Tag Archives: Bike friendly community

Picture yourself riding the Mississippi River Trail (MRT) through the wilds of Minnesota, pedaling America's famous 3,000 mile bike system

An adventure of a lifetime, along Minnesota’s Mississippi River Trail

by Russ Lowthian
Picture yourself riding the Mississippi River Trail (MRT) through the wilds of Minnesota.
Pedal with family and friends at your own pace on this Bold North adventure.
The first leg of America’s famous 3,000-mile bicycle trail system uses bike-friendly roads and multi-use pathways. You may find some of my observations of interest.  From several MRT bike tours I have led over the years and referencing my book Road Biking Minnesota.

From the Mississippi’s headwaters near Park Rapids to the Iowa border, the complete Minnesota section of the journey is roughly 620 miles. The following route descriptions are spread over nine days to keep the daily mileage comfortable for plenty of time visiting the river towns along the way. Depending on how much time you can spend on any bike vacation, this overview makes it easy to break it apart for multiple bike getaways.

Please visit the embedded links offering short video clips and maps of the Mississippi trail system as you read the following. See the first video clip to get a better feel for what you will see and experience leaving Itasca State Park on the MRT. The information in this video and subsequent videos are made possible by the MN DNR, the MN Historical Society, Explore Minnesota Tourism, and the National Park Service.

MRT – Day 1 from the Mississippi Headwaters to Bemidji

After enjoying a hearty breakfast at the historic Douglas Lodge, in Itasca State Park, it’s time to roll out. First, you will need to pedal a few miles through the towering pines to where the Mississippi River begins. At the Headwaters parking lot, walk your bike down the trail. There, dip your rear wheel in the stream to celebrate the beginning of your journey. You may hear one of Minnesota’s loons calling out. Following the internationally recognized Mississippi River Trail, depart from the park’s north entrance. Now pedaling a scenic county road in a northeasterly direction, this 30-plus mile stretch offers a beautiful rolling terrain. As you pass by patches of pine forests and an occasional old farm setting, smell the air. Soon you are pedaling into the first city on the Mississippi River.

Rolling into Bemidji

Arriving in Bemidji, the MRT enters on a city trail that connects to the Paul Bunyan Trail. As the river’s current flows into Lake Bemidji, consider spending your first evening here. While visiting, discover all this community has to offer.

A-League of American Bicyclists (LAB) Bike-Friendly Community. It’s easy to get around and explore the city by bike.

In the downtown area, metal sculptures, murals, and historic architecture are found on just about every corner. Don’t forget to stop by the visitor’s center to have your picture taken with
Paul Bunyan and Babe, his blue ox. See our Bike Bemidji article for lodging and more things to do when not riding. You will find camping options in Lake Bemidji State Park.

MRT – Day 2 from Bemidji to Grand Rapids

Back in the saddle, the MRT takes the Paul Bunyan Trail north to where the Mississippi River pours out of Lake Bemidji. As the current flows east, enjoy the sites along the Great River Road as it rolls into Chippewa National Forest. This next stretch of the MRT to Grand Rapids is roughly 80 miles. To get a better feel for what’s ahead after leaving Bemidji, watch the 2nd video clip here.

With an abundance of wildflowers along the road, pedal through the enchanted treasures this forested area offers. Along the way, notice a huge population of bald eagles and hawks as the
river meanders from one huge lake body to the next. Soon the river flows into Lake Winnibigoshish (Lake Winnie), and the MRT takes a course around the lake’s south shoreline.

The first Federal Dam on the Mississippi


Passing several resorts, you may want to stop for a selfie by the significant fish monument. Riding up the east shoreline through towering pines, the MRT is soon up to the Federal Dam, where Lake Winnie spills back into the Mighty Mississippi. This dam was created in the late 1800s, making it the most significant river reservoir. Approximately 45 miles from Bemidji,
there is a campground. You will find a restaurant and some lodging options a few miles further east.

The MRT follows the river meanders, now in a southerly direction, passing through a Native American village called Ball Club. Here the river dips and then flows to the east again. Soon the MRT rolls into Schoolcraft State Park, where it meets back up with the Mississippi. This secluded park is the perfect place to take a break. Quiet and peaceful, the park offers a relaxing
environment with a virgin white pine forest over 300 years old. Take a panoramic virtual tour of the area here, and then it’s on to some Wizard of Oz trivia.

Rolling into Grand Rapids

Judy Garland, from The Wizard of Oz, spent time here as a child. Today the community offers visitors many fun options to explore, along with the Judy Garland Museum. Once settled in, visit the Forest History Center and the local art scene. This area is rich in forested beauty and offers many art forms, including many bronze sculptures and historic architectural sites. Grand Rapids is also the western gateway to the Mesabi Iron Trail and Range. Another LAB Bike Friendly Community, it’s easy to get around this river town and explore the city by bike.  The mining communities along this Mesabi trail are worth checking out if you have a few extra days.  See our Bike Grand Rapids article for lodging and more things to do when not riding.

MRT – Day 3 from Grand Rapids to Aitkin

As the Mississippi River pushes against the western slope of the St. Lawrence Divide, it
flows south, and the MRT hugs the west bank as it rolls out of Grand Rapids. This stretch of
the MRT is approximately a 70-miles ride to Aitkin.

Several yard art figures for a photograph.

Approximately 20 miles south, you will come to a crossroads. Here, by taking a left and crossing the river, you’re in the town of Jacobson. If you turn onto this half-mile side-trip adventure, you will discover many pieces of unusual lawn art and a rest-stop option.

Rolling into Palisade

Back on the route, continue south, and you will soon be in a town named for the high banks on each side of the river, another intriguing place to stop. The community has a restaurant
and a convenience store. Next to the river, the park here is an excellent place for a picnic or an overnight stay in the campground. Back in the saddle, riding out of Palisade, there are two options to reach Aitkin.

You can depart on the Great River Road, now a hard gravel surface, for the next 15 miles,
enjoying a peaceful ride along the river.

Rolling into Aitkin

Here, roll into a community with a riverboat full of history. Once a popular meeting point for Native American Indians and explorers, today, the town makes an excellent overnight choice that offers camping and lodging options. After you settle in, check out the museum converted from the Burlington Rail Depot. Here you can learn about the town’s steamboat history and other interesting facts.  For more things to do and lodging options, click here.

MRT – Day 4 from Aitkin to Little Falls

As the Mississippi flows, now in a westerly direction, the MRT roll into Cuyuna Country. As the river passes on the north side of an iron range of the past, the MRT meanders around several abandoned open mine pits, now some of Minnesota’s newest lakes. The MRT rolls towards the Brainerd Lakes Area as the river bends southwest.

Rolling into Brainerd

Just imagine riding in an area called Paul Bunyan’s playground. Legend has it that Paul and his blue ox, Babe (remember that mythical figure you can take a selfie within Bemidji?) were having fun, wrestling around after a long rain spell. Stomping and tromping made many large depressions that eventually filled with water to create the 464 lakes in the area. With the MRT and Paul Bunyan Trail merging back together in Brainerd/Baxter, you will find many fun adventures and good things to eat here. For more, see our  Brainerd/Baxter article.

Back in the saddle, the trail and river both head south again. As the Great River Road rolls
along the east bank, passing Crow Wing State Park, agriculture replaces the forested
landscape. Further down the MRT, cross to the west bank and visit Camp Ripley, which
offers a fascinating military museum. Here see hundreds of exhibits showcasing vehicles and field equipment of Minnesota’s military past. It’s still ten miles of pedaling to reach the next river town, “where the river pauses.”

Rolling into Little Falls

For centuries Little Falls has been where native inhabitants, early settlers, and recent visitors have used it as a ‘gathering place.’ Located where the Mississippi River pauses, this
river community is the town of Charles Lindbergh’s childhood. After settling in, check out the historic attractions and museums while experiencing the town’s original murals and frescoes. While here, if interested, you can discover who helped finance the production of the “Wizard of Oz.” See our Bike Little Falls article for lodging and more things to do when not riding.

MRT Day 5 from Little Falls to Monticello

Cyclists will pass by Charles Lindbergh State Park at the edge of town, where his childhood home still stands. Then the MRT passes by the Charles A. Weyerhaeuser Memorial Museum before the river valley floor opens up to more agriculture. To get a better feel for what’s ahead after leaving Little Falls, watch the 4th video clip here.

Rolling into St Cloud

The river offers several rapids through this stretch as the MRT rolls into St. Cloud. Another LAB Bike Friendly Community, it’s easy to get around this river town and explore the city by bike. While in this river community, check out some attractions, including the Munsinger-Clemens Botanical Gardens. See our Bike St. Cloud article for lodging and more things to do when not riding.

The MRT and river swing back to the southeast on the east side of the river. The route takes you to Clearwater through county roads that parallel several irrigated potato fields. Then, crossing the Mississippi again, cyclists will notice the river is a bit wider here as they pedal to Monticello.

Rolling into Monticello

Here you will find a river town, full of charm, tucked up against the Mississippi River and conveniently located between St. Cloud and the Twin Cities. This vibrant community with many scenic parks is also home to thousands of geese and swans each winter. After settling in, check out the attractions in Monticello. For the lodging option in the area, visit the local chamber here.

MRT – Day 6 from Monticello to St Paul

Leaving Monticello, the MRT crosses the river and meanders through the farm fields of specialty crops to Elk River. To get a better feel for what you will see as you ride into the Twin Cities, watch the 5th video clip here.  Stopping in Elk River, cyclists passing through the downtown area will notice the fresco mural on Main Street. You will also find plenty of options for a rest stop here.

You will cross over the Mississippi River again on the Great River Road as you head out of Elk River. Soon you are passing through Dayton and entering the northern edge of the Mississippi National River and Recreational Area.

In the next twenty-five miles, MRT enthusiasts will enjoy stopping at several Twin Cities Gateway community attractions.

From here, enjoy paved bicycle paths through Minneapolis before reaching the St. Paul suburb of Inver Grove Heights.

MRT Day-7 from St Paul to Frontenac

As the Mississippi River Trail leaves the St Paul area, the route tentatively detours to the south to Hastings. To get a better feel for what’s ahead after leaving St. Paul, watch the 6th video clip here. The paved trail out of South St. Paul will connect to the Mississippi River Regional Trail, allowing cyclists a direct route to our next river town.

This new trail near Schaar’s Bluff is completed on the far end and will take cyclists into downtown Hastings’s historic district. You can find more about Hastings in our At-A-Glance article and a place to stop for cool refreshments or a meal.

Rolling into Hastings

Leaving Hastings, the MRT follows the Mississippi, winding along the backwaters of the river and past the Prairie Island Indian Community. About ten miles further, the route enters Red Wing, the next river community on the Minnesota section of the Mississippi River Trail.

Rolling into Red Wing

As the MRT runs alongside the river bank on the Great River Road, you will find the atmosphere in Red Wing both unique and charming. From the beautiful bluffs, historic sites, and world-famous boots and pottery, this river town also offers several dining opportunities for a stop here. If you decide to spend the night, see Visit Red Wing for more options.

Back on the Mississippi River Trail, it’s approximately another 10 miles to Frontenac State Park for the night. The city is on the National Register of Historic Places and contains many homes dating back to the Civil War era. Here you will find the Whistle Stop Café and a convenience store if you choose to camp in the state park for the evening.

MRT Day-8 from Frontenac to Winona

Back on the MRT, the route uses the wide paved shoulder of the Great River Road to Minnesota City. With a wide shoulder and rumble strip dividing you from the traffic, the Mississippi River is in sight, to your left most of the time. When you notice the river widening, the Mississippi flows into Lake Pepin, and you are close to the ‘Birthplace of Water Skiing.’

Rolling into the Lake City

Here discover the quaint shops and restaurants next to the harbor in the downtown area of Lake City. This river town is also a popular place for touring cyclists. In addition to the Annual Tour de Pepin bike tour, the site offers several other mapped rides. See the Lake Pepin Area Bike Map and checkout. Visit Lake City for more options.

As the river flows out of Lake Pepin, the next river community on the MRT is a town known for the eagles that populate the area and ‘Gumpy Old Men.’

Rolling into Wabasha

The oldest city on the entire upper Mississippi River, this community has been thriving since 1826. As touring cyclists roll into town, they will find 50 buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places if time permits, enjoy their historic walking tour, and discover the stories that have made this town so unique. With Bald Eagles in abundance along the river, this is also home to the National Eagle Center, located downtown. Also, with the famous movie “Grumpy Old Men” its sequel shot here, dine at Slippery’s Bar & Grill for a nostalgic look at this river town. You can find more options at Visit Wabasha.

Rolling into Winona

Taking the MRT out on the back road through the village of Kellogg, it’s about 30 miles of pedaling to Winona along the bluffs. Arriving in this pristine river town, enjoy several views of the city nestled into a valley bordered by bluffs along the Mighty Mississippi. Here in Winona, there is plenty to discover, with so many attractions and museums. Be sure to visit the Minnesota Marine Art Museum. You will also notice many of the downtown buildings are on the National Register of Historical Places and self-guided history tours are an option. Being a LAB Bike Friendly Community, it’s easy to get around this river town and explore the city by bike. See our At-A-Glance Winona article for more tour, dinner, and overnight options.

A stop a the Pickwick Mill, 2-miles off the MRT

MRT Day-9 from Winona to the Iowa Boarder

Leaving Winona, the Mississippi River Trail creatively takes you up into the bluffs, past the historic Pickwick Mill, and then onto the Apple Blossom Drive Scenic Byway. A cyclist in the area enjoys a remarkable view of the Mississippi River Valley at the top of the byway. Then it’s a cruise down the Byway into La Crescent.

From La Crescent, the last leg of Minnesota’s section of the Mississippi River Trail is approximately 24 miles to Albin, IA.

Enjoy the fun of riding all or parts of the MRT for that unforgettable adventure.

It’s been proven countless times in history – the mind drives the body. Make 2018 your best ride year yet!

Bike Pic Oct 12, love your mode to work, bike commute

In this bike pic, showing a successful commute, the first thing is to fall in love with your mode of transportation, no matter the weather. Consider a bike commute as part of your routine. It might add a bit of brilliance to the next story you share. Here are some tips to stay comfortable when riding, no matter the weather.

So, get into the zone when continuing your time outdoors and your #NextBikeAdventure. View all the great ideas and bike destinations in the latest Iowa or Minnesota Bike/Hike Guide. Then plan your next outing with family and friends, and check out more stories at Let’s Do MN.

Thanks for viewing our latest bike pic

Now rolling through our 19th year as a bike tourism media, enjoy! As we pedal forward, we aim to encourage more people to bike and have fun while highlighting all the unforgettable places you can ride. As we continue to showcase more places to have fun, we hope the photos we shoot are worth a grin. Enjoy the information and stories we have posted as you scroll through.

Do you have a fun bicycle-related photo of yourself or someone you may know we should post? If so, please send your picture(s) to [email protected]. Please Include a brief caption for the image, who shot it, and where. Photo(s) sent to us should be a minimum of 1,000 pixels wide to be considered. You will receive photo credit and acknowledgment on Facebook and Instagram if we use your photo.

As we continue encouraging more people to bike, please view our Destination section at HaveFunBiking.com for your #NextBikeAdventure. Also, check out the MN Bike Guide, now mobile-friendly in our 14th year of producing this handy information booklet full of maps.

Bookmark HaveFunBiking.com on your cell phone and find your next adventure at your fingertips! Please share our pics with your friends, and don’t forget to smile. With one of our cameras ready to document your next cameo appearance while you are riding and having fun, we may be around the corner. You could be in one of our next Pic of the Day.

Have a great day with a safe and memorable fall!

After a bike tourism conference in Florida and hearing many interesting facts about the Tampa/St Pete bike friendly options, check them out.

Exploring the Tampa/St. Pete Area bike trails on your next vacation

by Russ Lowthian
Everyone needs a break, especially after the weather turns cold here in the upper
Midwest. Recently I attended a bicycle tourism conference in Florida. Having
heard many good things about the bike-friendly options in the Tampa/St. Pete area,
I wanted to check it out for myself. It also helped my decision learning that these two cities have
spent several million dollars improving their bicycle infrastructure.

Using the areas bike friendly lanes to safely get up to the Fred Marquis Pinellas Trail.

Using the areas bike-friendly lanes to safely get up to the Fred Marquis Pinellas Trail.

Compared to my visit several years back, cyclists today will find dedicated or protected cycling lanes and more bike trails. These bike lanes make it easy to connect to many popular trail systems. With many improvements in place, I found several safe routes perfect for any family bike outing. As you will note below many of the trails link up with parks, museums, aquariums, beaches, etc.!

Rental options when exploring the Tampa/St.Pete Area bike trails

Like most of the southeast coastal region of the U.S., the area here is pretty flat and the only hills are pedaling over bridges. That said, wind can be a factor and unless you are hanging around the beach, look for a rental bike, that fits you with multi-speeds. If you are going
to the rental shop, understand they usually operate on a first come first serve basis, so be sure to get there early if you are trying to ride on a busy weekend. Googling bicycle rental in St. Petersburg, I found numerous options. Many would deliver and pick up from my
hotel and were competitively priced.

Trails in the Tampa/St. Pete Area to explore by bike

On my last trip to the area, here are some of the bike paths and routes I have briefly checked out. I look forward to a return visit to explore these trails further and find other hidden jewels I missed.

Fred Marquis Pinellas Trail

Riding the Fred Marquis Pinellas Trail from St Pete to Clearwater.

Riding the Fred Marquis Pinellas Trail from St Pete to Clearwater.

From St. Petersburg to Tarpon Springs, this 38-mile trail system lets you explore a scenic blend of bustling downtown areas and residential neighborhoods. Here palm trees shade the trail in between the parks. With several cities that dot the trail, you will find many options for beaches, breweries, dining and shopping along the way. This trail also gives you the option to visit Honeymoon Island State Park where you will find a beach. Nearby, a half-mile off the trail, you will also find the children’s museum at the Dunedin Fine Arts Center. It is a 20-mile bike ride up the trail from St. Pete to Clearwater. Here in this progressive downtown area, with a beautiful waterfront, enjoy breweries, restaurants, and shopping.

The North Bay Trail

Enjoying the North Bay Trail

Enjoying the North Bay Trail

This trail picks up in the southern part of St. Petersburg, where the Pinellas Trail ends. A 6.3-mile-long trail it curves along the waterfront in downtown St. Pete and takes riders out to the Gandy Bridge, near Weedon Island Preserve. I hear this trail gets pretty busy, especially along the southernmost reaches that meanders through Vinoy Park and a few small, sandy beaches.

The Tampa Riverwalk

In downtown Tampa, the Riverwalk hugs the Hillsborough River. Only 2.6 miles long this is a great thoroughfare for bikers and a place you might see manatees and dolphins. The River Walk starts at Curtis Hixon Waterworks Park and stretches 2.6 miles to the intersection of Channelside Dr. & Beneficial Dr. If you want to make a day of it with the whole family, the Riverwalk connects to the Florida Aquarium and to the Glazer Children’s Museum, not to mention many restaurants and beautiful parks.

Bayshore Linear Park Trail

Home to Gasparilla, the third-largest parade in the U.S., the Bayshore is billed as the longest sidewalk in the world, clocking in at 4.5 unobstructed miles of pathway. The sidewalk runs along the eastern coast of the Tampa peninsula, offering a view of the bay to the east and some of Tampa’s most stately homes to the west. This Bayshore also connects easily to the Tampa Riverwalk, via the Platt Street Bridge, if you’re looking for a longer ride. Starting at Platt St. this trail ends at W. Gandy Blvd. where there is a dedicated bike lane if pedestrian traffic is heavy.

Selmon Greenway

Riding on the Selmon Greenway Trail

Riding on the Selmon Greenway Trail

This Greenway starts where the Selmon Expressway crosses over the Tampa Riverwalk (just south of Brorein Street). A shady trail, less than two miles long. From Tampa’s historic district it follows the shadows of the expressway rolling northeast to the outskirts of Ybor City. Along the way, you will find plenty of breweries and restaurants to visit when not biking.

Preparing to climb up to the Courtney Campbell Causeway Trail

Preparing to climb up to the Courtney Campbell Causeway Trail





Courtney Campbell Causeway Trail

This trail system, over Old Tampa Bay, connects the city of Clearwater to Tampa. If you are on a single-speed bike, this 11-mile trail system can be brutal if you are not in shape. First, you will need to pedal your bike up onto the bridge. Then, the wind coming across the bay can be strong. That said, the Courtney Campbell Trail makes for a scenic and fun bike ride. From Tampa, this is the perfect bike route to visit the Ream Wilson Clearwater Trail or ride up to Safety Harbor.

Ream Wilson Trail (back in Clearwater)

On the Ream Wilson Trail riders will follow Alligator Creek and end in Coachmen Ridge Park

On the Ream Wilson Trail, riders will follow Alligator Creek and end in Coachmen Ridge Park

Back in Clearwater/St Pete, from the Courtney Campbell Trail over Tampa Bay, check out the Ream Wilson Clearwater Trail. If you take the trail that parallels North Bayshore Blvd., in the middle of the trail system you have two options. Continue up the Bay and you will hit the charming downtown of Safety Harbor. There check out the Whimzey Bowling Ball House. If you ride the trail to the west, from Bayshore Blvd., the trail doesn’t make it all the way to the Pinellas Trail. It will only get you about halfway across riding along Alligator Creek and ending in Coachmen Ridge Park.

Have fun enjoying the trails I have covered so far in the Tampa/St. Pete area. If you discover another route or an interesting experience riding in the area please, let us know – Thanks!

Bicycles and cars

Bike around Saint Cloud and discover all the parks and trails

by Andrew Ellis

The sun is warming the morning air as you ride along the Mississippi River Trail (MRT) through Saint Cloud, MN. Now in Granite Country, you are looking for a change in scenery as you pass a group of buildings, then realize its St. Cloud State University (SCSU). Across the Mississippi River and easy to reach crossing the bridge with your bike is the popular Munsinger/Clemens Gardens. This area, as the river bends to the southeast, is prime and ready to give you and your friends or family many biking opportunities when visiting here.

The Lake Wobegon Trail is a family friendly paved path system offering everyone a fun time.

The Lake Wobegon Trail is a family friendly paved path system offering everyone a fun time.

Saint Cloud is labeled a city, but don’t let that scare you away. The area’s spacious layout provides plenty of room to escape from all the noise of everyday life that can bombard many with stress. The area offers many parks, family friendly trails and other attractions to give you memories that will last a lifetime.

More about bike-friendly Saint Cloud

Now with the Lake Wobegon Trail running through Saint Cloud and stretching 63 miles to Sauk Center, you can visit three colleges along the way. Besides SCSU, the Granite County Area is also home to Rasmussen College, the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University. Their presence in the area and the communities they create, along the trail system, helps add to the area’s welcoming atmosphere and unique points of interest for cyclists visiting throughout the year.

The Munsinger Gardens is unique botanical experience along the MRT where you can stroll the winding paths and brick pathways as you experience this Saint Cloud treasure.

The Munsinger Gardens is unique botanical experience along the MRT where you can stroll the paths experiencing its treasure.

The Saint Cloud Area is also a bike-friendly community, awarded by the League of American Cyclists. This gives you the assurance there are plenty of places for you to comfortably roam around using designated bike lanes and trails. And while there are plenty of fun things to do on west side of the river. Don’t forget to cross the river and explore the jaw-dropping and joy-spreading Munsinger and Clemens Garden’s.

Biking trail opportunities in and around Saint Cloud

Granite Country has many opportunities for you to put your tires to the pavement, or whichever surface you prefer to ride on. There are many trails tucked into the area’s various parks, several chances to put your mountain biking skills to the test, trails that take you beyond the city limits, and more. No matter what kind of adventure you’re looking for, Granite Country has you covered. For more information see At-A-Glance St. Cloud and our HaveFunBiking map of the area.

Long Rides

Riding the Mississippi River Trail through the neighborhoods as the route rolls into Saint Cloud.

Riding the Mississippi River Trail through the neighborhoods as the route rolls into Saint Cloud.

If you go west out of St. Cloud you can take the Lake Wobegan Trail and stop along at one of the many trailheads along the way. You can also travel along the famous Mississippi River Trail as you explore St. Cloud and everything you meet along the river’s edge. There even points to cross the river and see what the other side has to offer. For more bicycle touring loop options see Central Minnesota Bicycle Club’s many mapped bike routes.

Quarry Park and Nature Reserve

The largest park in the Stearns County Parks System is bound to have a plethora of biking opportunities. The trails will give you a great overview of the reserve has to offer and they all connect in some way so it’s easy to switch when you want to. There is also some section for mountain bikers to pedal over granite bedrock that is a billion years old.

Pineview Park BMX

Freestyle cycling fun at Pineview BMX

Freestyle cycling fun at Pineview BMX

Saint Cloud also has its own BMX park. You can hit the tracks, watch races on the weekends, and work on your skills if you are there during the week.

Mountain Biking

Riding out on the Jail Trail is one of several mountain biking options in Granite Country.

Riding out on the Jail Trail is one of several mountain biking options in Granite Country.

In addition to the Quarry Park and Reserve, the area has a few more mountain biking opportunities for you. The Jail Trail is an intermediate level mountain bike loop system located east of Saint Cloud. The main loop has some easy elevation challenges, but overall stays pretty flat. There are also additional side loops that add some technical difficulty. Then there’s the heavily wooded Plum Creek Trail, which is an exhilarating five mile-plus ride on a very narrow single-track filled with its share of hills.

Other Off-Road Opportunities

If you don’t want to battle mountain bike trails, but still want to go an adventure you’re in luck. You can hop on the Oxcart Trail that starts at Southside Park and travels north through Lions Park, Municipal Park, and Island View Park. Then there’s the Mayhew Creek Park Trail, Sauk Rapids’ newest trail, which consists of two loops and gives you just over one mile of riding. Also, the secluded crush aggregate Rotary Trail takes you through a wooded wetland complex that goes north of Bob Cross Park to the Bob Cross Nature Preserve. There are boardwalks and observation decks along the way.

Other opportunities when not biking in Saint Cloud

There are plenty of other ways to navigate your way around Granite Country on you bike. Some of the routes lead to downtown St. Cloud where you can explore its many shops and restaurants. See more at Visit Granite Country.


Considering a bike commute as part of your routine, it might add a bit of brilliance to your next story as you share some of your successes.

Bike Pic Oct 12, fall in love with your mode of transportation, commute

To lead a fulfilling life, at any age, the first thing to do is fall in love with your mode of transportation you use to get around no matter the weather. Considering a bike commute as part of your daily routine, it might add a bit of brilliance to your next story as you share some of your successes and adventures.

Heading to work or running errands here are some tips to stay comfortable when riding not matter the weather.

View all the fun ideas and bike destinations in the latest Minnesota Bike/Hike Guide. Then plan your next outing with family and friends in one of Minnesota’s HaveFunBiking Destinations.

Thanks for Viewing Our ‘Commute’ Pic of the Day  

We are now rolling into our 10th year as a bike tourism media. As we pedal forward our goal is to continue to encourage more people to bike and have fun while we highlight all the unforgettable places for you to ride. As we continue to showcase more places to have fun, we hope the photos we shoot are worth a grin. Enjoy the information and stories we have posted as you scroll through.

Do you have a fun bicycle related photo of yourself or someone you may know that we should post? If so, please send your picture(s) to: [email protected]. Include a brief caption (for each) of who is in the photo (if you know) and where the picture was taken. Photo(s) should be a minimum of 1,000 pixels wide or larger to be considered. If we use your photo, you will receive photo credit and acknowledgment on Facebook and Instagram.

As we continue to encourage more people to bike, please view our Destination section at HaveFunBiking.com for your #NextBikeAdventure – Also, check out the MN Bike Guide, now mobile friendly, as we enter into our 8th year of producing this hand information booklet full of maps.

Remember, bookmark HaveFunBiking.com on your cell phone and find your next adventure at your fingertips! Please share our pics with your friends and don’t forget to smile. We may be around the corner with one of our cameras ready to document your next cameo apperance while you are riding and having fun. You could be in one of our next Pic’s of the Day.

Have a great day!

Celebrating the city's bike-friendly a ride was organized to tour New Ulm's accomplishments.

Congratulations New Ulm, One of the Latest Bronze Bike Friendly Communities in the U.S.

New Ulm achieved honorable mention bike status designation in 2016. Last week it was announced they are the 21st Minnesota community to earn the bike friendly honor, with bronze. Provided by the League of American Bicyclists (LAB), to celebrate the honors local residence and dignitaries convened in Harman Park, this last Saturday for a bike ride marking the occasion.

Cindy Winters from Hearts Beat Back Project is shown here presenting the LAB Bicycle Friendly Community plaque to New Ulm Mayor Bob Beussman.

Cindy Winters from Hearts Beat Back Project is shown here presenting the LAB Bicycle Friendly Community plaque to New Ulm Mayor Bob Beussman.

A Proud Accomplishment For Everyone In New Ulm

“This is a huge accomplishment that everyone in the entire community should be very proud of,” said Cindy Winters, manager for Hearts Beat Back: The Heart of New Ulm Project, which collaborated with The New Ulm Bike Club and the City of New Ulm to submit the application. “Over the last several years, individuals and organizations throughout our community have worked very hard to help implement changes that make it safer and more enjoyable for everyone to bike,” Winters said.

Enjoying the 13-mile paved bike traile loop around the city of New Ulm

Enjoying the 13-mile paved bike trail loop around the city of New Ulm

A Bicycle Friendly Community welcomes bicyclists by providing safe accommodations for bicycling and encouraging people to bike for transportation and recreation. Making bicycling safe and convenient are keys to improving public health, reducing traffic congestion, improving air quality and improving quality of life.

Dorian Grilley, executive director of the Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota (BikeMN) will present the designation to the New Ulm City Council, at its May 16 meeting. Grilley said, “I am very pleased to see the work of the City, schools and The Heart of New Ulm Project be rewarded with a Bronze level Bicycle Friendly Community award. BikeMN looks forward to continuing our support of their efforts to make bicycling and walking an easy, safe and fun choice for all.”

Click here for a complete list of Bike Friendly LAB Communities in Minnesota

More information on the Bicycle Friendly Community program is available on the League of American Bicyclists website at: http://bikeleague.org/community.

To find out more about the city and county bike maps of New Ulm, click here.

Bike Friendly Willmar now offers a fleet of yellow bikes

The picturesque Glacial State Trail, rolling into the city of Willmar, has now been enhanced with a series of bike friendly routes on city streets and trails. Another key factor worth mentioning is its fleet of yellow bikes. With several improvements over the last couple years, this spring, the city was awarded the Bronze Bike Friendly Community Award from the League of American Bicyclist (LAB).

Bike Friendly Willmar a fun and safe place to Live and visit

According to an article published by the Bicycle Aliance of Minnesota (BikeMN), over the past seven years the city and its local advocacy group, ‘Willmar Bikes’, has upped their game in every aspect of bicycling.

Here Dorian Grilley, Director of the Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota and Steve Brisendine, Director of Community Education and Recreation for the City of Willmar celebrate Willmar being a bike friendly city by the League of American Bicyclists.

Here Dorian Grilley, Director of the Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota and Steve Brisendine, Director of Community Education and Recreation for the City of Willmar celebrate being a bike friendly city by the League of American Bicyclists.

The community is now home to a small fleet of yellow-painted cycles for free public use. It hosts an annual Mayor’s Bike Ride. It works to connect low-income youth with an earn-a-bike programs. The community is also planning a bike route connection between a new development and a school being built. Also, they support bike trail maintenance. Residence and visitors alike can now enjoy the countryside trails that connect to many of the city’s streets and inter-city trails, making the community a Bronze Bicycle Friendly Community (BFC).

In the northern part of Minnesota, Cloquet was was given an Honorable Mention this spring for its work toward bicycle friendliness.

Riding the trail in the countryside as it connects to trails and safe street routs in Willmar, MN. photo Steve-Brisendine

Riding the trail in the countryside as it connects to trails and safe street routs in Willmar, MN. photo Steve-Brisendine

BFC recognition is a nationally recognized thumbs-up. The program is administered by the League of American Bicyclists (LAB). LAB commends towns, cities, counties, and metropolitan areas for taking concrete steps toward making bicycling more safe, more visible, and more fun in their communities. In Minnesota, there are more than two million residents who live in Bike Freindly Communities in the state. This exciting initiatives is making more communities safer for visitors as well as those who live in the stare.

Learn more about Bike Friendly Willmar and the fun you can have staying and playing here.

Bicyclists gather for an Open Streets fest in Richfield, MN.

Many new bike friendly communities announced today

In a press release today League of American Bicyclists (LAB) announce 55 new and renewing Bicycle Friendly Communities (BFC). There were eighteen communities receiving their first BFC award, seventeen at Bronze and Hennepin County, MN, at Silver. Nine communities moved up to higher award levels, and the remainder renewed at their previous level.

Bicyclists ride using the Minneapolis bike share program Bike Friendly Hennepin Co. Minnesota.

Bicyclists ride using the Minneapolis bike share program Bike Friendly Hennepin Co. Minnesota.

“As biking has become more and more popular, more and more communities are committed to creating safer places to bike,” said Alex Doty, executive director of the League of American Bicyclists. “Winning a Bicycle Friendly Community designation shows a community’s dedication to creating safer and better places to ride your bike.”

According to LAB, this latest round saw strong growth in the top tiers of the program, as Madison, WI, became the 5th Platinum BFC, and four communities moved into the Gold tier: Austin, TX, San Luis Obispo and Santa Cruz, CA, and Tempe, AZ.

Dave Cieslewicz, executive director of the Wisconsin Bike Fed and former mayor of Madison stated,  “What this says is that any city can be a great cycling city as long as there’s commitment from a broad range of city leaders and the population as a whole. This didn’t come about overnight; it was a decade-long effort. We had support from city leaders, the business community and the thousands of cyclists in the Madison area. The lesson we learned is that it has to be a broad-based effort, it can’t just come from the top.”

Want to see who is doing what? Explore the Bicycle Friendly Communities (and businesses and universities) in your state using the Leagues online award database. To apply or learn more about the BFC program, visit bikeleague.org/community.

Not listed as a BFC or a  Bicycle Friendly Business (BFB)?  If you own, work at, or do business with a Bike Friendly Business, the next deadline for that program is December 15. Learn how to apply here.

The Bicycle Friendly America program is generously supported by Trek Bicycle, and all of their members, partners, and local reviewers throughout the year.

A Day Trip In Bike Friendly Winona, MN

by Marcia Ratcliff, Winona Daily News

On a recent summer morning, I jumped on my bike and pedaled to the boat launch at Lions Park on St. Charles Street, in bike-friendly Winona, MN. The sun, several hours high, bent between scuttling clouds, and the river gleamed with muted light. Above my head, turkey vultures rode the wind currents, and around my feet, yellow and white wildflowers trembled in the wind. As I stopped, I took a deep breath, smelling the river mud the floodwaters left behind. I watched the water swirl between the rocks for a few minutes. Then I got on the bike again.

Bicycling Winona, MN

Bicycle next to a lake in Winona, MN

Biking options in and around Winona

I’ve been using a bike to get to the parks here in Winona for as long as I can remember.

I do have one tricycle memory, in which I careened down a gradual hill and fell near the bottom, prey to the tricycle’s lamentable lack of brakes. But soon after, I learned how to use two wheels. My first bike was a $1 Goodwill find. The second one, with 20-inch tires, was a $10 garage-sale bargain. I loved each one. There was nothing quite like the freedom of biking to the park with my mom and brothers or going around the neighborhood looking for kids to play with or riding to meet Dad on his way home from work. No license required.

Riding a bike in a place creates a sense of belonging and Winona is no exception. With its many quiet streets lined with trees, some of which arch over the road like the name of a cathedral. I could spend hours looking at the Victorian and Queen Anne architecture of the houses near downtown. On my bike, I catch glimpses of wildlife, if they’re not startled by the whir of the chain. Once, as I rode, a bald eagle banked against the wind just a few dozen feet above my head. I’ve seen turtles and deer. Once I almost ran over a squirrel.

I’ve biked and run most of Winona’s streets over the past few years, thanks to a marathon training regimen, lack of a car and a general sense of curiosity about the place in which I live. I’ve racked up quite a list of favorite streets and trails.

Now that it’s summer in Winona again, long days call for long adventures to fill them and lukewarm weather means it’s not too hot to jump on a bike and call it a day trip. So I mapped out a route that hits many of my favorite spots and offers ample opportunities to take it slow, grab a snack, or spread a blanket and take out a book.

The length of this loop I designed is about 16 miles, and I completed it at a medium pace in about 2½ hours. I don’t go very fast on my bike, a hand-me-down hybrid with a jerky front brake and a milk crate tied to the rack behind the seat (perfect for a picnic.) The route is mostly flat and paved, and I tried to include many of Winona’s more bike-friendly streets on this route.

St. Charles Street boat launch

I start the loop at the boat launch at Lions Park because it’s just a few blocks from where I live on the east side of town. It’s a perfect sunrise and sunset spot because it provides a rocky perch and a distant view of the interstate bridge and smaller bridge behind Latsch Island. Here look for wild morning glories on the rocks.

Then, from the launch, take St. Charles Street and turn right on Second Street. At Walnut Street, take a right to get to Levee Park.

Levee Park

I love to swing by Levee Park at least a few times each week to look at the river. When I lived on campus at Winona State University, it was the perfect 20-minute out-and-back run to get me going in the morning. I love to catch the sun rising here as well, slowly leaking over the river and onto the rooftops of Winona.

Riverview Drive/Minnesota Marine Art Museum

Return to Second Street, and then head right on Riverview Drive. Ten minutes from downtown, you can stop at the Minnesota Marine Art Museum, for the art of course, or the view of Yeomans Pond. There’s also a preponderance of wildflowers and birds. Then it’s back on the road again.

This part of the bike tour requires a Whitmanic excitement toward commerce and industry, with its views of soaring grain elevators and constant truck traffic. Plenty of interesting distractions, anyway — or you can keep your eyes on Prairie Island Road until you get there.

Prairie Island Road

Blooming flowers in Winona, MN

Blooming morning glories by the side of Prairie Island Road in Winona, MN

Turning right off Riverview Drive onto Prairie Island Road takes you away from the traffic and straight into sprawling views of wetlands and backwaters. Wild morning glories bloom over the banks leading down to the water, and water lilies abound. When I run or bike back here, I usually can’t keep a goofy grin off my face. Prairie Island itself offers ample opportunities to take a breather, spread a picnic and watch some deer or bald eagles. There’s a handy water fountain by the picnic shelter — and a portable toilet.

Mississippi River Trail

The Mississippi River Trail is a bike route that follows the Mississippi from Lake Itasca to New Orleans. Signage was completed in Winona last fall, and my route includes a short piece of it. Turn right out of Prairie Island Park and follow the left fork of the road (the right leads to McNally’s Landing) down a long straightaway. Watch for waterfowl — the National Wildlife Refuge surrounds you.

Verchota Landing

Mississippi River, Winona, MN

Verchota landing on the Mississippi River, Winona, MN

The view of the backwaters here is unreal, with miles of lily pads and bulrushes beneath a full sky. Take in the sight of Wisconsin’s bluffs, and watch for eagles. On calm mornings, the water makes a perfect mirror, as it did for my latest visit. Continuing on your way, take a right out of the parking lot and follow the Mississippi River Trail as it loops up a steep hill into a neighborhood. Then go left on Wenonah Road.

Wenonah Road

This part of the route is more of a connector, but it still offers a low-traffic, mostly low biking environment and views of the bluffs on either side. As you bike through Goodview back toward Winona, you’ll come to a stop sign that features Airport Lake on the left and Penguin Zesto West on the right. Here you will find a couple of choices for a mid-route refreshment on your ride.

Airport Lake

I close my eyes every time I let go of that rope. Reflexes, I guess.

From the lake, take 54th Avenue to West Sixth Street, and make a left. After going through Goodview past Goodview Park and Pelzer Street, the road will come to a Y-intersection, and I suggest the left fork, continuing onto West Fifth Street. This road is busier than most of the others, so stick close to the shoulder and hop in the bike lane once it starts.
Bob Welch Aquatic Center

If jumping off a rope into a lake is not your idea of fun, you can also cool off here. Just turn left on High Street and go two blocks north.

Windom Park

This park, set at the intersection of Fifth and Huff streets, always feels European to me. It’s fun to run the diagonals, but I would not suggest sailing through on a bike. Instead, take time to sniff the flowers and avoid mowing down pedestrians.

Lake Winona

From Fifth Street, take a right on Main Street and use the bike lane to get to the lake. I find the lake another excellent spot for daydreaming and catching my breath after a long day.

Back home — or a wild card

Eatery Winona, MN

Penguin Zesto West, Winona, MN

At this point, you’re back in town, sweaty, happy — so it’s time to add your personal stop to the bike route, then head to wherever home is.

Other popular Winona bike touring loops

Rollingstone Route: 12 miles
Arches/Farmer’s Park Route: 17 miles
Gilmore Valley Route: 16 miles
Pleasant Ridge Loop: 18 miles
East Burns Valley Loop: 13 miles
Pickwick Loop: 25 miles
Richmond Ridge Loop: 16 miles
Apple Blossom Loop: 17 miles

Bicycle campgrounds

Prairie Island State Park
Great River Bluffs State Park

For more information on biking and visiting here, see HaveFunBiking’s At A Glance Winona to plan your next trip.