Going The Distance: Trails with Scenic Mileage For The Long Haul Cyclist-Part 2

Cannon Valley Trail
For those cyclists looking for a longer trail to put some miles behind them, rail trails and State Trails around the state are a great place to start.  These paved trails offer trailheads with parking,  amenities such as restroom facilities, access to drinking water and long distances where you can ride all day if you want instead of just for an hour or two.  Because these trails are built on old railroad beds or are State Trails, they offer multiple access points, great scenery and pass through small towns along the way. 
There are so many trails of length in Minnesota that I have decided to make this a multi-part installment of trail listings.  I have broken these trails down by region and will highlight several trails in each installment.  They all have significant mileage of paved surface providing a smooth riding experience unless otherwise stated.

Twin Cities Area
  • The Gateway State Trail runs a length of  18 paved miles on a former Soo Line railroad grade from St. Paul to Pine Point Park located just 4 miles north of Stillwater, MN.  The trail passes from urban areas to fields, wetlands and parks as it continues from Ramsey to Washington county.  There is plenty of parking at trail accesses and a number of restroom facilities, too.  Make it a round trip ride for a nice 36 mile trek.  Map
  • The Lake Minnetonka LRT Regional Trail is a crushed limestone trail about 15 miles in length that was built on an abandoned Chicago and Northwestern Railroad line.  It connects the cities of Hopkins and Victoria, MN, passing through Minnetonka, Deephaven and Excelsior.  This trail also makes a nice round trip ride.  Map
Southern Minnesota
  • The Cannon Valley Trail is a 19.7 mile paved trail that connects the cities of Cannon Falls and Red Wing, MN.  It was built on the former Chicago Great Western Railroad Line that that was constructed in 1882 and stretched from Mankato to Red Wing.  There are many scenic overlooks as the trail follows the meandering Cannon River  through wooded areas, fields and marshes.  Riders 18 and over must purchase a Wheel Pass which can be obtained from local merchants in Cannon Falls and Red Wing and at the trailside pay stations at the three trail access points.  Wheel passes are required from April 1st through November 1st and cost $4 a day or $25 for a season Wheel Pass.  At the midway point in the trail is the Welch Station access which provides restrooms, drinking water, parking and a rider rest area.  Map 
  • The Sakatah Singing Hills State Trail is another trail built on the former Chicago Great Western Railroad Line connecting Mankato to Red Wing.  This trail stretches 39 miles from Faribault  to Mankato, passing through the towns of  Morristown, Waterville and Elysian, providing trail access and parking at many spots along the way.  The scenery changes as you pass lakes, fields, wooded areas and a State Park.  Eventually the Mill Towns Trail project will connect the Cannon Valley Trail with the Sakatah Singing Hills State Trail.  Map
Central Minnesota 
  • The Willard Munger State Trail is a 63 mile paved trail running from Hinckley to Duluth, MN passing through the towns of Willow River, Moose Lake and Carlton.  As you pass Carlton you will go through the woods of the Jay Cooke State Park and along the scenic St. Louis River on your way to the Twin Ports of  Duluth, MN and Superior, WI.  Map
  • The Glacial Lakes State Trail is a paved 22 mile trail between Willmar and the Kandiyohi/Stearns County line.  Because it was built on a former Burlington Northern Railroad line, it is pretty level along its length.  Passing through Spicer, New London and Hawick, it has plenty of access points with parking.  The trail provides changing scenery as it passes prairies, wetlands, lakes and woods.  Map
 Northern Minnesota
  • The Paul Bunyan State Trail is the longest paved trail in the State Trail system at 112 miles from Brainerd to Bemidji, MN.  It passes through the heart of lake country including the cities of  Nisswa, Pequot Lakes, Hackensack and Walker, providing multiple trail access points, parking and rest areas.  Most of the trail was a former Burlington Northern Railroad line creating a level ride with the exception of a nine mile section that passes through the Chippewa National Forest that can be quite hilly.  Use the distance charts on the map to create the desired length of your ride.  Map
  • The North Shore State Trail should attract the long haul mountain bikers as it is a natural surface trail and is not paved.  The section of trail recommended for summer use by mountain bikers and hikers is a 70 mile long section connecting the towns of  Finland and Grand Marais.  Some areas along this section may be wet at times, so the use of fenders on your mountain bike might be a good idea.  Bring appropriate gear with you because this trail is remote and located in the rugged forest country along Lake Superior's North Shore.  Map
In segment three of this series, I will conclude with information on more trails from around the state.

1 comment:

  1. ooh. these are all some wonderful trails. I've biked many of them. Someday, I'd like to be able to say I've biked all of the regionally significant trails in the state, but there are SO MANY!


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