Walk This Way: 31-mile Loop of the Grand Rounds Scenic Byway

Walk stats

Distance = 31.1 miles
Elapsed time = 12:34:28
Moving time = 8:46:39
Average pace = 16.56/mile
FitBit Step Total for the day = 75,528

The route

On Sunday, April 26, my husband Scott and I walked the perimeter of the Grand Rounds Scenic Byway System which has more than 51 miles of walking and biking trails.

In order to create a loop, we had to skip the downtown riverfront section and we only went by the edge of the lakes instead of going around each of them (that would have been insane!…oh man…now want to try it!).

A large section of the eastern side of the loop is currently unofficially part of the Grand Rounds because of the “missing link” which is thankfully under construction now (we even walked by the “under construction” signs).

Route on Strava

Map of 31 mile walk on the Grand Rounds trail

Map of 31 mile walk on the Grand Rounds trail

To complete the loop, you just walk on the trails/sidewalks along parkways (listed in the order we did them):

  • Minnehaha Parkway
  • E/W Lake Harriet Parkway
  • E/W Lake Calhoun Parkway
  • Dean Parkway (alternatively one could take southern edge of Lake of the Isles Parkway)
  • Cedar Lake Parkway
  • Theodore Wirth Parkway
  • Victory Memorial Parkway (also called Victory Memorial Drive)
  • Webber Parkway
  • Cross the Mississippi River on 42nd Avenue Bridge
  • St. Anthony Parkway
  • Stinson Parkway
  • Until the missing link is complete: Diagonal Trail, 18th Ave SE, Como Ave SE, 15th Ave SE, Church Street SE or any road that leads you through campus down to the Mississippi River)
  • East River Parkway
  • Cross the Mississippi on Franklin Avenue Bridge
  • West River Parkway
  • Godfrey Parkway
  • Minnehaha Parkway

Tip: Get a map

Minneapolis Trails Map

Minneapolis Trails Map

Although there are map kiosks along the trail, I found it helpful to have the pocket sized trail map with me.

I picked mine up at Minneapolis Parks & Recreation Board office:
2117 West River Road

Or, you can call 612-230-6400 or email info@minneapolisparks.org and they’ll send you one.
If they are not already, these should be made available at Hennepin County libraries.

What caught my eye

I tried to limit my photos and tweets to one per mile so that we could walk at a decent pace (and also #beherenow). This was extremely challenging! Minneapolis is such a beautiful city and I clearly I love documenting it.

The starting line

Map of the Lake Harriet section of Grand Rounds

Lake Harriet section of the Grand Rounds Trail

Bryant Avenue bridge

Bryant Avenue bridge across Minnehaha Creek

Start time: 5:55 AM on Sunday, April 26, 2015
Starting point: Bryant Avenue Pedestrian Bridge across Minnehaha Creek

Mile 1

Lake Harriet at sunrise

Lake Harriet at sunrise

Walking around Lake Harriet at 6 AM sold me on making it a habit to get up extra early in the summer for sunrise walks. I typically take ducks for granted but because it was so quiet, I was able to better appreciate their calls and swimming patterns. They put on a real show for me.

Lake Harriet Bandshell is one of the venues for Music and Movies in the Parks and home to Bread and Pickle (I would have stopped for a fancy cold press if it had been open).

Mile 2

Lake Harriet Bandshell

I couldn’t walk by the Lake Harriet Bandshell without taking a photo!

Mile 3

Trolley tracks

Trolley tracks between Lake Harriet and Lake Calhoun

Dean Parkway sign

Dean Parkway between Lake Calhoun and Cedar Lake and Lake of the Isles

Lake Calhoun with downtown Minneapolis in background

VIew of downtown Minneapolis from Lake Calhoun

A great first date spot, Lake Calhoun is where Scott and I had ours. Walking side by side surrounded by natural beauty with plenty of people watching can fill those awkward moments that all first dates have. Plus, walking around Lake Calhoun will probably only take an hour. If the date goes well you can extend it to drinks in Uptown or just end it and you can meet your friends to laugh about it. I’m happy every day that Scott and I both agreed that one lap around Lake Calhoun wasn’t enough. We’ll celebrate walking with each other for 12 years this July (with a spin around the lake and drinks to follow!) and in October it will be our 10th wedding anniversary.

Willow tree

On the shores of Lake Calhoun

Mile 4

Cedar Lake

Fishing dock in the distance on Cedar Lake

Cedar Lake section map

Cedar Lake section

Theodore Wirth Parkway sign

Theodore Wirth Parkway near I-394

View of I-394

This route does involve walking over interstates

Mile 5

Fork in the trail

This is not the Grand Rounds trail – I got lost and then I came to a fork in the road and got more lost

In the Twin Cities, we have a good problem. We have so many trails that it is sometimes easy to venture off one trail and onto another without realizing it. I’m guessing if I went back to to retrace my route, my mistake would be obvious. That said, I don’t know how I did it but I ended up on the Luce Line Regional Trail. It was around this time that Scott let me know he was ready to meet me so I mapped my way to the Theodore Wirth Chalet so we could meet up and we could get back on the Grand Rounds Trail.

Mile 6

Muddy trail

This is not the Grand Rounds Trail

Muddy trail

This is why a good pair of shoes is important

Trail over Wirth Lake

This is part of the Luce Line trail and not Grand Rounds but it was one of the benefits of getting a bit off course

Mile 7

Scott  walking on trail

Back on track and with my favorite walking partner, Scott

My first break was after six miles of walking. I met up with Scott at the Wirth Chalet and after a quick pitstop we were back at it.

Mile 8

Walking along the Grand Rounds trail, you can see the many styles of homes in the Twin Cities. You can’t get much better trail access than this!

Houses along Theodore Wirth Parkway

Houses along Theodore Wirth Parkway

Mile 9

Victory Memorial Drive sign

Victory Memorial Drive

Victory Memorial Drive trail

Victory Memorial Drive

Live on the Drive is a free summer concert series – a great way to explore this section of the Grand Rounds!

Mile 10

Map of the first 10 miles

This is what 10 miles looks like

Victory Memorial

Victory Memorial commemorating fallen World War I soldiers from Hennepin County

Victory Memorial Drive/Parkway is a beautiful slice of Minneapolis. I do love walking it but it should be noted that there is no tree cover (thanks to Dutch Elm disease) and if you walk this stretch under the full sun, it can be brutal if you aren’t protected (sunglasses/hats/SPF). I’m surprised to learn that one of my favorite local walkers even advocates that you experience this stretch by car!

Victory 44 restaurant entrance

Emergency pit stop at Victory 44

We stopped in at Victory 44 so that I could use the restroom. Scott drank a mocha so that we were paying customers using a private bathroom. Carrying a pocket-sized Minneapolis Trails Map is a good idea because public restrooms and portable toilets are marked – though be warned they are seasonal and have limited hours (i.e. rec centers are closed on Sundays).

Mile 11

Janelle and Scott

Janelle and Scott still smiling after 11 miles of walking

Mile 12

Shingle Creek falls

Before crossing the 42nd Avenue Bridge, take a slight detour to visit man-made falls on Shingle Creek

Located near 42nd Avenue and Webber Parkway, there are some man-made falls on Shingle Creek. Webber Park is still under construction as a natural pool is built. While the sign says it was supposed to open in 2014, the latest project update states the Grand Opening is slated for summer 2015.

Webber Park natural swimming pool under construction sign

Webber Park natural swimming pool under construction

View of downtown Minneapolis from 42nd Avenue Bridge over the Mississippi River

View of downtown Minneapolis from 42nd Avenue Bridge over the Mississippi River

Mile 13

Rod Carew All-Star Field

Rod Carew All-Star Field, Xcel Park, St. Anthony Parkway and Marshall Street NE

Road closed sign at St. Anthony Parkway bridge

Road Closed signs make my heart sink. This one is for the St. Anthony Parkway Bridge crossing a rail yard.

When I first saw the Road Closed sign, I panicked but then I realized that we could walk through and have our own private mini Open Streets celebration! More info about the St. Anthony Parkway Bridge project.

Janelle standing in middle of St. Anthony Parkway

I love standing in the middle of streets when they’re closed to motorized traffic (Photo by Scott)

Railyard

Panoramic of the rail yard and moving train (photo by Scott)

Grand Rounds Loop_17095880318_l

Mile 14

Scott petting two dogs

Scott making buddies

Dog

This guy wanted to be featured on the blog!

Across the street from the Columbia Golf Course is the St. Anthony Parkway Off-Leash Dog Park.

Mile 15

Banana and almond butter sandwich

Banana and almond butter sandwich for lunch

After the steep incline uphill to Deming Heights Park, we stopped for lunch. Normally we like to stop at local restaurants on our long walks but a long lunch break would have hurt our chances of completing the loop. I’m a newbie when it comes to packing food for long walks. I usually just pack nuts, dried fruit, and jerky (I like Simply Snackin). Scott made us sandwiches before he left which hit the spot.

Mile 16

Church of St. Charles Borromeo on Stinson Parkway

Church of St. Charles Borromeo on Stinson Parkway

We could have stayed on St. Anthony Parkway for awhile longer but we went south on Stinson Parkway to connect with the Diagonal Trail. This section of the walk will change once the missing link is completed. Until then, one can take residential streets (we took Como and 15th Avenue SE to get to East River Parkway).

Mile 17

View of downtown Minneapolis from a parking lot at The Quarry

View of downtown Minneapolis from a parking lot at The Quarry

Along Stinson Parkway, we saw some businesses I’m interested in paying a visit: Mother Earth Gardens (I have a couple of houseplants from their Longfellow location), Zakia Deli, and Empire Coffee (which I’ve added to my coffee shop walking wish list).

We stopped at Target for a restroom break and to purchase inserts for Scott’s shoes. This is a good time to advise you to wear shoes on this route that you’ve worn on a fairly long walk to make sure they’re going to be comfortable all day.

The pair of scissors we bought to cut said inserts was definitely the most random purchase we’ve made on a walk. I guess we should add multi-tool to our packing list.

Mile 18

I'm Feeling Good mural

Motivation in the form of a mural – I repeated this several times after seeing it

Since we didn’t have any “race spectators” ringing cowbells and holding up inspirational signs, I sought out encouragement in other ways. This “I’m Feeling Good” mural was perfect.

Marker for the Minneapolis Diagonal Trail in the Mid-City Industrial Area neighborhood

Marker for the Minneapolis Diagonal Trail in the Mid-City Industrial Area neighborhood

Mile 19

University of Minnesota sign

Welcome to the University of Minnesota

Folwell Hall, University of Minnesota

Folwell Hall, University of Minnesota

When the missing link is complete, the Grand Rounds trail will go along the eastern edge of the University of Minnesota campus on 27th Avenue SE. Until then, enjoy a stroll through one of the most beautiful sections of campus – Northrop Mall or the Church Street Pedestrian Mall. I work in the health sciences complex (a section of campus not known for its beauty) so we walked by my office then down the stairs at the backside of Coffman Union down to the East River Parkway and back on the official Grand Rounds trail.

Mile 20

Map of the route to the 20 mile mark

This is what 20 miles looks like on a map – so happy to see it looking like the start of a loop!

Scott and Janelle

Still smiling at mile 20

East River Parkway sign

Back on official Grand Rounds

Mile 21

View of Minneapolis and the University of Minnesota health sciences from the Franklin Avenue bridge over the Mississippi River

View of Minneapolis and the University of Minnesota health sciences from the Franklin Avenue bridge over the Mississippi River

Mile 22

Bikes on Grand Rounds trail

It was about 61 degrees at this point in our walk and lots of people joined us on the trails

For this walk, we stuck to the upper trail but we usually hike the Winchell Trail which offers more river views.

Mile 23

West River Parkway sign

West River Parkway

Home on West River Parkway

There are a lot of interesting homes along West River Parkway

Mile 24

I forgot to take a photo at mile 24. I even had the perfect photo opp at this moment because Brian and his son met up with us on their bikes. It was unexpected support that gave us energy to get to our next resting spot.

Mile 25

Godfrey Parkway sign

Godfrey Parkway leading us to Sea Salt Eatery

Glasses of beer

Beer is fuel

Scott and I were both looking forward to having a long break at Minnehaha Park’s Sea Salt Eatery and may have been singing songs about it around mile 23. When we arrived, it appeared that everyone else in the city had a similar plan for their day. Add in a ton of construction and I just didn’t have the patience to deal with it. After having a beer (thankfully Sea Salt has a drink/ice cream only line) we journeyed on. Scott later pointed out that we didn’t even stop to look at the Minnehaha Falls. Oops. Don’t worry – we’ve visited them many times before.

Mile 26.2 (marathon)

Janelle on trail

I’m pretty excited about having a second self-paced and guided marathon under my belt

In June 2014, I walked my first self-paced marathon and I definitely didn’t look (or feel) this happy at mile 26.2 then. Walking in cooler temperatures and not stopping as much probably helped.

Mile 27

Trees in bloom near Lake Nokomis

Trees in bloom near Lake Nokomis

Sandcastle Restaurant on Lake Nokomis Main Beach

Sandcastle Restaurant on Lake Nokomis Main Beach

Sandcastle Restaurant

Sandcastle Restaurant

Food from Sandcastle Restaurant

Fueling up for the finish line

Fish tacos, falafel, and cheese curds are totally normal foods for an ultramarathon, right? Get yourself to Sandcastle if you haven’t yet.

Mile 28

Willow tree

I love willow trees in the spring with their yellow catkins contrasting against the deep blue sky

Minnehaha Parkway segment

Minnehaha Parkway segment

Mile 29

Trail

Even the slightest incline burns at mile 29

Mile 30

Bridge over Minnehaha Creek

One of many pedestrian bridges crossing Minnehaha Creek.

I walk the Minnehaha Creek segment of the Grand Rounds frequently because of its proximity to my home. I love that there are so many bridges along this route that allow you to explore both sides of the creek.

Mile 31

Likely inspired by the 2015 Earth Day Cleanup

Likely inspired by the 2015 Earth Day Cleanup

No littering sign

Young environmentalists promoting respectful treatment of Minnehaha Creek

The Finish Line (mile 31.1)

End time: 6:38 PM

End point: Bryant Avenue Pedestrian Bridge

And twelve hours later, Scott and I celebrate our achievement with an awkward photo taken by a stranger.

Janelle and Scott at the finish line

Standing in the spot where I took my starting line photo, we celebrate the completion of the Grand Rounds Trail loop!

Inquiring minds want to know

My friend Ren asked me some questions about our Grand Rounds walk and I thought I’d share my answers with everyone.

How much water do you bring and is it bottled or do you use a camelback?
We had a 32 oz water bottle that we filled a couple of times along the route. I’m confident we didn’t drink enough on this walk but I’ll be honest…I was worried about peeing my pants. Bathrooms on Sunday this time of year are hard to find (Rec Centers are closed on Sundays and many portable toilets are seasonal and we’re still kind of in the off season).

I own a camelback but I couldn’t figure out how to put it in my backpack and I keep forgetting to admit this to the good people of Midwest Mountaineering where I bought it so that they can help me.

You tweet and use a location based app, do you bring spare batteries or an external charger for your phone?
For this walk I used Strava on my iPhone. I tried to limit how much I was using my phone (no streaming music, etc) but I also have a Mophie Juice Pack Plus (120% extra battery). I also brought my iPhone charger and the Morphie charger with me in case we had a longer stop so I could juice up. A note about this practice is that I typically ask for permission if I’m in a business that is not really set up for people using their outlets.

Was your husband with you for the whole loop or just part of it?
I typically wake up before Scott and he wasn’t sure he wanted to sign up for 12 hours of walking so I got a head start. He joined me around mile 6. It ended up being a really good balance for the day.

What was your longest route before you did Grand Rounds? 
Last year I set out to prove I could walk as many steps as David Sedaris, a known FitBitter. I ended up walking more than 28 miles that day.

Do you have another epic walk you’re planning or would like to attempt and if so, how many miles is it?
I have a walk wish list with walks of a range of distances. I want to walk the Twin Cities marathon route (not on the day of the race because the course isn’t open long enough). Brian suggested that I walk around Lake Harriet 25 times which would be 62.5 miles (2.5 miles each time around). If I kept up a pace of 3 miles per hour, it would take me 20.8 hours. So I guess that would be pretty epic.


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9 Responses to Walk This Way: 31-mile Loop of the Grand Rounds Scenic Byway

  1. Eric Anondson
    Eric Anondson May 5, 2015 at 8:19 am #

    My feet hurt thinking about this! Amazing.

    • Janelle Nivens
      Janelle May 7, 2015 at 2:14 am #

      Thanks for the compliment! I won’t be a foot model anytime soon that’s for sure!

  2. Adam Miller
    Adam Miller May 5, 2015 at 9:54 am #

    Holy cow. And I thought I walked a lot.

    I think I’ve biked every part of this route in the last few weeks, but not all at once. Maybe I’ll have to do that.

    When I weaved through the closed St Anthony Parkway Bridge, there was a nice blue flag/sign thing alerting me that 56 Brewing had just opened down the hill.

    • Janelle Nivens
      Janelle May 7, 2015 at 2:16 am #

      Adam, thanks for the comment. I’m adding 56 Brewing to my walk wish list!

  3. Adam Froehlig
    Adam Froehlig May 5, 2015 at 10:35 am #

    Reminds me of when a friend and I did the loop by bike back in high school. Took us a few hours…much faster.

    Also when I was in high school, I’d routinely do about 1/3rd of the loop during the summer, as I would bike up to my grandmother’s house to mow her lawn. Would hop on by 35W (after cutting through Pearl Park) and she lived right off of Dowling Ave.

    • Janelle Nivens
      Janelle May 7, 2015 at 2:18 am #

      Grand Rounds. Grand memories.

      Thanks for the comment!

  4. Joe May 5, 2015 at 10:59 am #

    this is truly inspiring! You are amazing! If you and Scott organized a walking tour, I am sure it would be very popular, and I know my wife and I would love to join.

    • Janelle Nivens
      Janelle May 7, 2015 at 2:25 am #

      Joe,

      Your comment means a lot. I hope to inspire people to walk more as the benefits I’ve experienced are immeasurable.

      Do you and your wife currently take walks together? What are your favorite routes? Have you been on any walking tours?

      Happy trails!

  5. Emily May 23, 2015 at 2:40 pm #

    My husband and I have been talking about trying this for awhile now, and it looks like we’re going to have a few “kid free” days later in June. Searched around to find a good map or plan for the adventure and came across your recent post! We might break it into two days, but your tips and directions will be a big help!