An easy, east-side escape, Swede Hollow and the Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary were both historically rough places in St. Paul. Recent years have brought restoration efforts to the once industrialized area along the banks of the Mississippi River. The route starts at the trailhead at 7th Street and Payne Avenue, and loops north beneath the historic Seventh Street Improvement Arches. Just past the bridge, bear right into Swede Hollow, a deep, wooded ravine that was home to early Minnesota immigrants.
At the top of the hollow—and the trail’s only real hill—hook south on the upper trail, looping back toward the trailhead and skirting a busy railroad thoroughfare. A gentle downhill slopes toward the Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary, an Audubon Society Important Bird Area that’s undergone major restoration efforts in the last few years. Trails through this park are gravel, perfect for family biking, but walking affords the best chance for wildlife viewing.
-Mapped by Steve Johnson
- Distance: 4.8
Location: 44.9558151, -93.0779648
The trailhead at 7th Street and Payne Avenue is near the mid-way point on this 4-mile route. Follow this route by turning left at the main trail, just south of the parking lot. If you’re short on time, consider hiking just the northern or southern segment of this trail.
Location: 44.9561621, -93.0772604
Walking north from the trailhead,you’ll pass under the Seventh Street Improvement Arches–an old railroad bridge that is on the National Register of Historic Places. The bridge also marks the southern terminus of the 6.2-mile Bruce Vento Regional Trail that extends through Swede Hollow all the way to Maplewood.
Location: 44.9615754, -93.0735219
Though the Bruce Vento Regional Trail continues more than 5 miles north from this point, this route turns left about to follow the upper trail back down the hollow toward this route’s southern loop.
Location: 44.9554298, -93.0777168
You’ll pass the trailhead after completing this route’s 1.1-mile northern loop. Dip under I-94 skirting an active train thoroughfare en route to the Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary.
Location: 44.9531428, -93.0748496
Turn right under Kellogg Boulevard and into the 29-acre sanctuary. Restoration efforts in this area are covering the scars of it’s industrial past and linking several cycling routes around the city.
Location: 44.9516183, -93.0733287
The gravel trail splits a few hundred yards from the Kellogg underpass. This mapped route turns left at the Y-junction to follow the 0.7-mile loop counter clockwise.
Location: 44.9503844, -93.0705714
The looping nature trails criss-cross this area on the Mississippi’s north side. Bear left at trail junctions to follow this route around the park’s perimeter.
Location: 44.9487628, -93.0683487
Look west for great city views above the river from this route’s southernmost (and lowest) point. The 0.9-mile return to the trailhead is a barely-noticeable uphill ride from here.
Location: 44.9562649, -93.077116
The path beneath the Seventh Street Improvement Arches follows the abandoned corridor of the old Burlington Northern Railroad.
Location: 44.9582996, -93.077116
Once hosting over 1,000 of St. Paul’s poorest immigrants, Swede Hollow is now a quiet, wooded respite in the heart of the city.
Location: 44.9524687, -93.0740261
This flat, paved trail precedes the gravel paths in the nature sanctuary.
Location: 44.9503844, -93.0704159
This sandstone cave alongside the trail has a long history as a spiritually significant site for Native Americans and a storage facility for the historic North Star Brewery.
Location: 44.9497352, -93.0712795
The gravel trail is smooth enough for novice cyclists and trailering children.
Location: 44.9504034, -93.0731678
St. Paul’s taller buildings are visible the grasslands being restored by local non-profits.