Theodore Wirth Park Trail Review
Theodore Wirth Park is located on the border of Minneapolis and Golden Valley, straddling Highway 55 less than a mile from Penn Avenue N. and a mile from Highway 100.
Many miles of various types of trails are available within the 750 acre park. MOCA (Minneapolis Off-Road Cycling Advocates) and MORC (Minnesota Off-Road Cyclists) built and maintain approximately four and a half miles of trails intended primarily for mountain bikers. Including the distance from and back to the parking area plan on a five and a half mile run to cover all the trails.
Runners can log another couple miles starting from the beach house and exploring the south side of Glenwood Avenue, but still within the park. This area is covered in other single-track trails, grassy trails, and more paved trails throughout the park. These trails are where runners can find short but steep, heart-rate increasing inclines.
At Wirth is some terrain for just about everyone, aside from those looking for long climbs and big elevation changes. The running and biking trails provide only a couple hundred feet of elevation changes. The golf course, especially by the clubhouse, will leave those wanting more hill training salivating and considering whether dodging golf balls is a worthwhile risk. Grassy prairie, lakeside paved trails, layers of soft pine needles and forested trails are all within a couple miles of each other.
Some of the more maze-like technical trails provide enough frequent turns to induce vertigo if the runner is not focused enough on the six feet directly ahead.
South of Glenwood Avenue hosts some hiking trails with some challenging elevation changes.
Most of the non-paved trails are either grassy trails used by Park Board maintenance vehicles or packed dirt trails intended for bikers and runners. The good folks at MORC built in some obstacles such as small boulders and fallen trees to hurdle. A few sections of the trail seem to be growing some jagged rocks perfectly suited to catch a runner’s toe and set him off balance. All the trails are very manageable for a novice trail runner with enough variation to require focused attention from the veterans. The obstacles and undulating course provide that roller coaster feel that the best trails do.
Theo Wirth may be one of the best-kept secrets within Minneapolis. Only a few runners and bikers were out on the trails on a warm spring weekend morning. The park provides views of different lakes, downtown Minneapolis, and a beautiful municipal golf course. And it’s located within the city! (OK, technically it is located within Golden Valley, we’ll keep that a secret too.)
The feeling of discovering a new place something in one’s local area is a rare and cherished emotion. When that new place is nature and it’s within a major metropolitan area then the emotion – for us trails runner types – is euphoric. Theo Wirth is like a playground for adults. Running its trails feels like play. It brings back memories of playing Tag as a child during recess, or Capture the Flag at summer camp. Certainly it is appropriate to be playing at a park and thankfully there is no admission fee or threat of contract cooties from those out there playing with you.
Parking is encouraged in the beach parking lot, and discouraged in the golf course lot that is reserved for golfers. From there, runners should navigate to the west side of the lake. (Another option is to run around the lake counter-cross wise, using the new elevated path built on the north side of the lake.)
Immediately after crossing Highway 55 look left of the paved trail to find the entrance to the first off-road trail. A half-mile up this trail you’ll get back on the paved trail to continue north along Theo Wirth Parkway to the longer loop. After crossing the railroad tracks, hang a left on the paved Luce Line Trail for a half-mile until you find the entrance to the off-road loop.
Once you’re on the trails you may forget you’re in the big city, just follow the signs and continue running. There are plenty of options to follow off shoots of the maintained trails, and the option to head to a different part of the trail by crossing a prairie in the center of the main trails.
All the mountain biking trails, which are well marked, are one-way trails. Always run with the direction of “traffic”. Leave the headphones in the car and listen for the squirrels playing in the leaves and bikers thrashing the trail behind you.
Few garbage bins are available within the areas of maintained trails. Make sure to take out what you bring in. In fact, bring out more than you bring in; grab a piece of trash you may come across while in the park. Also, fill up with water at the beach house since you won’t come across any water fountains.