When people think of Bloomington, MN many people think of the Mall of America, the largest shopping and entertainment mall in the United States. Open since 1992, it is one of the most visited attractions in the world with millions of visitors every year.
What many people don’t realize is that Bloomington is the 4th largest city in Minnesota… 10 miles south of Minneapolis with a population of 89,987 spread over 38 square miles and bounded on the south by the Minnesota River valley. About 1/3 of the city’s land area is devoted to city and regional parks, playgrounds, and open space… including about 46 miles of trails.
Download Bloomington Active Living Biking and Hiking Guide
Hyland Lake Park Reserve
The big green park area on the left side of the map above is Hyland Lake Park Reserve, part of Three Rivers Park District. This 1,000 acre scenic natural park in the heart of Bloomington offers breathtaking hilly prairie landscapes and lakes as well as a large play area, the Richardson Nature Center, Hyland Hills Ski Area including a ski jump, an 18-hole disc golf course and a three-hole disc golf practice area. With so much to do, this park has endless opportunities for outdoor fun.
Bloomington’s Hyland Park is known in ‘kid’ circles as ‘Chutes & Ladders’… a huge, award-winning creative play area that is one of the best playgrounds in the metro!
Great for ages up to about 12, kids can spend hours climbing, hanging and sliding down chutes up to 50 feet long… and it also includes a section for children under 5 or with disabilities. Come prepared to get wet on a hot summer day… kids love running through the water sprayers!
Don’t have kids? Don’t worry, the playground is just a small part of the this expansive park which has something for just about everyone… picnic areas… 18 miles of trails (both paved and unpaved, some pedestrian only)… rowboat, canoe and paddleboat rental… fishing pier… disc (frisbee) golf… Richardson Nature Center.
In the winter the park transforms to a winter wonderland… with cross country ski trails and rentals, sledding, ice fishing… and the Hyland Ski and Snowboard Area for downhill skiing and jumping.
Hyland Lake Park Reserve is a great family destination year round. With acres of woodlands and prairies and six bodies of water it is hard to believe it is just five minutes from the Mall of America and 17 minutes from downtown Minneapolis!
Nine Mile Creek Trail
This is one of my favorite ‘hidden treasures’. Nine Mile Creek Trail is roughly in the middle of Bloomington’s width, at the southern edge. This part of the city has traditional streets lined with 1950’s single family homes… developed decades before the lakes area west of Hyland Park Reserve with more winding streets, rolling hills and larger homes.
from an August 2010 blog post
Nine Mile Creek is actually 15 miles long and winds through several neighboring cities, but today we are visiting the stretch that winds through central Bloomington’s Moir and Central Parks in a beautiful wooded valley on its final leg to the Minnesota River.
This part of the creek has a walking trail only, cradled in a lush valley below street level… you could easily drive over it without even knowing it was there. The trail has several bridges that criss-cross back and forth over the creek, with trails paved north of 106th and chipped rock trails bordering the babbling brook south from there to the river. There is a small parking lot by the steps down to the creek at 106th Street and Morgan… but pay attention because it can be easy to miss.
When I visited a couple days ago I saw people and dogs of all ages, sizes and shapes out enjoying the trail… it feels like you are miles from the city!
You can also join Nine Mile Creek trail at Moir Park behind Nine Mile Creek Senior Living on W Old Shakopee Road.
Minnesota River Trails
Nine Mile Creek empties into the Minnesota River on Bloomington’s southern border, along the heavy red line at the bottom of the map below. With more than 45 miles of trails open to hiking, biking, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing in Bloomington and beyond, the Minnesota River Valley unfolds with several access points.
Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge Headquarters and Bloomington Education and Visitor Center
The Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge Headquarters and Bloomington Education and Visitor Center is located in the northeastern corner of Bloomington, near the Mall of America. Click the link for more info and directions.
There are many different natural areas called Units along the Minnesota River, with miles of trails connecting with other trail systems. The Long Meadow Lake Unit near the Mall of America is where the Visitor Center is located at 3815 American Boulevard East in Bloomington and includes a trail link to nearby Fort Snelling State Park where the Minnesota River joins the Mississippi River at Pike Island.
This unit has a wheelchair accessible overlook, but there are lots of steps and sloping chipped trails down to the river valley. The grasses on the way to the trails were teaming with fireflies when I stopped one summer… hard to appreciate just how many they were because they blended into their environment so well.
Long Meadow Lake Unit at Old Cedar Avenue Bridge
There is another trailhead at the site of the Old Cedar Avenue Bridge at Long Meadow Lake, straight south of the Mall of America and not far from the Visitor’s Center east of the Mall of America.
from 2019 blog post
Historic hiking is enjoying a fine walk and recognizing the history of the place at the same time. A great experience! I was driving across the newish Cedar Avenue Bridge and saw the old bridge proudly standing to the west. Did you know (I didn’t) that you can bike or walk across the full Minnesota River from Eagan to Bloomington on the old Cedar Avenue Bridge? The walk is beautiful! The old bridge route parallels the current bridge. (Take Old Shakopee Road to Old Cedar Avenue south to the trailhead. MAP)
The original Old Cedar Avenue Bridge, also known as the Long Meadow Bridge, was first built in 1890 and rebuilt in 1920. It carried automobile traffic for about 100 years, into the 1990s. Back when the old structure was the main crossing (before 1979), heavy traffic delays would occur because of the bridge’s small size and the need to operate the swing segment to let boat traffic pass.
The bridge was closed to motor vehicles in 1993 and all traffic in 2002 because of rotting supporting structure. Cyclists and nature lovers pushed Bloomington to fix the bridge, which would occasionally flood in the spring. In 2008, $2 million in state funding was approved to reopen the bridge to bicyclists and pedestrians.
The bridge spans a narrow section of Long Meadow Lake in Bloomington and the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge. In 2013, the bridge was added to the National Register of Historic Places, and the restored bridge opened to the public on October 14, 2016.
If you can, we recommend that you walk out on the old bridge and look to the east at the current Cedar Avenue Bridge. It really puts everything in perspective – literally and historically.
Even better, take a walk on the boardwalk off Long Meadow Trail to the platform in the middle of Long Meadow Lake, where you can see the five camel hump sections of the historic bridge in the distance.
Bloomington Ferry Road Trailhead
The Bloomington Ferry Road Trailhead is close to Bloomington’s western border with Eden Prairie, south of Bush Lake and Hyland Lake Park.
It also happens to be near a beautiful new listing we have coming soon overlooking the Minnesota River Valley. Let me know if you would like to know more about it!
Sharlene Hensrud, RE/MAX Results – email@example.com