Scenic Bike Trails of the Twin Cities

The Best Routes for Soaking up the Fall Colors on Two Wheels
By 
Lisa Rounds
From the Sept/Oct 2013 issue
#1

It’s no surprise Minneapolis was named “America’s Best Biking City” by Bicycling Magazine. Home to one of the largest bike share programs in the country, and with more than 400 miles of scenic trails in the Metro area, it’s a bicycle-lover’s paradise. Especially this time of year. We’ve highlighted some of the most spectacular trails in and around the Twin Cities for maximum color viewing.

Grand Rounds Scenic Byway / Midtown Greenway

Location: Minneapolis
Distance: Over 35 miles
Description: Cycle past historic homes, Nicollet Island, St. Anthony Falls, the Stone Arch Bridge, Minnehaha Falls, the Weisman Art Museum and Theodore Wirth Park. The southern loop, around Lake Nokomis, Harriet, and Calhoun, is a popular route. For a longer ride, the northern loop along the scenic Mississippi River is the way to go. The 5.5-mile Midtown Greenway travels crosstown and links to the Grand Rounds trails at each end, so that cyclists don’t have to cut through downtown.
For more info: 612-230-6400; minneapolisparks.org

Dakota Rail Regional Trail

Location: Between Wayzata and New Germany
Distance: 26 paved miles
Description: This trail meanders through beautiful suburban and rural areas on the west side of the Twin Cities area, with a variety of town and country views. It passes the two largest lakes in the metro, Minnetonka and Waconia, as well as Gale Woods Farm. Cyclists can park at trailheads in Wayzata, St. Bonifacius, Mayer and New Germany.
For more info: www.co.carver.mn.us/parks (western portion); threeriversparkdistrict.org (eastern portion).

Elm Creek Park Reserve/ Rush Creek Regional Trail

Location: Brooklyn Park, Corcoran, Dayton, Maple Grove
Distance: 26 miles
Description: There are 20 miles of paved biking/walking trails through the hilly terrain of Elm Creek Park Reserve. This trail network connects with the Rush Creek Regional Trail, a 6-mile trail that links Elm Creek to the Coon Rapids Dam Regional Park on the Mississippi River.
For more info: 763-694-7894; threeriversparkdistrict.org

Gateway State Trail

Location: Between St. Paul and Pine Point Park, north of Stillwater
Distance: 18 paved miles
Description: Park on the south side of Hadley Avenue in Oakdale for a safe, scenic ride out of town, or park north of the Minnesota State Capitol in St. Paul before traveling through Phalen-Keller Regional Park and several suburban landscapes for a longer ride from urban to suburban to rural countryside. Although the trail is relatively flat—with an excellent mix of parks, lakes, wetlands, and prairie along the way—there are some challenging hills in the Stillwater area. The trail is popular for biking, in-line skating, walking, and jogging, so if you prefer a quiet ride—go midweek.
For more info: 651-259-5736 mndnr.gov/trails

Cedar Lake Regional Trail

Location: Between Hopkins and Minneapolis
Distance: 9 paved miles
Description: Enjoy the best of both worlds—urban skylines and suburban tranquility—on this popular, 10-foot wide trail linking the western suburbs to downtown Minneapolis, passing by Target Field (reportedly the most “biked-to” ballpark in the country). A downtown segment connects to the Mississippi River trails portion of the Grand Rounds bikeway. In Hopkins, the Cedar Trail connects to the limestone-surfaced Southwest Regional Trail.
For more info: threeriversparkdistrict.org

Luce Line State Trail

Location: Between Plymouth and Winsted, just west of Minneapolis
Distance: 30 miles of crushed limestone surface
Description: On the eastern end, nine miles of paved trail leads from Theodore Wirth Park in Minneapolis to the trailhead of the original Luce Line State Trail in Plymouth. The state trail travels through suburban neighborhoods before passing the Wood-Rill Scientific and Natural Area (where 200-year-old trees tower above). You can’t bike in the maple-basswood forest, so lock your bike at the trail and walk along the paths. As the trail heads west, it leaves the city and heads into farmlands.
For more info: 651-296-6157; mndnr.gov/trails; threeriversparkdistrict.org

Minnesota Valley State Trail

Location: Shakopee to Chaska
Distance: 6 paved miles
Description: The paved segment of this trail runs on the north side of Shakopee from Memorial Park, off Highway 101, to the Minnesota River. The diverse landscapes include wetlands, floodplain forest and bluff top oak savanna.
For more info: 952-492-6400; mndnr.gov/trails

Samuel H. Morgan Regional Trail

Location: St. Paul
Distance: 10 paved miles
Description: Following the Mississippi River between Crosby Farm Regional Park and Battle Creek Regional Park, this trail features great river views. Passing the St. Paul skyline, it shows off the redeveloped downtown riverfront; this section has two trail options, one adjacent to Shepard Road and other closer to the river. East of downtown, there are trail connections to beautiful Indian Mounds Park, the Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary and the Bruce Vento Regional Trail.
For more info: www.ci.stpaul.mn.us

Sunrise Prairie Trail / Hardwood Creek Trail

Location: Between North Branch and Hugo, 20 miles north of the Twin Cities
Distance: 25.5 paved miles
Description: Between North Branch and Forest Lake, the Sunrise Prairie Trail passes alongside residential areas, farmlands, hardwood forests and wetlands also crossing the Sunrise River. In Washington County near Forest Lake, the trail becomes the Hardwood Creek Trail. Views alternate between urban and rural. A trailhead building, with restrooms, drinking water, concessions, and parking is located at the Forest Lake Transit Center, south of Forest Lake.
For more info: 651-674-2345; www.co.chisago.mn.us/recreation (Chisago County) or 651-430-8368; www.co.washington.mn.us/parks (Washington County)