As the calendar moves toward the holiday season during these Covid-19, masked and stay-at-home times, cabin fever will become a real thing much earlier than, say, March.
The cure? Slow and brisk walks along Eden Prairie’s trails to manage the blahs. This two part series will showcase a few local, and beautiful, EP trails.
Recently, the Artist known as Mom Nature has been applying a pallet of pastels to the trees, tall grasses, shrubs and reeds that line our trails. She tired of October’s blaze of yellows, oranges and reds.
And then, with the snowfall of Nov. 10, 2020 the colors shifted again. The ornamental lacework of stems, branches, and bark are now wheat and khaki brown variations against a backdrop of white snow and frost.
Popular Eden Prairie loop trails including Lone Lake and Staring Lake Parks, the Minnesota River Bluffs LRT Regional Trail, and the one that edges Bearpath between Lake Riley and Marsh Lake will remain appealing and plowed through winter.
The City of Eden Prairie’s Trail and Sidewalk Snow Removal Map (link –http://gis.edenprairie.org/CityStreets/TrailPlowing.pdf is a good place to check before selecting a park or conservation area to explore. The conservation areas, parks and trails without snow removal will remain open for hikers, snowshoers and cross-country skiers.
Riley Creek Conservation Area
9795 Canopy Trail (via La Floret Drive) / southwest Eden Prairie
Riley Creek Conservation Area Trail Map
A swath of one of the metro area’s few surviving, sustainable big woods was acquired with funds raised by a 1994 City of Eden Prairie parks bonding referendum. Nearly $2 million helped acquire what became the Prairie Bluff and Riley Creek Conservation Areas.
As new subdivisions sprouted throughout our town over the next three decades, the City of Eden Prairie negotiated with developers to transfer environmentally sensitive or interesting open spaces to the City for conservation areas, parks and creek and trail corridors.
The expansion of Riley Creek Conservation Area and the creation of Cedar Hills Park are happy examples of this. The two are now connected by a nature trail along the stream.
Now that the leaves have fallen, hikers can see the steep and dramatic valley that embraces Riley Creek from several loop trails. Some of the senior basswoods, maples and oaks in these big woods are said to have been saplings when George Washington crossed the Delaware River on Christmas Day, 1976.
Birch Island Woods Conservation Area
6410 Indian Chief Road/ north central Eden Prairie
The main trail in Eden Prairie’s smallest conservation area is the former bed of the Milwaukee Road, the freight and passenger railroad that connected Chicago, Milwaukee and the Twin Cities to the Pacific Northwest. A short loop and the main trail begin at the small parking lot on Indian Chief Road.
The main trail leads to a second short internal loop and two trail heads on Birch Island Road where walkers can see the Picha Heritage Farm and Birch Island Lake. What visitors don’t see are stands of birch trees. The trails here are flat except for a few modest grades on the loops.
The Birch Island Woods parking lot is gated during the winter but folks can park on Birch Island Road at Harlan Drive near Edenvale Boulevard to access one of the trailheads.
Edenbrook Conservation Area
6655 Dell Road / northwest Eden Prairie
Map – http://gis.edenprairie.org/ParkTrails/Edenbrook_Trails.pdf
Eden Prairie’s version of the Florida Everglades lacks alligators and flamingos but offers winding wetland trails with boardwalks, a central loop, and a reedy branch of Purgatory Creek.
Some of the trails of this sprawling preserve lead to and cross heavily vegetated islets with panoramic outlooks. Branch trails lead to trailheads at Rustic Hills Park, Barberry Lane and Tristram Way.
The nature trail branch that leads to Highway 62 (Townline Road) connects with a hike and bike trail that tunnels under the highway to join the trail system of Minnetonka’s Purgatory Park. Edenbrook’s Dell Road parking lot is plowed during the winter but the trails and narrow boardwalks will not be maintained.
Bryant Lake Regional Park
6800 Roland Road / northeast Eden Prairie
website with map https://www.threeriversparks.org/location/bryant-lake-regional-park/
This Three Rivers Park District gem features four miles of hiking and bike trails and loops meandering through wooded and hilly, lake and creek valley settings, some with panoramic views of Bryant Lake.
The northern reach of the trail near an off-leash dog park joins Minnetonka’s trail system which connects to Lone Lake Park and the Minnesota River Bluffs LRT Regional Trail. Bryant Lake Park is skirted on its high, eastern flank by Roland Road and a sidewalk with pedestrian links to interior trails.
As snow accumulates this winter, only the parking lot at the off-leash dog park near Roland Road will be plowed. Bryant Lake Park trails will not be plowed but will be packed for hikers and Nordic skiers.
Editor’s note: Part two of this series will feature Smetana Lake and Mitchell Lake trails, Cardinal Creek Conservation Area Trail and the Minnesota River Bluffs LRT Regional Trail.