Exploring the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge – via Train!

By Kevin Beltz, Green Transportation Intern

Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge visitor center main entrance

Main entrance to the spectacular Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge visitor center, just a few minute walk from the METRO Blue Line station.  The butterflies weren’t out today!

On a spring-like Saturday morning on February 27, 2016, a group of twenty met at the Sierra Club office to venture to the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge. We left our cars and took the train from there! This Transit to Green Space adventure was supposed to involve snowshoeing, but snowshoes don’t work well in mud! The warmth and sunshine validated a terrific day.  People laced up their hiking boots and trekked through the beautiful area of hills, marsh, and forest.  Ranger Judy bestowed an abundant amount of knowledge of the valley and its inhabitants from the get-go. The 3-4 mile walk was filled with numerous stops and facts.  During our adventure, we saw a couple of bald eagles and even two owls perched high up in a tree!

Visitor Center view

The view from the lookout by the visitor center

What We Did

The group departed the Sierra Club office in Minneapolis around 11:30 to catch the 11:58 Blue Line train at Franklin Station. We took the train to the American Boulevard stop (about a 20 minute ride).  The walk to the Visitor Center is only about 10 minutes or a half-mile.  Our agenda was to get there, eat snacks, and begin a guided walk with Ranger Judy which began at 1:00 p.m. The hike lasted about an hour and a half and some people continued along the trail afterwards to soak in as much February sunshine as possible.

Hikers spot two owls

Hikers trying to spot two owls perched high up in a cottonwood tree.

How to Plan this Hike

  • Go to metrotransit.org to get the schedule for the Blue Line (runs every 10 minutes)
  • Ensure you have exact change ($1.75), a credit/debit card, or your transit card (ie convenient “GoTo” card).
  • Take the train to the American Boulevard Station
  • Get off of the train and cross the street to the left toward a place called Cardtronics.  This is American Boulevard
  • Walk along American Boulevard and continue walking as it winds to the left and goes up a hill.  You will soon see signs for the visitor center.
  • Go in the visitor center and grab a map and knowledge at their wonderful displays and seating areas inside.
  • Smile and enjoy your hike!  Simply reverse directions to return to where you came from.


Ranger Judy explains

Ranger Judy delivering the gameplan of the hike and explaining the formation of the Minnesota Valley. She commended us for visiting the park via the train, not our cars!

You can find more of our Sierra Club outings on our MeetUp page. Join us!


Kevin Belz is a finance major minoring in sustainability at the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota.


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