Explore Lilydale – Parks and Trails
Lilydale lies in the area of the confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers at Pike Island. The island was named after Zebulon Pike who in 1805 purchased land from the Dakota for what was to become Fort Snelling and is now Fort Snelling Regional State Park. It is at this confluence of the two rivers where the residents of Lilydale and the surrounding communities have many opportunities for recreation in the form of viewing wildlife, scenic overlooks, hiking, biking, roller-blading, cross-country skiing, fishing, picnicking, swimming or for an urban river boating experience. It is all part of the Mississippi River National Recreation Area (MNRRA for short). Lilydale lies totally within this national park area.
Historic Fort Snelling, (now Ft. Snelling Regional State Park), built in 1825, crowns the bluff top overlooking the confluence. The island’s pedestrian trail is popular with birders and wildlife watchers. On the St. Paul side of the Mississippi River, trails link Hidden Falls Regional Park with Crosby Farm Regional Park. Crosby Farm Park’s trails meander near two small backwater lakes and through floodplain forests. The Crosby Trail connects on Shepard Rd. with the Samuel H. Morgan Regional Trailwhich has its beginning on Shepard Rd. by the Two Rivers Overlook near Gannon Rd. and the Hwy. 5 Bridge (from Lilydale one can get on the Morgan Trail by crossing the 35E Bridge). The Samuel Morgan Trail takes you east past the 35E Bridge and Summit Brewery, to the Upper & Lower Landing Parks, and all the way to Upper Town and Lower Town St. Paul.
Downtown St. Paul itself sits on a bluff above the river. At the Lower Landing Park, paddle wheelers once lined the shore. The park on the bluff downtown, along east Kellogg Blvd., near the Robert Street Bridge, is a good spot to view the working river with its barges, Raspberry Island, the Union Pacific railroad lift bridge, and the other bridges. Crossing the Mississippi on the Wabasha Street Bridge connects you to Harriet Island Regional Park which offers excursion boat rides, the Minnesota Centennial Showboat, trails, and views of the river and downtown, Kelley's Landing (the St. Paul Yacht Club), and to Lilydale Regional Park and finally to the Big Rivers Trail. A diversion from the Samuel MorganTrail across the High Bridge would take you to Cherokee Park in West St. Paul and further along, the Bruce Vento Scenic Overlook, the Lilydale Brickyard Trail (a hiking trail) which goes down the bluff to the fossil beds and to Pickerel Lake and Lilydale Regional Park.
On the Mendota side of the Minnesota River within Ft. Snelling Park there are many backwater lakes and wetlands. Before the Minnesota River reaches its confluence with the Mississippi, there is the Sibley (Mendota) Trail which connects the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge (upriver from I- 494 and the Hwy. 77 Bridge) to Ft. Snelling Park. The Sibley Trail follows the Minnesota River northeast from the Hwy. 77 bridge through Ft. Snelling Park, to the historic town of Mendota, which is also where the Sibley House Historic Site is located. This was the first historic site in Minnesota. The Sibley House was built in 1838 by Henry Sibley who came to this area to work as a regional manager for the American Fur Co. and who later became the first governor of Minnesota.
It is here in Mendota where the Sibley Trail connects up with the Big River Regional Trail which then connects Lilydale Regional Park to Harriet Island Regional Parkand downtown St. Paul. This is the opposite side of the river from Crosby Park and the Samuel H. Morgan Trail (described in detail above).
On its western end the Big River Regional Trail starts in Eagan, connects with the historic Pilot Knob, where the Dakota people buried their dead, and then goes through Mendota Heights, Mendota and Lilydale and on to Harriet island and St. Paul.
St. Paul’s Great River Park connects 17 miles of riverfront via parks, trails and neighborhoods. The Visitor Center for the MNRRA is located in the Science Museum, on Kellogg Blvd., near the Samuel Morgan Trail and Upper Town St. Paul.
North Urban Regional Trail – This is an east-west corridor that connects Lilydale, Mendota Heights, West St. Paul, and South St. Paul. It begins in Lilydale near the Valley View Park Trail in Mendota Heights, continues east near the Dodge Nature Center, continues on through West St. Paul city parks, east to Thompson County Park and Kaposia Park in South St. Paul and eventually connects to the South St. Paul Regional Trail and the Mississippi River.