Exploring the Minnesota Valley NWR

Rate this Adventure Minnesota Long Meadow Lake Trail

Added by Joe Whitson

Just minutes away from downtown Minneapolis, easy to get to and always crowd free, with a unique floodplain ecosystem and a nationally recognized bird watching zone. There is abundant wildlife including deer, coyotes, wild turkeys, beavers, and even an occasional cougar, with the best off-road biking in the Twin Cities.

It is 3.5 miles long one-way from the visitors center (3815 American Blvd. East 55425) to Cedar Ave. Bridge. Whether because of the foreword thinking early Minnesota legislators or simply because of the inhospitality of nature, most of the riverfront on both the Minnesota and Mississippi Rivers throughout the Twin Cities is undeveloped, protected for the survival and enjoyment of people and animals alike. The Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge covers 14,000 acres along 70 miles of the Minnesota River from Bloomington to Henderson.

Largely inaccessible in the spring due to annual flooding, the refuge is a great escape the rest of the year. The trailhead and visitor center is across the street from Mall of America (as shown on the map), but the trails can be accessed at several points throughout Bloomington including the ends of Old Cedar Rd, Lyndale Ave., Penn Ave., Auto Club Rd, as well as Nine Mile Creek Trail.

Hiking/Snowshoeing/Running: The easiest way to explore the refuge is on foot. Just have an hour or two to kill? Head down for a quick walk by the visitor's center. This is a favorite locale for trail runners. If you have more time, explore the various entrances or drive down Hwy 169 and check out sections further from the city.

Mountain Biking: If you like off-road biking, but aren't up for a huge trip, this is the spot for you. Minneapolis bikers are passionate about keeping up this trail, regularly clearly obstructions (or building jumps off them), and maintaining rafts and bridges across the numerous creeks and tributaries. Don't let the winter scare you away either - put on your studded or fat tires and brave the elements.

Hunting: The wildlife refuge is one of the only places in the Twin Cities metro area that allows bow hunting (no guns). It's open for both deer and turkey season.

Pack List

  • Hiking Boots
  • Binoculars/Camera
  • Mountain Bike
  • Water
  • Warm Clothes and Boots
  • Snowshoes
  • Studded or Fat tires for bikes
  • Clear Ski Mask and Balaclava (for bikers)
  • First Aid Kit and Bike Repair Kit (for bikers)
  • Water
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Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More



Chillin, Fitness, Hiking, Hunting, Mountain Biking, Photography, Running, Snowshoeing

Skill Level:



Year Round

Trail Type:



3.5 Miles


Dog Friendly
Easy Parking
Family Friendly
Food Nearby
Picnic Area

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Added by Joe Whitson

Minnesota Native. Check me out on Instagram: @joewhitson and feel free to shoot me an email if you want to talk more about things to do in Minnesota: joekentwhitson@gmail.com

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