West River Parkway Trail


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West River Parkway Trail Facts

States: Minnesota
Counties: Hennepin
Length: 8.9 miles
Trail end points: Plymouth Ave. opposite Boom Island and Ford Parkway at Minnehaha Park
Trail surfaces: Asphalt, Concrete
Trail category: Rail-Trail
ID: 6016333
Trail activities: Bike, Inline Skating, Fishing, Wheelchair Accessible, Walking, Cross Country Skiing

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West River Parkway Trail Description

The West River Parkway Trail, also known as the Mississippi River Gorge Regional Trail, extends between Plymouth Avenue North opposite Boom Island and Ford Parkway in Minnehaha Regional Park, where you can join the Minnehaha Trail.

The trail follows the Mississippi River south (downstream) from north of Plymouth Avenue to Minnehaha Falls and offers spectacular views of the river as well as access to downtown Minneapolis, the University of Minnesota campus, and several trailhead/access points to other urban trails, including the St. Anthony Falls Heritage Trail, the Dinkytown Greenway, and the Midtown Greenway.

The West River Parkway Trail mixes urban amenities with natural areas and is well used for recreation and commuting. The James I. Rice Park at Plymouth Avenue is the first of several parks along the route, most of which have portable toilets, water, and picnic areas, all in settings that offer views of the Mississippi River. The trail runs amid a tree-lined boulevard all along the southern portion of the parkway and offers occasional glimpses of the river far below.

An example of an oak savanna community of plants is being restored along the route at East 36th Street. The 5-mile round-trip Winchell Trail winds along the slopes below the parkway between Franklin Avenue and 44th Street.

A portion of the trail just north of the Franklin Avenue Bridge has been closed for more than a year because of construction to repair damage from a landslide that flushed 4,000 cubic yards of earth off the embankment along the parkway.

The West River Parkway Trail is part of the Grand Rounds National Scenic Byway, a 50-mile loop tour of the region that can be walked, biked, or driven and which features cultural and natural sites. The West River Parkway links up to the Godfrey Parkway, connecting it to Minnehaha Falls and several trails heading farther south.

Parking and Trail Access

To reach the northern trailhead from I-94 E., take Exit 229. Turn left onto W. Broadway Ave., and in 0.3 mile turn right onto W. River Road. In 0.5 mile parking will be on the left. From I-94 W., take Exit 229. Continue straight on 17th Ave. N., and in 0.2 mile turn right onto W. River Road. In 0.3 mile parking will be on the left.

There are several parking lots along W. River Pkwy.

To reach the southern trailhead from I-94 just north of downtown Minneapolis, take Exit 237. Head south on Cretin Ave. N., and go 2.6 miles. Turn right onto Ford Pkwy., and in 0.8 mile turn left onto 46th Ave. S. Immediately turn left onto Godfrey Pkwy., and parking will be on the right.

West River Parkway Trail Reviews

We were 1st time Minneapolis riders this year. We chose this trail to hopefully see some of the river, the falls, and get to downtown. We started at Fort Snelling and rode North. While we were unloading and setting up there was a steady stream of riders coming from the south. We finally watched a couple of the riders pick up their bikes and take walking trails down to a path that might have gone onto a bridge crossing the river. We were never sure. One commuter we spoke to, asked, "How long do have? Because you can ride forever in Minneapolis." Very true. This trail is well marked and well traveled. Always off the road, but crosses quite many. I enjoyed the energy seeing how well used the trail system is in town. We rode the to be able to cross the Stone Arch Bridge, then we turned and came back South to the fort. I'm surprised the trail hasn't been rated in while.

I am a regular at the West River Parkway, from my house in St Louis Park I can do a nice 25 mile evening ride via the Cedar Lake trail, West River Parkway, going back via the lakes to the Midtown Greenway and going back to St Louis Park. I do see the issue that some other reviewers share: quality of the road is so-so, it is very busy when the weather is nice but it is still a great ride for a road bike or mountain bike. Going from North to South is easier than the other way around. At the South side you can hop over to the St Paul side but - in my experience - the trails at the East side of town are clearly less good and not fit for my minimum distance (20 miles to 60 miles per trip, depending on the time of day). For folks who are not from Minneapolis the West River Parkway shows some great historic places of Minneapolis/St Paul and St Anthony, the early settlement that in the end was dissolved in what is now the Twin Cities. I did not hike the West River Parkway yet but I have the feel that the walkways closer to the river bottom must provide some spectacular views, especially South of the old Mill museum and the Red Cross office.

One of the oldest separated bike paths in Minneapolis, and it shows. The pavement is very rough in places, curb cuts are few and awkwardly placed, and the pedestrians will drive you nuts. Although there is a walking path a few feet away from the bike trail, the bike path is typically clogged with oblivious joggers and people pushing strollers or meandering along three abreast. The trail runs along the top of the river bluff, but it's not as scenic as you would expect. For the most part the view of the river is obstructed by a thick tangle of trees and underbrush. On the plus side, it is very shady and the River Road is only moderately busy.

The only reason I ride on this trail is if I'm trying to get from the Midtown Bike Path to Lake Street and I don't feel like riding down the Hiawatha corridor. If I were looking for a pleasant ride with a view from the river bluffs I'd ride on the east side of the river.

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