Fort Snelling State Park-St. Paul-Minnesota

Today’s hiking adventure began at Fort Snelling State Park.

We parked by the Thomas C. Savage Visitor Center and began our hike towards Pike Island. Let me backup a bit, this past winter Minnesota experienced its 3rd snowiest winter. This past week, the weather was in the high 80’s which meant the snow melted fast! As we neared the bridge to cross over to Pike Island we noticed…well…as you will see in the picture below, the bridge was surrounded by water. Since we didn’t have a canoe, we needed to change our hiking plans.

We decided to hike the paved trail towards Coldwater Spring. The weather was cool and rainy. It sure was nice to see little bits of spring beginning to pop out.

In the distance, we could hear running water. We exited the paved trail and began to explore the unpaved trails. A mini waterfall surrounded by colorful graffiti appeared.

As we entered Coldwater Spring, more signs of spring began to appear.

We continued to hike the unpaved trails towards Minnehaha Falls.

The Mississippi River was flowing fast. Areas that were normally dry were now flooded.

The trails led us up and down the cliffs. The heavy snow storm we had a week ago did lots of damage. Many trees were down, thick branches were snapped, and even the cliffs weren’t immune to the damage.

The trail close to the river was underwater, so back to the paved trail we went. The Ford Parkway Bridge can be seen in the distance. There is an island in the middle of the river. Currently it is under water, however, you can still see the tops of the trees.

We took the staircase back down to the trails closest to the river.

The water is close to the top of this bridge’s archway.

The trail crosses under the Steel Bridge also known as the Minnesota Veterans Home Bridge.

The closer we got to the Minnehaha Falls the louder the rushing water became.

Minnehaha Falls

As we looped back towards our starting point, more signs of spring began to appear.

We crossed over an old bridge and down an old staircase. The trail at the end of the stairs was flooded.

We hiked the paved trail back to our cars.

Today’s hiking adventure was 8.2 miles.

Spring Lake Park Reserve-Hastings-Minnesota

Today’s hiking adventure began at Spring Lake Park Reserve.

Finally, the weather felt like spring! With the sun shining and the temperature decent, we began our hike on the Mississippi River Greenway Trail towards Schaar’s Bluff.

The park has recently added bison to the land. We were excited to catch a glimpse of them as we hiked by. Unfortunately, the bison were grazing out of sight. We continued on the trail hoping to catch them on the return trip.

The first bridge we crossed offered a great view of the Mississippi River and the valley below.

The trail curves and bends around the bluffs.

The view of the Mississippi River from an overlook.

This tree had a huge burl. We had to stop and get a closer look. The tree was completely hollow inside.

We reached Schaar’s Bluff. Thankfully, their Gathering Center was open. After looking around the center, back outside we went to take in another view of the Mississippi River.

Our plan was to turn around and head back, however, the day was too perfect to end our hike so soon. We carried on to the Lock and Dam #2. The trail led us past someone’s personal art sculptures. I made sure to take pictures of the bison sculptures in case we missed the real ones.

The trail led to one of my favorite places in Hastings. The trail cuts in between the Mississippi River and Lake Rebecca Park.

An eagle was on the edge of the ice on the river as it looked for a snack on the open water. 

Lots of giant nests along the river.

Lock and Dam #2 was closed. After a quick rest we decided to head back to our starting point. As we hiked past an open farm field, we saw at least 24 deer run across it. I’m not sure where they came from or where they were going but WOW! That was a lot of deer. We also saw an owl take off from the ground. As soon as the owl landed, it must have turned its invisibility cloak on because… poof, it was gone. We were happy to have had other animal sightings since we were unable to see the bison, although, we were still hoping to catch a glimpse of them.

We found them! The bison were out grazing in the far end of the East Paddock. There were about 6 of them.

Today’s hiking adventure was our longest hike to date at 19.5 miles.

Great River Bluffs-Winona-Minnesota

We hiked Great River Bluffs State Park on June 25, 2022.

The rain poured as we began our hiking adventure. We followed the King’s Bluff Trailhead to the King’s Bluff Overlook.

The light fog and rain created a mystical environment. We felt like we were walking into an enchanted forest.

The ground was a bit muddy at times. Thankfully, Mother Earth provided natural traction as we hiked up the hills.

The plants and flowers were soaking up the rain.

Fog gently danced around the top of the trees.

The overlook was breathtaking! The Mississippi River can be seen in the distance.

Our hiking adventure was 2.6 miles.

John A. Latsch State Park-Winona County-Minnesota

We hiked John A. Latsch on June 24th, 2022.

The Riverview Trail has a rating of difficult due to the 592 steps one needs to take straight up the bluff to Mount Charity Overlook.

On a hot, sunny and humid summer day we took our time climbing up those stairs. We saw glimpses of what the top of the bluff might offer the higher we climbed.

We made it to the top of the bluff! The overlook was worth the climb. The view of the mighty Mississippi River was magnificent.

Lock and Dam #5 can be seen in the distance.

What goes up must come down.

Our hiking adventure was 592 steps straight up the bluff.

Grey Cloud Dunes SNA-Cottage Grove-Minnesota

Today’s hiking adventure began at Grey Cloud Dunes Scientific and Natural Area. Grey Cloud Dunes SNA is a type of sand-gravel prairie which is rare in Minnesota. We were very careful to stay on the trail so we did not damage the sensitive landscape.

Spring is definitely here! The dirt trails were surrounded by bright green grass. Little baby leaves were beginning to grow on the trees all around us.

The trail led us under the train tracks and to a beautiful open prairie.

As we hiked closer to the Mississippi River we came across several small ponds. The water and grass appeared so vibrant in color.

The Mississippi River offered beautiful views as always.

Along the trail, the trees were magnificent.

We crossed back over the railroad tracks and began our climb to the upper part of the prairie.

The higher view offered a beautiful view of the river below.

After hiking the Grey Cloud Dunes SNA, we continued our hike to Hazen P. Mooers Park. Mooers Lake connects to the Mississippi River. We crossed over the bridge and continued our hike on to Lower Grey Cloud Island.

Once on the island, we noticed there was a Sand and Gravel Mine. They had a huge excavator bucket on display at the beginning of their entrance.

The turquoise colored water next to a mining operation is always interesting to see.

Today’s hiking adventure was 9.9 miles.

Kaposia Landing-South St. Paul-Minnesota

Today’s hiking adventure began at Kaposia Landing.

The paved trail we hiked was called the Robert Piram Regional Trail. The trail offered views of the Mississippi River and many trains.

The sky turned dark and rain began to downpour on us. Lightning flashed across the sky in front of us as the thunder crashed. We decided to stay the course and continued on. Thankfully the storm passed quickly.

On the trail, we passed an old car not far from the railroad tracks.  

We hiked past the St. Paul Airport. Downtown St. Paul can be seen in the photo below.

Harriet Island Regional Park was our next stop.

We crossed the Wabasha Street Bridge into downtown St. Paul. Smith Avenue High Bridge can be seen in the distance.

Downtown St. Paul has some great old buildings.

We even found Snoopy!

On the north side of the Smith Avenue High Bridge was a small sculpture garden. The green chair weighs 2,500 pounds!

Crossing the Smith Avenue High Bridge offered beautiful views of the Mississippi River and downtown St. Paul.

The High Bridge Overlook was the next stop on our hike, which is on the south side of the Smith Avenue High Bridge. Eagles could be seen soaring below scanning the river for their next meal.

Being an urban explorer offers the advantage of stopping for a snack. We decided to walk down Wabasha Street towards several restaurants. We passed the Wabasha Street Caves. They offer cave tours and host other events. Around the corner from the Wabasha Caves we found a cave entrance that was closed, however, it offered us a peek inside.

Tacos for the midday snack! Charlie Brown greeted us as we walked towards the entrance.

We continued our hiking adventure down Cesar Chavez Street until we reached the Robert Piram Regional Trail. Once back at Kaposia Landing we crossed the bridge over the railroad tracks to see Simon’s Ravine Trailhead. We decided to tackle that trailhead another day. They have a beautiful sculpture at the Simon’s Ravine trailhead.

Today’s hiking adventure was 10.5 miles.

West River Parkway-Minneapolis-Minnesota

Today’s hiking adventure started out on the West River Parkway in Minneapolis.

We began our hike on the paved path, however, we quickly found our way walking down the stone steps to the river trail.

The trail we were on was called The Winchell Trail.

Due to the recent rain and snow we had, the river trail was muddy and slippery at times. We were even able to see some icicles along the rocks.

The trail brought us to the Locks and Dam #1. Unfortunately, the observation deck was closed for the season. This allowed us to see several different views of the Ford Parkway Bridge.

Once on the other side of the Ford Parkway Bridge, we continued our hike along the river trail in St. Paul. We found two waterfalls along the trail. The first waterfall was still frozen.

The second waterfall we saw is called Shadow Falls. The waterfall trickled down the side of the rockbed. 

The limestone bluffs offered great views of the Mississippi River.

The river trail continued to the Lake Street-Marshall Bridge.

We decided to continue our hike past the Lake Street-Marshall Bridge to the Franklin Bridge. The paved trail offered views of the Short Line Bridge and the Franklin Bridge.

We jumped back on the Winchell Trail after crossing the Franklin Bridge. We were able to hike under the Short Line Bridge which allowed us a close view of the giant metal pieces it was constructed from.

White Sands Beach was the next destination on the trail. The sand was very fine and soft to the touch.

We continued on the trail back to our starting point.

Today’s hiking adventure was 11.5 miles.

Crosby Farm Regional Park-St. Paul-Minnesota

After another week of rain and snow, the cold weather finally moved out creating a perfect sunny day for a hiking adventure. We began our hike at Crosby Farm Regional Park. We spotted eagles, ducks, geese, and even a grey heron along the shores of Crosby Lake as we hiked the paved trails towards the Mississippi River.

The Mississippi River trail offered beautiful views of the river. We also found several trees and rocks painted with red hearts and other graffiti along the river trail.

The trail brought us to Hidden Falls Regional Park. The actual Hidden Falls is hidden off the main trail, hence its name. The falls eluded us last summer, however, today we found our way.

Hidden Falls Creek flows into the Mississippi River. Parts of the creek were still covered in a thick sheet of ice.

We climbed the old rock steps by the falls to the Mississippi River Boulevard Parkway. Hiking the river road allowed us to loop back to our starting point, giving us a different perspective of the river below. Downtown Minneapolis and Fort Snelling can be seen in the distance in the photos below.

We made it back to our starting point at Crosby Farm Regional Park and decided to continue our hiking adventure a little further. The trail allowed us to cross the Mississippi River along the Highway 35 E bridge. Downtown St. Paul can be seen in the distance.

We found a dirt trail alongside the highway and decided to see where it would lead.

The trail led us to the underside of the 35 E Bridge. We found a cool view of the belly of the bridge and some colorful graffiti.

Today’s hiking adventure was 9.8 miles.

Mississippi Gateway Regional Park-Brooklyn Park-Minnesota

We began our hiking adventure at the Mississippi Gateway Regional Park. The trail quickly led us to the Coon Rapids Dam. The Mississippi River roared through the dam.

Crossing the bridge over the dam offered beautiful views of the Mississippi River. The river was calm on one side of the dam and turbulent on the other. The cold wind whipped around us as we made our way across the dam.

Once on the other side of the dam, we hiked a portion of the Mississippi River Regional Trail. The brilliant blue sky reflected off the river creating a stunning view of the mighty Mississippi.

About a mile into our hike on the Mississippi River Regional Trail, the trail closed due to bridge repairs. On our way back to the dam, we looped around the still frozen Cenaiko Lake. Even though it didn’t feel like spring, we could see some green grass beginning to grow.

We crossed back over the dam and continued our hike on the river trail. The ice gathering along the side of the river was amazing to see.

Today’s hiking adventure was a little over 6 miles long.

Woodland Trails Regional Park-Elk River-Minnesota

Happy first day of Spring!

We began our hiking adventure at Woodland Trails Regional Park. The sun was shining brightly down on us as we ventured out on the trails. A thin layer of ice coated the trails making for a slippery start to the day. Our first trail was the Prairie Loop due to it being mostly clear of snow and ice.

We tried walking on the snow covered paths for a bit, however, the ice on top of the snow made for a dangerous commute.

The Great Northern Trail crossed through the park. Being it was paved and mostly clear of ice, we jumped on it and began hiking out of the park. 

After a few side road detours, we hiked into the Historic Downtown Elk River. Downtown offered beautiful views of the Mississippi River and their cool water tower.

Several murals were painted on the buildings. We even came across an elk!

On the loop back to our starting point, we visited a small Veteran’s Memorial, crossed over railroad tracks and hugged a giant tree.

Today was a beautiful day for a 9 mile hiking adventure!

Swing Bridge Park Trailhead-Inver Grove Heights-Minnesota

This morning’s hiking adventure began at the Swing Bridge Park Trailhead.

I began by taking in the view from the Rock Island Swing Bridge that was built in 1894. The bridge no longer extends across the Mississippi River as it is now a recreational pier.

Further away from the shore, the frozen river began to break apart into giant sheets of ice. The warm sun shimmered across the water as eagles soared above looking for their next meal.

As I began my hike along the Mississippi River Regional Trail, I could hear birds singing, and the trees creaked as the wind blew through them.

The trail offered several places to rest and overlooks to view the mighty Mississippi.

The Wakota Bridge/494 Bridge appeared in the distance stretching across the Mississippi River.

The trail went under the Wakota Bridge. I had to wait for a long train to pass by before I could make my way towards the top of the bridge.

The Mississippi River mirrored the brilliant blue sky as I crossed the Wakota Bridge.

Today’s hiking adventure was 8 miles.

Fort Snelling State Park/Minnehaha Falls Loop-Minnesota

With the sun shinning brightly and the temperature a chilly four degrees, today was meant for a wintery hiking adventure. The cloudless sky was as blue as the ocean. Our adventure started at Fort Snelling State Park by the Thomas C. Savage Visitor Center. Several inches of fresh snow covered the trails. With the Mississippi River to our right, we hiked the trail heading towards the Minnehaha Falls which led us to several beautiful sites. 

Coldwater Spring was the first site. The creek was lightly flowing with snow and ice surrounding the edges. The rising steam from the water shimmered through the rising sun. The old Coldwater Spring house and reservoir is a beautiful place to visit during the winter months.

We continued along the trail which offered views of the Ford Dam and an old incinerator.

Minnehaha Falls in the winter is breathtaking. The water appears frozen in time enabling it to capture different shades of blue. It was eerily quiet as we walked around the falls.

Our final site on this hiking adventure was the Historic Fort Snelling buildings. The old stone appeared as cold as the crisp whispering winds swirling past us. The hiking loop we traveled was 6.5 miles long, a beautiful winter sight seeing adventure. 

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Pine Bend Bluffs Scientific and Natural Area-Inver Grove Heights-Minnesota

Today’s hiking adventure started at the Pine Bend Bluffs Trailhead in Inver Grove Heights. The temperature was in the lower teens and the wind was mild as we embarked on our hike. At times we could see the Mississippi River to our left as we walked south on the paved trail. Eagles soared above us. The recent snowfall made it hard to find the trails that led to the Pine Bend Bluffs Scientific and Natural Area. With a push from our intuition, we decided to follow a deer trail. Eventually we found signs confirming we were on a trail. As we made fresh footprints in the snow, the view of the mighty Mississippi appeared in the distance over the bluffs. The view was majestic. The frosty temps and our rosy cheeks hastened our decision to end our hiking adventure of a little over 7 miles for the day.