by Andrew Ellis, HaveFunBiking.com
What started as an agriculture and milling community, along the Cannon River with two colleges, has transformed Northfield into a place for cycling tourist of all skill levels and interests to enjoy. There is even a reenactment and annual bike ride, each fall, centered around the 1876 Jesse James gang bank robbery that put Northfield, Minnesota in the national headlines. Today, with both Saint Olaf and Carleton colleges based here, their presence has helped create a a bike-friendly atmosphere few other small towns can offer.
And when not biking you can enjoy the arts, history, nature, shopping and other multiple outlets for a memorable visit.
More About Bike-Friendly Northfield
Northfield is located 30 minutes south of the Twin Cities and sits along the Cannon River Valley corridor. As a multiple college town the community offers a relaxed lifestyle with picturesque surroundings that attract tourists from all over.
For cyclists, it’s like pedaling through paradise and that’s not just describing the many trails it offers. The two colleges here also add to the bike-friendly environment, along with a vibrant downtown full of locally-owned shops and restaurants. For the history buff, there’s also plenty about the town’s connection to Jesse James and routes that were used by stagecoaches of that era.
Riding Options When Visiting Northfield
There are many miles of trails in the area of Northfield and Dundas that are accessible for pedestrians, bikers, rollerblading, wheelchairs, and those bringing strollers. These trails wind through many neighborhoods and also offer breathtaking views of the nature within the community.
Mill Towns Trail
The Mill Towns Trail is the central section of the planned recreational trail between Cannon Falls and Fairbault. It will also eventually link the existing Cannon Valley to the Sakatah Sing Hills Trail, in Faribault. The first leg of the trail was built a few years back between Northfield and Dundas. Today, it has a bridge that crosses the Cannon River to connect the trail to downtown Northfield. See all the bike trail options here.
Mountain Biking Options
The Sechler Park MTB Trail is a shared-use trail system that’s open to mountain biking, hiking, and snowshoeing. Organized by Cannon Valley Offroad Cycling & Trails (CROCT), it’s a two-way trail approximately 3.5 miles long if all sections are ridden in both directions. A small skills park was added a couple years ago.
There’s also Caron Park MTB Trail, which is south of Northfield. It’s a relatively new trail system and a second trail was added in the summer of 2016. Thanks to CROCT, the trail will be ready for use once the spring thaw and Cannon River flooding is done.
Road Touring Options Around Northfield
There may not be as many farms along the quiet county roads heading out of Northfield, but there are plenty of loop options for your bike. One of the local club’s favorite routes follow the old stage coach route, south out of town. Then it swings to one of the last standing virgin timber stands in Minnesota. You’ll also be able to visit Nerstrand Big Woods State Park for a glimpse of what the terrain looked like back in the days of the Jesse James era. See many of the Northfield Bike Club’s route options here.
An At-A-Glance Look at Northfield
Be sure to check out our At-A-Glance Northfield Article for more details on where to stay, play, and explore for your hand-held devises. As this story and the At-A-Glance Article are mobile-friendly for your convenience, have fun!