Take a Scenic & Challenging Ride on Cannon River Valley Gravel

If you're looking to get off the beaten path and challenge yourself while taking in some great scenery, then the quiet country gravel roads near Welch, MN fit the bill.  These low traffic roads meander their way up some steep climbs, down fast descents, through deep ravines and the forest floodplains that make up the Cannon River Valley.  The views are amazing and the wildlife is abundant in this area.  On occasion you'll have a group of deer cross the road in front of you, come across a wild turkey or two wandering through the woods or see the eagles riding the thermals above the bluffs.

Be prepared to do some climbing, the rolling hills and ravines of this area will give you a workout.  But wherever there is a hill to climb, there is a fast descent to follow that will have you going upwards of 30+ mph.  These roads tend to be pretty packed and fast most of the time without too much washboard effect.  Occasional grading by the Highway Dept. can slow things down a bit loosening up the gravel.

I have put together some routes that include my two favorite gravel rides through the area.  Reference the maps or download the gpx files for use with your Garmin Edge or favorite cycling smartphone app.  Keep in mind that this area has spotty cell phone data coverage, so an app that lets you download your map instead of using data for the map information will work best.

Welch-South Loop 

This route is a 16 mile, mostly gravel loop that will give you about 900 feet of climbing and take you along the Cannon River as it follows Sunset Trail to Wild Turkey Road and back to County 7 Blvd.

GPX file download


Welch-North Loop

This route is about 16 miles, almost all gravel and will give you over a 1,000 feet of climbing.  It takes you on the Welch Trail, the very scenic Orlando Trail, through the Miesville Ravine Regional Park, along the Miesville Trail (bridge out, be prepared to ford the creek) and a fast descent down 265th St. back to the Welch Trail.

GPX file download 

Cannon Valley Trail/Welch Gravel Loops

This is a 46 mile route that starts out at the Cannon Valley Trailhead in Cannon Falls and implements a variation of the Welch-South Loop, the entire Welch North Loop and will provide about 2,300 feet of climbing.  A Wheel Pass is required to ride on the Cannon Valley Trail and can be acquired at the grocery store across from the Cannon Falls Trailhead or at a station at the start of the trail.

GPX file download     

On these routes you may encounter aggressive farm dogs, so be prepared.  I carry a can of Halt dog repellent just in case.  I ride these routes frequently and have improved my speed, climbing ability and the scenery makes it worth going back time after time.  Get out there and crush some gravel.

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