The Minnesota Zoo Treetop Trail, the world’s longest elevated pedestrian loop, is now officially open to the public. The 1.25-mile Treetop Trail takes guests to new heights – up to 32 feet above the ground – as they travel into the trees and gain new perspectives of zoo animals, including tigers, moose, bison, and camels. The Treetop Trail will be open year-round for people of all ages, backgrounds, and abilities to experience.
Integrating into the Minnesota Zoo’s original monorail track, which opened in 1979 and was retired in 2013, the Treetop Trail is the ultimate reuse construction project. Planning began in June 2018 and a ceremonial groundbreaking was held in April 2022.
Minnesota Lieutenant Governor, Peggy Flanagan, helped kick off the historic grand opening by proclaiming it “Minnesota Zoo Treetop Trail Day” in front of an enthusiastic crowd of nature, animal, and zoo lovers.
“The Minnesota Zoo has always been a special place for our family. By creating new opportunities to get outdoors and encouraging Minnesotans of all ages to take new perspectives, the Treetop Trail is a treasure and a true gift to Minnesotans,” said Flanagan. “The Treetop Trail takes us one step closer to making Minnesota the best state for kids and families – for generations to come. I’m grateful to everyone who put their time, energy, and care into making this vision a reality.”
“The Treetop Trail will provide an accessible and immersive pathway to nature for all ages, abilities, backgrounds, and communities,” said Minnesota Zoo Director John Frawley. “For the last 45 years, the zoo has done a tremendous job connecting people and animals. The Treetop Trail allows us to reimagine the traditional zoo experience and further the connection between people and the natural world.”
Treetop Trail Fun Facts
- There are 7.5 miles of conduit running on the underside of the trail. That’s equivalent to just under 3,000 African Bush Elephants standing in a single file line!
- The trail is comprised of more than 15,000 composite deck boards that were manufactured in Worthington, Minnesota. That’s enough boards to make 165 average residential decks.
- The trail consists of 80,000 decking fasteners.
- The project has a total of nearly 1,000 tons of new structural steel which reinforces angles, walkway frames, and handrails around the curves in the trail.
- The trail has more than 1,800 light fixtures in between the railings, alternating left to right every four feet.
- The trail was built in 20-foot modular sections (400 total). Each was wheeled into place by a custom-made trolley fabricated for this project.
- As of June 2023, the trail has required more than 80,000 labor hours to complete, all of which were done with no incidents or injuries reported.
The Treetop Trail gives guests year-round access to hundreds of acres of hardwood forest, ponds and marshes, and the diverse wildlife that calls Minnesota home. And, of course, a bird’s eye view for bird watchers. It adds more than 70,000 square feet to the zoo and includes 22 bump-out overlooks to enhance the viewing experience while walking the trail.
“Thanks to the full support from our Boards, legislative and government champions, as well as the philanthropic community, we have secured $39 million in public and private partnership to support our Step Into Nature campaign and this transformational project,” said Frawley.
The zoo contracted with Snow Kreilich Architects; engineering firm Buro Happold (known for its work on the High Line in New York City); TEN x TEN Landscape Architecture and Urbanism; and PCL Construction. Together, they have been committed to minimizing disruptions to the zoo’s animals and guests before, during, and after construction of the trail.
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“I am incredibly proud of the project team for making this complex vision come to life. We know how much this trail means to the Minnesota communities and families,” said Trent Johnson, PCL Construction’s district manager in Minneapolis.
The trail was built during one of the snowiest and most saturated winters in Minnesota history. However, the team persevered and kept the project on schedule.
“Although this was one of the snowiest winters in Minnesota history, the team put their best feet forward and endured the challenges. They are now able to see all their hard work pay off and witness the neighboring communities make unforgettable memories with their loved ones,” added Johnson.
View the video below to learn more about the Treetop Trail: