Road Biking Minnesota  by M. Russ Lowthian

Road Biking Minnesota Guide Book

by M. Russ Lowthian (Falcon Guides)
Road Biking Minnesota  by M. Russ Lowthian
Road Biking Minnesota features forty carefully designed rides throughout the state, from Grand Portage in the northeast corner to Fairmont in the south and everywhere in between. Local cyclist Russ Lowthian provides a sampling of the state’s diverse offerings, including rides along the Mississippi River, amid lush farmlands, through the Minnesota River Valley, around crystal-clear lakes, and along Lake Superior’s picturesque shoreline.

© 2007 M Russ Lowthian/Falcon Guides. All Rights Reserved.

Trails from the "Road Biking Minnesota" Guide Book
Displaying trails 20 of 40.

Displaying trails 1 to 20 of 40.

Claiming the title of "Agate Capital of the World," Moose Lake is a great place to start this ride. It is located at the halfway point on the Willard Munger Trail system, and the route follows an area covered by glacial till and outwash left from the last ice age. As you leave from the historic Soo Line depot, you will find the landscape on the route mixed with farm fields, abandoned meadows, forest, and marshlands. The first half of the cruise takes you on a northern loop up around a town that sits high above Hanging Horn Lake. The second half of the ride makes a circle tour to the south, visiting several villages as you pass lakes, rivers, and roadside rock pits offering opportunities to stop and search for agates.
Moose Lake, MN - Road Biking - Trail Length: 58
No guidebook covering roads to ride in Minnesota would be complete without this classic ride. Leaving from a park created from the backwaters of the Mississippi River, the route begins with a tour through Winona to warm up your leg muscles. Passing St. Mary’s, you will gradually start to climb up the magnificent river bluffs for an experience you won’t soon forget. At the top take a look over your shoulder before running the ridges to La Crescent. Returning, travel up the Hiawatha Apple Blossom Scenic Drive and soon you will be coasting down past the Historic Pickwick Mill. The Great River Road, a scenic byway, brings you back to the park, just below the bluffs.
Winona, MN - Road Biking - Trail Length: 70
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At the base of the "Hump" on Minnesota’s western border you will find an oasis for cycling. Here the plains meet the hills and the lakes meet the rivers, and it takes two states to circle what the Dakota Indians call Inyan tankinyanyan, or Big Stone Lake. This name comes from the granite outcroppings that have been quarried south of the lake for years. Starting in Cashtown—so named for the retail businesses on the south side of Ortonville—the classic travels along the lakeshore, gradually climbing up to the village where the Browns Valley Man, dating back to 8, 000 B. C., was found. Crossing into South Dakota, the route loops around and passes several wildlife management areas as it follows Big Stone Lake’s western shoreline. Crossing back into Minnesota at the source of the Minnesota River, the route tours the Big Stone Wildlife Refuge. Here you will see the huge granite boulders before returning to the first city on the Minnesota River.
Ortonville, MN - Road Biking - Trail Length: 100
Are you up for a challenge? Cycle a region of Minnesota on the western edge of an area also known as the Big Woods. The ride passes through majestic valleys formed in the glacial period, offering you a challenging tour. Starting in Mankato, the ride makes a circle loop of Blue Earth County, and its lakes, rivers, and communities. Leaving to the northeast, you will cross the Sakatah Singing Hills State Trail on the way to a town once named for an evil spirit. Riding south along the Le Sueur River, you will pass a ghost town on your way to the village of Good Thunder. As you rise up out of the Maple River bottom, the route rushes, like the Blue Earth River, down to Rapidan Dam. Now making a complete loop, the ride passes through Minneopa State Park and returns up through the narrow forested valley floor back to Tourtelotte Park for a refreshing dip.
Mankato, MN - Road Biking - Trail Length: 82
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The first city on the Mississippi, Bemidji is an art-friendly place with a lot of great restaurants to tempt you before and after your ride. Home of Bemidji State University, logging and tourism have given the town its economic mix to ensure its vitality. On this classic ride you will first travel north to a town of the past on the Continental Divide that still hosts an active sports center. Touring through the rugged forest terrain, the route circles around and through the Chippewa National Forest. As you meander pass several lakes and streams, the ride offers you many vistas and eagle sightings. On the southern section of the route, follow the Great River Road Scenic Byway, allowing you to cross the Mississippi River several times on your return to a town named after an Indian chief.
Bemidji, MN - Road Biking - Trail Length: 89
Nestled in the rolling hills of the Hiawatha Valley, protected by the magnificent Mississippi River bluffs, the cruise begins in pretty Red Wing. No stranger to this historic river community, Mark Twain once wrote:"This amazing region, bristling with great towns . . . and majestic bluffs charms one with the grace and variety of their form. And then you have the shining river, with steamboats vanishing around every remote point." Starting a ride here treats you to a delightful dose of Americana, as you venture inward, touring around one breathtaking valley after another. Notice the bluffs, and how they accentuate this historic milling town from the river as you leave the park. On Levee Road you will come up to the Historic Red Wing Depot. With all the sculptures and art exhibits here, this is a great place to walk around and stretch your muscles after the ride. This river port city started with a pottery shop, and by 1870, after the discovery of extensive clay pits, Red Wing Stoneware Company was developed. The town’s name was derived from a series of Dakota chiefs named Whoo-pa-doo-to, meaning “wings of scarlet.”
Red Wing, MN - Road Biking - Trail Length: 50
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Alexandria, christened the "Birthplace of America," is home to Big Ole, the Viking. This statue that welcomes those who come to the Central Lakes Community stands at the trailhead. A destination with more than 200 lakes, Alexandria offers riders the option of using the bike trail or roads that wobble around a series of waterways. The route begins by taking you up along Le Homme Dieu Lake to Carlos—the lake, state park, and town. Here you will see the well-preserved timber stands that depict the area before the lake region was developed. Circling to the south around many glacier-formed pristine lakes, take a break in the town of Osakis. After crossing the interstate, the route pivots to the west over rolling hills, visiting several more villages as you tour the central lakes region.
Alexandria, MN - Road Biking - Trail Length: 84
If you want to try something different, visit an area that offers visitors breathtaking fun! In a region long valued for its iron ore, the ride begins at the Mesabi trailhead at Giants Ridge Golf and Ski Resort. On this route explore the unique natural characteristics where forested highland ridges meet lakes and meadows. Starting on a new section of the Mesabi Trail, the route winds down the Laurentian Divide to Biwabik. Heading south on county roads, you will enjoy Cook County’s prairie region as the ride circles around several lakes. The scenery is great, and as you head back to the north you will approach the area’s "Star of the North" city. Here the ramble jumps on the bike trail again, taking you back up the forested ridges of the Mesabi Range and passing the Embarrass Mine on your return to a resort that offers year-round fun.
Biwabik, MN - Road Biking - Trail Length: 35
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A prize route, the first part of this tour offers those who travel Lake Superior’s rugged shoreline unlimited recreational possibilities as they pass the bays and rivers. Starting in the port city of Two Harbors, you will enjoy many scenic vistas along the North Shore Scenic Drive and completed sections of the Gitchi-Gami Trail. Arriving at the oldest settlement on the North Shore, you will climb the same mountains John Beargrease did with his dogsled. Then, traveling up the Superior National Forest Scenic Byway, you will pass through the remote village of Isabella, where moose still roam. In the solitude of the forest and the whispering of the pines you may hear a wolf howl. On the last leg of this ride, you will have several miles of panoramic views of Lake Superior on your descent back to the city with two bays.
Two Harbors, MN - Road Biking - Trail Length: 118
In the center of farm country, built on the banks of two lakes, you will find the town of Willmar. With historical influence from the early rail lines, the cruise circles the area’s rolling topography and allows you to ride on parts of the Glacial Ridge Trail Scenic Byway. Leaving from Rice Park and crossing the switching yard of the Burlington Northern & Santa Fe Railroad, the route passes the Kandiyohi Fairgrounds and starts undulating beneath you as you ride north. Passing sparkling lakes and contoured farmland, you will visit a state park named after Minnesota’s first governor; ride past an apple orchard; then pivoting south, pass a couple more wildlife areas as you cycle the glacial ridges back to a town built on the banks of two lakes.
Willmar, MN - Road Biking - Trail Length: 57
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Sometimes called the gateway to Itasca State Park, this ride starts on the western end of the Heartland Trail in the bustling town of Park Rapids. Also known as the "Loon Capital of the U. S. A.," what started as a farming, logging, and milling community in the late 1800s has evolved into a premier resort destination. With more than 400 lakes in the area, you will enjoy meandering around several recreational hot spots as the route takes you up to Itasca State Park. Here you can visit the historic Douglas Lodge and stand at the headwaters of the Mississippi River. On your return, the ride makes its southern loop around irrigated farm fields and more lakes to give you one of the best scenic tours in the Northlands.
Park Rapids, MN - Road Biking - Trail Length: 86
Many have been intrigued at the prospect of visiting the site they have read about in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s well-known poem The Song of Hiawatha. Hopefully, this cruise will allow you to explore this area that evolved from the red pipe-stone quarry. Located in the extreme southwest part of Minnesota, the ride leaves from Pipestone and travels south, first visiting Split Rock Creek State Park, where the stone dam there was built using Sioux quartzite. Then onto Jasper, where a reddish quartz stone used around the area is still quarried and goat races are popular. Crossing the open farm fields to the north, the route travels northeast to Holland. Along the way you will see many wind farms and pheasants flying out from the ditches. On your return learn more of the legacy of Pipestone and the village’s historic district.
Pipestone, MN - Road Biking - Trail Length: 64
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There is more to this area than Jesse James and his famous bank robbery! From its early existence Northfield, on the banks of the Cannon River, sprang up as an agricultural and milling community. Today on this tour you may not see as many working farms as in the past, but you will come across a lot of history and beautiful terrain as the ride circles one of the last stands of virgin timber in Minnesota. Passing Nerstrand Big Woods State Park, you will get a glimpse of what this rolling arboreous terrain looked like in the days of the wild upper Midwest.
Northfield, MN - Road Biking - Trail Length: 32
This ride starts in a town located at the confluence of the Minnesota and Chippewa Rivers. The town founders were so impressed by the view here that they borrowed the name of Uruguay’s capital, Montevideo. The route will circle the Minnesota River in two directions; first to the south, riding on sections of the Minnesota River Scenic Byway to Granite Falls and then back. After a brief break, the tour heads north and follows a section of the Red River Oxen Trail. Oxen carts once used sections of this route to haul grain from to the Dakotas. Crossing the Minnesota River, you will now be up along the west shore of the "Lake That Speaks." As the route heads back, you will follow the east shoreline of Lac Qui Parle Lake. Upon your return, stretch your legs and explore the historic depot and full-scale railroad museum.
Montevideo, MN - Road Biking - Trail Length: 102
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This ride tours around a long, north-south chain of lakes. This string of eighteen lakes made from a deeply eroded valley before the glacial deposits filled them in, offers visitors today many recreational options. The ramble leaves from Sylvania Park, passing the beautiful Martin County courthouse on Lake Sisseton. Here a stockade once stood and protected the residents. After riding south along the eastern shores of this lake chain, travel west to a town named after a box of tea. You’ll then ride north up along the western shores of Lake Sisseton and pass through a town named after an early president of the University of Minnesota.
Fairmont, MN - Road Biking - Trail Length: 35
The panoramic splendor of this ride is breathtaking. Leaving Lake Pepin, the first climb takes you up the Mississippi River bluffs into lush farmlands. Soon the tour starts meandering on roads around coulees that straddle the spine of the ridge before another long descent. Now passing towns that once had a purpose along the rugged valley floor, you will soon approach Wabasha, a town famous for the movie setting of Grumpy Old Men. Entering town, you will have another great view of the river when you stop for a catfish sandwich lunch on the deck at Slippery’s. After stopping at the National Eagle Center, the route takes on another escalade up the bluff and runs the ridge back to Lake Pepin.
Lake City, MN - Road Biking - Trail Length: 70
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Lake Wobegon, the mythical town from Garrison Keillor’s "Prairie Home Companion," may be fictitious, but the bike trail here has brought the name some solidity. Starting in St. Joseph, this cruise circles two bike trails by using a series of scenic roads. While passing contoured farm fields with hardwood forest backdrops, the ride meanders its way to Holdingford. Then, veering to the south on its way to Albany, the route intersects at the point where the Soo Trail meets the Lake Wobegon Trail. Now circling to the east, the route travels through an area rich in oak and maple forests. Soon you will pass Saint John’s University and Abbey and then the school’s original location, Collegeville. Back at the park, head downtown and walk around the eminent campus of the College of Saint Benedict.
Saint Joseph, MN - Road Biking - Trail Length: 47
This ride, which circles the Luce Line Trail, starts in a village that in 1882 survived the tragic Sioux Uprising and prospered. Today agriculture and manufacturing are the staples that guarantee continued growth for Hutchinson, located at the center of the Luce Line Trail system. After crossing the Crow River, the route takes you north through an old oak savanna forest. Traveling to the east, you will pass a number of pristine lakes on your way to a town heavily influenced by its German ancestry. Circling back to the southwest, the route visits a number of old railroad towns. Riding past the South Fork of the Crow River, you will see a site where a town was built to utilize the river’s waterpower. Abandoned now, this village and others tell a story of the Luce Line Cruise.
Hutchinson, MN - Road Biking - Trail Length: 50
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On the north side of Bluff Country, this ride starts in a town made famous for its medical achievements. Sometimes referred to as the "Queen City," Rochester offers many options for visiting cyclists. This cruise departs from the Douglas trailhead and meanders north along country roads that run parallel to the bike trail up to Pine Island. It then circles to the southwest and takes you to Mantorville, a town with a historic stagecoach hotel. After a brief stop to check out all the interesting artifacts or have an ice-cream cone, you will cross the Zumbro River one last time. Coming full circle, the ride passes through Kasson before returning to the community made famous by the Mayo brothers.
Rochester, MN - Road Biking - Trail Length: 50
This route explores the heart of the Mesabi Range, a place that early explorer Joseph N. Nicollet called Missabay Heights. Few ever conceived that for a hundred miles under the forest floor lay the largest concentration of ore in the world. Taking a circle tour around the center of this mammoth range, you will see how nature has once again reclaimed man’s advances. Riding on county roads and the Mesabi Trail, you will notice trees growing out of the steep, crimson rock spoils discarded after the ore was removed. You will also see rusting pieces of machinery and mining artifacts protruding from the tall grasses along the villages you pass through. And though the land has been scarred, nature has healed the area with new growth and some truly breathtaking views as you tour the Mesabi challenge.
Virginia, MN - Road Biking - Trail Length: 62
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