North Central/West Minnesota Bike Trails

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Central Lakes State Trail

Location:

Between Fergus Falls and Alexandria areas
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 wetland ponds, 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: Call the DNR at 651-296-6157 or 1-888-646-6357, or visit  www.dnr.state.mn.us. Map online.

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.

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 Wobegon Trail

Location:

Between St. Joseph and Osakis, with a spur north from Albany
Distance: 62 paved miles (by summer of 2007)
Description: Lake Wobegon is the mythical Minnesota town in stories told by radio personality and author Garrison Keillor. The towns along the trail–Melrose, Freeport, Albany, Holdingford, and Avon–are the towns that inspired stories of life on the prairie. Part of the trail comes close to Interstate 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. His boyhood home and an interpretive center can be toured.

During the summer of 2007, a missing link in the Lake Wobegon Trail west of Sauk Centre will be completed. 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. In summer 2007, a new trail, developed by Morrison County, will link to this part of the Wobegon Trail. The paved 10 miles of the Soo Line Trail will 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 together will provide more than 125 continuous miles of paved bike trail.

For more information: Call the St. Cloud Convention and Visitors Bureau at 1-800-264-2940 or visit www.lakewobegontrails.com. 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 circle loop of 14 miles. Migizi, also spelled Mi-ge-zi, 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.

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 one of the state’s biggest lakes, Mille Lacs, 14 miles wide. At Isle, on the trail’s north end, streets in town take you to Father Hennepin State Park, with a great beach on Mille Lacs. At Wahkon, the trail is about a block from the lake.

This short, flat trail passes numerous wetlands where red-winged blackbirds perch on the 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. There are plans to build a trail bridge over Hwy. 169 in Onamia.

For more information: Call the Mille Lacs Area Tourism Council at 1-888-350-2692 or visit www.millelacs.com. Map online.

Paul Bunyan State Trail

Location:

Between Brainerd and Walker, plus a segment near Bemidji
Distance: 70 paved miles from Brainerd/Baxter to Walker; 7 miles at Bemidji State Park
Description: The beautiful Brainerd lakes area has long drawn visitors for fishing, golfing, and resort stays. This trail adds biking to the vacation mix. The trail passes lakes, marshes, and forests, and crosses nine rivers and streams.

Much of the trail parallels Highway 371, but the southern section and the area around Hackensack meander through wooded areas. The trail towns of Merrifield, Nisswa, Pequot Lakes (with the water tower that looks like a fishing bobber!), Jenkins, Pine River, Backus, and Hackensack offer lots of places for lunch, ice cream or browsing in shops. The southern anchor of the trail is in Baxter, adjacent to bustling Brainerd, with mini-golf, go-karts and other family fun.

The part of the trail between Hackensack and the Heartland Trail doesn’t follow a former railroad bed and has some challenging hills. For 9 miles, the trail winds and curves through the rolling hills of the Chippewa National Forest.

The separate, northern segment provides views of Lake Bemidji and crosses the Mississippi River on a trestle bridge.

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

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