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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 Park Service’s Mississippi National River and Recreation Area.
The northern portion of the Dakota County segment includes a completed, paved 12.3-mile section starting in South Saint Paul and ending in Inver Grove Heights. The Hastings component starts in Spring Lake Park Reserve and goes into the heart of the river city of Hastings, adding another 6.7 miles to the completed trail. The final 9 miles of this trail is currently being developed and is scheduled for completion in 2017, which will bring the length of the Dakota County section to nearly 28 miles when finished.
Beginning in Simon’s Ravine, the northern segment of the paved trail follows along a levee and offers a continuous overlook view of the railroad and barge commerce on and along the Mississippi River. The middle section of this segment follows city streets through Inver Grove Heights before reaching the lower end of this segment just beyond the wooded, 200-foot bluffs in the Pine Bend Bluff Scientific and Natural Area (one of the least-disturbed natural areas along the Mississippi River in the metro area).
Nine miles of the trail are still under development between Pine Bend Bluff and Schaar’s Bluff in Spring Lake Park Reserve, where it picks up again as a 5-mile segment that winds through the bluff-top countryside northwest of Hastings before dropping down and crossing Lock and Dam No. 2 on the Mississippi River. It ends at the southern trailhead terminus in downtown Hastings.
At its northern terminus, the South Saint Paul section of this trail links to another paved trail heading west to Kaposia Park and beyond, called the River to River Greenway. The southern terminus in Hastings connects trail users to a network of trails throughout that city.
Restrooms, parking, and drinking water are available at Kaposia Landing, Simon’s Ravine Trailhead, Swing Bridge Trailhead, and Spring Lake Park Reserve.
To access Simon’s Ravine Trailhead (northern section), from I-94, follow signs for US 10 E. Take Exit 242D to merge onto US 52 S. In 1.9 miles, take the MN 156/Concord St. exit, and turn left onto MN 156 S./Concord St. In 1.9 miles turn left onto Bryant Ave., and parking will be on the right.
To access the south end of the trail, from I-94, follow signs for US 10 E. Take Exit 242D to merge onto US 52 S. In 12.5 miles take the 117th St. exit. Turn left onto 117th St. S.E., and in 0.2 mile turn left onto Courthouse Blvd. The trail is just behind the Pilot Travel Center. There are multiple other access points along the trail.
To access the Hastings trail section (southern section), from I-94, follow signs for US 10 E. Take Exit 242D to merge onto US 52 S. Go 13.6 miles, and take the MN 55 exit. Continue on MN 55/Courthouse Blvd., and go 4.4 miles east. Turn left onto Mississippi Trail, and go 1.7 miles. Turn left onto Idell Ave. In 0.5 mile turn left onto 127th St. E., and go 0.6 mile to reach Schaar’s Bluff trailhead in Spring Lake Park Reserve.
To reach the southeastern trailhead in Hastings, take I-94 to Exit 244. Head south on US 10/US 61, and go 18.1 miles, as the road changes to Hastings Road and Vermillion St. Turn left onto Fourth St. E., and in 0.3 mile turn left onto Bailey St. Parking is on the left in one block. Additional parking is available in Lake Rebecca Park Reserve.
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