BEST PLACE TO HIKE (WOODSY) - 2002
Fact is, there are dozens of fine hiking routes within easy striking distance of the cities--which makes picking a best problematic. Such determinations often come down to issues of personal taste--a preference for woods over fields, or rivers over lakes, or the like. In our view, the best hikes offer a little bit of everything. Constructed along the old Minnesota Central Railroad bed, the 12-foot-wide, blacktopped Big Rivers Regional Trail runs three and a half miles along the Minnesota River valley, stretching from Mendota Heights, through the City of Mendota, to the little river town of Lilydale. At the trailhead (located off Sibley Memorial Highway just north of I-494), the vista takes you back in time. You can see Fort Snelling, Minnesota's first military outpost, and Pike Island, where the unfortunate Sioux got their first taste of the fork-tongued negotiating tactics of their new, pasty neighbors. Open from dawn to dusk, the Big Rivers Trail has all the basic amenities--picnic tables, restrooms, and a 24-spot parking lot. The only real drawback is the persistent roar of the commercial airliners passing overhead.