Best Bike Trails in Minnesota

Bikes in Uptown
In case you weren’t aware, May is National Bike Month. The designation was established in 1956 as a way to encourage more physical activity while showcasing the numerous benefits of biking. It is also a great way to celebrate the much-anticipated pleasant springtime weather. While many people may just see biking as a leisure activity to be left for the weekend, it is actually a viable option for daily transportation to work, school or just around the town (weather permitting, of course). This year, people are urged to skip their usual aggravating commute and instead hop on their ten-speeds during Bike to Work Week from May 12th to 16th, and especially on Friday, May 16th, Bike to Work Day. Not only will this break from the daily commute do wonders for the physical (and mental!) health of drivers, it will also be extremely beneficial to the environment.

May also kicks off the National Bike Challenge, an annual contest lasting until September, that connects “bike-minded” individuals in a friendly competition. Last year, more than 30,000 bikers rode almost 19 million miles. The challenge organizers – The League of American Bicyclists – are looking to top that this year, with a goal of getting 50,000 riders to pedal more than 30 million miles during the five-month period. To become a part of this monumental event, register here.

If you want to start logging some miles for the challenge, there is no better place to do it than right here in the Twin Cities. Minneapolis has repeatedly been ranked as the nation’s most bikeable city, with rider-friendly roads, an abundance of parks, and multiple trails that pass through the metro area. In fact, last week was Minneapolis Bike Week, which encouraged bicyclists of all skill levels to take to the streets. Moreover, Minnesota – aka “The Bike Friendly State” – as a whole is home to some of the choicest biking trails in the nation. After a long, harsh winter that prompts many to seek solace indoors, it is easy to see why so many Minnesotans are eager to jump on their bikes and enjoy some physical activity in the great outdoors come May. With Minnesota’s thousands of miles of trails, there is definitely something to please everyone, whether you’re a beginner or an expert, or whether you prefer a leisurely bike ride along the river or an afternoon of adrenaline-pumping mountain biking. Without further ado, here are a few of the best places to take your two-wheeler for a spin around the state*:

  • Mississippi River Trail (MRT) (On-road; across the state)
    • Distance covered: 500+ miles
    • Starting point: Itasca State Park
    • MN ending point: Border of Iowa
    • Highlights along the trail: Grand Rapids; Historic downtown Little Falls; Munsinger Gardens in St. Cloud; Twin Cities; Winona
    • Make time to: take in the stunning river views; seek out historic sites; visit museums, parks and festivals along the way
  • Heartland State Trail (Paved path; Northwestern Minnesota)
    • Distance covered: 49 miles
    • Starting point: Park Rapids
    • Ending point: Cass Lake
    • Highlights along the trail: the state’s biggest Paul Bunyan in Akeley; the village of Dorset; the old trestle bridge over Steamboat Lake

    Oak Lake

    A view of Oak Lake from the Luce Line State Trail as it passes through Watertown. Photo Credit: Erin Reyes

  • Luce Line State Trail (Paved path; Twin Cities area)
    • Distance covered: 63 miles
    • Starting point: Plymouth
    • Ending point: Cosmos
    • Highlights along the trail: trestle bridge crossing of Gleason Lake in Plymouth;  West Hennepin Pioneer Museum in Long Lake; downtown Watertown (“The Heart of the Luce Line Trail”)
    • Besides biking, also great for: Sightseeing, Hiking, Running, Jogging, Walking, Dog Walking, Horseback Riding, Snowmobiling, Cross Country Skiing, Snowshoeing
    • Fun fact: Runs along a former railroad line
  • Root River State Trail (Paved path; Southeastern Minnesota)
    • Distance covered: 42 miles (also connects to the 18-mile Harmony-Preston Valley State Trail)
    • Starting point: Fountain, MN
    • Ending point: Houston, MN
    • Highlights along the trail: Commonweal Theatre Company in Lanesboro; concerts at Sylvan Park; world-famous Aroma Pie Shop in Whalan; scenery such as limestone cliffs, pastures, fields of wildflowers, and wooden bridges
    • Fun facts: Nicknamed “The Cadillac of Trails”; the main street of Lanesboro (the hub of the trail) is a designated historic district
  • Cuyuna County State Recreation Area (Mountain Biking; Northern Minnesota)
    • Distance covered: 25 miles
    • Location: Crosby-Ironton area
    • Fun fact: Designated as an International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA) Ride Center, one of only a few in the world
    • Level of difficulty: ranges from Easy to Extremely Difficult
  • Minnesota Valley/State Recreation Area (Mountain Biking; Southwestern Minnesota)
    • Distance covered: 35 miles
    • Starting point: Shakopee
    • Ending point: Belle Plaine
    • Besides biking, great for: Sightseeing along the River, Hiking, Running, Horseback Riding

If you want a closer look at these or any trails in the state, cruise on over to the Minnesota State Bicycle Map: Also, be sure to visit for the complete list of Minnesota bike trails.

bike rider

Bike Safety

As long as we’re on the topic of cycling, we thought we’d share some basic safety tips that all riders can benefit from, whether you’re hitting the road or the trails for the first time or you’ve been riding since before you could walk (via

  • Always wear a helmet, even if you are an experienced rider.
  • It is best to travel with a friend, even if you feel you are familiar with the area.
  • Obey all traffic lights and signal your turns.
  • Look both ways at intersections and driveways.
  • Carry water and other drinks to avoid dehydration. If you are planning a long journey, also make sure you bring snacks to keep you fueled.
  • Use a front light and rear reflector if you are riding in the dark.

Riding on Trails:

  • Ride on the right side of the trail so that others may pass.
  • Alert other users you are passing by calling “On your left!”
  • Move off the trail when resting, to keep the path clear for others.

Riding on Roads:

  • Ride in the same direction as vehicles.
  • Be predictable to motorists.

Now tell us: where in Minnesota do you love to ride your bike? Do you have any safety tips? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

*All info about these trails comes from Pedal Minnesota’s Biking guide.