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Named after a Seneca Indian chief who lived in the area until the 1830s, the Red Jacket Trail runs along an old Milwaukee Road (formerly the Minnesota Railroad and the Central Railroad) right-of-way that became inactive in 1978. The Red Jacket Trail begins at the restored depot along the banks of the Minnesota River, west of downtown Mankato, and runs to the village of Rapidan. In Mankato, the trail branches off from the North Minnesota River Trail, which continues along the waterway to the Sakatah Singing Hills State Trail.
The popular Red Jacket Trail utilizes three converted railroad trestles, including the stunning Red Jacket Trestle, which is more than 80 feet high and 550 feet long and traverses the Le Sueur River and busy MN 66 near the trail’s southern end. Major floods in 2010 damaged one of the trestle’s abutments, forcing the bridge to close. The trestle has since been repaired and is back in full service. Two smaller bridges cross just a mile or two south of the Red Jacket Trestle.
The Red Jacket Trail extends southward away from downtown Mankato, passing commercial properties before cutting directly through one of the city’s older neighborhoods. After about 1 mile, the scenery changes to heavily wooded forest; this landscape continues for the rest of the trek to Rapidan.
At Hawthorn Road, a short section of trail is shared with the South Route Trail, which takes bikers and walkers northwest along County Road 90 for about 4 miles to the southern section of Minneopa State Park. A pure strain of American bison was introduced to the park’s northern section in the fall of 2015.
Before reaching Rapidan, be sure to spend time at Red Jacket Trail Park. The park contains a picnic shelter, canoe launch, and parking lot, and offers breathtaking views of the trestle. In Rapidan, follow the paved shoulder on 552nd Avenue a short distance south to access the heart of the small village.
A noteworthy side trip is to follow CR 9 west from Rapidan about 2 miles to Rapidan Dam Park for more parking, restrooms, and an expansive view of the Blue Earth River Valley.
In Mankato, parking can be found downtown, about one block east of US 169 where it intersects with S. Riverfront Drive. Take I-35 to Exit 56. Turn left (southwest) onto MN 60, and go 31.1 miles. Turn right onto US 14, and go 8 miles. Take the Riverfront Drive exit, and turn left onto Riverfront Drive. Go 2.7 miles, and turn right onto Stoltzman Road, where parking is available. The trail is one block west.
Mankato Area Public Schools and Mankato Family YMCA both have large parking lots adjacent to the trail.
Just southwest of Mankato, parking and portable toilets are located at Weagel Park. Take I-35 to Exit 56. Turn left (southwest) onto MN 60, and go 31.1 miles. Turn right onto US 14, and go 10.1 miles. Take the MN 60/US 169 exit toward Mankato. In 2.9 miles take the Riverfront Drive exit toward MN 66. Turn right onto S. Riverfront Drive, and in 0.2 mile turn left onto Sibley St. In 0.2 mile turn right onto W. Seventh St. Take the first left onto MN 66/Carney Ave. In 1.4 miles turn left onto Indian Lake Road, and parking will be on the right.
Additional parking and a picnic shelter are located at Red Jacket Trail Park. Take I-35 to Exit 56. Turn left (southwest) onto MN 60, and go 31.1 miles. Turn right onto US 14, and go 6 miles. Take the MN 22 exit, and turn left onto MN 22. Go 4.8 miles, and turn right onto County Road 90. Turn left onto MN 66, and go 0.7 mile. Turn left, and parking will be on the right.
I had the pleasure to ride this trail on 6-7-2016 and I was not disappointed. Starting off in Mankato introduces you to a private and mostly wooded nicely paved trail as you travel through the neighborhood. There are several side street crossings before becoming more wooded outside of town. There are several dirt footpath or side trails along in certain sections. The views at the trestle crossings are beautiful! The trail seemed to be a slight grade uphill going South but once you turn around there are sections you can simply glide through! There were walkers, riders, and family enjoying the trail so it can get a little crowded during peak times. Being about 6.8 miles in length it is not a long trail, but spend extra time enjoying the views it offers or extend your ride on the North Minnesota River Trail. The Red Jacket Trail ends at a farm road and extends along the road but I turned around where most of who I saw turned around - when it exits the forested area at the end. 4 stars for length but 5 stars for everything else the trail offers!
Some portions a bit hilly, but nice, scenic trail overall.
the trail is only like 5 to 6 miles not 13
The Red Jacket Bridge Trestle is going to be celebrated with a Grand Opening ceremony held on Saturday May 09, 2012 from 10am to 12pm by the Blue Earth County Historical Society. All are welcome to come out and see the ribbon cutting ceremony and ride the trail. The trail across the bridge section that was raised
into place on the new pier has been open for about a month now. This information was taken from the local newspaper, The Mankato Free Press.
There are over 100 miles of connecting paved bike trails in the Mankato, MN. area. For a FREE copy of the
18" X 22", two sided Biking & Hiking color map, contact the Greater Mankato Convention & Visitors Bureau, located in the Civic Center Plaza call (507) 385-6660 or (800) 657-4733. Also: firstname.lastname@example.org or-
Roger Bock, ICE Trike rider and Claire Bock, Greenspeed Trike rider
While the Red Jacket trail is nice, the central span of the bridge is currently out, due to a washed out tower. It looks like they have the framework for a missing span ready to go, but there was no indication on progress for the support tower . There is a paved detour that takes you over a nearby road bridge and gets you to Rapidan.
I am a little disappointed that the various web sites that publicize this trail have not been updated to reflect the current status. As the bridge is a highlight of the trail, this would only seem to be fair.
I look forward to news that the span has been restored and the bridge is back in service
As in my last comment about missing the turn in Mankato to the Red Jacket, I purposely cruised past the "exit" and ended up in Sibley Park. Rather than turning around I kept following the road until it crossed the Blue Earth River on Olive St. which eventually led to the Minneopa Trail--a nice surprise. This is a smooth, new asphalt trail about 4-5 miles long which runs into Minneopa State Park with only a short segment on marked roadway.
Minneopa is a scenic state park with water falls & walking paths. After a brief rest, I got onto the Red Jacket which parallels Hawthorne Road; taking the RJT this way I avoided some very steep climbs and enjoyed some long down hill runs. I didn't go as far south as Rapidan but took a left and went past Mt. Kato ski hill then back into Mankato where I eventually got onto the Sakatah (as noted previously, the trails in Mankato are poorly marked, so it was a process of trial and error). Crossing busy roads in Mankato (3rd Ave is the worst) is especially hazardous because automobile traffic never slows down. I don't know why they lay all this expensive asphalt then neglect putting up directional & safety signs?
The Red Jacket Trail starts in west Mankato on a busy road in between a high school & YMCA (parking possible either place) across from the Burger King. Getting there from the North Minnesota River Trail (an extension of the Sakatah Trail) is tricky with no signs or maps. There are a couple of other park areas you could wind up at if you miss the turns.
It winds through some neighborhoods unmarked, crossing somewhat busy roads. The "official" start is a sign about a mile down the trail--nothing more. Once on the right track, the trail meanders around some curves, in and out of shade, uphill to the hamlet of Rapidan. It's a pleasant ride with few users. On the way you'll cross an impressive bridge over the LeSueur River with some remarkable views. There isn't much in Rapidan so pack snacks & water (weekends may be better). You can take a county road a few miles out to the Rapidan Dam to tack on extra miles. This is a nice trail to extend a longer ride on the Sakatah which runs about 40 miles east to Faribault.
"I started out on this trail at a parking lot by the Mt. Kato ski area. The trail there is out in the open and travels by the ski area, then intersects with another trail for a short time. From there you climb into the forest and the trail is shaded for the next 4 miles. The trail is quite scenic with a very steep drop-off to the right as you bike towards Rapidan. There are no guardrails either. I felt the ride was worthwhile for the Red Jacket Trestle, which is 80 feet above the ground and overlooks the LeSeuer River. If heights scare you, you can choose to follow an alternate trail that goes down to ground level, and meets up on the other side. There is also a nice rest stop there too. Following that, the trip to Rapidan is very short. The town is quite small with many old buildings. The path ends right after leaving the forest, and you have to bike on the road shoulder, however traffic is very light. If desired, the trip to the Rapidan Dam Park is close by, also on the shoulder of the road, and passes some nice farmland. There is a hill right before reaching the park where I reached speeds of 25 mph. The bottom of the hill crosses the beautiful Blue Earth River. Once reaching the park you can look at the dam and bike through the campground. The ride back on the trail was all downhill. I enjoyed this trail, but put on bug spray since the mosquitos were very thick in the wooded areas. "
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