Tag Archives: Visit Winona

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.

Winona’s scenic bluffs offer a new twist for mountain bikers

It’s a great place to shred some trails. Enjoy the new mountain bike trail system in Bluffside Park, overlooking Winona, MN. The park offers over five miles of switchback trail fun above this historic river town. The mountain bike park opened in November, showing spectacular views of the scenic Mississippi River Trail in Minnesota’s Driftless Area.

Two of the four new Bluffside Park trails are exclusively for mountain bikers, with two others multipurpose. Winter snow promises to bring out fat bikers and snowshoers alike. And as soon as we have enough snow on the ground, I plan to check out the new trail to share more with you.

HFB editor is ready for snow!

Winona’s scenic bluff trails

This area of Bluffside Park provides ideal terrain for snowboarding, skiing, and snowshoeing, all just a short walk from the Holzinger Lodge parking lot. The switchback paths leading up the bluff side are perfect for winter hiking and snowshoe excursions under wintery conditions. Bluffside Park is Winona’s one-stop winter recreation oasis.

More on the trails of Winona’s scenic bluffs

According to a recent article in the Minneapolis Star & Tribune by Bob Timmons. Winona’s new mountain biking trails bring southern exposure to a cycling scene more apt to produce headlines in central and northern Minnesota parks at systems such as Cuyuna Country, Tioga, and Redhead in northern Minnesota.

Fun anytime, biking around Winona

Sheldon Morgan discovered the sport of mountain biking in the late 1980s and has been doing it ever since. Now, he rides his mountain bike and organizes rides here in Winona.

Trails can be a great therapy for kids when visiting the area. According to Sheldon Morgan, mountain biking could be great therapy for kids who’ve lost touch with their roots and with nature. “There’s a lot of stress on teenagers these days. It’s higher than ever because of social media and access to all kinds of media,” he said. “They need to re-engage with the world.”

Sheldon points out that parents and peers can do a lot to encourage kids, maybe by first getting on a bike. “The city has to provide the infrastructure, but parents and peers bring kids in.” That’s how he learned. “My whole family was very active in outdoor sports. It’s in my DNA, I think?”

Sheldon commutes 20-mile round trip with his everyday bike.
Sheldon on a recent commute when not mountain biking.

He and his 26-year-old ride together, as they have for years. They go on mountain bike journeys together, riding and camping and taking a break occasionally for rock climbing.
Biking, rock climbing, running, and kayaking — he loves it all. “And it’s all right here in Winona!” he exults.

Come for the trails, see the views, then stay stay for the hospitality.
Come for the trails, see the views, then stay for the hospitality.

Located in Southeast Minnesota along the Mississippi River, the city is a very comfortable place to explore on two wheels. Don’t miss the fun throughout the year. Check out the www.visitwinona.com web pages to find out what’s happening.

Road touring along the Mississippi River Trail, out of Winona, is colorful this time of the year.

Pedaling around Winona can give you a feel of Indiana Jones

by Andrew Ellis

Soon, Minnesota’s beautiful fall colors will be gracing the Mississippi River Bluffs in and around Winona. Pedaling along the bluffs at this time of the year may make you feel like you’re Indiana Jones scouring foreign lands for lost treasure. But hold on there just one minute, Major Tom, you’re still in Southeast Minnesota. Ready to enjoy the thrills and features of one of the most bike-friendly communities in the state. The city of Winona and its surrounding area is a must-visit destination for those yearning for a free-wheeling outdoor bicycle experience. And perfect for a one-tank. day or overnight staycation.

Mountain biking in the Mississippi River Valley id colorful this time of the year.
Mountain biking in the Mississippi River Valley area is colorful this time of the year.

The area allows you to roam nearly wherever you choose – and there’s plenty for you to explore. You can forget about your weekday worries as you pedal down the scenic country roads. And if you’re looking to take a break and spend some time on the water, then there’s lakes, rivers, and streams to wet your line or paddle around on.

Biking opportunities in Winona

The town of Winona, bordered by bluffs in the Mississippi River Valley, offers several opportunities to explore the area. You can enjoy the trails around Lake Winona, explore the many low-traffic county roads and the local section of the Mississippi River Trail, or get in some mountain biking around the bluffs. Whatever you and your bike crave, there’s something for you, like a ride out to the historic Pickwick Mill south of town.

Levee Park and the Winona Lake bike path

I love to swing by Levee Park when I am in the area and look at the river. Especially in the morning and catch the sun rising, slowly leaking over the river and onto the rooftops of the city.

Riding or walking the trail around Lake Winona, enjoy the colors surrounding Sugar Loaf (Chimney Rock) in the background.
Riding the trail around Lake Winona, enjoy the colors surrounding like Sugar Loaf (Chimney Rock) in the background.

At Winona Lake Park, the paved trail offers riders a 3.7 and 5.3-mile loop option. It runs along the south side of the city and circles both segments of Lake Winona. The terrain is flat and easy for all skill levels. It’s also a multi-use trail if you prefer to walk it.

Mississippi River Trail (MRT) and the wildlife you will see

The Historic Pickwick Mill is just on of the sights you will see south of Winona.
The Historic Pickwick Mill is just on of the sights you will see riding south out of Winona.

The Mississippi River Trail is a bike route that follows the Mississippi from Lake Itasca to New Orleans. Signage is complete through Winona to make it easy to follow. One of my favorite routes, if you like to view wildlife, pedal your bike along the Mississippi River Trail upstream. 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 — you’re surrounded by the National Wildlife Refuge.

Road biking Winona’s roads

Winona’s roads offer long and refreshing rides along scenic county roads where you can get a glimpse at all nature has to offer. And there are many loops you can follow so you won’t have to fear getting lost. There’s the Gilmore Valley Loop which takes you past St. Mary’s University, the Burns Valley Loop, the Pleasant Ridge Loop takes you by the Bunnell Historic House, the Prairie Island Loop, the Richmond Ridge Loop, and the Rollingstone route goes through Winona State University and ends at the Luxembourg Historical Museum. See more on page 46-47 of the Minnesota Bike/Hike Guide.

Mountain and fat bike fun in Winona Area

With several off-roads cycling opportunities in the area, the whole family will enjoy the trail systems here. Here are a couple options:

Holzinger Lodge Trail

The mountain bike trail offers 12 miles of short and steep climbs and downhills, as well as winding curves as it forks and wanders through mature hardwood forest and bluff top. Most of the surface here is rocky clay, and in the spring, wildflowers bloom to add to the picturesque scenery.

Richard J. Dorer Memorial Hardwood State Forest

This state forest offers mountain bikers and hikers alike several options with the Bronk Unit Plowline Trail. Winter, spring, summer, or fall, the trail system here offers a mixed terrain ride of fun loops to ride. The North loop has two spur trails that lead to scenic overlooks of Stockton Valley and the Mississippi River Valley. There’s also the Trout Valley Forest Management Forest Unit which has two multi-use loops that take you from the valley to the top of the bluffs and more. You can also go on another unforgettable adventure in the Kruger Forest Management Unit that takes you along the Zumbro River and the area’s bluffs.

More About Bike-Friendly Winona

Sitting on the edge of the Mississippi River, Winona is also home to three unique colleges: St. Mary’s University, Minnesota State College Southeast, and Winona State University. These colleges add a lot to the city’s bike-friendly atmosphere making it easy to take in all the attractions here.

The city’s bike-friendly nature allows for more than just hitting the trails and its scenic roads. There’s plenty to discover about its history, and many of the buildings here are on the National Register of Historic Places. You will also find many locally-owned shops and restaurants, so there is something for everyone.

An At-A-Glance Look at Winona

Be sure to check out our At-A-Glance Winona 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. So have fun, visit Winona and enjoy the fall colors.


‘Ride the Ridges’ out of Winona, are up for the challenge?

How far, how high, how tough you ask? With ‘Ride the Ridges’ (RTR) bike ride, out of Winona, MN, you choose the level of challenge you want with four routes options. Ranging from 18 miles to a Century, Ride the Ridges features something for everyone. And now, the trails and gravel roads in western Wisconsin easily connect!

If you are up for the challenge and believe you will exceed your planned level of endurance this summer here is a memorable way to test those glutes, thighs, and calf muscles. In its seventh year, on Saturday, September 21, 2019, the Winona Rotary Club is expanding its annual road tour event. This ‘Ride the Ridges‘ event will take riders through some of the most scenic areas in Southeastern Minnesota.  Participants of RTR will pedal into lush valleys riding alongside cascading streams then up into the bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River. Will you be up for the challenge?

Bike Routes on Riding the Ridges

The beautiful scenery and the challenging hills make this ride one to remember.

The beautiful scenery and the challenging hills make this ride one to remember.

Choose one of four RTR routes, each having hills, valleys, and spectacular views. All routes have rest stops and SAG support!

Registration, with a stunning jersey available

Early registration is through September 1 and includes a pair of RTR socks, rest stops, SAG support, post picnic and party. If you like the jersey, orders close Wednesday, July 17, 2019.

The RTR benefits the Winona Rotary Clubs – Feed My Starving Children program. Can’t ride, donations are always welcome!

Visiting Winona

Check here for places to stay, eating establishments and attractions when visiting.

What past riders say about RTR

You have to do this ride if you enjoy biking. Great roads, great event!

  • The beautiful scenery and the challenging hills make this event one to remember.
  • Ride The Ridges is as good as it gets when it comes to bike tours. It offers great scenery, safe roads, superb organization, wonderful volunteers, excellent rest stops, mechanical support and a choice of distances…….everything a cyclist could ask for.
  • Ride the Ridges had the best rest stops and volunteers. The food selection was excellent. The volunteers were extremely friendly. I also loved the HAM operators supporting the ride.
  • See more comments here.

For more places to ride this Fall

See the Minnesota Bike/Hike Guide and the Iowa Bike/Hike Guide.

During bike month and any time of the year Winona is a fun place to visit with a bike.

It’s bike month in Winona and fun anytime of the year to visit!

Celebrating communities coast to coast with National Bike Month, we wanted to share what residence of Winona, MN are saying. A Bronze Bike Friendly Community, this area offers many bike-related activities for you to enjoy any time of the year while visiting.

Located in Southeast Minnesota along the Mississippi River, the city is a very comfortable place to explore on two wheels. Thanks to Pam Eyden, who profiled the following cyclist, we think you will agree that Winona is a place to consider while visiting with your bike.  Don’t miss the fun, also check their May Bike Month web page www.visitwinona.com/may-is-bike-month to find out what’s happening.

Fun biking around Winona and the 6-day 500-mile ride, Profile #1

Enthusiastic as a kid about riding her bike, Deb Hegland rides 500 miles in Six Days and loves it! Whether alone, with her husband Bryan or with friends, she gets out as often as she can. When together they both enjoy riding the roads at home and away. This winter Deb and Bryon went to Australia, where they did city tours on e-bikes.

Deb and Bryon Hegland in Duluth on a ride.

Deb and Bryon Hegland in Duluth on a ride.

Biking in the Habitat for Humanity Minnesota 500 Ride, every summer, is another high point of Deb’s year. This will be her eighth year of riding for the charity. Her goal is to do 20-consecutive years. “I wish I’d started earlier,” she laughed. Eight years ago, a friend talked her into signing up for what was then a seven-day fundraising ride in support of Habitat for Humanity and its aim of providing safe, affordable housing for all who need it.

Riding 500 miles in seven days sounds daunting for the average recreational bike rider. Her husband was skeptical because Deb had never done anything similar before. “He said, “fine, sign up. Just don’t sign me up!” Deb recalled. “He fully expected that I would call and want to be rescued part way through the ride.” Her daughter expected the same thing but that didn’t happen. Early on, Deb was overwhelmed and considering dropping out.

Then she was befriended by a woman who knew the ropes. “She taught me everything!” Deb stated. Everything meant riding 90-miles a day, pacing yourself — it’s a ride, not a race — washing shirts in a sink at night and sleeping in school gyms alongside dozens of “new best friends” as Deb calls them.

Deb owns her own business and works out of her home, a perfect situation for someone who likes to create her own schedule and freedom to ride and train when she wants. “I will never retire because I love my business,” she said, “but I really love to have fun,” she exclaimed.

The Habitat Minnesota 500 Ride will be held July 14 – 19 (it’s now just a six-day ride) this year in northern Minnesota. Despite recuperating from ankle surgery, Deb said she and her husband, who joined the ride after that first year, will be there. They don’t want to miss the fun, and she suggests that you don’t want to miss it, either.                                                         — Pam Eyden

A family on wheels, biking around Winona, Profile #2

When they first met in Utah years ago, some of Sundra and Patrick Menton’s first dates were on mountain bikes. “He was already into it,” she said, “so I started riding, too.” They married, moved to Winona and now have two kids, Avri and August and biking is a total family activity.
“We ride wherever we can ride together,” said Sundra. Sometimes that means riding around Lake Winona; sometimes it’s gravel country roads, and sometimes it’s the Root River Trail out of Rushford, MN. At the end of that ride, there’s ice cream for a treat — a sure incentive.

The Menton’s taught their children to ride using “balance bikes,” pedal-less
bikes that toddlers can walk, stride, push and glide on. Kids seem to learn faster how
to steer and keep their balance than when they start with tricycles or training
wheels, Patrick said.

Avri has just finished her first year on the Winona Composites/Winona High School mountain biking team. She knows the trails up on the bluffs behind Holzinger Lodge and at Bronk Unit’s Cherry Hill pretty well by now. Her brother August just joined the team. The family will be taking their vacation to Bentonville, Arkansas, this spring. The town has become a mountain biking mecca because of its many miles of constructed mountain biking trails in nearby hills, ravines, and forests.

Patrick, who works as Winona’s assistant recreation director, is an enthusiastic supporter of the new “Bluff Traverse” trail system Winona is planning to build. It will connect the town with the blufftop, and offer both hiking and biking trails for people of all skill levels. “We have all the trailers and gear we need,” he said, “but when Winona’s new trails are built, we’ll be able to ride from our house, around town and to the top of the bluffs without driving.”          — Pam Eyden

Fun anytime, biking around Winona, Profile #3

Kay Peterson, a client services coordinator at Winona Volunteer Services, loves bicycle riding. She has six bikes — a road bike, a fat-tire bike, two mountain bikes, a winter bike with used snowmobile bar mitts to cover her arms, and her everyday bike, which she calls her “horse.” She rides her horse to work, a four-mile round trip most days.

Kay Peterson, in front of Winona Volunteer Services

Kay Peterson, in front of Winona Volunteer Services

“I’ve been doing this for 10 years,” Kay said. “I started when I had an old car that burned gallons of gas just to drive short distances. It was a waste of money! I thought, ‘This is such a small town, I’ll try riding everywhere.’ After I started, I was hooked.”

She rides all year, even in the depths of winter, when wind chill temperatures are way below zero, in blizzards, ice, snow, wind, and rain. She’s got the gear, she’s got the clothes and swears she never gets cold. Or not very cold.

Biking clears her mind, she said. New ideas come to her while she’s wheeling down the street. In the summer she also loves gardening. “Biking and gardening are always competing for my time,” she laughed.

Mountain biking

A few years ago a friend persuaded her to try mountain biking. She soon came to love the challenge and the thrill of it. Her favorite trails are at Cherry Hill, in the Bronk Unit (location). “It’s a hidden gem,” she said.

She encourages friends and clients to get on bikes and ride. In an effort to get bikes to people who need them, she coordinates the Winona Volunteer Services Bike Program. Adventure Cycle and Ski accepts donated bikes, fixes, and tunes them up, then the Bike Program donates them to qualified people who need them. The program has given away 160 bikes in the last ten years.                                                                                                                                    — Pam Eyden

Bike around Winona, Profile #4

Emily Krall, 31, likes biking for the freedom and for the convenience of it. Manager of Blooming Grounds Coffeehouse, in downtown Winona, she usually bikes to work, at least when the weather’s good. She lives just a couple of miles away and could easily drive or walk, but biking is best. “I haven’t timed it, but biking is probably faster than driving,” she said. “Besides, the great thing is I don’t have to find a place to park! Before I got my bike I got lots of parking tickets. I work full time — having to move my car every two hours all day is no way to live.”

Emily lives just a couple of miles away from work and could easily drive or walk, but biking is best.

Emily lives just a couple of miles away from work and could easily drive or walk, but biking is best.

She also rides her bike to do errands, like to pick up a few things at Target. She carries purchases home in her backpack, which works fine, she said, because she’s not a person who likes to buy a lot of new stuff. She prefers the side streets and always rides defensively. “I trust that no one will hit me, but I watch everything,” she stated.

Bike touring after work

After work, she enjoys touring around Lake Winona and out to Prairie Island on a 13-mile loop near the river that passes the Minnesota City Boat Club and the airport.

Access to the natural world is one thing Emily loves about Winona. She recently moved here from Greenville, North Carolina, a city of 80,000, where the traffic was bad and biking was difficult. “Greenville wasn’t bike-friendly at all. I had to drive a couple of hours just to find a place to ride in nature. Here it’s so easy! There aren’t a lot of bike lanes in the town, but Winona is surrounded by so much beauty!”

Emily bought her bike on Craigslist for $150 from someone whose family had had it for three generations. It’s a classic Schwinn, with original green paint, original logos, and original seat. She mostly rides alone now, but will soon have company. Her four-year-old daughter is about ready to ride along.                                                                                                                 — Pam Eyden

Getting around Winona by bike, Profile #5

When Jo McGrath moved to Winona, from Rochester in 1997, friends told her to bring her bike because the town was flat and bikeable. She can’t remember why she was skeptical, but she did as they advised. Twenty-one years later, she’s still riding. She never bought a car. “I have a big bike with three baskets. That’s all I need,” she said. “If the weather’s bad or the trip is long, I can put my bike on the bus — although not if the baskets are full.”

Jo, who retired from work as a nursing assistant and personal companion, now volunteers one day a week at the Catholic Worker’s Bethany House. She lives on West Broadway and rides her bike to town several times a week — to the Bluff Country Coop, the library and farmers market. She also rides over to the river to see how the floodwaters are doing. “I just do the normal things,” she said. “I stay off of Broadway and take Seventh St. instead, which is easier.”

Using Winona’s quiet neighborhood streets to get around

She used to go on biking adventures with her husband and she also rode with the bike group at the Winona Friendship Center. One of her four daughters leads bicycling tours in Europe, but biking is just a part of everyday life for Jo. She’s happily riding her bike to the Center in Winona to play ping-pong. “As a child, I had training wheels on my bike until I was in seventh grade!” she said. “I didn’t give them up until my friends wanted to go on a picnic at Mayowood. Then I learned. I was not going to ride with training wheels on my bike that day!

Jo is quite comfortable riding at her own speed, on side streets, but she’s watchful.

Jo is quite comfortable riding at her own speed, on side streets, but she’s watchful.

“We all have to be aware of each other. Bikers can do crazy things, so can walkers and drivers. I believe in mindfulness. Of course, putting it into action is another thing!” she laughed.                                                                                                                                          — Pam Eyden

A mountain biker, Profile #6

Sheldon Morgan discovered the sport of mountain biking in the late 1980s and has been doing it ever since. Now he rides his mountain bike at least eight hours a week and travels to other parts of the country for trail events and races, besides organizing rides here in Winona.

Sheldon commutes 20-mile round trip with his everyday bike.

Sheldon commutes 20-mile round trip with his everyday bike.

Winter he rides fat-tire bikes in the snow

To work at his office in downtown Winona, where he consults on IT projects, he rides his everyday bike — a 20-mile round-trip commute. I ride more miles on roads, but more hours on trails,” Sheldon said. “I mostly ride on roads when the trails are wet.”
Mountain biking is number one for him. Trails put him closer to nature, which he enjoys. Riding through the woods is solitary and challenging. Endorphins and risk are also addictive.
“Even riding the same trails, you can always improve your speed, your grace, and your not-falling!” he said.

The Hillbilly Gravel Grinder

In early May he organized the Hillbilly Gravel Grinder, a 100-mile ride on the gravel county roads of Winona, Fillmore and Houston Counties. About 25 people started out at 9 a.m. and most completed the route by 6 — nine hours, including breaks. People enjoy the county roads because there isn’t as much traffic. “I ride for the mental stability and the exercise. I like to run, too, but I can’t run as long or as far as I can ride,” Sheldon said.

Winona’s mountain bike trail design

Over the years, Sheldon has developed an interest in and expertise in trial design. He and a partner formed a business, Dirty Deeds Earth Services, LLC, to help with trail maintenance and design at Holzinger Park, which, he says has “old school” trails, not well designed to counter erosion. He’s also helped the city at Sugar Loaf and has designed and created single-track mountain biking trails at the Bronk Unit of Minnesota’s Richard Dorer State Forest. This area, called Cherry Hill, is one of his favorites in the area.

Trails at Holzinger and Sugar Loaf will get a new, close examination for sustainability during the Winona City park planning process this summer.

Trails can be great therapy for kids

Sheldon believes mountain biking could be great therapy for kids who’ve lost touch with their roots and with nature. “There’s a lot of stress on teenagers these days. It’s higher than ever, because of social media and access to all kinds of media,” he said. “They need to re-engage with the world.”

Sheldon points out that parents and peers can do a lot to encourage kids, first maybe by getting on a bike themselves. “The city has to provide the infrastructure, but parents and peers bring will kids in.” That’s how he learned. “My whole family was very active in outdoor sports. It’s in my DNA, I think?”

He and his 26-year-old ride together, as they have for years. They go on mountain bike journeys together, riding and camping, and taking a break once in a while for rock climbing.
Biking, rock climbing, running and kayaking — he loves it all. “And it’s all right here in Winona!” he exults.

Come for the trails, see the views, then stay stay for the hospitality.

Come for the trails, see the views, then stay for the hospitality.

National Bike Month

May is National Bike Month, sponsored by the League of American Bicyclists and celebrated in communities from coast to coast. Established in 1956, National Bike Month is a chance to showcase the many benefits of bicycling — and encourage more folks to give biking a try. National Bike to Work Week 2019 will be held from May 13–19. Bike to Work Day is May 17!

Riding south out of Winona, MN, on a scenic bluff country ride, the Historic Pickwick Mill  makes a perfect stop to relax and reflect how our world continues to change. 

Bike Pic June 5, using the Pickwick Mill a rest stop on a bluff ride

Riding south out of Winona, MN, on a scenic bluff country ride, the Historic Pickwick Mill  makes a perfect stop to relax and reflect how our world continues to change.

Get into the zone and plan your next bike outing with family and friends at one of the many HaveFunBiking Destinations. View all the fun ideas and bike destinations in the new HaveFunBiking Guide.

Thanks for viewing our ‘Rest Stop’ Pic of the Day  

Now rolling into our 11th year as a bike tourism media, our goal is to continue to encourage more people to bike and have fun. While highlighting all the unforgettable places for you to ride. As we continue to showcase more destinations you can have fun at we hope the photos we shoot are worth a grin. As you scroll through the information and stories we have posted, enjoy!

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 do use your photo, you will receive photo credit and acknowledgment on Facebook and Instagram.

As we continues to encourage more people to bike, please view our Destination section at HaveFunBiking.com for your next bike adventure – Also, check out the latest  Bike Guide, mobile friendly as we enter into our 9th year of producing print and digital guides.

So bookmark HaveFunBiking.com and find your next adventure. Please share all our pic’s with your friends and don’t forget to smile. We may be around the next corner with a HFB camera ready to document your next move while you are riding and having fun. Capturing you in one of our next ‘Pic of the Day’ posts.

Have a great day and a memorable new year ahead!

Bike Pic Nov 19, Sugar Loaf overlooks bike trail

Here, Mary Farrell welcomes you to bike friendly Winona as she rides the trail around the lake, with Sugar Loaf in the background.  A Minnesota destination, along the Mississippi River Trail (MRT), the city here is a great place to visit and stay while exploring the many scenic routes and attractions in the southeast corner of the State.

On the left side of the photo above is Sugar Loaf, a storied symbol of Winona and known by all as its most distinguishing landmark. Reaching nearly 85 feet into the sky this pinnacle rock formation, on top of the bluff, is a welcoming sight when returning from any bike ride in the area.

Thanks for viewing the Bike Pic of the Day here at HaveFunBiking (HFB). 

Now, rolling into our 10th year as a bicycle media, our goal is to continue to encourage more people to bike, while showcasing unforgettable places to ride. As we search and present more fun photos worth a grin, scroll through the information and stories we have posted to help you find your next adventure. Then, while out there if you see us along a paved or mountain bike trail, next to the route you regularly commute on, or at an event you plan to attend with your bike, be prepared to smile. You never know where our camera’s will be and what we will post next!

Do you have a fun photo of yourself or someone you know that you would like to see us publish? If so, please send it our way and we may use it. Send your picture(s) to [email protected] with a brief caption (of each), including who is in the photo (if you know?) and where it was taken. Photo(s) should be at least 620 pixels wide for us to use them. If we use your photo, you will receive photo credit and an acknowledgment on Facebook and Instagram.

As HaveFunBiking continues to encourage more people to ride, please reference our blog and the annual print and quarterly digital Bike/Hike Guide to find your next adventure. We are proud of the updated – At-a-Glance information and maps we are known for in the HFB Destination section on our website and in the guide. Now, as the Bike/Hike Guide goes into its seventh year of production, we are adding a whole new dimension of bicycle tourism information available for mobile devices where you may see some additional bike pics – maybe of yourself so.

Bookmark HaveFunBiking.com and find your next adventure – we may capture you in one of the next photos we post.

Have a great day!


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.