12 Parks in Burnsville, Minnesota

Last Updated on February 13, 2024 by Emily Johnson

Burnsville, Minnesota is home to over 35 parks that offer a wide variety of outdoor activities for residents and visitors. From scenic trails and fishing ponds to athletic fields and dog parks, Burnsville has amazing greenspaces where people gather for recreation, events and relaxing in nature. In this article, we will explore 12 of the top parks and facilities that make Burnsville an outdoor lover’s paradise.

Nestled along the Minnesota River just 15 miles south of Minneapolis, Burnsville spans almost 27 square miles. Natural wildlife areas, woodlands, prairie land, ponds and lakes make up over 1,100 acres of park land and open space in the city. With 12 major parks, people have plenty of options when they want to take a peaceful walk surrounded by nature or let the kids burn off energy at one of the many playgrounds.

The city prioritizes maintaining and improving its outdoor spaces for public well-being and enjoyment. Upgrades to existing parks happen frequently, and plans for new parks accommodate the city’s continued residential and business growth. Burnsville utilizes input from residents to adapt amenities to what the community desires in its public parks system.

From manicured fields for playing sports to trails through protected wetlands, Burnsville’s parks contain facilities to match most any interest. The spaces allow for picnics, parties, yoga classes, pick-up sports games and solitary reading under a shady tree. People gather to walk dogs, play on playgrounds, fish, grill out and reconnect with nature without leaving city limits.

Burnsville also schedules a full roster of events like movies and concerts in its parks from May through September. With lively programming and well-kept grounds, these 12 parks represent the best Burnsville has to offer outdoor lovers.

1. Nicollet Commons Park

At the heart of downtown adjacent to Burnsville’s Performing Arts Center lies Nicollet Commons Park. Its location makes it the go-to site for festivals, movies and summer concert series like Music in the Park. The urban open space spans eight acres and forms a hub connecting area trails and pathways with shopping and dining on Nicollet Avenue.

Well-manicured lawns and shade trees surround a central performance pavilion and a interactive sculpture fountain. People meet here daily to read, people watch or eat takeout from a nearby restaurant. The park walkways link to the 34-mile Minnesota River Quad Trail system for runners, bikers and skaters.

With a lively series of community events from May through September, Nicollet Commons Park is where Burnsville gathers to celebrate the performing arts and its vibrant hometown spirit.

2. Neill Park – the Sports Hub

Stretching across 58 acres adjacent to Burnsville High School lies the city’s largest park, Neill Park. Baseball and softball fields at the Alimagnet East Athletic Complex attract teams from around the metro for tournaments. But that’s not all this park offers sports enthusiasts.

Neill Park contains soccer, football and lacrosse fields for area leagues and pick-up games when not scheduled for play. The grounds also encompass eight tennis and four pickleball courts available on a first-come basis. In winter, the park clears plowed paths for cross-country skiing.

Dog lovers frequent the park’s designated off-leash area year-round so their pups can exercise and socialize. Kids take advantage of the spacious playground and nearby wooded trails. With restrooms and drinking fountains available, Neill Park constitutes a valuable recreational asset for athletes, families and pet owners alike.

3. Lac Lavon Park – the Scenic Oasis

Surrounding lovely Lac Lavon lake stretches over 280 acres of park space perfect for fishing, swimming or simply appreciating natural beauty. The glacial lake features two beaches where people swim in summer and ice fish come winter. Playgrounds, picnic areas and paved pathways encircle the lake.

The Dakota Rail Regional Trail’s paved 4.4 mile segment passes through Lac Lavon Park. The route intersects with wooded mountain biking and hiking trails. A fishing pier extending from shore helps those with limited mobility enjoy their sport. Canoes, paddle boards and kayaks frequently skim over Lac Lavon’s serene waters.

Wildflowers dot the meadows surrounding Lac Lavon each spring, and migrating birds stop to rest before heading north to nest. Deer and urban wildlife reside in the expansive natural areas surrounding the lake. Just 30 minutes from the Twin Cities metro, Lac Lavon Park offers a scenic escape into Minnesota’s peaceful landscapes.

4. Alimagnet Dog Park

Burnsville delights dog owners with the Alimagnet Dog Park, 12 fenced acres just for pets divided into sections based on size. The large dog area encompasses nine acres while two acres are dedicated to small dogs. One acre forms the parking lot and entrance to the off-leash areas.

Inside the fencing, dogs have space to roam, play and meet other pups without endangering themselves or needing a leash. Owners toss balls, socialize with fellow dog lovers and enjoy not constantly chasing after unleashed pets. Hydration stations provide water spigots for thirsty pups.

The park equals an amenity lacking in many metro communities. Burnsville’s foresight to create a dedicated off-leash area resulted in enduring appreciation from local dog owners. They gather daily, especially at peak hours around 5 pm when dogs have accumulated energy from being inside all day while their humans work.

Well behaved dogs without aggression issues are welcomed, even those visiting Burnsville. With strong community support, these 12 fenced acres will continue delighting dogs and their two-legged companions.

5. Terrace Oaks Park – Family Friendly

Bordering County Road 42 in northern Burnsville sprawls 50 acres dedicated to family fun at Terrace Oaks Park. It ranks among the most popular parks thanks to its interactive playgrounds for all ages nestled into a hillside. Equipment like crawling tubes, rock walls, swings and slides challenge motor skills for adventurous kiddos.

But the enjoyment doesn’t end with the playground. Two lighted softball fields host youth and adult league games. Open green space allows for pick-up soccer, frisbee or just running free. Those who prefer quiet reflection will find it along the paved pathways wandering through the forested areas and a marshy pond.

Picnic shelters situated atop the hill get reserved months in advance for graduations, reunions and birthday parties due to their scenic views from atop the stunning playground area. Families also claim tables or spread blankets on the spacious lawns for impromptu gatherings.

With play structures, athletic fields and nature trails, Terrace Oaks Park contains something fun for all ages from toddlers through great grandparents. The park’s well-rounded amenities explain its enduring popularity.

6. Red Oak Park – Mountain Biking Mecca

Tucked into Burnsville’s northwest corner, the 108 acre Red Oak Park boasts one of Minnesota’s premiere single-track mountain biking trail systems just minutes from home for many residents. Around four miles of narrow natural surface trails twist through prairie, woods and wetlands.

The Twin Cities Off Road Cyclists (TCORC) and city staff continue improving the trails. They incorporate jumps, loops and obstacles to challenge avid mountain bikers while ensuring sustainability and accessibility for riders at various skill levels. Nearby parking off County Road 5 allows direct trail access.

In addition to fat-tire fun, Red Oak Park contains a picnic shelter amid oak woods near a restroom building. Those seeking peace from urban noise will discover it walking the trails to watch birds and wildlife scarcely aware of two-legged visitors. Showshoeing proves popular after heavy snowfall.

Burnsville embraced its prairie and wooded landscapes to create desired recreation for nature lovers at Red Oak Park. The mountain bike trails also attract riders from around the metro seeking backcountry adventure near home.

7. Earley Lake Park – For Water Lovers

Situated west of Interstate 35W, this 25 acre park hugs the shoreline of Earley Lake. Thanks to its fishing piers, swimming beach and boat launch, the lake draws water sports enthusiasts during Minnesota’s mild months.

Warm weather finds the park filled with families swimming, boating or meeting for reunions. Kids perfect cannonballs and handstands off the floating dock sections. Canoes, kayaks and paddleboards skim slowly along watching for painted turtles sunbathing on logs.

Earley Lake’s fishing piers allow comfortable casting with benches and railings. Anglers pursue crappie, sunnish, perch, bass and bullheads with boats forbidden between November and April to improve ice fishing.

Beyond the lake, picnic tables scattered under mature oak trees beckon visitors. A playground with separate areas for younger and older children adds recreation possibilities on land for families enjoying a full day at Earley Lake Park.

8. Sunset Pond Park

True to its name, this six acre park provides prime views overlooking the water as the sun dips below the horizon at day’s end. Benches line the shore for sitting while breathtaking color dances over Sunset Pond.

During warmer seasons, visitors hike along the paved 1.2 mile trail encircling the pond. Habitats like wetlands, prairie and woodlands attract birds and urban wildlife easily spotted from the path. Bronze sculpture art installations relate to Burnsville’s ecological landscape.

Sunset Pond contains a fishing pier, making it a popular urban fishing hole. Minnesota’s DNR stocks the pond for catch-and-release fishing to control panfish populations. Anglers report excellent success, especially ice fishing in winter.

As sunset’s fiery hues fade into twilight, path lights illuminate the trail for finishing an evening walk before dark. For a front row seat to nature’s nightly spectacle, this small park rewards visitors in outsized proportion.

9. Kraemer Nature Preserve

Just north of Cliff Road Recreation Area’s athletic fields, this 50 acre nature preserve protects rare oak savannah habitat. Removing invasive brush to reopen the landscape benefits native flora and fauna needing large open spaces to thrive.

A trailhead with interpretive signs marks the entrance to natural surface hiking paths meandering through the preserve. While exploring the trails, you may spot wild turkey, deer, coyotes, hawks and songbirds that call Kraemer home. Some wetland areas require raised boardwalks for protecting ground nesting bird habitats.

Kraemer Nature Preserve connects Burnsville residents and visitors with their landscape’s pre-settlement ecology. Enjoying the rare Wisconsin-era oak savannah environment doesn’t require leaving the city. It serves as an important refuge where people find inspiration and renewed spirit while surrounded by nature’s peace.

10. Cliff Fen Park

Bordering the Minnesota River, this 150 acre park stretches across a massive fen wetland. A boardwalk trail vaults explorers over sensitive plants and marshy areas for close encounters with unique birds, plants and insects. Interpretive signs detail the fen’s ecology – a rare gem rescued from becoming an apartment complex.

Cliff Fen Park’s habitats shelter species unable to survive most urban developments. Orchids bloom beneath the wooded canopy, while twittering songbirds flit through shrub thickets. Lucky hikers may spot a bee orchid’s exquisite magenta flower nodding under dense greenery. Birds more common up north, like olive-sided flycatchers, nest nowhere else nearby due to lack of suitable marshlands.

Thanks to fierce community effort in the 1970s, this fascinating relic endures despite pressures from surrounding growth. Burnsville recognized the treasure in its backyard and prioritized its conservation. At Cliff Fen Park, visitors travel through the journeys of pioneering conservationists working to preserve our natural heritage.

11. Wood Park Preserve

Spanning 250 acres adjacent to Interstate 35W, Wood Park Preserve safeguards fragile bluff and oak forest ecosystems. Five miles of natural surface trails loop hikers through wooded ravines and across oak savannah ridges with panoramic valley views.

More recreation happens here beyond walking trails. An archery range challenges bow enthusiasts with targets set along a mowed path. Ongoing forestry management improves tree stands to encourage maturity of native species. Prescribed fires clear unwanted undergrowth from the oak woods.

Set between two major roadways, this park preserve seems far more remote than its location would indicate. Bird songs and creek gurgles dominate over distant traffic noise. Picnic tables nestled on scenic outlooks reward hikers emerging from wooded hollows. Thanks to intentional habitat conservation despite surrounding development, Wood Park Preserve persists as a natural oasis amid an urban landscape.

12. River Heights Park

Adjacent to County Road 42’s busy corridor, this 177 acre park borders the Minnesota River. Hiking enthusiasts cherish over five miles of scenic trail loops with connecting spurs to viewpoints above the river. Careful planning retained this park’s old growth forests despite neighboring commercial properties.

Trail users also appreciate River Heights’ archery range and bell practice stations for tuning marksmanship. Mountain bikers take advantage of narrow natural surface trails winding up and down the ravines. In snowy months, nearly all the trails get packed for classic cross-country skiing through hilly woods.

Picnic areas and playground equipment near the parking lots receive abundant use as does the boat launch. Canoes and kayaks sliding into the water easily access miles of Minnesota River backchannels and wetlands ripe for exploring. Anglers wade out for bass, walleye, crappie, northern pike and panfish.

Despite heavy usage on nice days, River Heights Park’s size allows solace seekers room to find it among the hillside thickets and high meadows. All visitors derive satisfaction thanks to plentiful facilities meeting their interests bundled within Burnsville’s own Minnesota River wilderness.

Summary

Burnsville’s robust parks system preserves invaluable open space as the city develops. Over 1,100 acres welcome recreational enjoyment spanning athletic fields, trails, playgrounds and untamed wild areas.

Residents cherish Burnsville’s parks for their scenery as much as their facilities. From bluffs hugging the river to rolling lakes bordered by prairie meadows, Burnsville’s parks contain landscapes as beautiful as those found anywhere in Minnesota.

While natural areas offer escape from urban life, community parks host events bringing people together. Festivals, movies and concerts pack Nicollet Commons Park throughout the summer. Athletes meet for friendly competition on the baseball diamonds at Neill Park or as pick-up games on soccer pitches around the city.

Dog owners find joy watching pets romp unleashed at Alimagnet Park. Families fill Terrace Oaks Park to enjoy the fabulous, sprawling playground equipment tucked into wooded hillsides. The park system provides activities spanning diverse interests – something for everyone.

Above all, Burnsville refused developing every last acre within city limits. Local leaders demonstrated wisdom retaining special habitats like Kraemer Nature Preserve’s oak savannah and the Minnesota River fen at Cliff Fen Park. Visitors connect with the native landscape through our park’s trails.

Burnsville’s parks contribute significantly toward residents’ high quality of life. As the city grows, so too will its magnificent parks system. Burnsville prioritizes green space, knowing time spent immersed in nature benefits all.

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