Your Ultimate Guide to Scenic Biking Trails
Want to see the best the Minneapolis-Saint Paul metro region has to offer? Hop on a bike and get ready for adventure. From food trucks to beautiful vistas, here are the top trails in one of the nation’s best bike cities.
When the weather’s great and the bike paths are finally clear, it’s the perfect time to hit the trails. We talked with some of the area’s most passionate bike enthusiasts to get their take on the best trails in the region. So grab your helmet and get ready to ride!
A whiff of lilacs in the breeze; white sails scudding across a blue lake; more than 97 miles of off-street trails — Lake Bde Maka Ska (formerly known as Lake Calhoun) hums with motion and energy on any given spring day. From visitors sightseeing on rented neon-green Nice Ride bikes to serious cyclists whisking through a three-mile loop, the paved lakeside becomes a flowing parade of wheels and smiles.
“We are kind of a special metro in that we have so many opportunities to do all types of biking,” said CJ Lindor, education coordinator at Minnesota Bike Alliance.
When asked about the best off-street, road biking trails, Lindor cited a network of more than 100 miles of single-track urban mountain biking, plus gravel-road biking within a 15-minute drive of the Twin Cities.
The trails and top-ranked urban parks feature a host of extras, including bike-share programs, bike maintenance stations, bike lanes, city bus bike racks and ample places to park and lock up. These pro-bike amenities keep Minneapolis on the list of best bicycling cities. In fact, it’s the only city in the U.S. to crack the prestigious Copenhagenize Design Company’s worldwide index of bike-friendly cities.
A bike ride across downtown’s stately vehicle-free Stone Arch Bridge over the Mississippi convinced Michele Molstead to move here. She now works at Nice Ride Minnesota, which offers more than 1,800 bikes at 200 stations across the Twin Cities. It makes it easy for anyone to hop on two wheels and check out parks, lakes, the river, museums, restaurants and more from early April through the end of October.
“It’s just one of the most fun ways to see the Cities,” she said. “Your inner child tends to show up again.”
Here are some of the best places for a sweet ride and sightseeing:
Whether enjoyed in segments or the full 51 miles, this beloved scenic byway links the city’s chain of lakes (including Lake Harriet and Lake of the Isles), Minnehaha Creek, multiple parks and the Mississippi River into a cohesive loop of green spaces. Highlights and attractions include St. Anthony Falls and the Stone Arch Bridge, Minnehaha Falls and Weisman Art Museum.
This paved trail starts in Saint Paul and runs about 19 miles through Maplewood, North Saint Paul and Oakdale before linking to the Brown’s Creek State Trail in Grant. The additional 5.1-mile section leads to the St. Croix River and Stillwater’s historic, lively downtown, known for dining and bed and breakfasts.
This 16-mile, mostly paved trek lets suburban dwellers and visitors bike to the ballgame at Target Field, home of the Minnesota Twins and occasional concerts. Even better, Cedar Lake Trail connects to the limestone-surfaced Minnesota River Bluffs LRT regional trail, which continues southwest to Chaska, and the Lake Minnetonka LRT Trail, which rolls through Hopkins, Minnetonka, Excelsior and Victoria.
Mountain bikers can leave the city behind and grab one of several sections of single-track trails that parallel the Minnesota River. Multiple access points guide bikers through wooded areas stretching from Saint Paul’s Pike Island to Shakopee.
- Dakota Rail Trail (and Luce Line Trail)
Enjoy frequent views of Lake Minnetonka and Lake Waconia, two of the biggest lakes in the Twin Cities, along this popular 26-mile paved trail. It rolls by beaches, lakeside restaurants, the retro Minnetonka Drive In, artsy Big Stone Mini-Golf and Three Rivers Gale Woods Farm. It also leads bikers by a winery and through small rural towns like Mayer, New Germany and Lester Prairie. In Wayzata, it’s possible to grab the Luce Line State Trail, a paved route that takes riders east to Plymouth, a northwest Twin Cities suburb, or west to Winstead, before changing to gravel and continuing for a total of 63 miles.
A favorite with commuters, this 5.5-mile expressway from Minneapolis’s chain of lakes to the Mississippi River includes a trek on the Olav Sable cable suspension bridge as it crosses Highway 55/Hiawatha Avenue. The easy access to Lake Street offers a chance to hop off the trail to grab a morning coffee or a meal at one of the many stand-alone ethnic eateries or Midtown Global Market. The trail also connects to Hiawatha LRT Trail, which gets bicyclists to the West Bank and University of Minnesota campus and into downtown.
This rolling, scenic park in the southeastern suburb of Eagan offers 12 miles of single-track trails, from easy loops for beginners to expert stretches with logs, bridges, berms, steep climbs and ledges.
- Theodore Wirth Park
Less than four miles west of downtown Minneapolis, the city’s largest park includes seven miles of mountain-bike trails and a rush of adrenaline. Single-track routes for intermediate rides flow and twist through woods, offering challenging climbs, a rock garden and a log skinny designed with the help of Minnesota Off-Road Cyclists.
Is that enough to get you started? Whether you’re visiting from out of town, or a lifetime Minnesotan, these trails offer something for everyone. See you out there!