First impression of Bloomington’s river bottom mountain bike trail system

By Andrew Ellis

Towards the southern edge of Bloomington, you will find the Minnesota River bottoms trail system that is fun to ride throughout the year. Right before the Bloomington Ferry Bridge, you’ll see a rocky slope that travels down into the woods. This slope is the start of a great adventure. It’s known as the Minnesota River Bottoms Trail. Now, you may worry that you can only ride with a mountain bike on the singletrack trail, but you are safe on a regular trail/path bike also. You have to watch where you’re riding.

The Bloomington River Bottoms Trail

The ride itself is fun and challenging. The trail is made out of the dirt. While it may be smooth riding, for the most part, it’s not immune to the unpredictability of Mother Nature. Pedaling along, you may come across places that are soft and muddy from recent rainfall. Not only that, but this trail is used pretty regularly, so you’ll see other tire tracks that have gone through and made the puddles deeper and muddier in the aftermath. Usually, you can ride through or ride around it. If you ride through, you may feel your tires slip, but as long as you keep going, you should be fine. Riding around the puddle will take a little more concentration. You may either be able to find a dry area around its perimeter where your tires can fit or an area that hasn’t been touched.

It’s Friday and time to ride off on another weekend of fun taking in that next bike adventure that maybe includes testing out a fat bike ride.

The Minnesota River Bottoms is not only a great place to ride a  fat bike.

For most of the ride, you’ll be along the river with a few trails leading you away. You’ll come upon many obstacles as well, such as logs set up for you to ride over if you wish and different turns that will keep you alert. Small trails will split off the main path and take you to other scenic areas but eventually connect back to the main trail. While the trail is mostly flat, the sandy conditions can make it hard to pedal. Also, the trail often changes shape after the river floods, which makes for unique rides!

Here is a fallen branch that acts as a bridge in the MN river bottoms.

Here is a fallen branch that acts as a bridge crossing Bloomington’s river bottoms.

You’ll find a few opportunities to cross the tributary streams that feed the river. One is a wood bridge that’s also partly on a fallen tree branch. You can certainly try riding across and risk falling in, or you can carry your bike across. There’s also a floating dock that allows room for you and your bike. You’ll use the rope to pull yourself across the river so you can continue your ride.

Enjoy an upper body stretch pulling you and your bike across river.

Why the trail is fun!

It takes a little more concentration than paved trails, but the uncertainty of what you’ll encounter is all part of the fun. You can have plenty of fun with the different twists, turns, climbs, and descends on a paved trail. You’ll even have plenty of views to stop and look at. But this track is different. While it is maintained, the trail gives you the feeling of being unprotected. It’s just you and the elements. There will be plenty of debris on the trail and more than a few low branches that you’ll either have to dodge or be okay with them hitting you in the face.

Winter fat bike fun is back in the upper Midwest as this biker takes a break for this photo opp.

And winter biking is always fun on the Bloomington River Bottoms Trail.

Find out more about Bloomington’s biking opportunities here.