Bike-Cations: 6 Day Trips from the Twin Cities

Bikers can enjoy these day-size bike trips from Minneapolis-St. Paul to natural, small-town pleasantries
The Cannon Valley Trail, which was once a Chicago Great Western Railroad line
The Cannon Valley Trail, which was once a Chicago Great Western Railroad line

Photo by Pat Evans

We hate to be the bearers of bad news, but summer will be over before we know it. That means it’s time to think about extending the range on your beloved bicycle before we run out of sunny weekends. Sure, you could make another trip around the lakes or do a couple laps of the Greenway, but if you’re looking to push your limits and ride like a weekend warrior, then have we got a list of bike adventures for you.

All distances and travel times are listed in relation to downtown Minneapolis.

Carver Park Reserve

Round trip: 58 miles, 5 hours

Best For: Bird watching, camping, and historic exploration

Keep heading west past ’tonka on the state’s sumptuous Lake Minnetonka LRT Regional Trail and you’ll find yourself in the picturesque Carver Park Reserve, home to one of the state’s oldest landmarks: Grimm Farmstead, which dates back to the mid-19th century. If Wendelin Grimm’s pioneering work in alfalfa cultivation isn’t much of a draw, stop by the reserve’s Lowry Nature Center to learn about the 250 species of bird that call the area home, including some seriously cool raptors.

Head south along the reserve’s 50 miles of paved bike trails to spend the night at Lake Auburn Campground. Here, a brand-new drop-in bicycle campsite offers bike racks, comfortable benches, firewood delivery, and a discounted rental rate. Hungry or thirsty? Enki Brewing and the Noble Lion gastropub are just a few short miles down the road, in Victoria.

Stillwater

Round trip: 58 Miles, 5 hours

Best For: Quaint and romantic vibes, river views, craft beer, and wineries

Known to some as the “birthplace of Minnesota,” Stillwater is as serious about biking as it is about preserving the St. Croix Valley’s rich history. Home to two of the state’s biggest cycling events (the North Star Bicycle Festival and the Minnesota Ironman), Stillwater is accessible from the Twin Cities via the Gateway-Brown’s Creek Trail.

Once you’re in town, get a buzz going at Lift Bridge Brewing Co. or Saint Croix Vineyards before getting your fill of the town’s scenic river views via Stillwater’s 5-mile loop trail. The cycling masochists among us should try to leg it up Stillwater’s infamous Chilkoot Hill, a three-block stretch of 24% incline. Feel like leaving the camping gear at home? Stillwater’s multitude of hotels and B&Bs, including the swank Lora Hotel, are perfect for “credit card” bike touring. Don’t forget to stop by the stunningly clear Square Lake, which hosts an annual bike-friendly music and film festival, this year on August 10.

The Cannon Valley Trail
The Cannon Valley Trail

Photo by Pat Evans

Afton State Park

Round trip: 64 Miles, 6 hours

Best For: Camping, hiking, and river fun

Just outside of the metro in Hastings, Afton State Park packs some serious natural splendor despite being close enough for a half-day trip. Perched on the majestic bluffs overlooking the St. Croix River, Afton is the perfect destination for cyclists who want to mix a little bit of hiking and camping into their weekend ride. Featuring beaches, 4 miles of dedicated cycling trails with spectacular river and prairie views, plus campsites, rental cabins, and yurts for spending the night, Afton has something for everyone. One word of warning though: You’re going to want to save some energy for the long, rolling hills that mark your approach to the park.

Willow River State Park (Wisconsin)

Round trip: 76 Miles, 7.5 hours

Best For: Waterfall exploration, hiking, camping, and Sunday-liquor-sales nostalgia

Located 5 miles northeast of Hudson, Wisconsin, Willow River State Park is home to the state’s majestic Willow Falls. It’s ideal for cooling down after several hours of riding, and, once you’ve finished splashing around, you can stop by the Nature Center for a map of the park’s 13 miles of hiking trails. They lead up to a sky-scraping eagle’s overlook, with incredible park views. Settle down for the night in one the park’s hundred-plus campsites. Get some rest, because it’s a long ride back home.

The Cannon Valley Trail
The Cannon Valley Trail

Photo by Pat Evans

Red Wing

Round trip: 125 Miles, 11 hours

Best For: Boot shopping, admiring pottery, and small-city charm

Cyclists ready to break off a major challenge should consider a weekender to the charming little river city of Red Wing. Accessible via the Cannon Valley Trail, the road to Red Wing has enough hill climbs and mileage to get even the most athletic cyclist’s heart pumping.

Once you’ve arrived, score some heritage footwear and see the world’s largest boot at Red Wing Shoes’ flagship store. Then learn about the city’s history of clay manufacturing at the Pottery Museum of Red Wing. If your touring bike is dirt ready, take it for a spin on the mountain-bike trails at Memorial Park or bomb downhill after a ski-lift ride at the nearby Welch Village. Ready to crash after that 60-plus-mile day of riding? Roll up to one of Red Wing’s historic B&Bs, like the Candlelight Inn, which dates back to the late 19th century.

Taylors Falls

Round trip: 110 Miles, 10 hours

Best For: Hiking, camping, dirt riding, and art appreciation

A favorite destination for family camping trips is also an opportunity to stretch your cycling endurance amid some natural splendor. Interstate State Park is known for its cavernous glacial potholes and stunning foliage, making it a great trip to save for the final weeks of summer.

MTB riders will have access to Woolly Trail’s miles of flowy singletrack, and there’s off-bike opportunities for thrill seeking at Trollhaugen’s outdoor recreation area. Spend the night in town at a hotel, or camp out at one of Interstate’s 37 sites. On the ride home, take a slight detour to Franconia Sculpture Park for a collection of fun and thought-provoking outdoor art that rivals the Walker Art Center.

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