Category Archives: Destinations

Anoka, a fun place for a fall trail ride especially around Halloween

Here you will find many fall trail ride options rolling in and around the city of Anoka, see the video. The charm of this riverfront community is everywhere that you turn, especially in the fall. One of nine towns of the Twin Cities Gateway, Anoka is the Halloween Capital of the World and offers a vast network of bike-friendly roads and trails. A perfect place to start your ride is the park alongside the confluence of the Rum River as it meets the Mississippi River. Here it’s easy to explore with your bicycle. To discover Anoka’s history and attractions in the historic downtown area.

A great destination for the whole family riding the trails and bike friendly roads in the Twin Cities Gateway.

A great destination for the whole family riding the trails in the Twin Cities Gateway.

 

 

 

A fall trail ride especially around Halloween is fun

Along with the many paved trails to ride in the area, the history and Holloween decor are another reason why you should consider visiting Anoka in the fall. Stop by the local Chamber or call and ask about the festivities surrounding the week of Halloween.

Each October, planning a fall trail  ride here adds to the fun

Anoka has many happenings throughout the year that you’ll definitely want to check out. But in the fall, the most memorable event here is the Anoka Halloween celebrations where you will find spooktacular events, late October.

Known as the Halloween Capital of the World, the city brings out all the stops with everything from the largest pumpkin contest to a scavenger hunt. There are also two main parades: Light Up the Night and the Grand Parade that takes place before Halloween.

The finale of the Halloween Capitol of the World is the Grand Day Parade - the largest in the state.

The finale of the Halloween Capitol of the World is the Grand Day Parade – the largest in the state.

Area trail to explore any time of the year

Riding the Mississippi River Trail (MRT) into Anoka.

Riding the Mississippi River Trail (MRT) from Elk River, back into Anoka.

Two major trails in Anoka are the Rum River Trails and the Mississippi River Trail (MRT).  Looking at the Anoka Bike Map here provided by the Twin Cities Gateway. The Rum River Trail offers a scenic view of the river and several historic artifacts as the paved trail passes through the downtown area and connects to the MRT. Along ‘Old Man River’ there are connections to the Mississippi River Trail on both sides of the river.

Expand your options with a multi-modal tour

If you are staying in the area for a few days, consider a multi-modal tour. Board the Northstar Train, with your bike, to a station upstream or below along the MRT and ride your bike back. Just buy a ticket and hop on board. The train will drop you off close to the Mississippi River Trail so you have plenty of time to ride your bike back to Anoka.

Then, when you arrive check out some of the dining establishments there to fuel your body before or after your ride. Here are a couple of my favorites before, after or in between a ride.

Hans’ Bakery

The bike ride to Hans’ Bakery, about a mile south of the downtown area, will excite your sweet tooth with a delicious assortment of legendary pastries. This establishment started as a diner by German immigrants. Now as you step through the door it’s like you have been sent back to a simpler time with a menu tasty items are on a chalkboard. The only modern amenity they have is an I-tablet to ring you up if you select to pay by credit card.

With many specialties, another well-known favorite is the Texas Donut. The name speaks for itself and comes in a couple of different versions. No political jokes here, but it is larger than most peoples’ hands.

Avant Garden

This little cafe tucked into the historic downtown area is a great place to stop by if you’re looking for a supreme coffee fix that is local. This establishment has everything you would want from a popular cafe too. In addition, their own unique daily sandwich options, your selection can be enjoyed with a Coke from a glass bottle, making it extra special!

Historic homes to see while visiting Anoka

Ticknor Hill Bed and Breakfast, in the Twin Cities Gateway

Each year, mid-summer, the Anoka Heritage Home & Garden tour will take you on a very memorable journey covering Anoka’s history. A time when the gardens are in their prime. For a fall visit, ride your bike south of the downtown area into the historic Slabtown, Whiskey Flats, Swede Town, or Fireman’s Grove neighborhoods. Many homes in the area are decorated with Halloween decor swing by the Ticknor Hill Bed and Breakfast, on the National Registry of Historic Places. Then the Woodbury House is home to the Mad Hatter Restaurant and Tea House. These are just a few of the historic treats that will tease you to come back in the summer and explore more of the area.

So come and discover Anoka’s history, food, and bike-friendly attributes for your next adventure. You will find plenty of lodging opportunities in the Twin Cities Gateway to make your stay memorable.

by Russ Lowtian, the editor at HaveFunBiking.com

Fall color riding on a bike friendly road.

Bike destinations and peak fall color weblinks for the upper Midwest

Don’t put that bike away just yet! Fall color riding is one of the best times of the year, in the upper Midwest, to explore all the bike-friendly destinations available. With warm days and cool nights, low humidity, very few insects, and the brilliant autumn colors the trees provide, fall riding can be picture-perfect.

Enjoying the colorful trees along the trail as they get close to peak.

Riders enjoy the colorful trees along the trail as they get closer to their peak.

As our summer bike adventures drift into fond memories, we still have a colorful blaze of options ahead. When the tree foliage begins to change, first in Minnesota and then in Iowa, using the HaveFunBiking guides in combination with the state DNR websites, it’s easy to expand your recreational riding through October.

Fall color riding in Minnesota

Using a copy of the Minnesota Bike/Hike Guide in combination with the MN DNR fall color pages will allow you to match up to a  fall experience you won’t soon forget. If you didn’t have a chance to pick up a printed copy, the online bike guide offers even more bike maps and fun events for fall exploring.

Enjoying the trails doing some fall color riding.

Trail riding in the fall amongst tree-lined trails is inviting.

As the aspen, oaks, and maples start bursting their colors consider bookmarking these two websites and plan your fall biking adventure. Find more Minnesota fall riding information here.

Fall Color Riding in Iowa

Fall color riding on a bike friendly road.

Fall color riding on a bike friendly road.

As the brilliant colors fade in Minnesota, Iowa is the place in October that will showcase most of its peak colors. Using a copy of the Iowa Bike/Hike Guide in combination with the IA DNR fall color pages will allow you some more fall experience you won’t soon forget. If you didn’t have a chance to pick up a printed copy, the online IA bike guide offers even more bike maps and fun events for fall exploring.

Fall color riding Wisconsin

Though we don’t have a Wisconsin Bike Guide, at this time, here are links to Wisconsin’s Bicycle routes and fall color report page.

Have fun making some fall color bike touring memories.

Join the fun this Sunday, October 7th for the eight annual Mankato River Ramble. This year's ride offers three loop options, a 16, 30, or 42-mile route featuring great Rest Stops, ride support, delicious food and beverages, live music and much more.

Mankato River Ramble, the last major Minnesota bike tour of 2021

Join hundreds of bicyclists on Sunday, October 10th for the eleventh annual Mankato River Ramble. This year’s ride offers three loop options, a 12, 26, or 42-mile route option featuring great rest stops along the way. Find delicious food, beverages, live music, and much more at each stop. Routes can be easily combined for those who want to add on additional mileage.

The whole family will like the scenery along the Minnesota River Valley.

The whole family will like the scenery along the Minnesota River Valley.

River Ramble Registration

Pre-registration closes on October 4. If you have not pre-registered you can come between 8 and 10 a.m. to Land of Memories Park (100 Amos Owen Lane, Mankato, MN 56001) to sign up and begin the ride. See more info here.

Tasty treats, like the pie stop, makes the ride extra delicious.

Tasty treats, like the pie stop, can make the ride extra delicious.

Volunteers needed

The Ramble wouldn’t be possible without the help of 140 volunteers and sever spots are still open. Volunteer sign-up for the 2018 Ramble at www.bikeriverramble.org/volunteer. Volunteers help with putting up signs, helping with registration, passing out treats at rest stops and encouraging riders. Volunteers get a free Ramble T-Shirt and will be celebrated at the volunteer appreciation party at the Mankato Brewery with amazing food from Pub 500.

“Our volunteers are the ones who make each ride what it is. We couldn’t have a successful event without all their donated time. They set the tone of each ride and we are grateful to always have so many generous volunteers at the Ramble each year!,” said Dorian Grilley, Executive Director of the Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota (BikeMN).

The Ramble is a fun place to gather and ride with old and new friends!

The Ramble is a fun place to gather and ride with old and new friends!

The Mankato River Ramble is a fundraiser for the Greater Mankato Bike & Walk Advocates and the Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota. Proceeds after expenses from the event benefit these two organizations. The ride is made possible thanks to the generous support of the Mankato Clinic and the Orthopaedic & Fracture Clinic, as well as the support of more than 50 other sponsoring organizations.

More delicious food upon your return and its included in your ride fee.

More delicious food upon your return and its included in your ride fee.

More photos from earlier Mankato River Ramble’s can be found online here.

About the Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota (BikeMN)

BikeMN is working to make Minnesota a state where bicycling is a safe, easy, fun, and cool choice for everyone. The mission of BikeMN is to provide leadership and a unified voice for bicycle education, advocacy, and efforts to make Minnesota more bicycle-friendly so that more people will ride bicycles more often. More at www.bikemn.org.

About Greater Mankato Bike and Walk Advocates (GMBWA)

GMBWA encourages individuals and families to walk and bike as part of a healthy lifestyle. Greater Mankato Bike and Walk Advocates work with city, county, and state governments, businesses and non-governmental organizations to improve the community’s infrastructure and opportunities for walking and biking. The ride began in 2011, thousands of dollars of profits from the Ramble have gone into signs, outdoor kiosks, and mountain bike trail construction, and other improvements in the Mankato area.

The Cedar Falls area has something for both the seasoned cyclist and novice rider.

Cedar Falls, a gateway to some of Iowa’s best bike trails

by Russ Lowthian, HaveFunBiking.com

On my first visit to Central Iowa, I was amazed at the intricate network of hard surface bicycle trails the Cedar Falls Area offers. On this trip, I had the opportunity to
ride with several Cedar Valley Cyclists and enjoy some of the roads and trail loops in the area they often frequent. The Cedar Falls area has something for both the seasoned cyclist and novice rider. This is also a bike-friendly community perfect for the off-road cyclist (cyclocross, fat bike, mountain biking, and BMX), with several opportunities awaiting your arrival. Not to mention the wide array of historical, educational, and entertaining attractions to take in when not riding.

About Cedar Falls and the Valley Lake Trail options

The Ceder Valley Trail System offers several loops between Cedar Falls and Waterloo.

The Ceder Valley Trail System offers several loops between Cedar Falls and Waterloo.

The Cedar Valley Lakes Trail through Cedar Falls and Waterloo intertwine throughout the area – Offering over 100 miles of trails. As I discovered, some of these trails connect and meander through neighboring Waterloo for additional cycling opportunities. A Bronze Bike Friendly Community designation by the League of American Cyclists, see the Cedar Falls bike map for an overview of the vast trail systems and designated bike routes you can enjoy, as I did.

My first ride while visiting

On my first day there, before the rest of my group arrived from Minnesota, I had the opportunity to ride with Brian Will. A local realtor, Brian, is a member of the Cedar Valley Cycling Club. He volunteered to show me some of the trail loops and bike-friendly street routes used for connectivity. The first thing I noticed as we explored the trails, the majority of the trails are paved in concrete, with only a few patches of asphalt to remind me of home.  Our first adventure was on the Big Woods Lake Trail. This is a perfect trail loop for biking while viewing birds and wildlife.

Stopping at the Hearst Center For The Arts & Sculpture Garden along the trail.

Brian Will stopping at the Hearst Center for a view of the Arts & Sculpture Garden along the trail.

In the afternoon, after stopping for lunch on Cedar Falls ‘promenade’ (Main Street), we went out and rode sections of the Prairie Lakes Trail. A part of the American Discovery Trail System, we found several loops that took us into some charming and historic neighborhoods in Cedar Falls. Further along, from the trail, we viewed the agricultural test field at the University of Northern Iowa. We then stopped at the Hearst Center’s Arts & Sculpture Garden before returning to the promenade to check out the new brewery downtown.

Road Bike and Trail Touring Options

Gathering for a ride on the Promenade in Cedar Falls.

Gathering for a ride on the Promenade in Cedar Falls.

The next couple of days, with a group of my friends now in town from the Twin Cities, we joined the Cedar Valley Cycling Club on several rides. With several of their members showing up, we explored the trails and roads in the area. First, we visited Waterloo and a couple of other outlying communities. Periodically stopping to visit, they shared information on the communities Bike to Work, Bike to Play program.

Mountain Bike, Cyclo-Cross, and BMX Fun Opportunities

If you prefer the off-road side of cycling, you may be surprised at the number of mountain bike trails in the Cedar Falls and Waterloo area. They include George Wyth State Park, Katoski Green Belt, Riverview Park, Tondro Pray Bike Park, and Ulrich Park.

Tondro Pray Bike Park is your headquarters for off-road fun.

Tondro Pray Bike Park is your headquarters for off-road fun.

At the Tondro Pray Bike Park, you have several additional options along with the mountain bike trails there. The park amenities here include a: BMX/pump track, a mountain bike skills area, and a cycle cross course.

Things to do in Cedar Falls Area after your ride

For this trip, to accommodate 18 of my cycling friends from the Twin Cities, we used one of the hotels on the west side of Cedar Falls, not far from the University of Northern Iowa. Being a bike-friendly community, the AmericInn we stayed at was convenient. The hotel was only a couple of blocks, on quiet streets, to the trailhead and less than 20 minutes, by bike, to the promenade.

Cedar Falls is a great place for cyclists to gather.

Cedar Falls is a great place for cyclists to gather.

Coming off the trail, I noticed the Ice House Museum as I approached downtown, Cedar Falls. This building along the Cedar River was built in 1921. The museum houses an extensive collection of ice harvesting archives that visitors can view while learning what life was like before refrigerators.

On the promenade, you will find a wide assortment of local shops and unique restaurants that will entertain you for hours. Shops include everything: repurposed antiques; two bike shops; contemporary clothing; a cupcake shop; breweries; fair-trade artisan products from around the world; and more.

Things to do in Waterloo

The John Deere Museum offers many example of agricultural history, from household appliances to early farm equipment.

The John Deere Museum offers many examples of agricultural history, from household appliances to early farm equipment.

A 10-minute commute by car or a 30-minute train ride, Waterloo offers several more opportunities when not in the saddle. One of the must-sees when in the area is the John Deere Tractor & Engine Museum. The newest exhibit here highlights the history and contribution John Deere has made to agriculture and their farm families through their nearly 100-year operation in Waterloo.

Here at the museum is a John Deere bicycle, from the 70's, displayed.

Here at the museum is a John Deere bicycle, from the ’70s, displayed.

Another option if you are into plants and flowers is the Cedar Valley Arboretum & Botanic Gardens. This 40-acre beauty center features an award-winning Children’s Garden, 4-acre Butterfly Meadow; a Rose Garden; a stunning day lily and Hosta collections; unique Mosaiicultures; and a 1-acre Master Gardener’s Orchard.

Check here for more attractions and museums in the area, and plan your #NextBikeAdventure to Cedar Falls, Iowa.

The Coon Rapids 10-mile bike loop makes it easy to connect and discover

by Russ Lowthian, HaveFunBiking.com

Named for the turbulent Mississippi River waters at the confluence of Coon Creek, the city of Coon Rapids is a fun place to explore on a bicycle. One of the nine communities in the Twin Cities Gateway, it’s a perfect destination for a bike vacation using the Coon Rapids 10-mile bike loop. Here you will find many connections to hundreds of miles of trails. The Coon Creek Trail and the Mississippi River Trail are two greenway systems here that allow you to pedal safely throughout the area. So, if you enjoy biking along rivers and creeks, we have some ideas for you, starting with the Coon Rapids 10-mile loop.

The 10-mile bike loop is fun for all levels of riders.

The Coon Rapids 10-mile bike loop

Leaving from the outer parking lot of the Muddy Cow Restaurant or a nearby hotel, the route travels in a clockwise direction. Pulling out onto Springbrook Drive, this tour safely crosses Coon Rapids Boulevard. Once across, we suggest using the paved trail that runs parallel to the street due to heavy traffic. After crossing 85th Avenue, about two miles into the loop, consider stopping at the Springbrook Nature Center.

Many roads here offer trails that parallel for added comfort and fun.

Now pedaling along the south side of 85th Avenue, at East River Road, cross the street at the stoplight and use the sidewalk on the west side, up to 85th Lane. Here enjoy the quiet neighborhood streets that connect you to the Mississippi River Trail (MRT).  At 86th Avenue, continue straight ahead on the MRT between two residences, and the real fun begins. Then, as the trail drops into the forested vegetation along the bank of the Mississippi River, it’s a whole new experience.

The visitors center here makes a great rest stop.

Following the trail along the river to the Coon Rapids Dam, you will pass several trail T’s in the park, offering more loop options. One loop in the park circles Cenaiko Lake where you will find many people fishing for trout.

The Coon Rapids Dam and Visitors Center

At the visitor’s center at the Coon Rapids Dam, you will find more information on the area and its history. The dam is another popular fishing location and a crossing point for cyclists riding the Three Rivers Trails throughout the Twin Cities Metro.

Riding across the Coon Rapids dam always offers a refreshing mist of cool air.

Turning north to Coon Creek

Riding up Egret Boulevard, you can ride in the bike lane or use the parallel pedestrian path.

Now at the Dam, the 10-mile Loop leaves the MRT and heads north out of the park on Egret Boulevard. You can ride the designated bike lane or use the pedestrian path paralleling the street on a bike-friendly road. Continuing north after crossing Coon Rapids Boulevard, at Robinson Drive, you will find the Coon Creek Trailhead. On the trail and after crossing the creek, the 10-mile loop takes a right at the trail T. If you want to add a few miles to your ride, here is another option. To your left, the trail will take you up through the Erlandson Nature Center and, further along, connects to Bunker Hills Regional Park.

The smells, sounds, and views of nature as you pedal

Now pedaling south alongside Coon Creek, enjoy the smells, sounds, and views of nature. This stretch of the trail is a tranquil wilderness setting as you pedal along the stream through the forested canopy.  After crossing over a creek bridge one more time, pass under the railroad tracks for another option. Stop for a round of bumper boats, go-karts, or miniature golf at Lilli Putt before heading east and completing the 10-mile Loop.

Enjoying the smells, sounds, and views of nature along the trail.

The trail runs parallel along Coon Rapids Extension and Boulevard for the last few miles of the route. Back at the parking lot, or your hotel, check out nearby eating establishments and plan another bike adventure in the Twin Cities Gateway Area.

Printable map and Q (cue)-sheet)

For a printable bike map of Anoka, click here

For a turn-by-turn Q-sheet of Anoka, click here

Making yourself heard with a bicycle bell, vs voice command

By Russ Lowthian, HaveFunBiking

Working on the gift section in the winter edition of the MN Bike/Hik Guide, coming out in early December, we tested a new bicycle bell from SpurCycle. The Compact Bell is perfect for the mountain bike or a flat bar commuter. The bell also offers the same high-frequency ping as their original bell, just smaller with fewer moving parts. However, with more people walking and biking, is it better to use a bicycle bell or your voice command to bring attention as you approach?

The SpurCycle Compact Bicycle Bell

In a recent test of the SpurCycle Compact Bell, I found the ring lasts longer than most bells. I found the high-frequency ping with a rich aftermath tone helps those, as you approach, of your on-coming presents.

The perfect brass bell housing holds a ring longer, starting with a very hard “ping.”

This compact bell is plenty loud for off-road riding and suburban commuting but won’t win against car horns and heavy street traffic in a metropolitan area. This bell’s true advantage is how long the ring lasts (or “sustains”), ending at the same frequency.

From its package, test out the high-quality ping this bicycle bell makes.

It’s great for commuters or mountain bikers because you can start the ring 10-15 seconds before passing a biker or pedestrian. Letting let them know where you’re approaching from and how far away you are. With the SpurCycle Bell, there’s no need to ring your bell 20-times like the inexpensive department store models. The initial ring offers enough of a shrill to get the attention of even the most hardcore earbud rockers if you do choose to hit it repeatedly.

If your bike has a larger diameter handlebar (22.2 to 31.8 mm), consider the SpurCycle Original.

Mastering the use of your voice or the use of a bicycle bell

In a recent article published by CyclingSavvy, on should you use a bicycle bell or your voice? For many, it’s a cultural issue. In this in-depth article, John Brooking discusses how you can use a bell or your voice to alert people and what to check for after sending an audible signal. He also touches on the other sounds bicycles make and how these extend your pre-ride safety check. Mastering the use of your voice or bell when riding is a call-and-response. Musicians use this so the audience can sing along; you can use it, so your passage is predictable and safe.

Personally, I prefer the bell to voice commands. Especially if you are in an urban area with heavy pedestrian foot traffic. Spending time in Amsterdam on a bicycle made me a true believer that the bell’s sound was mightier than the voice.

A bicycling staycation from Lakeville to Bloomington and back

As traveling closer to home is the new norm, with economic and environmental concerns, a bicycling staycation may open up your eyes to new horizons. The use of sustainable travel, like a bike, allows an adventurer a chance to see points of interest and landscapes not normally noticed when using other modes of transportation. Also, planning an overnight on your next staycation will make your bicycle ride there and back even more enjoyable. So, two questions: How many miles can you comfortably ride in a given day? And, what towns 10 to 50-miles away fit into your range, so your next adventure is memorable?

Sara’ bicycling staycation to Bloomington

Recently we helped Sara Lynch with an overnight staycation starting in Lakeville, MN. She and her husband rode to Bloomington and then back, using the HaveFunBiking maps that we publish in the Minnesota Bike/Hike Guide.

So exactly what is a bicycling staycation?

A staycation, according to Wikipedia, is a day trip with a distance from a person’s home to another location they would like to visit. Then, adding a bicycle or other mode of transportation or a combination of both (multimodal transportation) to the adventure can expand the fun.

Sara’s staycation in the south Twin Cities Area may give you ideas.

Until recently, most of Sara and her husband’s bike adventures had been day trips. This year over the 4th of July weekend, they enjoyed their first bicycling staycation.  According to Sara, in her blog “Planet with Sara,” that all changed, “For this adventure, we started in Lakeville and biked to Bloomington with many fun stops along the way.

Sara’ bicycling staycation from Lakeville to Bloomington and back.

After spending the night in Bloomington, we biked back via a different route with even more fun stops.” Read on here for their route, recommended stops, and helpful tips for creating your own fun bicycling staycation.

Lakeville to Bloomington

On the southern edge of the Twin Cities attractions, Lakeville is a family-friendly mecca for bicycling. Offering miles of paved trails, Lakeville has three fun mountain bike areas in the area and several great road routes to enjoy. Both visitors and residents alike will find plenty of safe bike riding opportunities in this bike-friendly community. And when not riding, check out the many attractions here. See Destination Lakeville for more ideas and places to stay.

Riding to Bloomington uses paved bike/ped trails and quiet neighborhood streets; using the route pedaling through the Minnesota River Valley is approximately 25-miles to the north.

Bloomington back to Lakeville

After a restful night, you will find many cycling opportunities here in Bloomington. Located along the north bank of the Minnesota River, near the airport, you will find many bike-friendly attributes here to make it easy to get around. Thanks to the city’s paved trails and designated bike lanes. And, mountainin biking along the Minnesota River is a fun place to shred some trails for those looking for an off-road adventures. When not riding around this riverfront community, check out the world-renowned Mall of America and other points of interest while visiting. See Destination Bloomington for more ideas and places to stay.

Back to Lakeville using quiet neighborhood streets and paved bike/ped trails, the western route Sara used in her staycation was approximately 26-miles back.

Map and bike route

Thanks to Hiawatha Bicycling Club for access to their mobile map. Here are the turn-by-turn directions if you want to plan a bicycling staycation encompassing the Lakeville to Bloomington bicycling. Enjoy!

The scenic Anoka bike loop offers fun exploring the river history there

At the confluence of the Rum and Mississippi Rivers, discover Anoka, with fun at every turn along its scenic bike loop. With its river city charm and designated the ‘Halloween Capital of the World’ this bicycle-friendly community in Minnesota is a place to explore. Riding your bike on the scenic bike loop you will discover several river-front parks and historic neighborhoods. A part of the nine Twin Cities Gateway communities, in the north suburbs of the Twin Cities. You will find over 250-miles of connecting trails to enjoy. The perfect destination to visit with your bike.

The Anoka 10-mile bike loop is an adventure for all skill levels of riders.

The scenic Anoka bike loop

For this bike ride, we will start at the Gathering Place Bandshell along the river. It’s located on the east bank of the Rum River, a block west of Ticknor Hill Bed & Breakfast in Akin Riverside Park.

It’s fun riding parts of the Mississippi River Trail while in Anoka.

 

Traveling clockwise, the route begins by crossing over the river on the pedestrian bridge, then across Ferry Street. Now pedaling along Benton Street, you will find a picturesque lane in the Historic Whiskey Flats neighborhood, The street here is a part of the Mississippi River Trail (MRT). Soon you are on the actual trail pedaling into Mississippi River Community Park, at Kings Island.

Kings Island and park amenities

Signage along the trail as you enter Kings Island.

Arriving in the park you will find restroom facilities, a playground, and some extra trails and observation decks along the river to view nature’s settings here. On the east bank of Mighty Mississippi, the Kings Island section of the park incorporates the natural beauty of a wooded flood plain. Add to your fun by exploring the nature trails here. Along the walking paths that circles the island, view an occasional mix of wildflowers amongst riverside flora and fauna.

Up to River Bend Park on the Rum

Leaving the MRT, the Anoka 10-mile loop utilizes the trail along its northern route up through Anoka’s industrial area. After crossing Highway 10, notice the Regency Inn Hotel to your left. And those who prefer to shorten the loop to 6-mile should turn right and head east on Vista Way (see the printable Anoka Map for more details).

Back on the 10-mile loop pedaling north up to Bunker Lake Boulevard, and turn east. At the intersection of Saint Francis Boulevard (Hwy 47), you will find several rest stop options. Then, before crossing the Rum River check out River Bend Park. If you picked up a sandwich at the rest stop, this is a perfect place to stop and view the river while enjoying your lunch.

After crossing the bridge over the Rum River, another option is to stop at the Rum River Library or the Anoka Nature Preserve. Looking east, notice the trail that crosses Bunker Lake Boulevard? That trail will safely get you up in the area of the library and nature preserve.

The Anoka Nature Preserve is a 200-acre passive recreational area with low maintenance, hard-packed roads, perfect for 2-lane off-road cycling, and hiking. At the trailhead here, north of the library, you will find a playground and a restroom option. The trails in the Preserve are perfect for off-road family riding. At the riverbank to the Rum, several paths lead to wildlife observation decks.

Following the flow of the Rum River back to Anoka

Now heading south along the east bank of the Rum River, the trail offers wildlife viewing opportunities at every turn. As you get closer to the inner city of Anoka the trail merges over to the bike lane on 4th Avenue and through the historic Cutterville and Wet Flats neighborhoods. Here the 6-mile loop joins from the west and the trail route resumes along the river.

The Anoka 10-mile bike loop is fun for all ages!

The historic downtown district of Anoka

As you approach four metal grain bins along the trail you are entering the north side of the historic downtown area of Anoka. Here you will find several delicious dining establishments and many historic points of interest. Also known as the Halloween Capital of the World, the city of Anoka becomes alive with festivities each fall. Now, before taking the river trail, under Main Street and back to the band Shell, check out the observation deck at the Rum River Dam.

Downtown, don’t forget to stop at Two Scoops for ice cream.

Back at the Gathering Place Band Shell or your hotel checkout a nearby eating establishment and Two Scoops Ice Cream while planning another bike adventure in the Twin Cities Gateway Area.

Printable map and Q (cue)-sheet)

For individual bike maps of the nine Twin Cities Gateway Communities click here

For a turn-by-turn, Q-sheet of Anoka click here

Many Cyclists riding around Albert Lea Lake enjoyable

Biking around Albert Lea may add a little Rock n’ Roll to your summer fun

by Andrew Ellis

Now that summer is here and many traditional outdoor activities opening up post-COVID-19, I have a big decision to make. Where should I go for my first out-of-town weekend bike getaway?

For me, one favorite is Albert Lea, Minnesota. Offering a beautiful bike route around Fountain Lake, then connecting to the Blazing Star State Trail. Another option is to follow one of the routes from the annual bike ride called Rock n’ Roll the Lakes. Normally scheduled in June, this year the ride will take place July 10th. Offering cyclists, of all abilities, many fun, scenic Southern Minnesota route options for that #NextBikeAdventure, register today!

Bike-friendly Albert Lea

Less than a 2-hour drive down Interstate 35 from Minneapolis, after passing the I-90 crossroad, pull into Albert Lea and prepare for a weekend of outdoor fun. Known as the Land Between the Lakes, the city sits between Fountain Lake and Albert Lea Lake, prime destinations for soaking in the rays while biking or paddling. Getting around on your bike from your choice of lodging options is easy with the city’s low-traffic bike lanes and trails. After checking in at one of the hotels, it’s exciting to ride around this southern Minnesota community.

Touring around Albert Lea Lake

The homes along the lake route are very picturesque.

The homes along the Fountain Lake route are very picturesque.

In town, touring around Fountain Lake traveling clockwise is recommended. The experience of this route is reminiscent of riding around Lake of the Isles in Minneapolis. With beautifully landscaped lawns along the fingering shoreline, a ride around the lake is very picturesque. This popular route is about eight and a half miles around, using trails and quiet residential streets.

After returning to the downtown area of Albert Lea, you will find many options for lunch. Then it’s time to ride on the paved Blazing Star State Trail out to Myre-Big Island State Park.

Myre-Big Island State Park and the Blazing Star State Trail

The Blazing Star State Trail is over six miles from Albert Lea to the State Park.

The Blazing Star State Trail offers over six miles of riding from Albert Lea out through the State Park.

Here in the park, you will find both a mountain bike and a paved trail system for cyclists of all skill levels to enjoy. The park offers about seven miles of wide grass trails in a sequence of three separate loops, strung together alongside the State trail for mountain bikers. The Blazing Star State Trail is paved and runs from Albert Lea Lake in town out through Myre-Big Island State Park, approximately six miles.

Both trail systems meander through the open prairie meadows with some young woodland near Lake Albert Lea throughout the park. Nice rolling hills make for a surprisingly good workout, and the park is also known as an excellent birding spot.

Road Biking Opportunities

Exploring the area on a bike is easy, too. You can use the roads to navigate both around town and rural routes throughout southern Minnesota. There’s even a dedicated bike lane to get you in and out of town safely. From past Rock n’ Roll the Lakes events, here are the printable maps for both the 10-mile loop option and the 30/50 mile loop option for your enjoyment.

More about Albert Lea 

The bike route around Albert Lea Lake id reminiscent of the Lake of the Isles.

The bike route around Albert Lea Lake is reminiscent of the Lake of the Isles.

 

When you need a break from the outdoors, there’s plenty to keep your exciting adventure going. There are locally-owned shops, one-of-a-kind restaurants, and the area history will top off your bike adventure. Check out more here.

The best part about spending time here in Albert Lea, it’s easy to get around by bike while keeping your social distance from others for a memorable adventure.

Through the seasons nature calls riding along the trails in Coon Rapids

Named after the creek that meanders through the area and flows into the Mississippi River, just below the dam, Coon Rapids offers a great mix of wildlife viewing spots here. Two of my favorite trail systems, especially in the spring and fall, are the Coon Creek Reginal Trail and the Mississippi River Trail below the dam. Both trail systems, when the foliage is minimal, offer some spectacular birding and wildlife viewing. In the winter months, the trails are great for fat bike riding, cross-country skiing, or snowshoeing to view birds of prey and other wildlife along the waterways. Look for signs of the abundant wildlife that live in or visit the areas described below (mink, beaver, hawks, osprey, deer, turtles, and river otters, to name a few). 

Riding the trails and roads of Coon Rapids

Fun on the MRT, viewing nature, east of the Coon Rapids Dam

Herewith a great mix of paved trails and bike corridors with wide shoulders, You can navigate the city on your bike pretty easily. Just use this handy Coon Rapids bike map and take a tour of the area. It’s easy to connect from your hotel to Bunker Hills Regional Park or the Coon Rapids Dam through the Coon Creek Trail.

The Sand and Coon Creek Trails

A north/south paved nature corridor and waterway offer many viewing spots along the way. The Sand Creek/Coon Creek Trail System stretches over 15-miles from Bunker Hills Regional Park down to the Coon Rapids Dam. In Bunker Hills, you’ll find another trail system winding through beautiful prairie areas with patches of Oak Savanna forests.

You will find miles of paved trails running through parks and along major roads here.

You will find miles of paved trails running through the Bunker Hills Regional Park.

 

The lower portion of the Coon Creek Trail takes you through Erlandson Nature Center and Robinson Park before reaching the Coon Rapids Dam and the Mississippi River Trail.

The Mississippi River Trail (MRT southern loop)

The Coon Rapids Dam Visitors Center is a picturesque place to stop and wonder around.

The Coon Rapids Dam Visitors Center is a picturesque place to stop and gather more information.

 

Below the Coon Rapids Dam and Park Area is another favorite of mine. Using the paved trail (MRT), you are surrounded by a mix of nature. Forests running into both prairie and wetland environments, only minutes away from the main road. The trail here is very well marked with MRT signage, so getting lost won’t be an issue. At the south end of the park, along the trail between the Dam and the riverfront neighborhoods, is a favorite haunt.

Where to eat, stay and play when visiting Coon Rapids

After exploring the trails, the next adventure is finding the perfect dining option in the Twin Cities Gateway.

The options are endless when spending time visiting Coon Rapids and the other eight neighboring Twin Cities Gateway communities in the north suburbs of Minneapolis and St. Paul. Similar to the early 1800s, when Coon Rapids was a stopping point on the Oxen Trail from the Red River Valley to St. Paul, hospitality is still key, along with its wildlife corridors, though the trails have changed. Check out their website here, and enjoy!