When: Saturday, October 24.How: Bus to the Minnesota Zoo from Mall of America, #441 with Minnesota Valley Transit. About 3/4 mile walk from zoo entrance to the entrance on the west side of the park on Johnny Cake Ridge Road. From Where: Group departure was from the Mall, but people arrived here from various points around the Metro: St. Paul, Minneapolis and Anoka. See below for how they did it. How Long: The ride to the zoo takes under 25 minutes.
Ease: Transit to the Zoo from the Mall is easy weekdays and on Saturday; there is no bus on Sunday. The drawback is frequency: the #441 (and weekday #440) runs once an hour, both going and returning. It does run all day however, from morning through early evening, so if you miss a bus you are not necessarily skunked, you can always hang out at the zoo and catch the next one. Another drawback: the zoo stop puts you about 3/4 of a mile from the westernmost park entrance (see map). You walk along major roads, albeit on a bike/ped path, to reach it. If you can make the trip on a weekday, however, it’s a different bus and route entirely (#440) which would drop you right at that western park entrance.Worth doing: Definitely; especially for people with easy, one-shot transit to the Mall. For them this transit to green space trip is quite efficient in terms of time spent in travel. And, Lebanon Hills Park is a real jewel: large, with many lakes and trails and a wild feel that city parks simply cannot emulate. It’s also an unusual regional park in that it IS accessible (relatively) via public transit, not the case for the majority of outlying regional parks. Check it out at Lebanon Hills.
___________________________________________________ Eight of us made the 6 mile hike on a mostly sunny day, a break amid many rainy ones. The map shows our entire route, both getting to and from the park, and within the park itself. Temperatures were perfect for a moderately paced walk, and leaf colors spectacular. To give an idea of timing, we spent a little under 5 hours on the outing, including round trip to the Mall. This included some pauses and a lunch stop overlooking Jensen Lake, but we did have to hurry at the end to make the return bus.
Of course, people arrived at the Mall from other points; here is a sampling of how they did it. Rich takes the prize for distance and most arduous trip: he drove down from Anoka, more than an hour of fighting road construction and traffic delays, and then confusion in the mall complex itself. He just made the zoo bus. Tom, by contrast, came from Uptown by bus on 38th street and the LRT. His 40 minute ride was uneventful (“I stepped off the bus onto the waiting train”). Becky and Raja arrived from downtown St. Paul on a great route, the high-frequency, partly express #54, which runs down West 7th street, then to the airport and Mall. Some of the bus shelters even have heat! Paul and Deb also took this bus, but biked to it, not wanting to risk possible delays due to tranfers. Debbie drove to the mall because she had shopping to do and needed to leave her purchases; Lyle drove from the east side of St. Paul because of timing, though he regularly uses the bus to go to work. So who has easiest access to Lebanon Hills Park via transit? People near the Light rail in Minneapolis, people near the #54 bus in St. Paul…and maybe some others we don’t know about. Please comment if you know of other good transit routes to the park.