Hike the Winchell Trail • Mississippi Gorge Regional Park

Minneapolis/Hennepin County

The Winchell Trail in Mississippi Gorge Regional Park takes you through a mature hardwood forest on paved and dirt trails within a (high) stone’s throw of the Mississippi River. It’s easy to forget you’re in the middle of the City!

two women hike on the Winchell Trail in Mississippi Gorge Regional Park
The Winchell Trail takes hikers through dense, mature hardwoods

Mississippi Gorge is 132 acres of woods on both east and west shores of the river. Winchell Trail begins just a hair northeast of East 44th Street and West River Parkway. Out-and-back it’s about 5 miles.

According to Minneapolis Parks, this section is the only true gorge of the entire Mississippi River. That’s pretty cool!

While Winchell is on the Minneapolis side, you can continue across the Marshall Avenue Bridge and turn south along the Saint Paul side of the river for a little ways, too, if you’re feeling energetic.

Here’s a map of the area:

map showing Winchell Trail route
This is a common out-and-back route for my sisters and me (the trailhead is circled at the bottom)

Why You’ll Love Hiking the Winchell Trail

My sisters both live in South Minneapolis, so this is one of “their” trails. They’re on it often, and have taken me with them on occasion.

Here are the highlights:

Secluded, Mature Woods

As I mentioned already, being in these mature woods makes you forget you’re in the middle of Minneapolis.

two women navigate the dirt trail around some mud on the Winchell Trail
Early summer is green, green, green…with some possibilities of mud

While you still may be able to hear some traffic noise, the forest is thick enough that you don’t see it. It’s always amazing to feel this secluded in an urban area.

Great Views of the Mississippi River

The entire trail runs parallel to the River. So you get regular views of it in-between the tree leaves.

Of course, you can see more of the river if you hike before the leaves come out in spring or after they fall off in autumn.

If you decide to cross the river on the Marshall Avenue Bridge, the trail on the Saint Paul side brings you right down next to the river for a more personal experience.

two women pose in front of the Marshall Avenue bridge, on the Saint Paul side of the river
On another hike with my sisters, this time in November (the Marshall Avenue Bridge behind them). This is on the Saint Paul side of the river.

And, of course, the bridge crossing gives you awesome views both up and downstream.

Stunning Fall Colors

There are a lot of maples in this hardwood forest, so the fall color is outstanding:

Winchell Trail in autumn
Winchell Trail during peak fall color (photo courtesy of Lisa Schalla)

Need I say more??

What to Watch Out For

Steep Slopes

The Winchell Trail is quite high above the river. The downward slope is very steep (hence, why it’s called a gorge!).

That shouldn’t be a problem unless there’s mud or ice on the trail—both highly possible during certain times of the year.

woman hikes the paved trail section with an iron guardrail on the river side
Part of the Winchell has this iron guardrail on the downhill slope side

If you were to start sliding unintentionally downhill, there’s not much to stop you from falling into the river, aside from the trees and bushes!

Can be Muddy

While the Winchell has a section of pavement, it’s mostly dirt. In early spring with the snow melt and after heavy rains you can expect some mud on the trail.

Watch your step, especially if it’s in one of those spots where the trail is slightly precarious.

How to Get There • Where to Park

Enter “Winchell Trail Minneapolis” into your phone’s GPS and it should take you right there.

Since I always hike this trail with my sisters, I’m not the one driving. But I can tell you we always find parking along West River Parkway within a block or two of the trailhead, which is just north of East 44th Street.

When you see this sign, you know you’re in the right place:

The Winchell Trail sign at the trailhead
Take time to read up on your history at the trailhead

The locals know there are other spots to get on the trail, too. But this is probably the easiest for folks from outside the area.

FYI, besides being part of Mississippi Gorge Regional Park, Winchell Trail is also part of the federal Mississippi National River & Recreation Area.

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Sharon Brodin
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