Category Archives: Destinations

With spring here, we wanted to share another bike/birding hotspot we have enjoyed over the years that you may want to add to your list of places to explore.

Bike/Birding hot spots in the Twin Cities Gateway area to enjoy

With spring here, we wanted to share another bike/birding hotspot we have enjoyed over the years. Check out several bike trails in the north suburbs of the Twin Cities Gateway this spring and summer. While ground-truthing the maps in the latest MN Bike/Hike Guide, we noticed many birding haunts in the community of Shoreview, MN. And a fun bike-friendly destination that you may want to add to your True North list of places to explore.

An area once inhabited by Dakota and Ojibwe tribes, today the Shoreview community has many parks along its lakes with bike trails. These parks provide both residents and visitors a place to enjoy bird watching. Areas you can spot an impressive list of songbirds, hawks, and waterfowl.

Looking for some new birding spots to explore?  The Twin Cities Gateway has you covered, starting with a local apple orchard. From there, we have identified several additional birding hotspots worth checking out.

A Birding Hotspot – Victoria Valley Orchard

Another birding hotspot to see hawks is the victoia Valley Orchard, in Shoreview.

A birding hotspot to see hawks is at the Victoria Valley Orchard in Shoreview.

As warmer weather will soon be upon us, many bird nesting sites can be found in the Victoria Valley Orchard’s apple trees. This is a good place to spot many seasonal birds and hawks. Like many groves around the country, orchards are rich in nesting habitat as the birds forage nearby. Here are a few of the birds that have been observed here: the Baltimore Oriole, Blue-Winged Warbler, Chimney Swift, Osprey, Red-Shouldered Hawk, several species of sparrows, and the Scarlet Tanager.

Location: The Victoria Valley Orchard is located at 4304 North Victoria Street, in Shoreview, MN. You are welcome to wander the orchard throughout the year to spot the different birds that live or pass through here.

Commercially for apples, they are only open from early September through mid-November if you would like to buy some of the 19 varieties they grow there. For more information, please visit their website at http://www.victoriavalleyorchard.com/.

A Birding Hotspot – Snail Lake

A birding hotspot can be found along most of the paved bike trails that meander through the parks in Shoreview.

A birding hotspot can be found along most of the paved bike trails that meander through the parks in Shoreview.

Another birding hotspot on our tour in Shoreview is the trail along Highway 96. This trail borders the north side of Snail Lake. One of two areas to observe the birding activity is at the grassy area just off the trail. With a few potholes and a line of trees partially blocking the view of the lake, you may spot several varieties of warblers. Plus, if you’re lucky, you’ll catch a glimpse of the Red-Shouldered Hawks. A variety of other marsh birds that use this area can also be seen here.

Location: The trail location is on Highway 96 and across from the Shoreview Public Library. There is a public park at the south end of the lake for another viewing location.

Birding Hotspot – Sucker and Vadnais Lakes

Now heading further east along Highway 96, our next two birding hotspots takes us first to Sucker Lake. Then, across County Road F, the trail takes you into Vadnais Lake’s park area. Both these lakes and the park areas are a part of the Vadnais-Snail Lakes Regional Park and are reservoirs for the St. Paul Regional Water Authority. These lakes are fairly deep, and the wetlands are composed of extensive tamarack and shrub swamps with large marshy areas. Here, the forest area is mainly mature pine plantations with some oak woods for nesting Pine Warblers and Red-Shouldered Hawks. A variety of marsh birds use the shoreline here. Along with the fall migratory waterfowl activity of both lakes, this area is also good for migratory warblers and Red-Breasted Nuthatches.

Location: Just south of Highway 96, take the Rice St. exit from I-694 and go north. The north access and parking are east of Rice St. on Sucker Lake Road. The south entrance is east from Rice St. on County Road F, then north on Sucker Lake Road.

Another birding hotspot is in some of the open meadows that paved bike paths pass through the par

Another birding hotspot is in Grass Lake, where paved bike paths pass through some of the open meadows.

Birding Hotspot – Grass Lake

Another birding hotspot in Shoreview is Grass Lake, which is also a part of the Vadnais-Snail Lakes Regional Park system. The main vegetation here is the deepwater cattail marsh with floating mats, on both the east and west shorelines of the lake, patches of oak can be found. There is a mixture of swamp shrubs and grasslands that are prevalent on the north side of the park. Here at Grass Lake is where Marsh Wrens, Osprey, and Red-Shouldered Hawks commonly nest. Common Loons are often seen in the spring and summer, and many sparrow species stopover here during their return migration.

Location: Grass Lake is reached by turf and paved trails from the parking area off of Gramsie Road. The parking lot can be reached by taking the Victoria St. exit from I-694 and going north to Gramsie Rd., then east to the MacKubin Rd. Intersection. The entrance is on your right.

For more information on these birding hotspots and others, contact Ramsey County Parks and Recreation Department at (651) 748-2500 or www.co.ramsey.mn.us/parks for more information.

A 12.5-mile Bike Loop to Shoreview’s Birding Hotspots

For those interested in riding their bicycle to the above parks described, we have identified an easy path to take to have optimal bird-watching capabilities. Please download both the Shoreview Bike Map and the 12.5-mile Turn-by-Turn Route to begin your bird-watching journey by bike to see some of Shoreview’s birding hotspots.

More options can be found on the Ramsey County Maps.

From Giants Ridge, the Mesabi Trail Towns offers history and great biking adventures.

Many bicycle adventures await your visit to the Mesabi Trail Towns

by Andrew Ellis

In Minnesota’s far north mining region, the towns along the Mesabi Trail hosts several of the state’s historical gems and a family fun destination to explore on a bicycle. A none mountainous area, here you will find over 25-small mining communities along this well-known paved trail system. The Mesabi Trail is an easy way to travel from town to town by bike. From Grand Rapids on the western end to Ely, 135 miles to the east, there are a lot of fun sights to see as you ride. For the mountain biker, this area has left many rugged deposits to perfect your skills. The area also boasts some of Minnesota’s best scenic road touring routes, with low traffic roadway loop options returning back to the Mesabi Trail.

Mesabi bike trail near Hibbing

Mesabi bike trail near Hibbing.

More About the Bike-Friendly Mesabi Trail Towns

The area is vast, and the Mesabi Trail Towns string through the Iron Range, covering many mining towns you can start and stop at. They include Grand Rapids to the west; and further east Hibbing, Chisholm, Mt. Iron, Virginia, Eveleth, Gilbert, Biwabik, Aurora, Hoyt Lakes, Embarrass, and now to Ely. Along the way, there is no shortage of walking tours.

While here you can visit Bob Dylan’s childhood home, the Hull Rust Mine overlook, and Greyhound Museum in Hibbing. You can look into the history of the Range’s “Queen City” at the Virginia Heritage Museum. Take a walk around the US Hockey Hall of Fame in Eveleth. To enjoy the scenic thrills of mountain biking, there is Giant Ridge, near Biwabik. There are also plenty of lakes to drop a line, swim, or enhance your tan.

The area may cover many miles, but it’s all very accessible – especially if you’re using your bike. The Mesabi Trail makes for a convenient connecting point for all the communities. So it’s easy to travel around to all the unique stores, eateries, and more pedaling on two wheels.

Mesabi bike trail near Virginia.

Mesabi bike trail near Virginia.

Biking Opportunities in the Iron Range

There are several opportunities for biking in the Iron Range. If you’re into mountain biking, it’s just a matter of where you want to go first with four different systems to choose from. You can also extend your adventure using the Mesabi Trail to connect to various forest and mining roads.

The Mesabi Trail

Besides mining, bicycle tourism is the other attraction that connects the communities. An amazing adventure in its own right, the trail takes you through the beautiful northern Minnesota trees, hills, wildlife, and more. With so many scenic views, there’s no doubt you’ll be stopping to take a picture to add to your memories.

And don’t forget the Great River Energy Mesabi Trail Tour in 2022. Ride for fun or ride for the challenge. Either way, mark your calendar for Saturday, August 20, 2022, for the most fun you can have on two wheels!

With several mountain bike parks there is something for every skill level.

With several mountain bike parks, there is something for every skill level.

Mountain biking here includes an edgy new park.

The Iron Range may not have mountains, but there are plenty of trails and loops for mountain bikers to battle down. Especially the new Redhead Mountain Trails, near Chisolm, they say it will rock you. This huge park with over 30 loops, covering over 25-miles, offers giant views of reclaimed mine lands, bright blue pit lakes, and more. See the map of this edgy-designed park with remarkable terrain makes it one of the most anticipated new parks in the country.

Further east is Giants Ridge offering over 24 miles of trails and loops to challenge you and offer up great scenery. Big Aspen offers a whopping 21 miles of trails on old logging roads and abandoned railroad grades. The sections vary in difficulty with many loop opportunities that offer many scenic vistas.

You can also check out Britton Peak, which offers a 3-trail system that takes you through Superior National Forest and includes one for the three main skill levels: beginner, intermediate, and advanced. There’s also Lookout Mountain, thanks to the hard work of the Iron Range Off-Road Cyclists, which has over five miles of single-track and over six miles of the multi-use rideable ski trail.

Road Biking Options

While the Mesabi Trail connects helps connect the Iron Range towns, each town has its own road system that allows for easy bike travel and loop options. These roads allow you to navigate from place to place and let you explore each town as in-depth as you wish. On the east end, the Superior National Forest has plenty of roads you can use to explore the area.

See more at At-A-Glance Mesabi Trail.

The trails are scenic and fun in Minnesota's Hometown feel community, Hutchinson.

Bike around Hutchinson and enjoy Minnesota’s hometown feel

by Andrew Ellis

As tourism opportunities open up again, I wanted to revisit Hutchinson, MN, and their map on pages 46-47 in the MN Bike Guide. A bike-friendly community with a hometown feel and small-town charm, Hutchinson is worth checking out. A short drive west of the Twin Cities, it’s one of those areas where it’s easy to lose track of time as you enjoy all the fresh air. Arriving in town, you have several biking options around lakes and parks nearby for added recreational pleasure. Enjoy pedaling around rather than driving your car here; you will have no trouble creating some new memories while riding your bike in Hutch.

Riding the Luce Line Trail through Hutchinson

Riding the Luce Line Trail through Hutchinson on the Jaycee’s Water Carnival, June 8th.

Aside from mountain biking, trail riding, and touring, the countryside offers more opportunities than you can cover in one day. Besides, you can immerse yourself in the local arts created by those who inspire the natural beauty around them. Spend some time learning about the town’s history. Or, if you are looking for a unique place to eat or a gift to take home, there are plenty of opportunities waiting for you to discover.

Minnesota’s hometown feel is in bike-friendly Hutchinson

Located a little over an hour from the Twin Cities, the community here is also known as ‘Minnesota’s Hometown.’  It’s a great place to escape the often road-rage inducing atmosphere of the big city. Here you can ride the Luce Line State Trail to clear your mind and let the calm country scenery work its magic.

Nothing is better than McCormick’s Family Restaurant in Hutchinson to start your day and plan your ride. Voted the number one place for Eggs Benedict in Minnesota, their pancakes and waffles are good too.

When it comes time to take a break from pedaling, there is no shortage of attractions to keep your adventure moving forward. Hutchinson has its share of one-of-a-kind eateries, and if you’re looking for some more action outside, you can try your hand at some paintball.

Riding opportunities in and around Hutchinson

Its easy to get out to Stahls Lake Park, from Hutchinson.

It’s easy to get out to Stahls Lake Park from Hutchinson.

Like many small towns in Minnesota, pedaling around isn’t difficult. Here in Hutchinson, there is one big trail system that takes you beyond the town limits. In fact, you can ride the trail all the way to the Twin Cities. And, if you’re up for the challenges, you will find a few mountain biking opportunities.

The Luce Line State Trail

The Luce Line State Trail stretches 63 miles (from Plymouth to Cosmos) and is a popular attraction for bikers, hikers, snowmobilers, and equestrian enthusiasts. The paved trail includes about 21 miles from the west Carver County line, through Hutchinson, to the west McLeod County line. To learn more about the Luce Line, go to www.luceline.com.

Mountain Biking

Tartan Park is located in Hutchinson and is a skills park that is perfect for beginners to advanced mountain bikers.

Tartan Park is located in Hutchinson and is a perfect skill park for beginners to advanced mountain bikers.

Those wishing for more than paved, level trails are in luck. Thanks to the Hutchinson Area Mountain Bike Association, there are two tracks within reach: Tartan Terrain Park and Stahls Lake Park. Tartan Park is located within the town limits and is a skills park that caters to beginners and advanced. If you want to venture outside the town limits to Stahl’s Lake Park, there’s a nice single-track that caters to all experience levels. Two double track loops range from .5 miles to 1 mile long. One single-track loop is over 2 miles.

Road Biking Opportunities

Like many of Minnesota’s smaller communities, navigating the area on your bike couldn’t be easier. The roads allow you to see all the area’s beautiful scenery, perfect for your next Instagram post. You can use the roads to explore the area’s parks, shops and more. Plus, you will find plenty of city trails that help you around as well.

Come, enjoy the bike-friendly fun in Minnesota's 'hometown feel' of fun.

Come, enjoy the bike-friendly fun in Minnesota’s ‘hometown feel’ of fun.

For more information on playing or staying in a community with Minnesota’s hometown feel. Check out our HaveFunBiking, At-a-Glance Hutchinson article for your next bike adventure. For places to stay and campgrounds, see Explore Hutchinson.

As a family, a group of friends or on your own bike-bird opportunities in the Willmar Lakes Area are endless.

Family fun bike-bird opportunities in the Willmar Lakes Area

Are you looking for a fun spring outing with endless bird-bike sighting opportunities for the family or a getaway for yourself? Consider planning a trip to the Willmar Lakes Area. Head west out of the Twin Cities, and before you know it, you will be greeted by small-town charm and a sprawling countryside full of birding opportunities. It may seem like just another rural prairie community to the naked eye, but head out on your bike with the binoculars, and the area offers many birding haunts. Along this central migrating flyway, you can spot many species from the Minnesota Prairie Bird List that nest in the area.

As the trees begin to bud and marshes come alive along the trails and roads in Kandiyohi County, birders and cyclists will find a special place to visit.

A perfect spring bike-bird location in western Minnesota

The Willmar Lakes Area is the perfect place to visit anytime of the year for a weekend bike getaway.

The Willmar Lakes Area is the ideal bike getaway to visit any time of the year.

Species to check off your list when bike-bird opportunities arise in the Willmar Area

Besides the Red Crossbill sighted around the MinnWest Technology Campus in Willmar, many parks here along the trail are also worth checking out. Some of the great birding haunts in the area include; Sibley State Park, Mason Lake State Park, the Prairiewood Environmental Learning Center, and a couple of Big Kandiyohi Lake County Parks, easily accessible from the Glacial Lake State Trail. When visiting here are some of the other birds you may see to check off your list: the Short-eared Owl; Townsend’s Solitaire; Long-eared Owl; Black-throated Green Warbler; Connecticut Warbler; Snowy Egret; Common Gallinule; Blue Grosbeak; Eastern Screech-Owl; White-winged Crossbill and a Long-tailed Duck.

Getting around on your bike in Willmar is more than encouraging. Awarded the Bike Friendly Bronze status by the League of American Cyclists, the community has redesigned its streets and inner-city trails to make it easy to pedal around and explore the area’s attractions and parks.

Getting around Willmar with your bike and binoculars

While biking, this is also an excellent area for bird enthusiasts. Sibley State Park is one of the most popular areas, so bring your binoculars and camera. Around the park, you will have a chance to see many of the 206 different species of birds that nest or migrate through the area. And with the Glacial Trail, it’s easy to get out to the park, by bike, from your hotel room in the Willmar Lakes Area.

About the Glacial Lakes State Trail

Built on a former Burlington Northern railroad line, the trail is generally level and wheelchair accessible. The path is paved for 22 miles between Willmar, Spicer, New London, Hawick, and the Kandiyohi/Stearns County line. This multi-use bike corridor offers many opportunities to look at wildflowers and wildlife along the way—a perfect route to get out to Sibley State Park and Mount Tom.

Bring the binoculars along, for some of the birds sittings along the trail you may see!

Bring the binoculars along for some bird sittings along the trail!

Sibley State Park and Mount Tom

Once you get to the state park, hike up Mount Tom. It’s worth the walk and will give you a birds-eye view of the area. At the summit, on a clear day, enjoy an eyeshot of forest, farmland, prairie knolls, and lakes in a patchwork setting. Along with prime birding activities in the park, they offer several interpretive programs throughout the year.

You will find nearly two miles of paved trails that link Lakeview Campground and the Interpretive Center in the park. Another favorite haunt with a slight elevation change is the Pond View Trail loop, which offers more birding opportunities.

Other parks and trails

Enjoy the miles of scenic paved trails in the prairie lands of the Willmar Lakes Area.

Enjoy the miles of scenic paved trails in the prairie lands of the Willmar Lakes Area.

It is easy for everyone to enjoy the outdoors in Willmar and the surrounding area. With several parks offering recreational activities and trails, those who visit with their bike will find many haunts to pedal to, including Bergquist Park, Ramblewood Park, Rau Park (Scott Park), Thompson Park, and Swansson Park. You can also reach Robbins Island Park and the park at Green Lake from the trail.

Rural road bike-bird opportunities

There are also plenty of bike-friendly Kandiyohi County roads, paved and gravel, to help you navigate the area to reach other marshy areas popular with several bird species here.

More about the bike-friendly Willmar Lakes Area

When you are not riding, the area also offers plenty of indoor attractions when you want to relax. Along with several museums covering different parts of Minnesota’s history, after your ride, enjoy a refreshing beverage or snack as you take a break from the outdoor activities in this scenic prairie lakes area.

Ride your bike to some disc golf fun in the Twin Cities Gateway

Devin Ulmen, HaveFunBiking.com

With spring around the corner, for those that love disc golf or are eager to learn, you will find your next fun-filled game at one of the many courses in the Twin Cities Gateway. All are easy to access from the bike-friendly roads and trails in the area. Throughout the nine cities of the Gateway, there are many different options to find a disc golf course for you to enjoy. So, grab your disk bag and bike over to one of these electrifying courses for a fun round or two.

Disc Golf Fun at Lochness Park

Here in Lochness Park, on the east side of Blaine MN test your skill level.

Here in Lochness Park, the course will test your skill level on the east side of Blaine, MN.

Lochness Park, on the east side of Blaine, MN (map location), is praised as the longest nine-hole course in the region and meets the challenge for all that play it. Trees surround several holes here to give it a countryside feel. The course provides three different tee-offs for professional, intermediate, and beginning-level players. So, whether you are a serious player or play just for leisure, this park is perfect for you. 

The Abundant Life Church course is another choice for Disc Golf in Blaine.

Silver View Park

Silver View disc golf course here in Mounds View (map location) is in excellent condition and runs parallel along the Mississippi River Trail (MRT). Another popular place to play in the Twin Cities Gateway. The course provides a variety of holes that range from wide open to hilly, with a couple tucked into the woods with walking paths that lead to them. Next time you’re out biking along the MRT, add some disc golf into your adventure.

Ham Lake Disc Golf Course

When up in the Ham Lake Area, the disc golf park is the perfect stop for you. As one of the very few 18 hole courses in the area, the layout creates a fun and exciting flow. The distances of the holes vary, keeping you on your toes to ensure every throw is a strategic one. It has to be if you want to keep your count down. And, with the Tee Pads here, it is easy to follow, and you can focus more on your game. 

Another option in Ham Lake is the Family of Christ Disc Golf Course.

More Disc Golf Fun Courses in the Gateway

In Fridley

Fridley High School
Fridley Middle School DGC

In New Brighton

Hansen Park

See more information and terms on this growing sport at the Disc Golf Association.

Biking around Hastings new 10-mile Scenic Circuit loop describes the route that follows along both the Mississippi and Vermilion rivers for all ages and skill levels

Hastings 10-mile trail loop allows riders scenery along two rivers

by Russ Lowthian, HaveFunBiking

Biking along the Mississippi River Trail (MRT) is just one of the many fun opportunities cyclists can enjoy when visiting Hastings, MN. As this historic river town expands its bicycle infrastructure, I had to make it back to Hastings last fall to check out the completed 10-mile trail loop.

Dubbed the “Scenic Circuit,” cyclists of all ages and abilities find this scenic trail loop that follows along both the Vermilion and Mississippi rivers breathtaking. Cyclists will discover many unique points of interest in both the city parks and trails along this dual river trail system. For those who would like to add a few extra miles to this Scenic Circuit Loop, it’s easy following the MRT to Schaar’s Bluff and beyond. See the Hastings HaveFunBiking map for more options.

Starting in Historic Hastings

The old mill ruins from 1857 to 1894 produced high quality flour under the name "Belle of Hastings."

At the old mill ruins, high-quality flour was produced from 1857 to 1894, under the name “Belle of Hastings.”

Starting our ride in the historic Hastings Downtown Area, we found plenty of parking options when arriving. The city parking lot and streets around the historic city hall, on 4th Street, work well. Plus, it’s a short walk after your ride to 2nd Street (the city’s downtown main street) for a snack or meal. We choose to ride the Scenic Circuit counter-clockwise for this review, leaving from Levee Park on the MRT.

Following the Mississippi River Trail out of Hastings

Just west of downtown Hastings, this metal sculpture was made from materials collected from the river clean up.

Just west of downtown Hastings, this metal sculpture was made from materials collected from a river clean-up.

In the first few miles of riding through Jaycee Park, we enjoyed an aerial show from several Bald Eagles. The river art along the trail was also interesting. Several markers explain the river’s history, and one art sculpture made a statement about a river clean-up project several years prior. The giant dragonfly (above) was made from different metals dredged from the river under the Clean Water Act. Further along the Scenic Circuit, the trail passes by U.S. Lock and Dam 2. Here it’s always fun to stop and watch boats of all sizes move through the locks from the viewing platform.

The trail running along the back water here is a perfect place to view wildlife and and other bird species that frequents this area.

The trail along the backwater is a perfect place to view wildlife and other bird species that frequents the area.

Before leaving the river bottom, another highlight was pedaling along the picturesque causeway before climbing out from the river’s bank. At the top, for those who would like to add a few more miles, Schaar’s Bluff and the new trail out to Dakota County’s Spring Lake Park is an option (See below, for more miles to Schaar’s Bluff and Spring Lake Park). To continue along on the 10-mile Scenic Circuit, riders should take a left, crossing Nininger Road, and then follow the city trail south, down Pleasant Drive.

From the Mississippi to the Vermilion River

Now on the western side of Hastings, the Scenic Circuit jogs a little further west along 4th Street, from Pleasant Drive – then heads south on the wide paved shoulder of General Sieben Drive. After crossing Highway 55, those who need a sweet treat will find Culvers on the corner. Continuing south, the route turns east onto River Shore Drive. Then, in about an eighth-mile, watch for the trail to cross the road and head north up to Northridge Drive. There you should take a right and continue east on the Circuit Loop.

These cyclists enjoyed a perfect day to ride Hastings 'Scenic Circuit'.

These cyclists enjoyed a perfect day to ride Hastings ‘Scenic Circuit’.

At Pleasant Drive, take a right; the trail follows the road south to the Vermilion River. On the east side, after crossing the bridge, pick up the trail that flows with the river back into Hastings. You will soon discover why this section of the trail is such a popular part of the MRT.

Along the Vermilion River

Biking and rollerblading Hastings "Scenic Circuit is perfect for all ages and skill levels.

Biking and rollerblading the “Scenic Circuit is perfect for all ages and skill levels.

As the Vermilion River flows swiftly to the east, the trail along this scenic stretch of river offers nature lovers a peaceful ride through serenity. From here, cyclists and walkers alike will enjoy the two underpasses, one on County Road 46/47 and the second one at U.S. 61, to stay away from traffic. After passing under Highway 61, the Scenic Circuit is now entering Vermilion Falls Park.

Vermilion Park

As you cross over the Vermilion River you will notice all the padlocks attached to the railing.

As you cross over the Vermilion River here, you will notice all the padlocks attached to the railing.

Riding into the park, at the first trail intersection, you will have an opportunity to park your bike and walk about 100-feet to view Vermilion Falls. Continuing east and taking a left at the trail’s “T,” you are now on the bridge where it’s easy to view the falls overhead as it cascades towards the Mississippi River. You will also notice all the padlocks on the bridge’s railing?

No one knows exactly when, why, or who started this European trend in Hastings. But this romantic ritual has become very popular, with hundreds of locks being attached to the fence on the old railroad bridge that is now a part of the Scenic Circuit trail. The practice invites lovers to hang a padlock on the bridge and toss the key into the water below. For now, the city parks department finds the trend touching and so far plans to leave the public love notes (locks) alone as a wall of art.

Another historic option to check out is Old Mill Park, about an eighth mile ahead. Here is another opportunity to park your bike and walk down to the old mill ruins and maybe hike one of the many trails along the Vermilion River.

From Mill Park, the trail crosses the railroad tracks and then continues north again towards Downtown Hastings. At the next split in the trail, riders should take a right and then follow the MRT signs back to the downtown area for some fun.

Enjoy Historic Downtown after your ride.

Over the last few years, downtown Hastings has been going through what many call a “Riverfront Renaissance.” With events scheduled throughout the spring, summer, and fall, the historic main street atmosphere is the perfect place to end your ride. Stop to shop, dine or stroll along the Mississippi River Trail next to the Scenic Circuit  Loo. After our ride, we found several options for cool refreshments and dinner in the downtown area. You can find more options in our At-A-Glance article.

If you didn’t bring your bike along, Hastings has a bike-share program. The Zagster bike station is located under the bridge on 2nd Street, and you will need a credit card to activate the locking system to the cycle you wish to ride,

More miles to Schaar’s Bluff and Spring Lake Park.

Returning back to Hastings from Schaar's Bluff its approximately 6-miles.

Returning to Hastings from Schaar’s Bluff, it’s approximately 6-miles.

The trail loop also connects to several neighborhood parks and the Mississippi River Regional Trail. Known by many as the “hidden jewel” of the Upper Mississippi River Valley, view some spectacular scenery along the way as you pedal along. Riding out to Schaar’s Bluff adds around 12-miles.

This newly completed section of the Mississippi River Regional Trail offers cyclist an occasional view of the river, bridges that cross deep ravines, prairie flowers that border along limestone bluffs.

This newly completed trail offers cyclists an occasional view of the river, two new bridges that cross deep ravines, and prairie flowers that border limestone bluffs.

If you choose to ride out to Dakota County’s Lower Spring Lake Park Reserve and cross the two new bridges on this trail, it will add an extra 8-miles and is well worth the extra effort!

Finding a birding spot in the Twin Cities Gateway is always easy along the many trails.

Six different ways to explore the Twin Cities Gateway this summer

by Jess Leong, HaveFunBiking.com

With nine communities and the National Sports Center to explore in the Twin Cities Gateway Area, you will find many fun events and family activities here while visiting. From the Gateway’s southwest border where the Mississippi River flows by, the communities offer many connecting trails to spacious parks. Many along picturesque streams with lakeside outdoor fun, you will find many options for fond memories to cherish. Here are six fun experiences – ones you never want to forget.

1: Spotting Your Feathered Friends in the Twin Cities Gateway 

A birding hotspot can be found along most of the paved bike trails that meander through the parks in Shoreview.

A birding hotspot can be found along most paved bike trails that meander through the Gateway parks.

Grab your best pair of binoculars and head out on your bike – or take your car – to see the many birds in the Twin Cities Gateway Area. While robins and finches are pretty fine, we’re talking about catching sight of Blue Herons, hawk, and eagles here. Scout the area, and maybe you’ll catch a glimpse of those great raptors and more!

 2: Throwing in a Line and Enjoying the Twin Cities Gateway 

By bike or car Twin Cities Trout Fishing at Cenaiko Lake is worth checking out.

By bike or car Twin Cities, trout Fishing at Cenaiko Lake is worth checking out.

Explore the great area lakes where you can get away from the hustle and bustle and fish in a tranquil atmosphere, perfect for the whole family. Even if fishing in the Twin Cities Gateway isn’t your thing, the beautiful landscape makes a gorgeous backdrop for picnics and outdoor events.

3: Disc Golf – Challenge Yourself and Give it Your Best Throw

Looking for disc golf fun? Here in the Twin Cities Gateway Area find several scenic and challenging disc golf parks, all easy to access from the bike friendly roads and trails there.

Looking for disc golf fun? Here in the Twin Cities Gateway Area, find several scenic and challenging disc parks, all easy to access from the bike-friendly roads and trails here.

Get out there with your best buds or your family to try your hand at the many Twin Cities Gateway disc golf courses in the area. Some of the courses will definitely give you a challenge that even the experienced player will have a run for his money. Whether you’ve done it before or not, try it out – it’s fun no matter what age you are!

4: Bike the Mississippi River Trail then return on the train 

Riders on the Train & Trail Tour arrive in Big Lake, MN for their journey back to Minneapolis.

Riders on the Train & Trail Tour arrive in Big Lake, MN, for their journey back to the Twin City Gateway.

A Multi-Modal Adventure, a great experience that can fit your needs can be difficult. But, here with the areas Train and Trail Tour you can easily find a mix of trails and adjustable bike routes, it’s easy and just plain fun, with all the Gateways bike maps available! Plus, let’s not forget the scenic route you’ll take while on the Mississippi River Trail. A fun experience anytime, it’s especially breathtaking in the fall when the autumn colors take hold.

5: Explore the Farmer’s Market – Discover Local Produce and Goods

Have yoom in your bike bag to stop at one of the many farmers market in the Twin Cities Gateway.

Have room in your bike bag to stop at one of the many farmers’ markets in the Twin Cities Gateway.

Peruse what the local farms and businesses have to offer, and you may stumble upon fun surprises and foods that you might not have known existed. You thought that yellow watermelon was photoshopped? Or root beer honey was a joke? Think again! You never know what you might find there in the Twin Cities Gateway farmers markets scheduled throughout the week.

 

A fairytale come true at any age, with superb entrees and desserts, in the Twin Cities Gateway.

A fairytale come true at any age, with superb entrees and desserts, in the Twin Cities Gateway. 

So pick some activities to try in the Twin Cities Gateway this year, and have some fun!

Jess Leong is a writer for HaveFunBiking.com.

A bicycling staycation from Lakeville to Bloomington and back

As traveling closer to home is the new norm for many of us, a bicycling staycation may open your eyes to new horizons with economic and environmental concerns. The use of sustainable travel, like a bike, allows an adventurer to see points of interest and landscapes not commonly 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 you may want to ask yourself: How many miles can you comfortably ride in a given day? And, what town is 10 to 50-miles away that fits 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 precisely 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 transport) to the adventure can expand the fun.

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

Most of Sara and her husband’s bike adventures had been day trips until recently. Over the 4th of July weekend, they enjoyed their first bicycling staycation this year. 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, stopping on the historic Cedar Bridge.

After spending the night in Bloomington, we biked back via a different route with even more fun stops.” Read on here for their course, recommended stops, and helpful tips for creating your 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 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 mountain biking along the Minnesota River is a fun place to shred some trails for those looking for an off-road adventure. 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.

Returning to Lakeville, Sara used a 26-mile western route on quiet neighborhood streets and paved bike/ped trails 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!

Making yourself heard with a bicycle bell, vs voice command

By Russ Lowthian, HaveFunBiking

With spring riding only a few months away it may be time to look for a new bicycle bell. Personally, I prefer using a bell, rather than my voice and the Compact Bell from SpurCycle is perfect. The bell 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.

Waconia is a family friendly bike destination a few minutes west of Minneapolis.

Explore Waconia and discover all its many lakeside attractions

by Andrew Ellis

Visiting Waconia with your bike, you will find a charming lakeside community with uptown pizzazz. The area around Waconia offers many fun bike-friendly adventures on the trails and roads there. Nestled along the southern shores of Lake Waconia in Carver County, the area boasts many year-round activities, including; sailing, boating, fishing, water skiing, and swimming, to name a few other recreational opportunities when not touring around on your bicycle while visiting.

The town’s tourism draw was sparked in 1884 when Coney Island, in the middle of Lake Waconia, was turned into a resort. A future planned park area there in a few years, today the mainland has become very popular as a resort community to take its place. Its friendly parks, streets, and nearby trail make it easy to explore all of Carver County.

More About Bike-Friendly Waconia

The warm, welcoming community of Waconia is located less than 45 minutes west of the Twin Cities. Its lakes and surrounding wildlife help make the town a relaxing locale for tourists from all over.

To describe the town as “bike-friendly” may be an understatement. Most of its streets cater to those who prefer pedaling their way around, exploring the area much easier. You can visit one of its several lakes, or immerse yourself in the town’s history. There are also many locally-owned shops to browse and restaurants to satisfy your appetite.

Riding Options When Visiting Waconia

The area has plenty to offer those who prefer to get around by bike. There’s access to trails that take you beyond the town’s border and bike-friendly county roads that allow you to explore everything the town has to offer. There’s something for everyone to enjoy.

Dakota Regional Trail

The northern part of the town has access to the Dakota Regional Trail. Part of the Three Rivers District, you can actually ride it all the way to Wayzata. The paved trail’s Waconia section will take you through its neighborhoods and wildlife. You’ll also get a nice sneak peek at Lake Waconia.

Carver Park Reserve

The park, managed by the Three Rivers District, provides access to the Lake Minnetonka LRT Trail. It’s another trail that can take you beyond Waconia if you wish for a longer ride.

Road Bike Touring

If you don’t want to stick to the trails, then you’re in luck; the town is full of bike-friendly roads that allow for almost limitless exploration. It also has plenty of shops, restaurants, history, and more to fill an entire weekend.

An At-A-Glance Look at Waconia

Be sure to check out our At-A-Glance Waconia Article for more details on where to stay, play, and explore for your hand-held devices. As this story and the At-A-Glance Article are mobile-friendly for your convenience, have fun!