, and forested areas. I was running solo mid-day and felt quite safe. There trail wasn't crowded, but there was enough company not to feel secluded either. With the fall foliage and crisp north breeze it was the perfect location for an afternoon run.
A lovely trail through beautiful country. It is meant for bikers and runners which is why it is kept relatively clean in the winters - it is not meant for cross country skiing
Although I suppose with the best of intentions, this trail is marginal at best. It is not groomed for any kind of cross country skiing, and is plowed almost down to the pavement / gravel. Lots of cross streets mean you either take your skis off or get sand in the wax. Nice enough for biking. Not good for XC skiing.
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