You’ll find all kinds of mountain biking trails throughout Minnesota, from easygoing trails to wild off-road rides. Some downhill ski areas invite mountain bikers to their slopes in the off-season, and roads and trails up north offer hundreds of miles to explore. Here are some of the state’s most popular mountain biking destinations.
TWIN CITIES AREA & SOUTHERN MINNESOTA
Location: 25 miles east of St. Paul
Distance: Approximately 8 miles
Description: This scenic wooded loop across the Afton ski slope offers challenging terrain and lung-busting hills. Shorter alternate loops range in difficulty from intermediate to advanced.
Trail fee: $9 daily pass, or $110 (plus tax) for season pass. Price subject to change. Helmets are required.
For more information: Call the Afton Alps Golf Course at 651-436-1320 or visit www.aftonalps.com. Map Online.
Battle Creek Regional Park
Location: Eastern part of St. Paul
Distance: 7 miles of trails
Description: Take on steep downhills, wooded terrain, and a great variety of trails ranging from easy to expert-level singletrack. The terrain features fast hardpack trails and plenty of hills, so be prepared for a workout. Pick up a free map at the trailhead and enjoy the view from bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River.
For more information: Call Ramsey County Parks and Recreation at 651-748-2500, or visit www.co.ramsey.mn.us/parks. Map online.
Minnesota Valley State Recreation Area
Location: Near Shakopee, just to the southwest of the Twin Cities, from Shakopee to Belle Plaine
Distance: 35 miles of trails
Description: Enter this wide doubletrack trail from one of six spots between Shakopee, Jordan, and Belle Plaine, and experience a wild ride along the river bottoms. Your trip could either be tame or intimidating, depending on the rainfall. Oak forests and savannah make for woodsy surroundings, and the sand dunes will ensure a challenging ride regardless of the rainfall. Enjoy scenic views of the river along the route.
For more information: Call the Minnesota Valley State Recreation Area Office at 952-492-6400 or the DNR at either 651-296-6157 or 888-646-6367, or visit www.mndnr.gov. Map online.
Mount Kato Ski & Bike
Distance: Over 7 miles of trails
Description: Singletrack trails take intermediate and advanced bikers through woods, around ponds, and over ski trails. Stop at the top of the hill for a view of the scenic Minnesota River Valley. There are plenty of twists, turns, and switchbacks.
Trail fee: Call for rates
For more information: Call Mount Kato Ski and Bike at 507-625-3363 or 800-668-5286, or visit www.mountkato.com. Map online.
Murphy-Hanrehan Park Reserve
Location: Near Savage, on the southwest edge of the Twin Cities
Distance: 10 miles
Description: This sustainably-designed singletrack mountain bike course includes several technical features and varying levels of difficulty, though most of the network is challenging. The trail features sustained climbs through a wooded area and views of a wetland tucked between the more difficult loops. There are short intermediate and easy loops as well.
For more information: Call Three Rivers Park District at 763-559-6778, or visit www.threeriversparkdistrict.org. Map online.
Chippewa National Forest
Location: Around Deer River, Grand Rapids, Walker and Cass Lake
Description: Miles of gravel forest road offer easy to moderate mountain biking (but watch for vehicles on the roads). Intermediate and advanced bikers can explore old logging roads and dirt trails. One recommended option is the 13-mile Simpson Creek Trail northwest of Deer River near Chippewa Forest’s Cut Foot Sioux Visitor Center. Old dirt roads and paths wind over hills through pine forest and swamp, and hook up to the 18-mile Cut Foot Sioux Trail loop along old gravel and sand roads. North of Grand Rapids, the 19-mile Suomi Hills Trail of grass and dirt single-track explores a scenic area of lakes and woods. Watch for hikers along both these trails.
For more information: Call the Chippewa National Forest at 218-335-8600, or visit www.fs.fed.us/r9/chippewa. Maps online.
Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area
Distance: Approximately 30 miles of trails by 2010
Description: Plans call for this new mountain biking trail network to be constructed in 2009, so look for these trails to be ready by 2010. Designed in cooperation with the International Mountain Bicycling Association, this new trail system will offer varying levels of challenge, with easygoing, intermediate and expert loops. At Cuyuna Country, nature is reclaiming land that was once used for open pit mining. Pits have filled with water and become lakes, the landscape is now green, and the varying terrain makes it great mountain bike territory. Since trail construction can be affected by weather and other factors, check the State Park website for udpates on this new trail system.
For more information: www.mnstateparks.info
Giants Ridge Golf & Ski Resort
Location: Near Biwabik, east of Virginia
Distance: Over 50 miles of trails. Note: Connects to the paved Mesabi Trail.
Description: The combination of cross-country skiing and snowmobile trails with abandoned logging and mining roads make for plenty of mountain biking options at Giants Ridge, and they’ve added singletrack options. Race along 20-foot-wide mowed trails, or tackle the ski hill itself—a 500-foot vertical, gear-grinding climb. Cruisers and suspension rental bikes available on a first come, first served basis. Full-service bike
Trail fee: $5 daily pass; $50 season pass
For more information: Call Giants Ridge at 800-688-7669 or visit www.giantsridge.com. Map online.
Milaca Mountain Bike Trails
Distance: 14 miles
Description: This singletrack trail system—with something for all skill levels—is nestled within 200 acres of woods, hills, and fields along the beautiful and scenic Rum River. Access to the trails is at the city’s Recreation Park, on Second Street and Fourth Avenue Northwest. Enjoy a relaxing ride along The Meadow and Rum River Run or more challenging routes along North Woods, Sky Hill, and the Bog Monster.
For more information: Call the City of Milaca at 320-983-3141 or visit www.cityofmilaca.org. Map online.
Superior National Forest
Location: Around Ely and Grand Marais
Description: The Superior National Forest is a hotspot for mountain biking up North. In addition to forest roads, there are designated mountain bike routes throughout the forest. Most of these routes follow old logging roads, altering in terrain and type of road surface (gravel, dirt, etc.). The routes vary in difficulty, ranging from easygoing with just a few easy hill climbs and smooth surfaces, to thrilling routes that test the skills of even the most experienced mountain biker. For a short, smooth ride in the Tofte-Grand Marais area, head out on the 5-mile Old Gunflint Trail or the beautiful 17-mile Sugarbush Loop. For a more difficult ride, try the 30-mile Timber/Frear/Cross River Lake loop along challenging forest roads. In the hilly, wooded Ely area, there’s a delightful 12-mile network of loops in the Hidden Valley Recreation Area, located within three miles of most Ely motels. Views from the base of the old ski jump are especially spectacular.
For more information and trail maps: Call the Superior National Forest at 218-626-4300.
BIKE TRAIL SAFETY TIPS
1. Always wear a helmet.
2. Keep to the right so others can pass.
3. When passing others on the trail, alert them by calling out “on your left!” or sounding your bell.
4.Stop and look both ways where the trail crosses a road.
5. When stopping along a trail, pull your bike off the trail to keep it clear for other riders.
6. Bring water along and drink frequently to avoid dehydration.
7. Off the trail, you must follow the “rules of the road” when biking on city streets or highways. Review them at the website noted below.
Rules of the Road
More Bicycle Safety Tips