11 Reasons You Should Run the Minnehaha Falls Park Trail
Minnehaha Falls Park is located in southeast Minneapolis just down Minnehaha Creek from Lakes Nokomis and Hiawatha and east of Highway 55 and south of 46th Street. But any self-respecting resident of Minneapolis knows exactly where “the falls” are without having to look it up on a map!
Distance at Minnehaha Falls
The distance covered by trails within Minnehaha Falls Park is not going to bring most experienced and in-shape trail runners to exhaustion. In fact, the short mile between the falls and where the creek meets the Mississippi River is only a two mile out-and-back course.
While there are plenty of good reasons to run the trails here, logging epic miles is not going to be one of them. More on that below!
Minnehaha Falls Trail Surface and Terrain
The terrain between the falls and the river is flat and easy to navigate. Given that there is a waterfall (did we mention yet this is one of two freaking WATERFALLS in the middle of our great city?!?!) there is a significant elevation change between the top of the creek and below the falls. The change is easiest to navigate via one of the sets of steps (either 106 or 113 steps) that are slippery when wet and treacherous when snowy or littered with leaves in the fall.
The surface varies between the trail on the south side of the creek compared to the north side of the creek. While the majority of the trail is made from crushed and compacted gravel, the trail to the south of the creek has some tricky sections of often slippery rocks and tree roots.
Few places in the Twin Cities would be better to introduce a child to trail running. With the short distance, manageable terrain, different surfaces, and multitude of fun distractions nearby most active kids would have a blast going for a run and cooling down with a treat afterward.
Why Run Minnehaha Falls
There are a lot of great reasons to run in Minnehaha Falls Park, even for serious trail runners. Here is the start to what could certainly be a much longer list:
- It’s a great meeting place for friends to gather
- End a long run around the lakes or up and down the river with a couple trail miles
- Introduce kids to trail running
- As part of another outdoor activity such as getting in a round of disc golf at nearby Wabun Park
- Stair climbing!
- Its great for runners with even the worst sense of direction
- Celebrate with a treat at Sea Salt, Dairy Queen, or Bridgeman’s… or all three
- Take a scenic selfie in front of the falls
- Occasionally see a daredevil kayaker take the plunge down the falls
- See a unique view of the Ford Ave bridge and Lock and Dam #1
- See the early morning sun light beautifully illuminate the creek and surrounding trees
But if you need to log some serious miles for a hilly race coming up, you’d be better off heading to Afton.
Ample parking is available around the park, but most of it is paid parking (don’t chance it, they watch the area closely). Nearby Longfellow Gardens offers free parking and a beautiful place to stretch before or after your run.
From there head over towards the pavilion – which is where most of the action is. Look for cars coming through the roundabout as you cross South Minnehaha Drive and follow the creek past the statue of Hiawatha and Minnehaha to the area overlooking the falls. The shorter set of stairs is just to the left from the overlook.
Once you’re at the bottom of the stairs, cross the bridge and continue along the creek. On your way towards the Mississippi River keep the creek to your left for the most varied surface. Once you make it to the river you’ll cross another bridge and see a rocky beach with a great view of the Ford Avenue bridge up river. Take a minute to find a good skipping rock and see if you can skip it across the river.
Keep the creek to your left again on the way back to the falls to experience the trails on the other side of the creek. Go up the stairs without crossing the bridge below the falls and wind your way back towards the pavilion once you’ve made it to the top. Catch your breath while waiting in line at Sea Salt to order a post-run beer or ice cream cone to celebrate, along with many others from the area, what a great treasure Minnehaha Falls are to our fine city.
Once you reach the river, instead of crossing the bridge to your left, wind your way around to the right. Navigate over the huge cement storm drain outlet and pick up the single track that will lead to the off leash dog park.
You’ll find a bit more solitude in this area and will encounter some dogs who may want you to join their pack.
Take a look at our Twin Cities trail map for other trails. What has been your experience with the Minnehaha Falls Park Trail?