Regional parks and trails attract more visitors than ever in 2021

Date: Wednesday, August 3, 2022

A child leaning on a concrete bridge with a fishing pole pointed toward the water.Whether people want exercise, seek solitude, or gather for fun with friends and family, they are visiting metro area regional parks and trails more than ever.

In 2021, people made an estimated 64.9 million visits to the Twin Cities area’s renowned system of regional parks and trails. That’s a 2.6% increase over 2019, the last time visits were estimated. Trail visits alone grew 11% over 2019 for a total of about 16 million visits.

The region has 56 regional parks and park reserves — places like Lebanon Hills Regional Park, Minnehaha Falls Regional Park, and Carver Park Reserve. We also have 55 regional trails (415 miles total) and 8 special recreation features, including Gale Woods Farm and Como Zoo & Conservatory. In addition to providing a wealth of opportunities for recreation, exercise, and fun, the system preserves significant green space and wildlife habitat.

The top-visited regional park in 2021 was Minneapolis Chain of Lakes with more than 7.5 million visits, followed by Como Regional Park with about 4.5 million visits.

With the pandemic continuing throughout 2021, fewer special events were held in regional parks. Special events decreased by almost one-third from 2019.

Park visitation estimates used for funding allocation

Park agencies collect visitation data from each park and trail between Memorial Day and Labor Day. The Metropolitan Council uses these counts to produce the annual use estimate report, which is informed by a more comprehensive visitors study we conduct about every 5 years.

The estimates are used to distribute funding for regional parks and trails across 10 park implementing agencies as required by statute. They also help the Met Council and its parks partners monitor trends in visitation over time. Park implementing agencies use the data to inform long-range planning and provide needed information to their advisory commissions, residents, and other stakeholders.

The Met Council provides long-range planning, investment, and regional coordination of the regional parks and trails.

Visits to the Regional Park System in 2021 (PDF)

About regional parks and trails

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