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.

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