by Russ Lowthian, HaveFunBiking
The winters here in the upper Midwest can be long. But living in Minnesota with four unique seasons, fat biking can be a fun way to pass the time in the winter, plus getting a good cardio workout. Many studies have stated the benefits of staying active outdoors in cold weather, and actively riding a fat bike will do that. Growing up in a winter wonderland of the cross-country ski trail, we now see changing conditions overnight. The fat bike is a great alternative to stay active and comfortable when the ski trail turns into a bobsled run.
Don’t get me wrong, I have not nailed my skis up on the wall as a decoration. I still loved the thrill of kick-an-gliding through the forests and open fields. But, climate change is a growing issue making the trails icy and sometimes baron of snow for skiing. It seems, in the last several years, we are seeing more freeze/thaw temperature swings making the ski trail hazardous. Now, with fat bikes on the market equipped with studded tires when conditions are not there for gliding over the trail. Here are some places to ride the trail.
Please check before you head out. Not all federal, state, county, township, or city trails are open to fat biking, but the list is growing.
Fat biking trails waiting for you in northern Minnesota
Here, north to south, are some Minnesota trails waiting for you as we enter the winter season:
Split Rock State Park Trails, northeast of Two Harbors. Here on the shore of Lake Superior, ride 8.7 miles of groomed trails perfect for fat biking and skate skiing. Currently, access is only allowed near Beaver Bay.
Giants Ridge Trail, east of Biwabic. This resort set on the edge of the towering Superior National Forest offers several fat tire biking adventures. Ride their 37-mile plus Nordic trail system or experience downhill fat biking via their high-speed chairlift!
Redhead Trails, at the Minnesota Discovery Center, in Chisholm. This new park offers all skill levels of fat bikers nearly 25-miles of hand-crafted mountain bike trails. Here you will find an oasis of fun riding through the diverse terrain around the old open mine pits.
Suomi Hills Trail in the Chippewa National Forest is north of Grand Rapids. Here you will find a 19-miles remote and stunning trail system in a semi-primitive non-motorized area. While in the area, you will also find several other primitive trails to explore in this National Forest.
Lester River Trail, in Duluth. Fat bikers will find this 12.5-mile trail one of the most beginner-friendly trails in the area (especially riding back down). Other trails in the Duluth area are rated intermediate to advance for the steady incline/descent and rocks/roots.
Jay Cooke State Park Trail in Carlton. Nestled along the St. Louis River, the state parks groomed 5.4 miles fat biking trails allows you to ride through and possibly spot white-tailed deer as they winter in this area. The trail here is intermediate with uneven terrain and small hills.
Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area in Crosby/Ironton. A rugged park of old open mining pits, now lakes, with stockpiles of discarded quarried rocks scattered to create over 50 miles of groomed fat biking trails. Here you will find a few loops for beginners. Most trails here are designated for intermediate to advanced skillsets.
Detroit Mountain, in Detroit Lakes. The bike park here features approximately 4-miles of downhill flow trails that make the most of the natural landscape in the park. The trails are designed to mimic a rollercoaster, with a series of fast and flowing sections that take you up and down the mountainside.
Fat bike trails waiting for you in the Twin Cities
Anoka Nature Preserve, north of Anoka. The nature preserve here is nestled along the bank of the Rum River with over 5-miles of double-wide trails. The perfect trail system for the novice fat-tire biker looking to enjoy nature in the winter along with the preserves gently rolling terrain.
Elm Creek Trail, west of Chaplin. Located in the north metro of the Twin Cities, this 4,900-acre park features amenities for many outdoor activities. This includes trails for fat biking, built to accommodate all skill levels riders. So grab your fatty for 10-miles of fast-flowing groomed trails of winter fun.
Gateway State Trail, in North St. Paul. A favorite for a quick getaway from the city, this section of the popular trail offers almost 12 miles of riding for fat bikers in the winter. From Cayuga Street to Jamaca Avenue, the plowed trail is perfect for beginners taking you out to the open fields of Ramsey and Washington County.
Theodore Wirth Park Trail, in North Minneapolis. Winter fat bike enthusiasts flock to the woods of this north metro park for seven miles of tightly twisting singletrack and a skyline-view pump track.
Murphy-Hanrehan Park Reserve, in Salvage. This peaceful wilderness park in northeast Scott County has its wild side. This is one of the more challenging trails intertwined in glacial ridges, hilly terrain, and heavy forests. Riding a fat bike here in the winter, the trail gives all who challenge it an amazing off-road experience.
Minnesota River Valley Trail, in Bloomington. Affectionately known as the “River Bottoms,” the trails attract a variety of nature lovers, bird-watchers, hikers, and mountain bikers throughout the year. The River Bottoms here is a fat bike paradise perfect for the beginner, intermediate, and those looking to race in the winter.
Fort Snelling State Park, in south Minneapolis. Located in the heart of the Twin Cities, where the Minnesota River meets the Mississippi River, this park offers 6-miles of groomed for fat biking. Most of this state park is on the Minnesota River’s floodplain. Making it easy to ride the trail along the braided channels of the river and see white-tailed deer, fox, and turkeys.
Lebanon Hills Reginal Park, in Eagan. With nearly 12 miles of a single-use, one-way trail system, winter fat bikers are discovering the park’s popularity as one of the go-to trails in the metro area. The trails feature riding for all skill levels combined with world-class facilities to enhance your riding experience.
Fat bike trails waiting for you in the south
Kaplan’s Woods Singletrack, in Owatonna. For the avid fat biker, you will find 5-miles of fun loops. With a tight singletrack trail system winding through the hardwood forest next to the Straight River, climbs are short and punchy to leave you breathless on each descent.
Bronk Unit Plowline Trail, a part of the Richard J. Dorer Memorial Hardwood State Forest, is north of Winona. The fat biking trails of varying difficulty consist of a south loop and a north loop for 6.5 miles. Both loops generally follow the woods’ edge, or the plow line, as they go around the ridge, rising and falling, giving them a “more difficult” rating.
Do you have a fun trail for fat biking that we have missed?