The West River Parkway runs along the Mississippi River through Minneapolis, and is part of the Grand Rounds Scenic Byway. It allows you to get from Downtown to South Minneapolis in a short drive/bike/hike.
The entire w. river road runs from Plymouth Ave to Godfry Parkway with a total of 8.9 miles.
Looking at the old houses on one side and the Mississippi River on the other makes the almost 9 mile trip extra enjoyable.
Keep reading to see our top scenic stops you should make on your trip on the river road.
Minnehaha Falls is the most photographed spot in Minnesota and we are not surprised. It is a 53 foot natural waterfall in the city of Minneapolis.
Every season at Minnehaha falls has a different feel and look, hence why it is one of the main places we frequent.
Within a mile of the waterfall, there is Longfellow Gardens, Sea Salt Eatery, Historic Statues, a Pavilion, Ford Parkway Disc Golf Course, Wabun Picnic Area, the VA home, the Ford Parkway Bridge and Mississippi River. The entire day could easily be spent seeing all the sights in this area.
Minnehaha Lower Glen Trail
To access this hike you will need to be able to travel up/down a plethora of stairs. There are multiple staircases near Minnehaha Falls to descend into the glen.
They chain off the staircases forbidding access the trail for safety reasons every winter.
Once you have arrived take note, some areas are considered a moderate hike on this trail.
Along the way there there are multiple historic stone bridges to allow you access to the path across the creek. You will also see Godfrey Mill Ruins, a natural wading pool, and limestone bluffs.
The sandy beach head is where Minnehaha Creek flows into the Mississippi River. This would be a perfect place to hang out on a beautiful day.
Just off of West River Parkway you will find the Winchell Trail. This trail is unknown to many city residents keeping it fairly low key and secluded.
Formerly, the Winchell trail was an Indian trail making it the oldest hiking path in Minneapolis.
Trek along the Mississippi river gorge on this 5 mile out and back hike with approximately 500 feet of elevation gain. It starts near the Franklin Ave bridge and ends close to Minnehaha Park (44th Ave).
The mostly unpaved path winds up and down the gorge along the Mississippi River. At times, it meets up with the sidewalk on the parkway and other time it dips down to the river. Frequently, there will be multiple trails to choose from. You can’t go wrong with any of them.
It has a few other entrances in between, along the Parkway. If you spy a long staircase, it’s likely going down to this pathway. Some of the entrances are even disguised as a regular sidewalk on the Grand Rounds Scenic Byway.
Bicycles are not permitted along the Winchell Trail, but many of the entrances have a rack to lock up your bike as you check it out.
This path is considered a moderate hike in the middle of the city. So put on your hiking shoes and explore this urban nature immersion.
Mississippi River Gorge Regional Park
The Mississippi River Gorge in the Twin Cities is the only true river gorge on the entire Mississippi River.
It was formed by the St Anthony Falls Waterfall cutting through the sandstone cap, on the erosion proof limestone, over the course of 100s of years.
Mississippi River Gorge Regional Park has 8 miles of land starting at St Anthony Falls and ending close to Minnehaha park.
In the regional park there are 132 acres of scenic outlooks, trails, limestone bluffs, picnic spots, beaches, and parks along the East and West side of the Mississippi River.
Mill City Ruins
Directly next to the Mississippi River and the Stone Arch Bridge is a piece of history in Minneapolis.
In 2001, the City of Minneapolis opened up Mill Ruins Park to show a glimpse into the importance the flour mills had to our city.
The power generated by St. Anthony Falls was used to run the old mills.
From the perspective of the park, the mist of the raging St. Anthony Falls is on display. Also, take in the intricate detail of the stone in the archways beneath the bridge.
If you want to learn more take the tour of the lock and dam or visit the Mill City Museum.
Gold Medal Park
Gold Medal Park is 7.5 acres of green space just west of the Mississippi River in Downtown Minneapolis. This park brings together the past and the present in the Mill City district.
There is a hill in the center of the park with a spiral sidewalk guiding you to the top. The many sculptures that are scattered throughout the park give it an artsy vibe with over 200 mature trees to bring nature in to an urban setting.
Not pictured but Noteworthy on West River Parkway:
- Longfellow Beach
- Annie Young Meadow
- Bohemian Flats Park
- White Sands Beach
- Minnehaha Dog Park