Route Spotlight: West River Parkway
As the leaves change and the weather gets cooler, I think fondly about my favorite running routes. Fall running is the best running in my opinion, and one of the very best fall running routes in Minneapolis is along West River Parkway.
Long time Minneapolitans all know and revere the Mississippi River paths, but if you’re newer to the area or stick to the outskirts of town, you’re in for a treat! West River Parkway (and it’s companion trail, East River Parkway, in St. Paul) line the edges of the Mississippi River and stretch from the Minnehaha Creek, past the University of Minnesota campus, and all the way through downtown Minneapolis for a total of 8.9 miles. The trails are widely used by runners, cyclists, walkers, and even the occasional roller skier. Here’s why it’s one of the best paved trails Minneapolis has to offer:
Miles and Miles of Trail
West River Parkway, like many of the Minneapolis trails, is a section of the 50 mile Grand Rounds National Scenic Byway. In other words, while the Parkway is only 8.9 miles, your options for running longer are unlimited. I love hooking up with the Minnehaha Creek Trail and the Chain of Lakes for additional miles. Runners can even hook up with the Midtown Greenway near Franklin Avenue for miles of pancake flat trail.
I don’t know about you, but I hate carrying things on the run, even a water bottle. Because of this, I tend to chose running routes where I can easily find water; West River Parkway is the perfect place for this! Several water fountains can be found along the West River Parkway trail, but plan carefully because they are usually shut off in the winter months. Fountains can be found near 36th Street, 29th Street, and down along the river banks near the U of M. There are also a couple of water stops as you wind through Downtown en route to the Stone Arch Bridge.
Depending on where you start your run, there is plentiful and often free parking available along the trail. My favorite place to park is at Lock & Dam 1 just off of 46th Avenue and where Godfrey Parkway turns into West River Parkway. A sizeable, free lot sits at the top of a large incline that leads down to the lock and dam (and is an excellent place for hill repeats). Parking is also available on many side streets connecting to the trail. If you’re hoping to start from downtown, metered parking can be found near Gold Medal Park and the Stone Arch Bridge.
As to be expected, the West River Parkway trail is simply beautiful. In the spring and summer, green bushy trees line every inch of the trail. Once fall hits, the leaves of the trees light on fire in brilliant red and orange hues. Come winter, the trail offers a snowy, quiet solace from the rest of the world, and is regularly plowed, too! It is no wonder that West River Parkway has a prominent role in the The Most Beautiful Urban Marathon in America; regardless of season, the parkway is a stunner!