Great Mountain Biking Awaits You In Superior National Forest

Image credit:  USDA Forest Service

Superior National Forest is prime for the mountain biking enthusiast.  It's trails may not be as technical as designed trails, but they have a lot to offer the off-road adventurer.  There are miles of trails to ride that include old logging roads, forest roads, county roads, old railroad grades, grassy cross country ski trails and natural surface trails.  You will definitely want to bring your GPS unit along to keep from getting lost.  Upon doing research for this article, I was hard-pressed to find mountain bike trail maps despite the large number of listed trails I found on the internet.  I did find some information and maps.  The links are listed below.

Tofte/Grand Marais Area Trails 
Ely Area Trails
GORP (Great Outdoor Recreation Pages) provides some Superior National Forest mountain bike trail information on their website.  The list contains descriptions, mileage and trail surface type, but lacks any maps for those trails. 

There are several other resources that contain much more information and maps than the internet.  You can go directly to the source at the Forest Service's National Forest Store and purchase a Superior National Forest map for $10.  Pay a visit to the Lutsen-Tofte Tourism Association to pick up maps before heading into the forest.  Log on to the Request more information page on the Lutsentofte.com website where you can fill out a form and check the box for Mountain Biking to have the information sent to you.  Also, a stop at the Tofte Ranger Station  or the Gunflint Ranger Station are good spots to purchase maps and get information.
Image credit:  USDA Forest Service
Image credit:  USDA Forest Service

Mountain Biking Minnesota by Steve Johnson is another great source of information you can take with you on your outing.  It has maps and trail information for over a dozen trails in Superior National Forest.

The forest is vast and remote in locations, so make sure you let someone know where you are going  and when you will be back before heading out.  It is also a good idea to bring along some lifesaving essentials such as water, maps,  a compass, GPS device, food, tire patch kit, portable tire pump, mult-tool and warm clothing/rain gear, just to name a few.  These will prove useful if you get into trouble.

If you are looking for accommodations for your visit, Superior National Forest has a few camping options available.  Depending on how much you want to "rough it", there are RV camping areas, campground camping, dispersed camping and group camping available throughout. You can contact the National Recreation Reservation Service at 877-444-6777 or on their website at  Recreation.gov to make reservations before heading up north.  Many of these sites can be reserved up to six months in advance.  If you prefer a little more comfort in your lodging accommodations, contact the Lutsen-Tofte Tourism Association, Grand Marais Area Tourism Association or the Ely Chamber of Commerce for more information.

So if you are feeling adventurous and would like to see the remote areas of the big woods in northern Minnesota, these trails are sure to keep you busy all week.  With its abundance of trails, beautiful scenery, wildlife and solitude, Superior National forest should be on your list of places to bike this summer.


Going The Distance: Trails with Scenic Mileage For The Long Haul Cyclist-Part 1

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 eight trails each installment.  They all have significant mileage of paved surface providing a smooth riding experience unless otherwise stated.

Twin Cities Area
  • The Dakota Rail Trail is an old railroad grade that provides 44 miles of scenic trail past Lake Minnetonka and Lake Waconia to St. Bonifacious and on to Mayer.  Parking for this trail is available in Wayzata, Orono, Mound, St. Bonifacious and Mayer allowing you to pick the length of your ride.
  • The 30 mile Eastern portion of the Luce Line State Trail connects Plymouth to Winstead.  This trail was a former railroad grade that was purchased by the Minnesota DNR in 1976 and made into a rail trail.  Unlike the other trails mentioned in this article, it is not paved and has a crushed limestone surface.  Luce Line State Trail map
Southern Minnesota
  • The Harmony-Preston Valley State Trail is 18 miles long and connects with the 42 mile long Root River State Trail providing great views of the bluffs of the Root River Valley.  The northern section of the Harmony-Preston Valley State Trail is built on an old railroad grade providing a level surface.  The southern section is not and gives riders a little more challenge as the terrain contains more hills leading you on a climb out of the river valley.  The Root River State Trail is also built on a railroad grade that is level except for a segment of the eastern section of the trail that can be a little more challenging, containing a steep half-mile climb.  Harmony-Preston Valley State Trail/Root River State Trail map
 Central Minnesota
Northern Minnesota
  • The Heartland State Trail is a 49 mile trail stretching from Park Rapids to Cass Lake.  It is a former railroad grade that was transformed into a rail trail making it one of the first in the country to do so. Trailheads in Park Rapid and Walker provide ample parking for this 27 mile section of paved trail and has a second tread of grassy surface for all of you mountain bikers.  The 20 mile section of trail north of Walker is also paved and connects to the 19 mile loop of the Migizi Trail in Cass Lake.  Heartland State Trail map / Migizi Trail map
In segment two of this series, I will bring you information on eight more trails from around the state.


Turn Your iPhone or iPod Touch Into a Powerful Cycling Computer With iBike

Here are some great new products from iBike that can transform the iPhone or any iPod Touch into a multifunction, powerful and accurate wireless cycling computer.  It comes in several versions and price ranges; the iDash CC, the iDash CC Deluxe, the iDash+Power and the iBike Powerhouse (available March, 2012).

All  four versions come with a fully enclosed water and shock resistant case with an anti-glare screen protector that can be used with cycling gloves.  They also contain patented electronics that are compatible with all Ant+ sensors.  The display is full color, easy to read and customizable.  When used with the iphone, all except the iBike Powerhouse, have real time GPS capabilities.  iDash CC, iDash CC Deluxe and iDash+Power come with the iBike app that you can download from the iTunes Store and iBike software for Mac or PC available from the iBike Sports website.  The iBike Powerhouse comes with the iSlim workout plan and other plans are available from the iTunes Store.  The model you choose will depend on what your needs in a cycling computer are.

If you are looking for a wireless Ant+ cycling computer that has all of the basic cycling computer functions (speed, trip distance, trip time, odometer, total hours logged, total distance logged, etc.) then the iDash CC is for you.  It also has an auto start/stop for trip data, a lap timer, a fitness test that requires an optional heart rate strap and the ability to make and receive calls on your iPhone while the app is running.  It is Bluetooth headset compatible and continues to record your data whether you are on the phone or using other apps.  The iDash CC works with iPhone 3G/3GS, 4/4S and all versions of the iPod Touch.  This unit lists at $149.95 but can be found cheaper on sites like Amazon.com and Buy.com.

The iDash CC Deluxe contains all of the features of the iDash CC with the addition of  a speed/cadence sensor, heart rate strap, rechargeable battery and battery charger.  It also allows you to set up multiple bike profiles so you don't have to reset your input data when switching to another bike. With the heart rate strap you can train with one of the pre-programmed  heart rate zone workouts.  The iDash CC Deluxe works with iPhone 3G/3GS, 4/4S and all versions of the iPod Touch.  This unit lists at $329.95, but shop around on the web to find a better deal.

The iDash+Power has all of the features of the iDash CC Deluxe and the ability to turn you Apple device into a multifunction power meter.  It can be mounted to either the handlebars or steer tube.  This unit comes with a quick swap rechargeable battery that can be changed out without interruption of your data or ride giving the user a much longer use time than just a few hours.  Advanced functions include:  speed/cadence, numeric and zone power, wind speed, temperature, hill slope and elevation.  The iDash+Power works with iPhone 3G/3GS, 4/4S and all versions of the iPod Touch.  List price is $549.00.

The iBike Powerhouse is designed by Hunter Allen, who is one of the best when it comes to coaching endurance athletes.  This unit contains features that make it like having an expert coach along with you for every ride.  It allows you to set your specific goals, whether it be cardio, weight loss or overall fitness and provides a plan for that goal by creating a custom program for you based on your fitness level.  The accurate sensors help keep you on track during your workout with coaching tips and it automatically adjusts your workout plans as your riding improves.  The iSlim plan is included, but others can be downloaded from the iTunes Store.  If you are serious about your cycling fitness, this is the model for you.  It won't be available until March 2012, but pre-orders are being taken on the iBike Sports website.  The iBike Powerhouse works with iPhone 3G/3GS, 4/4S and all versions of the iPod Touch.  List price is $269.00 (steer tube mount is an additional $20).

These four units are powerful, accurate cycling computer choices that come with a one year warranty.  They can be used by the casual rider and the serious training cyclist, depending on the model you choose to fit your cycling needs.


Planning Your Summer Biking Vacation

Now is a great time to plan your summer biking trip.  There are so many resources available at your fingertips that planning your trip has become easier than ever.  There are so many cities and areas around Minnesota that are competing for your travel dollars this summer that they have put a lot of information out there to attract you.

A great place to start is the Exploreminnesota.com website.  There is a lot of information here to help you plan the kind a vacation you would like to take.  It contains an array of brochures that you can download, view online or have mailed to you.  Quite a few free regional brochures are listed for all areas of the state that can also be selected for mailing.  Go to http://www.exploreminnesota.com/publications-order-form.aspx to access these brochures.  There are planning tools beyond just the website because Explore Minnesota Tourism staffs a travel information center with travel counselors that will help you with customized information (by phone, mail or e-mail) for planning your trip.

One brochure you may find particularly useful is the 2011/2012 Explore Minnesota Biking Guide.  It contains maps of bike trails, trail information by region (Southern, Central, Northeast, Northwest and Twin Cities area) and information about mountain biking areas.  The Trail Listings segment informs you about the trails, area businesses and scheduled monthly bike rides complete with website links to bring you more details.

If you have a destination in mind for your trip, try heading to the tourism or visitor's bureau website for that area or city.  Sites like Visitduluth.com, Explorebrainerdlakes.com, Visitbemidji.com and Millelacs.com are full of information that will help you find lodging, dining, attractions, events and area trails.  Search engines like Google, Ask and Bing, when used with the proper search terms, are quite helpful as well.

Minnesota has an abundance of State Parks with scenic trails for biking, mountain biking and hiking.  These State Parks are scattered throughout Minnesota and chances are there is one near you or your vacation destination.  The Minnesota DNR provides a lot of information on it's website about our State Parks and all they have to offer.  Go to www.dnr.state.mn.us/state_parks/index.html to find out more.

For easy to find trail maps and trail information, don't forget about MN Bike Trail Navigator.  I have already done the research to find the links so you don't have to.

Spring is right around the corner, so use the wealth of information available on the internet to make planning your  next biking vacation a breeze. 


Use Biking Directions in Google Maps to Plan Your Next Ride

If you are looking for an easy way to plan and map out your next ride, try using Biking Directions in Google Maps.  It has many features that cyclists will find useful.  Trails, bike lanes and bicycle friendly roads are highlighted in green making them easy to see.  You can create a custom route with detailed turn by turn directions, mileage and estimated travel times using drag and drop points.

I recently used Biking Directions in Google Maps to plan a bike route around Minneapolis that included a portion of the Grand Rounds Scenic Byway.  It calculated the mileage, travel time and displayed turn by turn directions for the created route. I could print them out or send a link of the map to my phone for reference later out on the trail.  You can even save your maps online for future use.

It can also be a great tool for bike commuters to get to their destinations.  Who says you have to use Google Maps just for motor vehicle driving directions?  Use it to get to where you need to go by bike instead of by car.

Keep in mind that Biking Directions in Google Maps is still in Beta and may not be completely accurate, so use caution.  Google Maps provides a link for you to give them feedback if you encounter any of the following:
  • Which step mentions the problem?
There is also an option to have them e-mail you when your reported problem is resolved.
It's free, easy to use and works all across the United States.  Try it for your next ride and create a new trail to blaze.


- Snak Shak -: Intercity Bike Trail

Fellow bike blogger - Snak Shak - wrote an informative article on the new Intercity Regional Trail that is currently being planned and will involve the cities of Minneapolis, Richfield and Bloomington with a possible Minnesota River connection to Dakota County's regional trail system.  Click on the link below to read the article and find out more about this project and the open house being held February 21st to review the proposed Minneapolis trail segment.
Intercity Bike Trail - Snak Shak -


New Upgrade Project Underway at Lebanon Hills Mountain Bike Trailhead

Image credit:  Dakota County Parks
The Mountain Bike Trailhead at Lebanon Hills Regional Park is getting an upgrade with a number of improvements.  Construction on the project began last fall and is expected to be completed by the end of May 2012.  The project is being funded by a Metropolitan Council capital improvement grant. A separate grant from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources will fund construction of a one mile beginner trail and Mountain Bike Skills Park.
View from the existing, unpaved parking entrance
 The improvements include a larger relocated paved parking area, a beginner level mountain bike trail, mountain bike Skills Park, maintenance storage space, a picnic shelter with bathrooms and changing facilities.
Entrance to the new parking area
The new expanded beginner trail is designed for use with three-wheeled hand cycles as well as the traditional two-wheeled variety.  The Skills Park, located near the new parking area, will help beginner to advanced mountain bikers test and improve their skills on various trail features they may experience in the Mountain Bike Park.
The new picnic shelter, bathroom and changing facilities
The Skills Park is closed for construction until the end of May 2012, when the whole project is scheduled for completion.
The mountain bike trails at Lebanon Hills Regional Park are top notch and should definitely be on your "trails to ride" list this year.

Minnesota Off Road Cyclists offer up-to-date Trail Conditions

The Minnesota Off Road Cyclists offer Twin Cities Metro Area mountain bike trail condition updates on both it's website and Twitter.  Check before you ride, it could save you from heading to a closed trail.  Never ride wet trails.
Follow them on Twitter: @trailconditions
Their trail conditions web page can be accessed at http://www.morcmtb.org/forums/trailconditions.php.


Mississippi River Regional Trail Project in Dakota County Nearing Completion

The Mississippi River Regional Trail (MRRT) is a project in Dakota County that is being mostly funded by Federal grants and the rest by Dakota County.  When completed, it will stretch 27 miles from Kaposia Park in South St. Paul to the City of Hastings trail system, providing cyclists with a paved, non-motorized use trail along the river.
The MRRT will include many incredible views of the Mississippi River. It will meander through the wooded 200 foot high bluffs of the Pine Bend Bluffs Scientific and Natural Area (SNA) in Inver Grove Heights and the scenic overlook at Schaar's Bluff-Spring Lake Park Reserve in Nininger Township.
This trail is unique in the fact it will be allowed to pass through the Pine Bend Bluffs Scientific and Natural Area (SNA), one of the least disturbed natural areas along the Mississippi River in the Metro area.
View from Schaar's Bluff at the Spring Lake Park Reserve Trailhead
The MRRT is a project that is broken into seven phases of construction.  Two of them are completed and already have cyclists that frequent them.  The North segment starts at the Trailhead at Kaposia Landing Park in South St. Paul and continues on along Concord Blvd. to Highway 52 in Inver Grove Heights.  The Trailhead for the South-East segment begins at the Spring Lake Park Reserve at Schaar's Bluff and continues it's route downstream through sections of woods and farm fields towards the Spring Lake levee, Lock & Dam No. 2 and along the Hastings waterfront.  
Completed section of trail near the Schaar's Bluff Trailhead
I spoke with Todd Howard, who is the Asst. County Engineer for Dakota County, about when they expect to start and complete construction of the remaining segments of the MRRT.  He told me the following:
  •  Central Segment construction to begin early this spring and be completed late summer.  This segment starts near Concord and Cahill and continues south for about 1.5 miles.
  • The Pine Bend Bluffs segment is expected to start late this fall and be completed early summer 2013.
  • The Rosemount segment will be constructed in 2013.
  • The Spring Lake segments will not be completed until 2014.
When completed, the MRRT will be a pleasant ride along a 10 foot wide path with many scenic overlooks and connections to local parks and city trail systems.  Being from the Hampton area, I ride the South-East segment at the Spring Lake Park Reserve into the City of Hastings Trails a lot, making  this one trail I look forward to completion and  I intend to ride quite often.


Picturesque River & Creek Rides

If you are looking for some scenic river or creek bike trails, I've put together a list of some of the better ones that fit this criteria.  These are some great trails that follow along with the meandering rivers and creeks of Minnesota.  In the fall, the colors along these routes can be spectacular, so don't forget to bring your camera.

Mississippi River
Paved Trails
Lock & Dam #1-St. Paul
City of Hastings Trails 
Coon Rapids Dam Regional Park
Crosby Farm Regional Park
Fort Snelling State Park**
Grand Rounds National Scenic Byway
Hidden Falls Regional Park
Lilydale/Harriet Island Regional Park
Sam Morgan Regional Trail
South St. Paul Riverfront Trail

Mountain Bike Trails
Levee trail at Lock & Dam #2-Hastings
Fort Snelling State Park**-St. Paul

Minnesota River 
Paved Trails
Big Rivers Regional Trail
Fort Snelling State Park**

Mountain Bike Trails
 Fort Snelling State Park**-St. Paul
Long Meadow Lake (MVNWR)-Bloomington
Minnesota River Bottoms
Minnesota River Bottoms-Bloomington  
Minnesota Valley State Recreation Area**-Jordan
State Corridor Trail (MN River)-Eagan
Twin Cities
Paved Trails
Battle Creek Regional Park
Minnehaha Parkway
Shingle Creek Regional Trail 

Around the State
Paved Trails
Minnesota River Bottoms
Cannon Valley Trail*
Goodhue-Pioneer State Trail
Gooseberry Falls State Park**-
Harmony-Preston Valley State Trails
Root River State Trail
Western Waterfront Trail 

Mountain Bike Trails
Gooseberry Falls State Park**-Two Harbors
Mission Creek Trail-Duluth   
River Bend Nature Center-Faribault
Cannon Valley Trail

*fee required
**State Park Vehicle Permit required


Mountain Biking Minnesota's Ski Slopes

If you're looking for a physically challenging, technically demanding ride this year, hit the ski slopes.  Minnesota has some great ski resorts that open up for mountain bikers in the late spring through the fall.  These trails will test riders with tough climbs, fast descents, sharp turns, roots and rocks. You will definitely get a workout, plus the scenery is great.

Afton Alps-Hastings
Length:  7+ Miles
Type:  Singletrack
Level:  Intermediate to Advanced 
Terrain:  Wooded, grassy ski slopes 
Season:  May-October
Hours:   Sunrise - Sunset
Open to the public:  Yes
Cost:  $9/day-$110/season pass
Phone:  651-436-5245 or 800-328-1328
Address:  6600 Peller Ave. S.  Hastings, MN 55033

Map  Website
Buck Hill-Burnsville
Length:  3 Mile lap (Course changes)
Type:  Singletrack course
Level:  Intermediate to Advanced
Terrain:  Mostly wooded, grassy ski slopes
Season:  May 10-August 2
Hours:  Races start at 6:30 pm, registration 5:00-6:15 pm Thursdays
Open to the public: No, Penn Cycle "Thursday Night at the Races" held.  Public welcome to register and participate.
Cost:  $5/Beginner class (approximately 20-minute race), $10/ Recreational (40 minute race) or Advanced (1-hour) class
Phone:  Penn Cycle-Bloomington 952-888-1427
Address:  15400 Buck Hill Road   Burnsville. MN 55306

There will be two series of races:
Series One:  May 10, 17, 24, 31, and June 7, 14.
Series Two:  June 21, 28, July 12, 19, 26, and August 2.

Click here to see "One lap at Buck" video.
Click here to see Kare 11 story on Thursday Night at the Races.

Penn Cycle's Thursday Night at the Races webpage

Giants Ridge Ski Area-Biwabik
Length:  24+ miles of trails
Type:  Singletrack, cross country ski trails, Snowmobile trails and abandoned logging roads
Level:  Beginner to Advanced
Terrain:  Grassy ski trails, wooded, gravel
Season:  May-October
Hours:  Sunrise - Sunset?
Open to the public:  Yes
Cost:  $5/day-$50 season pass
Phone:   800-688-7669 or 218-865-8000
Address:  6325 Wynne Creek Drive  Biwabik, MN 55708

Map  Website

Mont du Lac-Superior, WI
Length:  5 Mile loop
Type:  Singletrack
Level:  Intermediate
Terrain:  Mostly wooded, grassy ski slopes
Season:  May-October
Hours:  10:00 am-dusk
Open to the public:  Yes
Cost:  $5/day-$50/season pass
Phone:  218-626-3797 or 888-626-3797
Address:  3125 Mont du Lac Drive  Superior, WI 54880

Map  Website
Mount Kato Ski Area-Mankato
Length:  7+ Miles
Type:  Singletrack
Level:  Beginner to Advanced
Terrain:  80% wooded, grassy ski slopes
Season:  May-October
Hours:  Sunrise - Sunset
Open to the public:  Yes
Cost:  $8/day-$110/season pass (also good at Afton Alps)
Phone:  507-625-3363 or 800-668-5286
Address:  20461 Hwy 66  Mankato, MN 56001

Map  Website
Spirit Mountain-Duluth
Length:  10 Miles
Type:  Singletrack & Fire roads
Level:  Intermediate to Advanced
Terrain:  Wooded, grassy ski slopes, gravel
Season:  May-October
Hours:  Sunrise - Sunset
Open to the public:  Yes
Cost:  Free
Phone:  218-628-2891 or 800-642-6377
Address:  9500 Spirit Mountain Place  Duluth, MN 55810

Map  Trail Info

So do away with those boring and flat mountain bike trails.  Head to one of these ski slopes near you for some varied challenging terrain, tough climbs and fast vertical drops to get your adrenaline flowing.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...