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Bike Trails Around Minnesota

Minnesota has more miles of paved rail-to-trail bikeways than any other state.

These paved trails offer smooth, mostly level, easygoing biking mile after mile, past beautiful scenery, pleasant communities, and one-of-a-kind attractions. Maps are available online for most of the trails.

SOUTHERN MINNESOTA


Blazing Star State Trail

Location: Albert Lea
Distance: 6 miles
Description: Enjoy views of rural landscapes along the Blazing Star State Trail, linking Albert Lea to Big Island State Park. Pass Albert Lea Lake and experience a diversity of natural environments including oak savanna, several wetlands, old growth hardwood forest, and prairie landscape. Big Island State Park is considered an excellent birding spot, especially during spring and fall migration. This is an initial segment of a planned longer trail.
For more information: Call the DNR at 651-296-6157 or 888-646-6367 or visit www.mndnr.gov. Map online.
 

Cannon Valley Trail

Location: Between Cannon Falls and Red Wing
Distance: 19.7 paved miles
Description: The mostly shaded Cannon Valley Trail, following the abandoned Chicago Great Western Railroad Line, passes by changing scenery of wooded hillsides, rocky cliffs, rolling pastures, and farm fields as it parallels the winding Cannon River.

Start your ride from Cannon Falls, Red Wing, or the parking lot and picnic area near the small village of Welch, midway along the trail. Visit the Cannon Valley Winery or the bakery in downtown Cannon Falls, and don’t miss the great little ice cream shop in Welch—just a short hop off the trail.

The historic Mississippi River town of Red Wing is home to antique shops, gift stores, charming eateries, the popular Red Wing Shoes and Red Wing Pottery, and small hotels, inns, and B&Bs.
Trail fee: $3 daily for 18 and over; $15 for a season pass.

For more information: Call the Cannon Valley Trail Office at 507-263-0508 or visit www.cannonvalleytrail.com. Map online.
 

Casey Jones State Trail

Location: Currie and Pipestone
Distance: Two separate paved segments, the 6-mile Currie Loop and 5 miles at Pipestone
Description: This circle loop links scenic Lake Shetek State Park with the village of Currie, home to the End-O-Line Railroad Park and Museum. A separate section of the trail travels through the countryside east from the picturesque town of Pipestone. These are the initial segments of this state trail named for famed railroad engineer Casey Jones.
For more information: Call the DNR at 651-296-6157 or 888-646-6367, or visit www.mndnr.gov. Map online.
 

Douglas State Trail

Location: Between Rochester and Pine Island
Distance: 13 paved miles
Description: Shaded by a canopy of trees, this trail travels past rolling farmland and rural scenery. Several bridges cross the Zumbro River, the northernmost crossing providing entry into Pine Island city park (complete with a playground and picnic shelter) and connecting to Main Street, where many downtown buildings are on the National Register of Historic Places.

The southern end of the trail links to the extensive bikeways system in Rochester, home of the world-renowned Mayo Clinic. One of the Rochester bikeways follows the Zumbro River and circles Silver Lake. The Parks and Rec Department produces a city bike trail map available online at www.ci.rochester.mn.us.

For more information: Call the DNR at 651-296-6157 or 888-646-6367, or visit www.mndnr.gov. Map online.
 

Great River Ridge Trail

Location: Between Elgin and Plainview, northeast of Rochester
Distance: 6 miles
Description: The Great River Ridge Trail passes through rural countryside, linking two farm communities. This is the initial segment of a proposed 13-mile trail expanding to Carley State Park and linking to the Root River Trail and Chester Woods Park.
For more information: Call the city of Plainview at 507-534-2229 or visit www.plainviewmn.com.
 

Harmony-Preston Valley State Trail

Location: Between Harmony and Preston, southeast of Rochester
Distance: 18 paved miles (connecting to the 42-mile Root River Trail)
Description: This corner of Minnesota is called Bluff Country, with wooded, rolling countryside, winding rivers, and charming little towns. The scenery along the Harmony-Preston Valley State Trail is a good example of this. Unlike trail sections that follow old railbeds, the path between Harmony and Preston zips up and down steep hills. To the north of Preston the trail is fairly level, jumping back and forth over Camp Creek, Watson Creek, and the South Branch of the Root River. Riders will enjoy a mix of woods and fields along the way.

There are many Amish farms around Harmony, and their horse-drawn carriages are frequently seen along the roads. Unique attractions include a toy museum and goat farm, shops in town carry Amish handcrafts, and there are several other gift stores and eateries. Stop for pie, ice cream, or lunch in the town of Preston.

For more information: Call the DNR at 651-296-6157 or 888-646-6367, or visit www.mndnr.gov. Map online.
 

Red Jacket Trail

Location: Between Mankato and Rapidan
Distance: 6 miles of paved trails; connecting with other trails
Description: This short, scenic trail heads south from River Front Drive in Mankato. Leaving town, it passes the Mount Kato ski area and mountain bike park before traveling along a wooded, secluded hillside ovethree railroad trestles, past farmland to the village of Rapidan. From here, cyclists can take a paved shoulder along a county road to Rapidan Dam park. In Mankato, the Red Jacket Trail hooks up with the Minnesota River Trail, a city trail that follows the river for a few miles before linking with the Sakatah Singing Hills Trail northeast of Mankato.
For more information: Call 507-345-4519 and ask for the Greater Mankato Bike Trail Guide or visit www.co.blue-earth.mn.us. Map online.
 

Root River State Trail

Location: Between Fountain to Houston, southeast of Rochester
Distance: 42 paved miles; connects to the 18-mile Harmony-Preston Valley Trail
Description: As you bike through this beautiful valley, you cross dozens of bridges over the Root River. The view from this shady, secluded trail includes limestone cliffs, small pastures and fields, and wooded bluffs. Hawks and turkeys are not unusual sights.

About a quarter mile down the trail in the city of Fountain, watch for a sinkhole—formed when limestone eroded beneath the surface. Fountain is the “Sinkhole Capital of the U.S.A.”

Most of the trail is fairly level, but hills between Rushford and Houston should provide a good workout. The small communities of Fountain, Lanesboro, Whalan, Peterson, Rushford, and Houston—located along the trail—are part of Root River Trail’s appeal.

Lanesboro, the “little town in the valley,” attracts thousands of bikers every year. The main street is a designated historic district, home to the excellent Commonweal Theatre Company, as well as a winery, art gallery, canoe outfitter, and concerts at Sylvan Park. There’s no shortage of down-home cafes and quaint B&Bs in these towns. One of the most popular stops along the trail is a phenomenal pie shop in the quiet village of Whalan.

For more information: Call the DNR at 651-296-6157 or 888-646-6367, or visit www.mndnr.gov. Map online.
 

Sakatah Singing Hills State Trail

Location: Between Mankato and Faribault
Distance: 39 paved miles
Description: Sakatah (pronounced Sah-KAH-tah) is the Dakota word for “Singing Hills.” The trail runs through a landscape of farmland, lakes, wetlands, and woods. A canopy of trees shade the trail along most of the corridor, offering relief on hot summer days.

Faribault has an inviting downtown of beautiful old storefronts, antique shops, and restaurants. The Faribault Woolen Mills outlet shop is a popular stop here. The trail passes right through Sakatah Lake State Park, with a picnic area, hiking trails, and a swimming beach. Along the route, the little towns of Elysian, Waterville, and Madison Lake make for inviting stops.

At Mankato, the Sakatah links up with the Minnesota River Trail, which leads to the Red Jacket Trail.

For more information: Call the DNR at 651-296-6157 or 888-646-6367, or visit www.mndnr.gov. Map online.
 

Shooting Star State Trail

Location: Between LeRoy and Adams, southeast of Austin
Distance: 14 paved miles
Description: This trail, named for a prairie flower, travels the same area as the Shooting Star Scenic Byway. Both offer an opportunity to experience rural Minnesota, rooted in farms and small towns. Tiny Taopi has fewer than 100 residents; LeRoy under 1,000. Near LeRoy, the trail passes through quiet Lake Louise State Park, with a picnic area and swimming beach on the old millpond. There are views of the Upper Iowa River, pastures and cropland, and stands of woods.

At Taopi, you can walk across Highway 56 to a kiosk that offers prairie information, and stroll along a mowed path through tall prairie grasses. Colorful prairie flowers bloom in late summer and early fall.
For more information: Call the DNR at 651-296-6157 or 888-646-6367, or visit www.mndnr.gov. Map online.
 


CENTRAL

*See also the Paul Bunyan Trail under Northwest; it extends into the Central region.

Central Lakes State Trail

Location: Between Fergus Falls and Osakis
Distance: 55 paved miles
Description: Wildflowers, prairie grass, open fields, rolling hills, wetland ponds, and wildlife are part of the scenery on the Central Lakes State Trail. The hilly terrain cradles dozens of lakes, and red barns and emerald pastures dot the landscape.

The western segment passes between wetlands, small pristine lakes, and wooded hillsides, crossing only one road between Fergus Falls and Dalton.

The eastern section passes through Alexandria, but most of the remainder of the trail is fairly secluded. This trail connects to the Lake Wobegon Trail at Osakis.
For more information: Visit www.centrallakestrail.com or call the DNR at 651-296-6157 or 888-646-6357, or visit www.mndnr.gov. Map online.
 

Cuyuna Lakes State Trail

Location: Between Crosby and Riverton
Distance: 6 miles
Description: The trail travels mostly through the Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area, a park developed around former mining pits. The pits have filled with water and are now clear lakes, popular for fishing and scuba diving. At the eastern end of the trail, you can tour a simulated underground mine at the Croft Mine Historical Park, north of Crosby.
For more information: Call the DNR at 651-296-6157 or 888-646-6367, or visit www.mndnr.gov. Map online.
 

Glacial Lakes State Trail

Location: Between Willmar and Paynesville
Distance: 22 paved miles
Description: From Willmar to Spicer, this trail passes pastures, fields of corn and soybeans, and ponds and wetlands full of cattails. Watch for herons and ducks. At Spicer, about midway, you can take a dip in refreshing Green Lake, featuring a big, festive beach.

North of here, the trail crosses a bridge over Nest Lake and skirts to the east of New London. Don’t miss New London’s entertaining waterski shows Friday nights during the summer. From here, the trail follows Highway 23 through Hawick; a two-mile paved spur at the north end links the trail to Paynesville.

For more information: Call the DNR at 651-296-6157 or 888-646-6367, or visit www.mndnr.gov. Map online.
 

Lake Wobegon Trail

Location: Between St. Joseph and Osakis, with a spur north from Albany
Distance: 62 paved miles
Description: Lake Wobegon is the mythical Minnesota town in stories told by radio personality and author Garrison Keillor. The towns along the trail—Sauk Centre, Melrose, Freeport, Albany, Holdingford, Avon, and St. Joseph—inspired Keillor’s stories of small-town life. Part of the trail comes close to I-94, but most of it is far from life’s fast lane in peaceful farm country. The city of Sauk Centre was home to the Nobel Prize-winning novelist Sinclair Lewis. Visitors can tour his boyhood home and an interpretive center. At its west end, the Lake Wobegon Trail links to the Central Lakes Trail.

From Albany, a spur of the Wobegon heads north through rural countryside past the village of Holdingford, where the trail crosses a river on a scenic covered bridge. A trail developed by Morrison County links to this northern spur of the Wobegon Trail. The paved 10 miles of the Soo Line Trail pass through the tiny village of Bowlus, the only town on the route, and cross the Mississippi River. The Central Lakes, Wobegon, and Soo Line trails provide more than 125 continuous miles of paved bike trail—currently the longest paved rail trail in the Minnesota, and one of the longest in the country.

For more information: Call the St. Cloud Convention and Visitors Bureau at 800-264-2940 or visit www.lakewobegontrails.com. Map online.
 

Mille Lacs Soo Line Trail

Location: Between Onamia and Isle, south of Lake Mille Lacs
Distance: 11 paved miles
Description: With a scenic state park near each trailhead, the Soo Line offers biking near Mille Lacs, one of the state’s largest lakes. At Isle, on the trail’s north end, streets in town take you to Father Hennepin State Park, featuring a great beach on Mille Lacs. This short, flat trail passes numerous wetlands where red-winged blackbirds perch on cattails. The western trailhead of Onamia has an information center in a restored train depot. From town, you can follow County Road 26 for six miles to the beautiful forest of Mille Lacs Kathio State Park.

The trail was recently realigned to connect with the now-complete Soo Line bridge over Highway 169.

For more information: Call the Mille Lacs Area Tourism Council at 888-350-2692 or visit www.millelacs.com.
 


NORTHWEST

Heartland State Trail

Location: Between Park Rapids and Cass Lake
Distance: 49 paved miles
Description: The original stretch of the Heartland Trail between Park Rapids and Walker passes through farmland and wooded areas, near marshes and lakes. You can cool off at beaches in Akeley and Nevis, have your photo taken with the state’s biggest Paul Bunyan in Akeley, or visit restaurants and shops in the one-block village of Dorset.

Much of the 20-mile section between Walker and Cass Lake parallels Highway 371 passing Leech Lake, wetlands, and a forest that changes from hardwoods to pines as you head north. One highlight is the old trestle bridge over Steamboat Lake. There are numerous lakeside resorts and lodging options, family-friendly attractions, and restaurants near the Heartland State Trail. The Heartland Trail intersects with the Paul Bunyan Trail near Walker.

For more information: Call the DNR at 651-296-6157 or 888-646-6367, or visit www.mndnr.gov. Map online.
 

Migizi Trail

Location: Cass Lake
Distance: 9 paved miles
Description: This Chippewa National Forest trail forms a wide horseshoe around three sides of Pike Bay. There’s a trail parking area on the east side of the town of Cass Lake. From here, the trail follows Highway 2 for 2.5 miles on the north side of the bay before turning south into a forest of tall pines. Since the trail doesn’t follow an old railroad bed, there are rolling hills and curves along the way. At the trail’s end, follow a bike lane along a county road for a half-mile to the Heartland Trail, and bike the Heartland north for about three miles back to Cass Lake. A bike route in town will take you back to the Migizi parking lot. All together, this forms a loop of 14 miles. Migizi is the Ojibwe word for “eagle,” and there’s a good chance of seeing one soaring above the trail.
For more information: Call the Chippewa National Forest at 218-335-8600, or visit www.fs.fed.us/r9/chippewa. Map online.
 

Paul Bunyan State Trail

Location: Between Brainerd and Walker, and between Walker and Bemidji
Distance: 73 paved miles from Brainerd/Baxter to Walker; 7 miles between Bemidji and Bemidji State Park; by fall 2009, almost 30 miles between Bemidji and Walker; total of 110 miles when complete.
Description: The southern end of the Paul Bunyan Trail runs through the scenic Brainerd Lakes area, a popular destination for fishing, golfing, and resort stays. The trail passes lakes, marshes, and forests, and crosses nine rivers and streams. The southern 50 miles run through Brainerd, Baxter, Merrifield, Nisswa, Pequot Lakes, Jenkins, Pine River, Backus, and up through Hackensack.

The part of the trail between Hackensack and the Heartland Trail features some challenging hills. For 9 miles, the trail winds and curves through the rolling hills of the Chippewa National Forest.The Paul Bunyan Trail hooks into the Heartland south of Walker.

The northern portion of the trail passes lakes, fields, and woods and connects Walker, Benedict, Laporte, Guthrie, Nary, and Bemidji. A two-mile bike route follows Bemidji city streets, linking the trail on the north and south sides of town. The northernmost segment of the trail crosses the Mississippi River, follows the scenic shore of Lake Bemidji, and leads to Lake Bemidji State Park.
For more information: Call the DNR at 651-296-6157 or 888-646-6367, or visit www.mndnr.gov. Map online.
 


NORTHWEST

Gitchi-Gami State Trail

Location: Along the North Shore of Lake Superior
Distance: 23 paved miles in five segments: The longest sections are 15 miles from Gooseberry Falls State Park to Beaver Bay, and 3 miles between Schroeder and Tofte.
Description: Biking this trail is an excellent way to enjoy Minnesota’s North Shore, with dramatic views of the big lake. Some of the trail runs parallel to Highway 61, and other parts of the trail travel through state parks on hilly terrain. One spur leads to the tourist attraction of Split Rock Lighthouse. The stretch from Schroeder to Tofte crosses the scenic Temperance River State Park, offering views of Carlton Peak. Stop and hike to the gorgeous Temperance River gorge.
For more information: Call the DNR at 651-296-6157 or 888-646-6367 or visit www.mndnr.gov or www.ggta.org. Map online.
 

Mesabi Trail

Location: Between Grand Rapids and Ely
Distance: 60 paved miles, Marble to McKinley, with a 4-mile spur to Eveleth; 13 paved miels Grand Rapids to Taconite; short paved segments at Biwabik, Tower, and Ely. The trail will eventually run 132 miles between Grand Rapids and Ely. Additional sections slated for construction in 2009-10.
Description: When finished, this trail will connect 28 communities across Northern Minnesota’s Iron Range, a Northwoods area rich in mining history and ethnic heritage. The Mesabi has a good combination of flat and hilly terrain, with views of woods, creeks, ponds, and rock walls hewn for the railroad track. It passes several old mining pits that have filled with emerald green water to become lakes. The overlooks at the Hull Rust Mine in Hibbing and the Rouchleau Mine in Virginia offer dramatic views of these mini-canyons. The Mesabi Trail provides access to several Iron Range attractions: the International Wolf Center, the Soudan Underground Mine tours, Giants Ridge Recreation Area, and the Ironworld Discovery Center. There is a shuttle service available (so you don’t have to bike both ways), and you can arrange for lodge-to-lodge trips, staying overnight at hotels, motels, campgrounds, or B&Bs near the trail.
Trail fee: For those 18 and over, $5 for a two-day special; $15 for a season pass.
For more information: Call the Trail Central at 877-MESABI-1 or visit www.mesabitrail.com. Map online.
 

Willard Munger State Trail

Location: Between Hinckley and West Duluth
Distance: 63 paved miles, connects to 6-mile Alex Laveau Trail
Description: The northeast part of this trail runs through rugged rock-cuts and rock outcrops, with panoramic views of the St. Louis River. The southern part of the trail meanders through pine and aspen-covered rural countryside with picturesque small towns located along the route.

In 1894, a raging fire swept through the Hinckley area, and a train carried the townspeople to safety, following the route that now features this bike trail. The Hinckley Fire Museum, near the trailhead, tells the compelling story of this tragic forest fire and its heroes. The trail passes fields, stands of woods, and links several small towns.

The northern segment of the trail makes a gradual, 15-mile descent from Carlton to Duluth. This very scenic stretch crosses a bridge high over the tumbling St. Louis River, passes through Jay Cooke State Park, and follows a ridgeline with expansive views of forest, and eventually, fantastic views of both Lake Superior and Duluth.

At Carlton, the six-mile Alex Laveau Memorial Trail runs near Jay Cooke State Park to Wrenshall and Highway 23.

For more information: Call the DNR at 651-296-6157 or 888-646-6367, or visit www.mndnr.gov. Map online.
 


TWIN CITIES AREA

THERE IS A BOUNTY of biking trails and bike routes in the greater minneapolis – st. paul metropolitan area, too numerous to describe here. They are managed by cities, counties, and other government jurisdictions. There is no single, comprehensive listing with descriptions of every trail. Here is a sample of some of the longest bike trails in the Twin Cities area. See the resources at the end of this section to discover more biking opportunities.
 

Elm Creek Park Reserve/Rush Creek Regional Trail

Location: Brooklyn Park, Corcoran, Dayton, Maple Grove
Distance: 26 miles
Description: There are 20 miles of paved biking/walking trails through the hilly terrain of Elm Creek Park Reserve. This trail network connects with the Rush Creek Regional Trail, a 6-mile trail that links Elm Creek to the Coon Rapids Dam Regional Park on the Mississippi River.
For more information: Call the Three Rivers Park District at 763-694-7894 or visit www.threeriversparkdistrict.org.
 

Gateway State Trail

Location: Between St. Paul and Pine Point Park, north of Stillwater
Distance: 18 paved miles
Description: With one trailhead rooted in the city and the other in the country, this trail offers an easy ride out of town. The Gateway Trail is popular for biking, in-line skating, walking and jogging, so it can get busy on weekends. Try a midweek visit if you prefer a quieter trek. The western end of the trail starts in St. Paul, north of the state Capitol, and travels through Phalen-Keller Regional Park and several suburban communities on its way to rural Washington County, with views of ponds, wetlands, and woods.
For more information: Call the DNR at 651-296-6157 or 888-646-6367, or visit www.mndnr.gov. Map online.
 

Grand Rounds Bike Trails

Location: Minneapolis
Distance: Over 35 miles
Description: This system of trails—mostly separated from pedestrian trails—travels through scenic parkways: 13 miles circle a chain of four lakes; 13 miles follow Minnehaha Creek, and 10 miles follow the Mississippi River to the downtown riverfront. The northern loop goes past Cedar Lake and through Wirth Park. Heading south on Marshall Street, riders can travel to Boom Island, Nicollet Island, and St. Anthony Main. The southern loop, through Minnehaha Park, passes lakes Nokomis, Harriet, and Calhoun. The Grand Rounds route is a national and scenic byway.
For more information: Call the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board at 612-230-6400 or visit www.minneapolisparks.org. Map online.
 

Luce Line State Trail

Location: Between Plymouth and Winsted, just west of Minneapolis
Distance: 30 miles surfaced with crushed limestone
Description: The eastern trailhead is in Plymouth, not far from Highway 494. On this end, you cycle through suburban neighborhoods before eventually coming to a remnant stand of Big Woods in the Scientific and Natural area of Wood-Rill.

You can’t bike in this forest, but lock your bike at the trail and take a walk through the trees and wildflowers. As the trail heads west, it leaves the outskirts of the city and heads into farmlands. Approximately 30 additional miles of the Luce Line State Trail from Winsted to Cedar Mills have a gravel surface for mountain bikes, with two paved miles in Hutchinson.

For more information: Call the DNR at 651-296-6157 or 888-646-6367, or visit www.mndnr.gov. Map online.
 

Minnesota Valley State Trail

Location: Shakopee
Distance: Approximately 6 paved miles
Description: The paved segment of this trail runs on the north side of Shakopee from Memorial Park, off Highway 101, to the Minnesota River.
For more information: Call the DNR at 651-296-6157 or 888-646-6367 or visit www.mndnr.gov. Map online.
 

Sunrise Prairie Trail/Hardwood Creek Trail

Location: Between North Branch and Hugo, 20 miles north of the Twin Cities
Distance: 25.5 paved miles
Description: Between North Branch and Forest Lake, it’s the Sunrise Prairie Trail, going past residential areas, farmlands, hardwood forests, and wetlands before crossing the Sunrise River.
When this trail crosses into Washington County near Forest Lake, it becomes the Hardwood Creek Trail, and parallels Highway 61 south to Hugo. Views alternate between urban and rural. A trailhead building, with restrooms, drinking water, concessions, and parking, is located at the Forest Lake Transit Center, south of Forest Lake.
For more information: Regarding the trail segments, call Chisago County at 651-213-8961 or Washington County at 651-430-8368 or visit www.co.chisago.mn.us/departments or www.co.washington.mn.us/parks. Map online.
 


Additional Resources For Information On Twin Cities Bike Trails

Anoka County Parks

www.anokacountyparks.com
763-757-3920
 

Dakota County Parks

www.co.dakota.mn.us/parks
952-891-7000
Online and printed Bikeway Map, outlining a 65-mile system of bikeways on paved shoulders and paved off-street paths, including the scenic 4-mile Big Rivers Regional Trail along the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers in Mendota Heights.
 

Hennepin County

www.co.hennepin.mn.us
(Click on “transportation” to get biking information)
763-745-7644
The Hennepin County Bike Map, online and in print, outlines all off-road bike trails and on-road bike routes in the county.
 

Metropolitan Council

www.metrocouncil.org/parks
651-602-1140
Regional Park Map, available in print and online, notes trails in greater Twin Cities area.
 

Mississippi National River & Recreation Area

National Park Service
www.nps.gov/miss
651-293-0200
Publishes a detailed Trail Guide with maps and descriptions of miles of city, county and regional bike and multi-use trails along the Mississippi River in the Twin Cities area.
 

Ramsey County Parks & Recreation

www.co.ramsey.mn.us/parks
651-266-8500
 

Three Rivers Park District

www.threeriversparkdistrict.org
763-559-9000
Describes 14 paved bike-hike trails (1-19 miles) in park reserves in Hennepin and Carver counties. Printable maps available.

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