5 Easy Bike Rides

1. Heartland State Trail

Distance: 49 paved miles, between Park Rapids and Cass Lake

Travel along this comfortably paved abandoned railroad grade through the scenic Chippewa National Forest, and see if you can spy a bald eagle on your way from Park Rapids to Walker. Stop and cool off at any one of the many of the lakes and marshes within reach of the trail. Or, take a break (and your picture) in the palm of the 25-foot Paul Bunyan statue in Akeley. Continue from Walker to Cass Lake, and watch the forest around you transition from hardwoods to majestic white pines. 651-296-6157 or 888-646-6367, map online at dnr.state.mn.us/state_trails/map.html
 

2. Gandy Dancer State Trail—Southern Segment

Distance: 47 miles, from St. Croix to Danbury

In the scenic river town of St. Croix, Wisconsin, you’ll find the crushed-limestone one-time railroad corridor named for the work crews who used their voices and feet in rhythm with their Gandy tools. Accommodations are easy to find as you pedal parallel with State Highway 35 through a slew of small Wisconsin small towns, including Frederic, Siren, and Luck. Stop in Danbury to explore Forts Foille Avoine Historical Park, which features reconstructed fur trading posts and an authentic Woodland Indian Village. 888-936-7463, map online at dnr.wi.gov/org/land/parks/maps/
 

3. Paul Bunyan State Trail

Distance: 110 miles, from Brainerd to Bemidji

This paved trail, now the longest in Minnesota, connects 15 towns. It includes a jaunt into Crow Wing State Park—the only place in the state where prairie, hardwoods, and pineland meet—where you can explore the remains of the circa-1830s Old Crow Wing Village. Stop and check out the great city park in Guthrie, or hop onto the Heartland, Blue Ox, or Cuyuna Lakes State Trails as they intersect your route. Be there June 6 to take a ride with Congressman Jim Oberstar through the Baxter trails. Maps online at paulbunyantrail.com

4. Mille Lacs Soo Line Trail

Distance: 11 paved miles, between Onamia and Isle, south of Lake Mille Lacs

Just south of one of the state’s largest lakes, you’ll find this trail in the old Soo Line railroad corridor. Explore the trail’s northern head in Isle and pedal into Father Hennepin State Park to the great beach on Mille Lacs. Continue on to Onamia and see the restored train depot on the western trail head. Still looking for more? Follow County Road 26 six miles further into the beautiful woods of Mille Lacs Kathio State Park. Mille Lacs Area Tourism Council, 888-350-2692, maps online at millelacs.com/maps/bike.htm
 

5. Gitchi-Gami State Trail

Distance: 86 miles, from Two Harbors to Grand Marais

This classic route is the answer to a scenery-craver’s dream as it winds along the shore of Lake Superior. Plotted from Two Harbors to Grand Marais, the trail includes 23 paved miles in five distinct segments. Travel through the woods of Gooseberry Falls State Park to Beaver Bay and catch a glimpse of the Split Rock Lighthouse State Park in between, or take a ride across the Temperance River State Park in Tofte to see at Carlton Peak. Maps online at ggta.org
 

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