Five Twin Cities Trails to Beat the Heat

The dog days of summer can get pretty hot and steamy in Minnesota but that doesn't have to mean an uncomfortable ride.  The Twin Cities area has quite a few trail systems that run through the cool shade of the woods that I frequent during hot days.  Below I will share some of my favorites to ride to beat the heat.

Brown's Creek State Trail

The Brown's Creek State Trail is a 5.9 mile long rail trail that runs from Grant to Stillwater through a canopy of trees that keeps riders cool on a hot day.  Trail users will parallel Brown's Creek for about two miles and the St. Croix River for another mile as they make their way along this scenic trail.  For those looking to get in some extra mileage, the trail connects to the Gateway State Trail, local trail systems and the newly opened 4.7 mile St. Croix River Crossing Loop Trail.  Parking for the Brown's Creek State Trail can be found in Downtown Stillwater, the Brown's Creek Nature Preserve and under the Gateway State Trail bridge in Grant.

Dakota Rail Regional Trail

The Dakota Rail Trail has been a long time favorite of mine for its scenic ride through woods and along lakes and wetlands.  This 14.84 mile paved trail connects Wayzata with Lake Waconia and extends another 12.5 miles (Carver County segment) to the county line just west of New Germany.  A frequent stop along the trail for me is Cathy Mackenthun's Meats & Deli in St. Bonifacius for a quick lunch and to stock up on some of their award winning smoked meats, bratwurst and jerkey.  Parking is available at numerous locations along the trail making it easy to pick the round trip distance you would like to ride.

Mendota Trail

When I want to get in some dirt riding through the cool of the woods, the Minnesota River Bottoms' Mendota Trail in Fort Snelling State Park is my "go-to" spot.  This trail travels 6 miles along the Minnesota River's south bank from underneath the 77 Bridge in Eagan to the Sibley House Historic Site in Mendota. With connectors like the 494 Bridge, Mendota Bridge, Big Rivers Regional Trail and Minnesota River Greenway, different mileage route options for a multi-surface ride are quite numerous.  Parking can be found in Mendota and underneath the 77 Bridge in Eagan.

Gateway State Trail

The 18 mile Gateway State Trail takes cyclists northeast from St. Paul to Pine Point Park just outside of Stillwater.  With plenty of connections including the Bruce Vento Regional Trail and Brown's Creek State Trail and numerous parking locations along the trail, varying routes can be planned for the mileage you would like to do.  The scenery changes from urban to rural as riders pass lakes, woods and wetlands on the way towards Stillwater.  With plenty of trees along the trail this is one ride that will help you stay cool on those hot summer days.

Lake Minnetonka LRT Regional Trail

The Lake Minnetonka LRT Regional Trail has been a longtime favorite of mine for its scenery as well as shade on hot days.  This 15.92 mile aggregate trail stretches between Hopkins and Carver Park Reserve in Victoria as it passes by Lake Minnetonka and through numerous communities along the way.  Make sure to stop in Excelsior for a pint at Excelsior Brewing or Sebastian Joe's Ice Cream at Tommy's Tonka Trolley on the waterfront.  For those that like a little longer ride, take a trip around Lake Minnetonka by traveling through Carver Park Reserve to St. Bonifacius and jumping onto the Dakota Rail Trail on your way to Wayzata and back to Hopkins.  Parking can be found at numerous locations along the trail but I tend to start near the Depot Coffee House in Hopkins at the junction of the Cedar Lake Trail and the Minnesota River Bluffs LRT Regional Trail.
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