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Southern Minnesota Bike Trails

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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 1-888-646-6367 or visit www.dnr.state.mn.us. 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. Enjoy hometown service and hospitality in Cannon Falls, where cyclists stop to shop or eat, 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.

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 Rochester end of the trail is more developed. Although this trail is relatively short, you can put on extra miles by exploring Rochester, home of the world renowned Mayo Clinic and many unique restaurants and shops. The Parks and Rec Department in Rochester City Hall produces a bike trail map showing connections.

For more information: Call the DNR at 651-296-6157 or 1-888-646-6367, or visit  www.dnr.state.mn.us. Map online.

Glacial Lakes State Trail 

Location: Between Willmar and Hawick
Distance: 18 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.

For more information: Call the DNR at 651-296-6157 or 1-888-646-6367, or visit   www.dnr.state.mn.us. 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.

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 1-888-646-6367, or visit  www.dnr.state.mn.us. Map online.

Lake Shetek-Currie State Trail

Location: Currie, northwest of Slayton
Distance: 6 miles
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. This is the initial segment of the planned Casey Jones State Trail.

For more information: Call the DNR at 651-296-6157 or 1-888-646-6367, or visit  www.dnr.state.mn.us. 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 over three 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 Rapidan 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.greatermankato.com/visitors. 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 and its tributaries. 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 1-888-646-6367, or visit www.dnr.state.mn.us. 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, 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 1-888-646-6367, or visit www.dnr.state.mn.us. Map online.

Shooting Star State Trail

Location: Between LeRoy and Taopi, southeast of Austin
Distance: 9 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 1-888-646-6357, or visit www.dnr.state.mn.us. Map online.
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