Trail and Hiking Related News

Long Meadow Lake Trail is closed until further notice for state trail construction and repair.  

Visit Us

National wildlife refuges offer us all a chance to unplug from the stresses of daily life and reconnect with our natural surroundings. With more than 45 miles of trails open to hiking, biking, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing, you can easily find a trailhead within minutes of Bloomington, Burnsville, Shakopee, Chaska, Carver, Jordan and Henderson, Minnesota. The Minnesota River valley unfolds in front of you, and moments later you can find safe, quiet and beautiful lands filled with wildlife. Visitors can easily find opportunities to try out fishing in ponds, lakes and the Minnesota River, and there are also portions of the refuge open for hunting.

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Fees What To Do Know Before You Go Visitor Tips Restrooms Activities Trails Rules and Policies

Fees 

There is no charge to visit. 

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What To Do If You Have… 

30 Minutes 
  • Visit the Bloomington Education and Visitor Center at Bloomington: 
    • Bird watch at the bird feeders and catch a sunset at the overlook 
    • Chat with a volunteer, explore the exhibits, watch our film in the auditorium and find local artists’ work in the Confluence Gallery 
    • Take a walk along the Hillside Trail to reach the wetlands 
  • Visit the Rapids Lake Education and Visitor Center at Carver: 
    • View a vast array of native flowers blooming in the prairie in summer 
    • Visitor center offers historical and nature exhibits 
    • View the historic Gehl-Mittelstead homestead along the riverbank 
    • Hike through oak and hickory forest at the Forest Loop Trail 
1-2 Hours 
  • Go fishing along the Long Meadow Lake or fishing dock at Bass Ponds in Bloomington 
  • Enjoy an afternoon of free play and picnicking at the Nature Play Area at Old Cedar Trailhead in Bloomington 
  • Bike along the Minnesota River on the River Bottoms Trail - departing from Sorenson Landing in Bloomington 
  • Hike to the glacial erratic at Louisville Swamp starting from the Middle Road Trail parking spot 
  • Hike the Rapids Lake Trail to walk through scenic bottomland forests and along the Minnesota River valley. When water levels are low you can view river rapids. 
2+ Hours 
  • Explore the paved trail via bike or stroller along the Minnesota River Greenway Trail in Burnsville. This is a great spot for fishing too! 
  • Explore the marshes of the Blue Lake Trail a nesting and resting area for waterfowl year-round. 
  • Hike through the Mazomani Trail to see wetlands and upland forests to encounter historic sites at the Louisville Swamp Unit 

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Know Before You Go 

Bring the following with you: 

  • Refuge Maps - Intersections are well marked but will not make sense without a map. Maps are available at trail heads, both visitor centers and online for download. We are also found on Avenza Maps.  
  • Water - No potable water is available on the trails. Bottle filling stations are available inside the visitor centers during open hours. 
  • Protective Clothing - Weather can change quickly and biting insects can be abundant. 

Plan to pack out what you pack in. Trash receptacles are only available at a few trailheads, and we ask that you practice Leave No Trace ethics while visiting the refuge. 

Bringing your dog? Bring up to a 6-foot leash and bags for packing out dog waste with you when you leave. 

Be aware, some areas may be closed during peak bird migration or due to maintenance or management activities. Trails are also prone to seasonal flooding. You can check conditions on our Trails section of the website, at the visitor centers, watch for closure and warning signs at trail heads or call us at 952-854-5900 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. 

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Visitor Tips 

You can discover hundreds of species of birds, numerous plants, mammals, reptiles and insects during your visit. Seasons bring different opportunities to experience nearby nature, and every time you visit can bring a new discovery. 

Wildlife viewing is best in the morning, or in the evening before dusk. Be aware that trailhead parking is limited and becomes very busy on weekends. 

We have a variety of items available as part of our free outdoor equipment lending program. Binoculars, snowshoes and explorer backpacks are available at both visitor centers during operating hours. 

  • April - May is a great time for a hike and a special time to see migrating song birds just before the leaves pop out. You might even find morel mushrooms as the weather warms. 
  • June - August is perfect for fishing and biking. Make a list of wildflowers and enjoy identifying native plants in our prairies. 
  • September - November is cooler and provides enjoyable hikes with fewer biting insects. 
  • December - March provides snow for a snowshoe hike and view trumpeter swans and eagles near wetlands. 

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Restrooms 

  • Old Cedar Avenue Trailhead at the Long Meadow Lake Unit in Bloomington 
    • Restroom facility with running water in partnership with the City of Bloomington, open from May – October 15 
    • Outdoor portable restroom open when flush toilets are not available 

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Activities

There are many ways to enjoy the refuge! Visitors can explore more than 45 miles of trails on foot or by bicycle year-round, find a multitude of birds and other wildlife to watch or photograph, shore fish for native Minnesota freshwater species, hunt in select areas of the refuge or take part in free educational programs about nature.

Trails

Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge offers close to 50 miles of trails along the Minnesota River from Bloomington to Henderson. 

Learn more about the trails and current conditions below. Download one of the following trail maps to print or save to your device.  

Downloadable Trail Maps

Georeferenced Trail Maps

Download a georeferenced trail map to use on apps like Avenza, to track your location without using internet or network connection. Directions to download and add to your mobile device when you click any of the following trail maps.

Trail and Hiking Related News (last updated 2/7/2024):

With the warmer temperatures, many trails are muddy or soft.

Current trail closures:
  • Long Meadow Lake Trail - Trail closed until further notice for state trail construction and repair.  
  • Minnesota Valley State Trail (MN DNR) - Due to flooding damage, two sections of the trail are closed: From County Road 9 in Jordan to the beginning of the Louisville Swamp and Louisville Swamp to Gifford Lake
  • Mendota Trail (MN DNR) - the Mendota trail between Jens Caspersen landing and Ft. Snelling State Park

Other Facilities in the Complex

Rules and Policies

Refuges are first and foremost national treasures for the conservation of wildlife. Through careful planning, consistent refuge system-wide application of regulations and policies, diligent monitoring of the impacts of uses on wildlife resources and preventing or eliminating uses not appropriate to the refuge system, we can achieve the refuge system conservation mission while also providing the public with lasting opportunities to enjoy quality, compatible, wildlife-dependent recreation. 

To help make your visit safe and enjoyable, read the Refuge Rules and Policies below for details about permitted and prohibited activities with additional site-specific regulations. Please consult the refuge manager at 952-854-5900 if you have questions.

Locations

Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge Headquarters and Bloomington Education and Visitor Center
3815 American Boulevard EastBloomington,MN55425-1659
Driving Directions
From Interstate 494:

Exit 34th Ave and head south. At the stop light on American Blvd. East, proceed east for 1/4 mile around the bend and up a small rise to find the entrance on the right.

Metro Transit Blue Line Train:

Exit at American Blvd Station and cross 34th Avenue to the east. Proceed east on American Blvd East and follow the sidewalk 1/4 mile around the bend and up a small rise to find the entrance on the right.

Hours
Bloomington Education and Visitor Center
Thursday-Sunday
10:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.
Note:
Closed federal holidays. May be closed due to weather if local schools are closed.
Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge - Bloomington Office
Note:
Available by appointment only.
Note:
Closed federal holidays.
Lands and Trails Hours
Daily
5:00 a.m. - 10:00 p.m, including federal holidays
Rapids Lake Education and Visitor Center and Minnesota Valley Wetland Management District
15865 Rapids Lake RoadCarver,MN55315
Driving Directions
From Hwy 169 in Jordan:

Proceed north 3.5 miles on County Road 9 across the Minnesota River bridge (where it becomes County Road 11) to Carver Highlands Drive and turn right. Continue onto Rapids Lake Road, winding down into the river valley to the visitor center.

From Hwy 212:

Exit on Jonathan Carver Parkway (County Road 11) and head south. Proceed 2.5 miles, continuing on County Road 11 by turning left. Proceed 1.9 miles and turn left on Carver Highlands Drive. Continue onto Rapids Lake Road, winding down into the river valley to the visitor center.

Hours
Rapids Lake Education and Visitor Center
Temporarily Closed
Scheduled field trip programs and programs are not affected by this temporary closure
Minnesota Valley Wetland Management District
Note:
Before visiting the district headquarters, please call to make sure that staff are in the office. Staff are often working in the field, assisting partners, and conducting educational programs.