Description: The Bruce Vento Regional Trail runs from Maplewood to St Paul. It crosses the Gateway and continues south to the southern end of Phalen Park, then continues along Phalen Boulevard and through Swede Hollow to its terminus near Seventh Street. Another spur off of Phalen Boulevard continues west, going over a long bridge that crosses very active railroad tracks, and terminates at I-35E. The section north of the Gateway has a lot of small road crossings so it is not great for speed skating but it makes a great recreational skate. This trail is great for any length of skate as you can connect from there to the Gateway or make a loop around Lake Phalen.
Getting there: The trail starts on Beam Avenue in Maplewood. Unfortunately there is no trail head, so parking can be an adventure. Beam Avenue is about halfway between HWY 36 and I694 off of HWY 61. Pick you favorite way to get to HWY 61, from I694 go south on 61, from HWY 36 go north on 61. Take HWY 61 to Beam Ave. Go east on Beam Ave to Hazelwood Ave. The best place to pick up the trail is at the corner of Beam and Hazelwood. The trail starts on the southwest corner of the intersection (it will be on your right). From here the trail winds off the road into the trees. After business hours you can park at the business center on the south east corner of the intersection. But don't try to park there in the middle of a week day. There is a church about a block south on Hazelwood that hasn't bothered me about parking there in the middle of a week day. You can also always park along one of the streets in the neighborhood that is south on Hazelwood.
Parking is also available around Lake Phalen, especially near the golf course on the west shore of the lake.
Length: The trail is approximately 6.2 miles long from its northern end to the southern terminus near Seventh Street. The extension along Phalen Boulevard is 1.3 miles.
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate. The trail is mostly flat. There are a few steep hills that end in road crossings; you may want to walk these if you are unsure of your braking skills. If you try to go during the middle of a weekday, getting to the trail from your car will not be simple and may be intimidating to the less advanced skater. Try this one on a weekend first to get familiar with the area.
Popularity/number of other users: This trail is generally quiet. I usually see a few other skaters, bikers, and walkers, but the trail is wide enough to accommodate all.
Surface conditions: Excellent. This trail was built in the late 1990s and it is still a perfect surface. The section along Phalen Boulevard was paved in late 2005 and is quite smooth, except for construction debris. There are three road crossings where the curb is not level with the road surface, though, so be careful!
Scenery: The trail is through a corridor and is mostly off the road. In some places it goes through residential neighborhoods. There are some nice views of Phalen Lake through the trees. The section in Swede Hollow is particularly scenic where it runs through a ravine. The south end of the trail features the Seventh Street Improvement Arches. This is a historic bridge built to carry the St. Paul and Duluth Railroad underneath Seventh Street. The Phalen Boulevard extension goes through more industrial and office areas, but at the top of the bridge over Westminster Junction, there is a historical exhibit with descriptions of how the railroads developed along with the city.
Nearby restaurants: The trail starts on Beam Avenue by Maplewood Mall, so there are many restaurants to choose from!
Water: Water is available at Lake Phalen trailheads.
Comments: This trail is great for a relaxing skate or a starting point for a long distance workout. There is one major road crossing at Frost, a few minor road crossings, and you won't encounter a lot of people.
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