Monday, May 24, 2010

Tuesday Trails: Hyland Hills Park Preserve, Bloomington, MN

This post is the second in a series of trail reports. The first report filed last week on Theodore Wirth Park, can be found here:

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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!


NJ said...

Great review. I haven't run this trail either because I'm in the east metro. May give it a try sometime...looking to meet a fried for a run so this may be a good option.

Ever get to the east side to run trails? I'm pretty close to Afton, so that's my current fav...great hills and lots of beautiful single track!

Lydia said...

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Nathan said...


Thanks for the comment. I love East Metro trails, even though I don't get out there as often. Afton and Lake Elmo are 2 of my favorites, and I plan to write about them in the coming weeks. Please toss any suggestions my way!

Mike said...

Good review, it is a nice place to run.

I am not sure if you mentioned how to find the trail coming in from the Chalet parking lot, next to the maintenance building but I know some folks have a hard time finding it.

Looking forward to your next review.

Julie said...

Thanks for this post Rocco! I will have to check this one out:)

Drew said...

Great post, Rocco. I love Hyland Hills and run it several times per week. It's great all year round, but I especially like winter when you can climb up the back side of the peaks and surprise the unsuspecting snowboarders waiting to carve their way down. For some reason, they never seem to expect a runner at the top of the slopes. ;-)

Salomon Autumn Trail Series said...

If you like running at Hyland, think about participating in the Salomon Autumn Trail Series, which is a 4-race series taking place at Hyland in September and October!

Car Dealerships Bloomington said...

I love jogging this trail. However, I'm a beginner so I usually jog in around half a mile and then jog back for a total of three miles. It will be a long time before I can run the entire trail.

Used Cars Bloomington said...

So I finally got to try out this hike and it was amazing. Worked out my quads so much due to the hills and got to see some lovely wildlife too. Highly recommend.

per head service said...

I think that it is great that you are adding the map of the place and the trail to follow for the runner. It makes easier to have a metal idea about it.