View Larger Map
This week’s trail report takes us a wee bit further outside the metro to just barely outside the 494-694 loop in Bloomington, MN. Our journey takes us to Hyland Park Reserve, part of the Three Rivers Park System (formerly Hennepin County Parks). You may know this park as the place with the ski jump looming over Highways 494 and 100, but Hyland offers much more.
Hyland Hills features over 10 miles of soft, hilly trails, about the same amount of flatter, paved trails, ski trails, boating, fishing, Frisbee golf, and picnic facilities. But what concerns us most today are the soft trails.
Hyland, unlike Wirth and many of the other metro trail systems, feels utterly subdued. The trails are in excellent shape, provide challenging hills, but are so consistent and well-maintained that it’s almost like running on soft asphalt. For the user looking to escape civilization, Hyland doesn’t offer nearly as much as other parks, but for those looking to run on soft trails and get a great hill workout, it’s hard to do much better than Hyland.
That’s not to say Hyland feels like downtown Minneapolis or Uptown. Rather, almost every time I run at Hyland I see deer, wild turkey, turtles laying eggs, and I’ve even heard reports of a coyote. The park is big enough to support diverse ecosystems while still feeling like it’s just an extension of your backyard.
Personally, I love running at Hyland. The trails are familiar to me, the scenery is constantly changing, and the well-managed (and actively burned) prairies offer surprises on every visit.
While the main access to Hyland is on East Bush Lake Road at the southwest side of the park, accessing this location takes a long time, especially in traffic, and makes the park feel remote. A much closer (to the urban core) access point is at the northeast corner on Chalet Road, right next to Normandale Lake. The map below shows this access point and a suggested route.
Another benefit of accessing the park in this location is that for a short warmup or cooldown, one can run the nearly 2-mile flat paved trail around Lake Normandale. Just be warned that most of the trail is not lit.
The main loop (on the map below) is about 8.5 miles from the parking lot at Chalet Road. If you’re looking for more, you can add loops through the ski hill, or my favorite, taking the long, gradual path up to the top of the ski jump for incredible views of the entire metropolitan area. Rumor has it that Bloomington police camp out there on the 4th of July to make sure no one climbs the ski jump for an even better view of the fireworks. When I was in high school, I worked at a hotel across the street from the ski jump and we would watch the fireworks from 15 cities from the 22nd floor. It was pretty incredible. If you ever get the chance to watch the fireworks from the ski jump, let me know what it’s like!
Lastly, I’d like to mention that every April, Hyland Hills hosts a trail race, the Trail Mix 25K and 50K. I have not run it, but I’ve heard it is well organized and executed. Generally the course is still wet in April, so the race often will tear up the trails for weeks, if not months. Fortunately, the conditions were dry this year for Trail Mix and the trails are in fine shape! I just ran them last week and can vouch for the trail condition.
Enjoy the trails!