Trail: South St. Paul Regional Trail

Description: This trail follows the Mississippi River through South St. Paul. It's mostly on top of the Mississippi River levee and offers good views of the river. It also parallels the Union Pacific railroad tracks.

Getting there: There's a trailhead near Interstate 494. Take 494 east to the Hardman Avenue exit (the last exit before the river), and turn right (going north). After you go under 494, there's a sign saying "Public Water Access" on the right. Turn right, and the trailhead is about half a mile down the road. There's a short section of trail south of this trailhead, but most of it is north.

There is also a trailhead and parking lot near the Waterous plant (about 125 Hardman Ave. S.) It appears that they're building a trailhead near Butler Avenue and Concord Street, but the trail currently dead-ends there.

Length: About four miles. (Although the South St. Paul Parks and Recreation department says it's 6.5 miles, but I think that might include the northwestern portion currently under construction.)

Difficulty: Easy. The trail is mostly flat, but there are a few inclines here and there to make things interesting. The only road crossing is at the trailhead.

Popularity/number of other users: I only saw a few other bikers and hikers on the trail. I was skating in the middle of a weekday afternoon. I think I saw more Union Pacific locomotives than other trail users, though.

Surface conditions: Excellent -- this is a new trail and the asphalt is smooth.

Scenery: You're right up next to the Mississippi River for the first few miles, and it's easy to see birds fishing for their dinner. The northernmost mile or so goes through a wooded area. The western side of the trail gives views of industrial areas and Union Pacific railroad yards, which may not appeal to everyone.

Nearby restaurants: I didn't check this out, but Boca Chica is located just up Concord Street toward downtown St. Paul.

Water: Water is available at the trailhead near Highway 494.

Other nearby trails: At Harriet Island, you can connect to the Lilydale Regional Park end of the Big Rivers Trail. It appears that Dakota County is considering extending this trail and connecting it to other trails.

Comments: With great views of the river and a nice smooth surface, this trail shouldn't stay a secret for too long.

Official web site: Mississippi National River and Recreation Area map; South St. Paul Parks and Recreation


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