Pike Island Loop

Fort Snelling State Park, Minnesota

Trip Date: Saturday, June 24th, 2017
Last Updated: Thursday, July 13th, 2017
By Ricky Holzer

Hike Information

Rating ★★★★☆(4/5)
Overall Difficulty Easy
Navigation Difficulty     Easy
Distance 3 miles roundtrip
Time 1.5 hours
Terrain Mostly flat
Best Seasons Spring, Summer, Fall
Family Friendly Yes
Dog Friendly Yes
Accessible No


Hike Summary

Fort Snelling is one of those places that is really close to your houses but forget exists. I've probably hiked upwards of 10 other state parks, most of them much further away from my house, before realizing there was one within easy biking distance. The trail on the island was masterfully designed so that you can choose to do a 1, 2, or 3 mile loop. This hike is great for the whole family, and dogs are allowed on leash.

This hike is a part of the Hiking Club program, where you can purchase a kit and look for passwords on the designated Hiking Club trail (most state parks have one) and receive awards for reaching milestones. I recently purchased a kit myself since I always have fun trying to guess the password -- usually I'm wrong and the password is something even more obvious than what I thought.

The trail starts from the southeast end of the parking lot and heads to the river. Turn left at the T intersection, then turn right at the next intersection to cross the bridge onto Pike Island. Once you're on the island, I suggest turning right to go around counterclockwise -- the trail is slightly longer on this side, so when you get to the natural stopping point at the tip of the island you will be more than halfway done. The hike is very straightforward, just do a loop around the island, then cross the bridge and head back to the parking lot.

Looking at the river from the bridge to Pike Island

Looking at the river from the bridge to Pike Island
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The most striking thing about this hike is the old trees; the forest looks much the same as other locations within the Twin Cities, like the nearby Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge, except the trees seem to be much older. Many of them have scars or holes from past fires, like the tree in the picture at the top of the page. Some of them are even missing entire chunks of their base and you'll wonder how they continue to live! Other than the trees, the rest of the scenery on the hike is not impressive. The views of the river are not especially stunning, and you will see plenty of people on boats or fishing on both riverbanks. However, it is nice to have the privilege to access this kind of nature such a short distance from a city. Overall, riding your bike here and hiking is an excellent way to spend a day of the weekend.


By Bike
There are ample paved trails to Fort Snelling and a bike rack by the trailhead, so biking is the ideal way to get to this hike. There is also a Nice Ride (bikeshare program in Minneapolis/St. Paul) station near the trailhead.

From the Minnehaha Park area, head south on the bike path running along Minnehaha Dr. Cross the road and look for the "MRT" bike trail sign and take the trail heading into the forest -- this upcoming section of trail is one of my favorites in the Twin Cities, especially in the fall. Follow this trail the entire way to the trailhead and parking lot.

From St. Paul, take the bike trail along Mississippi River Blvd to the Minnesota Highway 5 bridge across the river. There are stairways with narrow metal ramps for your bike to take you to the bridge, then back up to the path on the other side. Once across, follow the trail. Just before the Mendota Bridge (Minnesota Highway 55), turn left onto the trail descending into the valley. At the bottom of the hill, turn left and follow the trail to the bike rack in front of the visitor center.

By Car
The road to access this trailhead is not connected to the area by the historic fort and requires a separate exit from the highway. From your starting point, head towards MSP Airport. On Minnesota Highway 5, look for the exit for Post Rd/Snelling Lake Rd -- this is the exit between Interstate 494 and the exit for MSP Airport. After exiting, head east towards the river, then turn left onto Snelling Lake Rd. The road ends at the parking lot and the Thomas C. Savage Visitor Center.

Google Maps Directions

Parking, Fees, and Facilities

Like all Minnesota State Parks and Recreation Areas, you must pay a vehicle entry fee of $7 per day or $35 for an annual pass (highly recommended if you frequently go to Minnesota State Parks) by going into the visitor center. There are bathrooms in the visitor center.

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