|Distance||2.5 miles roundtrip|
|Terrain||A few hills|
- Educational exhibits and activities at the interpretive center
- See four unique landscapes found in Minnesota
Owned by the City of St. Louis Park, this area is an oasis of nature in the middle of a neighborhood adjacent to the freeway. If you are looking for quiet solitude, this is not the place. While the city noise and buildings are noticeable inside the park, the educational opportunities and easy proximity to the city are what make this place unique -- you don't have to drive far to learn more about native plants and animals. As such, this is a perfect destination to take your children; one kid even had his birthday party here when I was visiting!
No dogs or pets are allowed anywhere in Westwood Hills Nature Center. With the kid-oriented interpretive center, playground, and easy short trails, this is an excellent destination for the whole family. All of the trails for hiking are open all year. The parking lot isn't particularly large, and it was nearly full even though I arrived near park close. I imagine it is quite difficult to find a parking spot on a summer day. You will most definitely see many people no matter when you come here.
This hike showcases all of the environments present in the park: marsh, hardwood forest, pine forest, and prairie. If you desire a shorter hike, simply do the loop around Westwood Lake without the side trails for a 1.6 mile roundtrip. From the parking lot, follow the paved trail to the interpretive center. Outside of the interpretive center you will find a gazebo with a view of the lake and a cage with native bird species inside (I saw an owl and an eagle on my visit). Continue down the stairs to reach the trail around the lake. If you want to do the side trails, it makes more sense to go left from here. Otherwise, you can go right if you're just going to do the loop around the lake.
Almost as soon as you start, the trail becomes a boardwalk like pictured below, protecting the delicate environment underneath. Throughout the loop around Westwood Lake, there are several docks you can walk to for a better view of the water. There is a side boardwalk to the T dock on the right shortly after the trail transitions from boardwalk back to dirt.
Even though you can probably see your car from the prairie on the hill, you still need to follow the circuitous trail back. Take a left at all the intersections ahead until you reach the parking lot. Now you've experienced all of the environments in Minnesota without traveling far from home! Let me know what you think in the comments section below, and be sure to use #nocoastbestcoast on Twitter and Instagram!
From Minneapolis, take Interstate 394 west to Louisiana Avenue. Turn left, then turn right on Wayzata Boulevard. Turn left on Texas Avenue, then turn right on Franklin Avenue. Follow signs and turn right into the park entrance.
Google Maps Directions
Parking, Fees, and Facilities
Parking is free! There are flush toilets and a playground near the lot, and the interpretive center with educational exhibits is a short walk away.