Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Tuesday Trails: Theodore Wirth Park, Minneapolis

Hello Minnesota Runners! This is a new feature that I’m calling, “Tuesday Trails.” Pretty creative, huh? Every week, or every other week, there will be a blog post on, you guessed it, Tuesday, and the topic will be… no, not Sudoku… the topic will be a trail in the Twin Cities. At some point I may expand the scope to Greater Minnesota, but you guys out there are so “Great”, you don’t need me to highlight all the awesome trails you have. Basically, I’m starting with what I know.

I’m beginning the series with unpaved trails, since the weather has been mostly fantastic and the trails are snow-free! This week’s trail report is a real gem: Theodore Wirth Park.

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Theodore Wirth Park is part of the Minneapolis Park System, yet actually resides in Golden Valley. Go figure. It has several distinct parts: Golf course, cross country ski trails, sledding hill, mountain biking trails, beach, and running/hiking trails!

Theodore Wirth Park was established in 1889 and was named Glenwood Park. (To see some really cool old photos, search for Glenwood Park at the Minnesota Historical Society’s website.) The park was expanded and renamed after the late, great Minneapolis Park architect of the same name.

There are over 700 acres of parkland and many miles of trails. So, where to run? To me, there are two principal options (please feel free to share your experiences below):

1) Connections to other regional trails: Grand Rounds, Luce Line and Bassett Creek Trails. Theodore Wirth runs mostly north-south and the paved trail that runs through it is part of the Minneapolis Grand Rounds bike trail, a 50+ mile loop around the entire city. Running on the rolling paved trails provides access to Minneapolis Chain of Lakes (by way of Brownie and Cedar Lakes) to the south and to Victory Memorial Parkway to the north.

Now that the Luce Line has fully connected to Theodore Wirth, from the paved trail, one can run west on the Luce Line out into Golden Valley, on to Plymouth and beyond, all the way to Lake Minnetonka. I biked on this recently and the new section of the Luce Line in Wirth is pretty nice. The only problem is that the very attractive pedestrian wooden bridge at the edge of the park is rather slippery in the morning dew.

Wirth also connects to Bassett Creek Trail on the east side of the park, which allows one to run toward the Bryn Mawr neighborhood, to Cedar Lake Trail and ultimately Downtown. This is a very pleasant neighborhood run.

2) Trail running in South Wirth: My favorite part of running at Wirth is the trail running! Who knew you could get some amazingly tough and beautiful trails and hills right in Minneapolis? OK, fine, Golden Valley. I live in Uptown, and within 3.5 miles of running from my house, I’m deep in the heart of South Wirth and hitting the hills hard. So where do you run? Looking at the map (south of Hwy 55), it doesn’t look like there would be a lot of mileage, but the Park Board has done a fantastic job of cramming a ton of trails into this small space without making it feel like they’ve crammed in a ton of trails.

The best map I've found showing the trails in South Wirth is the ski map.

There are two parts of South Wirth: Quaking Bog on the west side of Theodore Wirth Parkway, and Eloise Butler on the east side. Both have their unique challenges. The side that has Eloise Butler Wildflower Sanctuary has about 4 miles of trails (entirely outside the sanctuary). The course generally follows the cross country ski trails, with a few small deviations. The terrain is full of steep climbs and descends, and my favorite: a gorgeous section of trail through a coniferous forest glen that feels like Northern California. It’s hard to get the exact loop in Eloise down well. I usually just end up running there for a half hour or so until I feel like I’ve run out of trail.

After Eloise, comes the Bog. Quaking Bog, that is. The route in the Bog is well marked with ski posts, so just follow that main loop for a 2.5 mile time trial. Highlights include several tough climbs, a beautiful Tamarac swamp, and trying to run by the house with the constantly barking dog without waking it up.

The best places to access the South Wirth trails are from the parking lot off of Glenwood at the South beach at Wirth Lake or from the south by Brownie and Cedar Lakes off of the Grand Rounds.

There you have it! If you haven’t run on these trails, steer your car/bike/feet toward northwest Minneapolis for trail running in an urban setting!


Anonymous said...

Thanks Nathan for a blurb of Theo. Wirthi Park, so it receives aa nice exposure.
Each Spring, third weekend in April, it's where MDRA members holds a shorty trail kids race of a half miler or so.
Then we go fun running at our longest mudball run that's between four to four ana half miles. It covers around a Quak-n-bog made from a glacier and filled with soft-wooded Tamarac pine trees.

mplsjacob said...

thanks for the great post! i've been looking for some new and interesting routes.

price per head services said...

It would be nice to add a Sudoku, now and then. but I think that it is great that you are doing a post about trails.