Category Archives: Destinations

With small town charm and sprawling countrysides trails the Willmar Lakes Area is the perfect place to visit with your bike for a weekend getaway.

Fall bike getaway options with birding in the Willmar Lakes Area

Buss Lowthian,

Head west of the Twin Cities, and before you know it, you will be greeted by small-town charm, and a sprawling countryside full of bike/birding opportunities in the Willmar Lakes Area. To the naked eye, it may not seem like much, but the area knows how to show guests a great time.

Now, with fall colors and waterfowl migration soon approaching, it’s a special place to visit. Allowing cyclists plenty of great outdoor memories on the trails and bike-friendly roads that will last a lifetime.

Biking opportunities in the Willmar Lakes Area

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 perfect bike getaway to visit any time of the year.

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 points of interest.

While biking, this is also a great area for bird enthusiasts. Key locations in Kandiyohi County, include Sibley State Park, Robbins Island Regional Park, Bergquist Wildlife Area, and the Prairie Woods Environmental Learning Center.

Sibley State Park is one of the most popular areas, so bring binoculars. While biking the trails around the park, you have a chance to see over 200 different species of birds that nest or migrated here. And with the Glacial Trail, it is easy to get out to the park, by bike, from your hotel room in the Willmar Lakes Area.

Glacial Lakes State Trail

Built on a former Burlington Northern railroad line, the trail is generally level and wheelchair accessible. The trail 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.

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

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

Getting to Sibley State Park from the Glacial Lakes State trailhead? From New London, take the county road west out of town on the paved bike lane, for approximately 4-miles, to the park.

Sibley State Park and Mount Tom

Once you get there riding your bike, hike to the top of Mount Tom. It’s one of my favorite high points in a 50-mile radius to view the patchwork of forest, farmland, prairie knolls, and lakes in the area. Through the summer season, visitors can enjoy swimming, boating, and fishing on Lake Andrew. With an interpretive program open year-round, birding is another activity I enjoy here.

In the park, you will find nearly two miles of paved trails that link Lakeview Campground and the Interpretive Center. With a slight elevation change, another favorite is the Pond View Trail loop. It offers another view perspective of the area.

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.

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


If birding isn’t your thing, Green Lake has its own BMX park. Part of USA BMX, the park includes an outdoor track where riders can practice every Tuesday at their own speed. The races are on Fridays.

Road biking opportunities

There is also plenty of bike-friendly roads in Kandiyohi County. See the county map here to help you navigate the area.

More about the bike-friendly Willmar Lakes Area

Willmar also has a Ride Share program where you can find different spots throughout town to rent a bike. Find out here how residents and visitors alike can take advantage of these bikes to access the many recreational destinations throughout the area.

When you are not riding, the trails and roads in Kandiyohi County the area offers plenty of indoor attractions when you want to relax and places to stay. Along with several museums covering different parts of the area’s Minnesota history, After your ride covering the birding haunts, enjoy a refreshing local beer or taste of local wine as you take a break from the outdoor activities in this scenic prairie lakes area.

Free registration for the Tour of Lakeville kicks off their fall art festival

Before the city’s annual art festival, September 16th, enjoy the trails and bike lanes on the Tour of Lakeville. Thanks to the Lakeville Friends of the Environment, who will lead two different length rides, registration is free. Select between the 6-mile (kid-friendly) ride route or the 18-mile scenic bike trip on Lakeville’s trails and bike lanes. Here, while touring Lakeville, gain a whole new perspective of the town’s beauty and its closeness to nature.

Tour of Lakeville details

This year’s Tour of Lakeville starts and ends at Pioneer Plaza Park, a block north of where the Art Festival takes place. Pre-register at Lakeville Parks & Rec so you are ready to ride; it’s free. Remember to pump up your tires and bring a helmet and water bottle. Check-in starts at 9 a.m., and both rides leave at 9:30 a.m.

Your route choices

The 3-mile (kid and family-friendly) route is all on Lakeville’s paved trails.

The 18-mile route uses many quiet neighborhood streets that connect to trails meandering through new housing developments, parks, and wildlife areas. In several parks along the way, enjoy the special sculptures and benches, a highlight to the Lakeville art scene.

The Tour of Lakeville is a fun ride for all

Along the Tour ride, participants will discover many attractive segments of the community and many outdoor spaces that include:

  • Great views of Lake Marion as the tour passes the new outdoor performance pavilion in Casperson Park and the West Lake Marion Mountain Bike Trailhead.
  • The paved Juno Trail hugs the lake’s shoreline.
  • Views of the popular Antler’s Park, under construction and re-opening in the spring of 2024, with a swimming beach, picnic areas, volleyball, and horseshoes.
  • Enjoy listening to birds and seeing butterflies along the paved trail through the Steve Michaud Park-Conservation Area.
  • And more!

Don’t worry; no rider will be dropped on this family-friendly ride. However, all participants are expected to ride at a moderate pace so everyone can share their favorite ride stories after returning.

The 18-mile ride is scheduled to last approximately two and a half hours. This time frame depends on the number of registered bikers and the route. Remember, to pre-register so the ride has plenty of staff support – Thanks!

After the ride, make it a day at the Lakeville Art Festival

Take in the Lakeville Art Festival with over 90 artists exhibiting
Take in the Lakeville Art Festival, with over 90 artists exhibiting

Many consider this one of the finest art festivals in Minnesota. The Lakeville Art Festival is held annually on the third weekend in September. This year, the event will feature over 90 artists in an intimate and accessible setting. The artist booths are staged in a park-like atmosphere, allowing for a unique circular type arrangement to help showcase their work. Plus, many artists have scheduled demonstrations over the two days of the festival, September 16 & 17.

Another family-friendly highlight at the art festival is a stop at the “Young at Art” tent. This workshop area has plenty of art supplies, ideas, and experts to flow the creative juices.

More on the new mountain bike trail in Lakeville

The Lakeville Cycling Association has constructed a mountain bike trail system on the west side of Lake Marion. Another family-friendly attraction, the new course, is approximately five miles long. The trail segments in the park allow plenty of fun features for beginning, intermediate, and advanced mountain bikers. This single-track, one-way trail system includes multiple switchbacks, berms, rollers, and fun for all to enjoy.

The new Lakeville mountain bike course is fun for the whole family.
The new Lakeville mountain bike course is fun for the whole family.

See the map for this new, year-round mountain bike trail system. You can access the trailhead in Casperson Park by parking in the gravel lot north of the soccer fields at 19720 Juno Trail. Watch for trail updates and trail conditions on the clubs’ Facebook page.

For those visiting the area who want to learn more about connecting from the area hotels to the trails and fun things to do when not riding, see the At-A-Glance Lakeville and their map.

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! In the upper Midwest, riding in the fall colors is one of the best times of the year to explore the many bike-friendly destinations. Now that fall is officially here, look around at the spattering of color, then look at the following websites to help you plan your #NextBikeAdventure. With warm days, cool nights, low humidity, few insects, and trees offering brilliant autumn colors, 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 reach 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 and 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 and 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 of the MN Bike/Hike Guide, here it is online. Offering you bike maps and fun events for fall exploring.

Enjoying the trails doing some fall color riding.

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

As the aspen, oaks, and maples burst with color, 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 and the IA DNR fall color pages will allow you some more fall experiences 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, here are links to Wisconsin’s Bicycle routes and fall color report page.

Have fun making some fall-color memories.

A bicycling staycation is a great overnight getaway option

Traveling closer to home is the new norm for many of us, and a fun bicycling staycation may open your eyes to new horizons. Using 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, you may want to ask yourself two questions: 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’s 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 we publish in the Minnesota Bike/Hike Guide.

So precisely what is a bicycling staycation?

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

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’s 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!

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 2023

Join the fun ride with new and old friends on Sunday, October 8th, for the thirteenth annual Mankato River Ramble. Benefiting the great work the Greater Mankato Bike and Walk Advocates (GMBWA) and the Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota (BikeMN) are accomplishing. This year’s ride offers a 16, 30, or 42-mile scenic route option with tasty rest stop options along the way. Find delicious pies and other foods, beverages, live music, and more at each stop. Routes can be easily combined for those who want to add additional mileage and colorful scenery.

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

Save now, pre-registration closes on October 5! 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 several spots are still open. Find volunteer sign-up options for the 2023 River Ramble at 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.

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 River’s Edge Hospital 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 Rambles can be found online here.

Come early and ride all that Mankato offers

Nestled along the Minnesota River in Southern Minnesota, Mankato is a hidden gem for outdoor enthusiasts. Explore over 50 miles of paved trails by bike, scooter, or by foot, and even more trails to satisfy the need to get off the paved path. If you choose to spend some extra time exploring all that Mankato offers, here is a list of lodging options to consider.

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, mountain bike trail construction, and other improvements in the Mankato area.

About the Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota (BikeMN)

BikeMN is working to make Minnesota a state where bicycling is safe, easy, fun, and cool 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

The last Open Streets Minneapolis for 2023

As Minneapolis continues its Open Streets series of bike/walk events for 2023, enjoy the last event scheduled for 2023 events on Lynday Avenue.  This last event will again demonstrate how congested city streets can become vibrant, pedestrian-friendly boulevards. Where people can dream, play, and explore.

More about Open Streets Minneapolis

So far, with sunny skies, the first Open Streets was held in June on East Lake Street, then on Glenwood Avenue in July, Cedar-Riverside in August, and West Broadway in September.  This last street event for car-free fun will be on Sunday, October 8th, along Lyndale Avenue.  Offering residents and visitors of all ages a chance to walk, bike, or skateboard while participating in many spontaneous play activities, clinics, food, and music offered along the Boulevard. See the schedule below for more events this year.

Except for some of the main intersections that crossed Lyndale Ave the MPLS Open Streets was car-free.

Except for some intersections, the Open Streets celebration was car-free on Glenwood Ave last month..

Open Streets Minneapolis is part of a global movement and helps people experience streets as public spaces where communities thrive. Congested city streets become vibrant, pedestrian-friendly boulevards where people can dream, play, and explore. These events aim to change how people think about their city streets fundamentally.

At each Minneapolis event, local businesses, artists, and community groups transform their streets, showcasing Minneapolis’s diversity, creativity, and culture.

See more about the event on their Facebook page.

All ages of cyclists and walkers had fun at the Minneapolis Open Streets celebration.

All ages of cyclists and walkers had fun.

Free for the whole family, here are the dates for the 2023 events in Minneapolis:

  • East Lake:  Saturday, June 10th
  • Glenwood Ave: Sunday, July 16th
  • Cedar Riverside: Sunday, August 20th
  • West Broadway: Saturday, September 16th
  • Lyndale Ave: Sunday, October 8th

Biking, running and walking everyone had fun at the MPLS Open Streets

Biking, running, and walking, everyone had fun at the event

Did you have a bike/walk event in your community to share?

If you live outside Minneapolis and have a street celebration in your neighborhood, please let us know at: [email protected], thanks!

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, which is fun to ride throughout the year. For my most recent visit, I used the trailhead near the Bloomington Ferry Bridge. Here, you’ll see a rocky slope that travels down into the woods. A start of a great adventure. It’s known as the Minnesota River Bottoms Trail. The single-track trails here are perfect for a mountain bike, but you are safe on a Hybrid-trail/path bike, also. But you will 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 heavy soil with a mix the dried river debris. For the most part, when dry it may be smooth riding. However,  Mother Nature’s unpredictability can change the conditions of the trail fast. Pedaling along, you may come across places that are soft and muddy from recent rainfall. Because the trails here are so popular, you will 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 partly on a fallen tree branch. You can 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 to 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 fun with twists, turns, climbs, and descends on the  unpaved 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. 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.

Or, when you need a break from the outdoors and biking the river bottoms, there are plenty of fun options to keep your visit exciting in Bloomington. Check out more here.

Alex a bike-friendly getaway you can make on one tank

By Russ Lowthian, HaveFunBiking

There is no shortage of fun in Minnesota, and looking at the latest MN Bike/Hike Guide, with all the maps, we wanted to see how Alex (Alexandria) stacked up as a one-tank, multi-modal, round-trip destination. With increased gas prices taking a bite out of every motorist’s wallet, we found that the Alexandria Lakes Area fits the criteria well. The perfect place to visit, park the car at the selected lodge and use a bicycle to get around. On this trip, we found the Cedar Rose Inn charming and a great place to relax. This allowed us to easily reach the local bike routes, trails, historic downtown attractions, and several restaurants within easy walking distance.

The welcoming Cedar Rose Inn B & B

With the bikes loaded and gear packed, Alexandria is proximately 130 miles (about a two-hour drive) northwest of Minneapolis on I-94.

See a whole lot more biking in Alexandria

Using the Alexandria Bike Map, on pages 50-51 of the MN Bike Guide, you will find options for routes to ride comfortably around town and scenic loops that take you out and around many lakes in Douglas County. Looking at the map and planning your next visit, check out the Explore Alexandria website for many other fun outdoor activities the area offers.

The 8-mile Historic Alexandria Route

Big Ole, at the Central Lakes Trailhead in Alexandria, MN

From the Central Lakes Trail, north of the downtown area, the scenic Alex Loop uses the quiet north/south neighborhood streets that parallel the main highway or Broadway Street from 30th Avenue. If you start at the trailhead, take a selfie with Big Ole, then visit the Runestone Museum, Fort Alexandria, and the Legacy of the Lakes Museum & Gardens. Further along this loop, the route passes the Douglas County Historical Society and several parks where ducks, geese, and pelicans are close by to view.

The 22-mile loop to Garfield returning on the Central Lakes Trail

Touring the scenic bike-friendly roads in the Alexandria Lakes Area

The Garfield Loop uses a series of streets and county roads around a couple of lakes up to the town of Garfield. Here you will find the Central Lake Trail to return to Alex.

The 35-mile North Lakes Loop

This route winds around the picturesque lakes north of Alex, offering wide paved shoulders on the designated bike-friendly routes. As you ride your bike past the lakefront communities, options for stops include Carlos Creek Winery, the 23 Northman Brewery, or several eating establishments along the way.

Prefer staying on the Central Lakes Trail?

From Big Ole, head east to Osakis or west on the Central Lakes Trail to the many towns before Fergus Falls.

To the east, Osakis is 11 miles and connects to the Wobegon Trail. To the northwest, Garfield is 8 miles, Brandon is 14 miles, and Fergus Fall, at the far end, is 44 miles.

Mountain biking in the Alexandria Area

Prefer to bring your mountain bike on your next visit to Alex? Mountain biking is a growing sport in the Alexandria Area, and you can find great riding out at Kensington Runestone County Park and Lake Brophy County Park.

Mountain Biking the forest trail

Runestone Park is near Kensington, and the mountain bike trails here are tons of fun with easy-to-follow signs and many add-on loops to make a ride a little longer if you want. See map and further details here.

Mountain Biking on the prairie single-track trail

Lake Brophy Park is a relatively new multi-use trail system wandering through the upland prairie fields that take you to some of the best views in the county. A highlight of the park is that using the main trail gets you to the high point. At the top of the hill, 140 feet above Lake Brophy, you can choose from the easy, medium, and challenging trails to descend for an adrenalin fun experience. See map and further details here.

Where to stay

We stayed at the Cedar Rose Inn Bed & Breakfast for this trip to Alexandria. It is located at 422 7th Ave. West and Cedar St. is a very charming B & B, and the delicious breakfast Brenda serves each morning makes your visit to Alexandria even more special.

A blueberry brioche with maple syrup drizzled over

For more places to stay and things to do, see Explore Alexandria.

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

Many bike/hike adventures await your visit to the Mesabi Trail Towns

by Andrew Ellis

In Minnesota’s north mining region, the towns along the Mesabi Trail host several of the state’s historical gems and a family fun destination to explore by bike or on foot. In this pristine area of the state, you will find over 28 small mining communities along this well-known paved trail system. With the trail here, it is easy to travel from town to town by bike. From Grand Rapids on the western end to Ely, 150 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 to the Mesabi Trail.

Mesabi bike trail near Hibbing

Mesabi bike trail near Hibbing.

More About the Bike-Friendly Mesabi Trail Towns

A vast area, 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 Ely. Along the way, if you prefer, there is no shortage of walking tours.

The west end of the Mesabi Trail is Grand Rapids, where touring cyclists will find the Mississippi River Trail (MRT), and mountain bikers can enjoy the Tioga Recreational Area.

Further east, in Hibbing, you can visit Bob Dylan’s childhood home; the Hull Rust Mine overlook, and Greyhound Museum. Mountain bike Redhead Mountain next to the Minnesota Discovery Center. And further east, look into the history of the Range’s “Queen City” at the Virginia Heritage Museum. Or take a walk around the US Hockey Hall of Fame in Eveleth. To enjoy the scenic thrills of downhill mountain biking, there is Giant Ridge near Biwabik. There are also plenty of lakes to drop a line, swim, or enhance your tan.

The Iron Range Area covers many miles, but it’s all accessible – especially if you use your bike. The Mesabi Trail makes for a convenient connecting point for all the communities. So it’s easy to travel around pedaling on two wheels to all the unique stores, eateries, and attractions.

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 here. A fantastic adventure in its own right, the Mesabi Trail takes you through the beautiful northern Minnesota forests full of nature and wildlife. And with so many scenic views, there is no doubt you will want to stop to take a picture or two to share your experience here.

And don’t forget the Great River Energy Mesabi Trail Tour. Ride for fun or ride for the challenge. Either way, mark your calendar for Saturday, August 5, 2023, 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. From the Tioga Recreational Area, near Grand Rapids, to the new Redhead Mountain Trails near Chisolm, they say it will rock you. This huge park, with over 30 loops, covers over 25 miles. Offering spectacular views of reclaimed mine lands, bright blue pit lakes, and more. Enjoy this edgy-designed park with remarkable terrain.

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

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 the Iron Range towns, each community 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 explore each town as in-depth as you wish. e the area.

See more at At-A-Glance Mesabi Trail.

Many Cyclists riding around Albert Lea Lake enjoyable

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

by Andrew Ellis

Now that summer is here and many traditional outdoor activities are coming to the top of my list, I have a big decision to make. With my new e-bike, where should I go for my first out-of-town weekend bike getaway?

One of my favorites is Albert Lea, Minnesota, A one-tank getaway that offers a beautiful bike route around Fountain Lake that makes it easy to connect 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. This year the ride takes place on August 12th. Offering cyclists of all abilities several fun, scenic route options for that #NextBikeAdventure!

Bike-friendly Albert Lea

Less than two hours, 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, hiking, or paddling. Getting around on your bike from several 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 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 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 and one-of-a-kind restaurants, and the area’s 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.