by Andrew Ellis,
It always amazes me how bike-friendly Mankato is, and this time was no different. Taking in the Mankato River Ramble Bike Ride, the first weekend in October, I found several new and safe twists and turns the whole family will enjoy as a bike destination. Tucked along the Minnesota River in Southwestern Minnesota, it’s a quick hour and a half drive from the Twin Cities to find your #nextbikeadventure here.
The city is located at the point where the Minnesota River and the Blue Earth River merge. This industrialized farm community is actually divided into two, with North Mankato located just across the Minnesota River and easily accessible by bike trail. With several trail systems that connect you to the north side, across the river and the many farm communities up on the bluffs, it’s a great destination for all skill levels of cyclists.
Overall I found my recent visit here fun and easy to get around by bicycle. The bike-friendly roads and trail made it easy to connect from one trail system to the next. Plus, there are countless public bike racks within the area for safe storage. Spending a few days here before the River Ramble, using my bike to get around, allowed me an easy way to see the city’s many attractions, such as the Children’s Museum of Southern Minnesota, the rock climbing walls at Minnesota State University, and many art exhibits. The presence of the colleges here adds to Mankato’s lively and welcoming atmosphere, so you can easily browse of mix of nationally known and locally-owned shops, and restaurants, and even venture outside the city limits for a tour of the local winery or brewery.
Biking Opportunities in Mankato
When you’re in a city that’s been certified as a bike-friendly community by the League of American Cyclists, you know you’ll find endless opportunities for pedaling around. That’s especially true for Mankato and its surrounding area, full of walking and biking trail loops and more. So, no matter what kind of terrain you’re looking for, there’s bound to be some road or trail in the Mankato area right for you.
Mankato’s Paved Trails Systems
The Indian Lake Conservation Area, a 120-acre regional park, has a trail that’s just over 1 mile long. It takes you on a small scenic tour of what the park has to offer. There is also the South Route Trail in Minneopa State Park, that’s just over half a mile long. This trail connects to the North Minnesota River Trail which also connects to the Sakatah Trail. The North Minnesota River Trail also highlights Mankato’s prime location in the river valley at Riverfront Park.
Bike routes that lead to outlying farm communities
Mankato’s biking loops are a great way to explore the area without fear of getting lost. The Lake Crystal Loop is the most popular among bikers. It takes you south on the scenic Red Jacket Trail and through the Minnesota River Valley for an adventurous ride. You can even top the adventure off with a piece of award-winning pie.
You can also take the North Mankato Loop that mixes trails with low-traffic roads, passing several parks and eating establishments for a snack. If you prefer to tour the city, then the Mankato Loop contains mostly off-road trails. It keeps you in town and passes through the Minnesota River Valley.
If you feel like venturing outside the city, take the St. Clair/Eagle Lake Loop. It’ll give you a nice taste of small-town hospitality, and you can even stop for a picnic in the park or eat at one of the local diners. If you want to explore the northern part of the city, then try out the North Gravel Ride. You’ll ride along the Minnesota River’s bluffs on your way to the prairie land of Kasota. If you want to hit the open road, then try St. Clair, Smiths Mill, and the Madison Lake Loop, which takes you southeast of the city.
If you’re looking for more of a challenge, then behold Mankato’s mountain biking trails. The Ft. LeHillier Trail was created by the Mankato Area Mountain Bikers (MAMB) and offers both an easy and a difficult track ready for your wheels to get down and dirty. Also, check out the Kiwanis Recreation Area, which has four different loop options that total five miles of mountain biking thrills. And let’s not forget Mount Kato, with over seven miles of wooded single-track trails, something for all skill levels.
Outside of town, you can try the trails at Seven Mile Park between North Mankato and St. Peter. It’s a multi-purpose trail system you can use, but watch out for other users.
Getting around the city and the surrounding area is relatively easy. The city’s streets and attractions are essential to making Mankato a bike-friendly destination. As for the surrounding area, there are plenty of roads that you can take to navigate around the area. Many of the loops mentioned above include using roads to follow the courses. However, each road differs in the amount of traffic and the amount of shoulder it has for riders – so stay alert.
An At-A-Glance Look at Mankato
Be sure to check out our At-A-Glance Mankato Article for more details on where to stay, play, and explore for your hand-held devices. As this story and the At-A-Glance Article are mobile-friendly for your convenience, have fun!
Now with fat bikes, any time of the year is the perfect time to visit Mankato.