If you are enjoy looking around the ruins of old brickyards, the Lilydale Regional Park is for you! This park contains the ruins of the Twin City Brick Company, which was in business for many years in the Twin Cities area. This park is really a hidden jewel, basically right along the Mississippi River across from downtown St. Paul, Minnesota. Harriet Island is also close, which features boat tours of the Mississippi River. It is a beautiful location which shows the extremes of big city life and a wilderness area right next door.
Good luck finding this area though, it is kind of tucked away. If you look on a search engine for the Lilydale Regional Park, you will find it has a page on the St. Paul Parks and Recreation site. Therefore I thought it would be well maintained spot with good markers to find it. Sadly, however, that is not the case. The lack of funds in Minnesota must have resulted in the downturn of this old park. I found the park alright, which is on Lilydale Road. This road must be well known to the area bikers, as many of them were pedaling on both sides of the road. Better be careful, as they think they own the place and do not move out of your way!
I traveled along Lilydale Road next the Mississippi River for a number of miles and did not see any signs marking where the old brickyard ruins were. I ended up at Harriet Island, so I knew I had gone too far. Looking at my online maps, I had to guess that a little fork hidden in the road led to the parking area for the brickyard ruins. The online maps show more roads that would take you closer, but these are just walking trails. You have to park in the parking lot that is hidden near this fork in the road. I was the only one there on the day I visited, but by the time I came back there were several other families heading up there.
This is a good hike and you have to be in good shape to do it, as you are generally heading uphill. The hiking trails are in tough shape and appear to get washed out with heavier rains. Therefore be careful, there is a lot of uneven ground. There is a sign in the parking area which gives some history of the area along with a map of the grounds. However, someone has defaced the sign as well as almost every other one. The maps and contents are hard to read due to their lack of maintenance. The map shows you have a hike to get to the main brickyard area, which is near Pickerel Lake.
As you make the trek to this main area, there are pieces of brick everywhere. There are additional maps which give a layout of how things looked when the brickyard was in operation. However, the area has been reclaimed by nature and it is almost impossible to get an idea of what was once here. There is some concrete, an old brick kiln, many paths, and lots of elevated hiking. The signs often tried to point out various features that were no longer easily seen. This was kind of frustrating. The weeds and tree growth have really taken off, so I imagine it took a lot of effort to keep them up.
There are some pretty neat things to see though. There is still a railroad which runs across the Mississippi River and Pickerel Lake. The portion over the Mississippi River is a swing bridge, which is cool. If you drive along Lilydale Road, you will also come across some fragments of a railroad track almost right on the bank of the river. I imagine these were used to get the product to market. There are some neat waterfalls, just be careful as you could easily fall in or down some sharp slopes. The views of St. Paul are amazing, as are some of the tall bridges in the area. If you go in the summer, pack the bug spray. The horse flies were pretty bad.