I love Minnesota’s many beautiful state trails. According to the DNR web site, there are 24 state trails (including the developing Brown’s Creek Trail). Hundreds of miles of trails – some paved, some natural surface, some urban, most rural, some hilly, most flat.
When I moved to Minnesota in 2005, I had no concept of state trails. Growing up in northeastern Nevada, I learned that trails were craggy, winding dirt goat paths, and usually they led to the top of some sort of mountain. The idea of a 10′ asphalt surface intended for use by bicyclists was foreign to me. My hometown of Elko, NV, didn’t have even as much as a sidepath anywhere in town (they have since developed a pleasant enough trail adjacent to the Humboldt River through town, but it did not exist when I was growing up there). I’d figured out what a high-quality bike trail was before moving to Minnesota (I logged countless hours and miles on the Provo River Parkway while living in Utah). Still, when I moved to Minnesota, I was blown away by the number and quality of great state trails. Simply put, my home state of Nevada has nothing remotely similar.
My first foray into biking the state trails was the lovely, yet simple Sakatah Singing Hills State Trail between Faribault and Mankato. Some portions of this trail are absolutely lovely,
while other portions are… eh… less striking (unless you are totally into cornfields). Let’s go with more diverse.
Quickly thereafter I familiarized myself with the Gateway State Trail from downtownish St. Paul to the northeast suburbs as I biked back and forth between Minneapolis and Stillwater a few times.
And also a bit of the Paul Bunyan State Trail near Brainerd (before getting rained out).
Somewhere in there forgot to take my camera up north to the Willard Munger State Trail (a couple of times), which has some of the most incredible views of Lake Superior and the bridges of Duluth. The leg between Carlton and Duluth is especially stunning.
And no Minnesotan can accurately refer to themselves as a cyclist if they’ve yet to spend a weekend in Lanesboro and the surrounding communities biking the Root River and Harmony-Preston Valley State Trails. I promise you’ll have a good time if you give it a shot.
My most recent adventure with the wonderful state trails of Minnesota was biking the full Luce Line State Trail, the majority of which is unpaved, but which I didn’t realize until after it was too late to turn around.
Anyway, I love that these trails exist, and that Minnesota is the type of place that is willing to invest in recreational trails like these. There are still plenty of other state trails that I haven’t seen yet, and I can’t wait to experience them (as soon as I figure out how to make it happen with a couple of young kids in tow).
Happy Valentine’s Day, Minnesota!
I am guilty of never having been to Lanesboro, but I am planning on taking the Luce Line this summer out to see the twineball.
You, sir, are no cyclist. Please turn in your spoke cards.
I’ve driven thru Lanesboro (and stopped at an Amish farmers market), but never biked there. Though I’m old enough to remember when the Sakatah trail was still limestone, the Heartland Trail was mostly undeveloped, and the Paul Bunyan and Gateway Trails were still working railroads.
My first long-distance rides were to/along the Luce Line. During high school, I’d often go do 50-60 miles a day just on a whim.
The Munger Trail is quite nice with children, as is the Bunyan Trail. The Lanesboro Trails work best with kids if you avoid those segments that are of, shall we say, higher difficulty. Unless you are well and truly a bad-ass trailer hauler.