10 Bike Trails for All Types of Minnesota Riders

Split Rock Wilds is one the latest and most challenging mountain biking trails in the state

 

Split Rock Wilds
Split Rock Wilds

Photo by Paul Vincent

Whether you’re a street cyclist, mountain biker, or casual cruiser, Minnesota’s diverse topography offers something for pedal enthusiasts of all interests and skill levels. From smooth surfaces to rugged adventures, there is a wide range of trails across the state to meet your biking needs.

Fans of rocky terrain and lakeside views will go wild for Split Rock Wilds, one the latest and most challenging mountain biking trails in the state. Located in Lake County along Minnesota’s North Shore, Split Rock Wilds currently offers 31 trails that traverse over 21 miles. The attraction is a series of loops between Split Rock Lighthouse State Park and Beaver Bay’s Cove Point Lodge.

Split Rock Wilds
Split Rock Wilds

Photo by Nate Eide

 

Dave Cizmas, a recreation forester in Lake County, says the area’s topography is what sets Split Rock Wilds apart from Minnesota’s other trails. “The Beaver Bay region of the North Shore is very rugged, and the trails at Split Rock Wilds reflect this,” Cizmas says. “Overall, the trails are much rockier and more challenging than almost any other trail system in the state.”

For the hardcore cyclists, there are 13 advanced-level trails and four expert-level trails along the route. But Cizmas notes there are shorter loops toward the south end that are a good option for beginners or families hitting the trail. “There are easier trails near Split Rock Lighthouse State Park, but as you travel north and east, the trails become more difficult,” he says.

Split Rock Wilds
Split Rock Wilds

Photo by Nate Eide

For a break from the challenging, rocky terrain, there are a number of Lake Superior overlooks along the trails too where riders can make a pit stop and enjoy one of Minnesota’s finest views.

Construction of these trails has been an ongoing process over the last few years. The first phase of “dirt work” started in 2020, and the second phase was completed in the summer of 2021. But the team is still working to expand the trails even further. “It’s kind of like art,” Cizmas says, “it’s never gonna be truly completed.” Over the next few years, they plan to build around 50 total miles of trails.

Split Rock Wilds
Split Rock Wilds

Photo by Nate Eide

A grand opening of Split Rock Wilds is currently in the works for this summer. The festivities will include a 30-mile bike race stretching from Silver Bay to Cove Point, where 200 riders will face boulder gardens, elevation climbing, and other challenges that will put their cycling skills to the test. The race is scheduled to kick off at 10 a.m. on Sat., July 16.

To keep up with all things Split Rock Wilds, head over to the Lake County Mountain Bike Trails Facebook page.

Duluth Traverse
Duluth Traverse

Photo by Hansi Johnson

Other Minnesota Bike Trails

North Shore mountain bikers should also check out Duluth Traverse, a multi-use, single-track trail system that currently stretches more than 85 miles across the city. Targeted toward cyclists at beginner and intermediate skill levels, the route is mostly flow trail with a few rocky sections here and there. The trail system continues to be updated periodically, in hopes of linking Duluth’s urban environment to its parks and green spaces.

Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area
Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area

Provided

What was once an iron ore mine in the Crosby-Ironton area is now considered one of the best mountain bike trail centers in the United States. Nestled within the Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area is a 50-mile long trail system with more than 30 routes, designed for all skill levels. The looping routes are characterized by wooded areas, steep hills, and close-up views of former pit mines that filled with water and became lakes.

Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area
Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area

Photo by Aaron W. Hautala

Lebanon Hills Regional Park in Eagan contains more than 12 miles of wooded, single-track mountain bike trails. The trail incorporates plenty of challenges for bikers of all levels, such as rolling hills, bridges, rocky areas, berms, and jumps. “Black” and “Red” trails are marked along the way for more advanced riders.

Mountain bikers in the Twin Cities don’t have to travel far to hit the trails. The single-track trails in Minneapolis’ Theodore Wirth Park offer riders a brief respite from urban life. These trails have varying levels of difficulty, with technical features like drops, jumps, downhill switchbacks, and more.

Maybe you prefer skinny tires and smooth rides over rough terrain. In that case, Minnesota also has plenty of paved bike trails to choose from.

Built on a former Chicago Great Western Railroad line, the Cannon Valley Trail runs for 19.7 miles along the Cannon River. The trail offers year-round views of the surrounding scenery, from overhanging cliffs to extensive wetlands along the river valley. It runs through the cities of Cannon Falls, Welch, and Red Wing, highlighting all the beauty that southeastern Minnesota has to offer.

Gitchi-Gami State Trail
Gitchi-Gami State Trail

Provided

When complete, the Gitchi-Gami State Trail along the North Shore will be an 86-mile trail between Two Harbors and Grand Marais. Over 33 miles of the trail have already been completed, taking cyclists through birch and aspen forests, crossing waterfalls, and offering scenic overlooks of Lake Superior.

Mesabi Trail
Mesabi Trail

Photo by John Connelly

Cutting through forests and stretching from the Mississippi River to the Boundary Waters, the Mesabi Trail is truly one-of-a-kind. This 145-mile long paved trail immerses riders in the surrounding nature, passing by creeks, ponds, and emerald green lakes made from the pits of old iron ore mines. The trail makes its way through 28 communities, offering plenty of opportunities to pull over and explore the history and culture of the area.

For those looking to get to know the Twin Cities, Grand Rounds Scenic Byway is the ultimate bike tour of Minneapolis. This 51-mile urban bike loop passes through the downtown riverfront, the chain of lakes, northeast, and other notable areas in the city.

Brown’s Creek State Trail is 5.9 miles long, connecting the Gateway State Trail in Grant to the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway in Stillwater. Situated on a former railroad grade, this trail passes by a trout stream covered by a forest canopy, historical buildings, golf courses, and even an audio listening station where riders can hear bird songs, frog calls, and other sounds of wildlife.

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