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The Richard T Anderson Conservation Area is one of those unique finds you come across that you have to tell everyone about. Sitting on the bluff between Eden Prairie and Shakopee, it’s one of the most epic hiking trails in Eden Prairie!
If you haven’t figured this out yet, I have been loving all of this extra time to hike. The extra time has allowed me to explore a lot of new areas closer to home. I usually stay away from sharing the smaller hiking trails, but this one packs a punch. Located in Eden Prairie, this trail follows along the river bluff.
The Richard T. Anderson Conservation Area provides a great balance of challenge, low mileage, scenic overlooks, and plenty of trail opportunities.
Welcome to hike 5 of 5 of my Hiking in Eden Prairie Series. Each day this week, I’ll be adding in another great hike that’s included in Eden Prairie’s Conservation Areas.
The Richard T. Anderson Conservation Area
The conservation area is named after much-loved city council member that served between 1983-1994. Before that he’d spend 11 years on the Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources Commission.
He was a leading voice in the preservation of Eden Prairies Parks and the creation of the trail systems.
Today, it is one of the crown jewels of Eden Prairie Parks, giving it’s residents an opportunity to hike in the River Bluffs of Eden Prairie. Growing up in Eden Prairie myself, I spend my childhood exploring the bluffs closer to my house. It was a treat to explore this new area.
There are 3 main points of entry to the Richard T. Anderson Conservation Area, two of which are parking lots. Trail reports said the lower parking lot off Highway 61 was closed due to construction, leaving me to look for the northern parking lot, through a neighborhood.
The GPS coordinates led me to a random street, with no trail access. I ended up stumbling upon the trail marker in the neighborhood. It worked out great, but once we got on the trail, we found two very obvious parking lots. The official trailhead is off Frontier Place and down a short road. Note to self, do a Google Street View next time.
Navigating the Trail
The Richard T. Anderson Conservation Area has a lot of well-developed trails that spread throughout the river bluffs. There is one primary loop, with three additional loops around the primary loop.
This gives you plenty of opportunities to choose your own adventure.
There are maps at every crossroads and parking area. Walking along the trail, there are trail markers in the more remote areas of the trail.
This is probably for the people Snow Shoeing during the winter when the snow is covering the trail. It is almost impossible to get lost on the trail.
The road portion on the map only allows traffic heading from the neighborhoods to the parking area. The section between the two parking lots does not allow cars.
One of the fun things about the trail was the constant ravines. Around every corner something new and unexpected.
Eden Prairie Parks had done an excellent job with maintaining the trails and adding steps and anti-slip material into the hillside during some of the steepest sections of the trail. When there are muddy sections, there are well-developed trails around it.
Hiking with Kids on the Overlook Trail
I love getting my kids involved in the adventures whenever I can. I am always showing them the map, how far we’ve gone, and where we are going.
It provides a lot of encouragement to keep going when things get tough. It’s also a great way to start teaching them basic navigation skills.
At every crossroads, I’d fill them in on their progress and see if they were up for more. With the knowledge of the trail’s hilliness, I wanted to give them the opportunity to bow out if it gets too bad.
My daughter decided we should do one of the challenging loops. She saw the trail going straight up a hill and my reluctance to go up it and convinced us that we could do it.
At what she thought was the top of the hill, turned out to be just a curve in the trail. At this point, I wouldn’t let her turn back.
We finish what we start! I made it to the top of the hill and was bent over trying to regain my composure, as families were enjoying the picnic space in front of us.
They looked like they were on a leisurely nature hike. It felt like they were trying to rub in my exhaustion!
After regaining the ability to stand upright again, I realized we made it to the scenic overlook. It made everything worth it.
Other tips for hiking with kids
- When you are hiking with younger kids, make sure to take plenty of rests. As parents, we sometimes forget that they have smaller legs than us.
- When they can’t go any further, give ‘Who can get up the hill faster?’ a try. Just make sure you are in a safe place. If they fall and get dirt on them, all your effort could be lost.
- If your kid is bored of waiting for you while you enjoy an overlook you worked so hard for, have them use a stick and draw something in the dirt for other hikers to find.
The Easier Hiking Option
At the primary parking lot and trailhead is at the bottom of the bluffs off highway 61. It’s very easy to find and has a natural spring. It’s one of two in Eden Prairie. It’s a great place to start the hike, especially if you have younger kids and maybe don’t want to do the full loop.
If you don’t intend on doing the entire thing, I recommend starting out with the loop on the right side. It may look long, but it’s relatively flat. If you want a little more of a challenge, try one of the two left loops. Both loops have high elevation changes and are even marked as ‘Difficult’.
The Downside to Parking Up Top
Parking at the top of the hill has one negative side effect. You end the hike, with a lot of stairs. It wasn’t as bad as it looks. If you park at any of the two official parking lots, you can skip the steps all together.
I’m actually thinking about making this a weekly hike at the Richard T. Anderson Conservation Area to get my butt in better shape for these long summer hiking club hikes!