Weekend Wheeling in the Twin Cities
The sprawling Twin Cities area of Minneapolis St. Paul is already home to over half the population of Minnesota, and its booming economy is still attracting newcomers in record numbers. Nevertheless, situated among a sizable collection of lakes and navigable rivers, and not far from the edge of the northern forests, the "Cities" count summer recreation as one of their major draws. Fortunately, an active bicycling community is an important part of this strong outdoor heritage, and bikers young and old, energetic and leisurely, will find ample two-wheeling fun here.
First and foremost, cyclists will want to look at the cities themselves. Both Minneapolis and St. Paul have extensive pedals-first trails woven into the urban fabric. They also have an active off-road and mountain biking scene. Here in the flatlands, you have to do a bit of searching to find interesting terrain, so the most promising areas tend to be in the hills lining the Mississippi, Minnesota, and St. Croix River valleys. Woodland riding can also be found in many places along the undeveloped river floodplains of these same valleys. Don't overlook the additional mountain biking opportunities that can be found at the area ski resorts, such as Afton Alps east of St. Paul, which offers summer bike trails on the slopes.
Pushing the Boundaries Even Further
More serious road bicyclists will want to move beyond the in-town designated routes. The relatively flat topography of the Twin Cities area is conducive to putting on the miles and the possibilities are endless. That said, with urban sprawl and increasing traffic everywhere, finding pleasant access to the best routes can be a challenge. Area bike shops usually have metro bike route maps in stock that give recommendations. For further advice, the Twin Cities Bicycling Club has an extensive calendar full of ideas, and offers organized rides and camaraderie for all interests and abilities.
Looking farther out from the metropolitan area at other trail possibilities, the potential list continues to grow. Minnesota is a leader in the rail-trail movement, with over 1,100 miles developed so far. The Cannon Valley Trail, Root River Trail, Luce Line, Sakatah Singing Hills Trail, and to the north, the Munger Trail are the most popular of these trails within two hours of drive time. Serious mountain bikers look even farther to the Chequamagon Trail in Wisconsin and Lake Superior's North Shore region for superb challenges.
Andy Knapp has been an active outdoor adventurer for over 35 years, and has accumulated over 126,000 miles of human-powered travel, including bicycling, hiking, paddling, running, skiing, and mountaineering. He has bicycled in 34 states, all 12 Canadian provinces and territories, and 10 other countries, and has sea kayaked extensively. He has worked for over 26 years in the outdoor equipment industry as a retail buyer, and is serving on the boards of several paddlesports-related organizations. He is a contributing editor to Canoe & Kayak magazine and has authored two outdoor books, Mountain Biking the Great Plains States and The Optimum Kayak.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication