Tag Archives: Visit Winona

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 anytime, biking around Winona, Profile #1

Kay Peterson, 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 #2

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 hours just to find a place to ride in nature. Here it’s so easy! There aren’t a lot of bike lanes in 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

Bike fun, Profile #3

Bicycling has become part of the culture at the Winona Police Department. Twelve of the department’s staff are avid road bikers, mountain bikers or both. Here Paul Bostrack, Anita Sobotta and Jay Rasmussen from the department share their experiences.

Many of the Winona Police Department staff are avid cyclists.

Many of the Winona Police Department staff are avid cyclists.

Paul Bostack

Police chief Paul Bostrack rides his new Trek mountain bike at least twice a week on the trails at Cherry Hill or Holzinger. When he was younger, before he had kids, he used to ride everyday and in all kinds of weather. He gave it up for a while, but now that the kids have grown up a bit, they’re getting him back into it.  “They fell in love with it. Then we went riding in Montana and it kicked me into gear. Biking is a lifetime activity,” Paul said. “I got a new bike so I can almost keep up with them,” he laughed. “Bikes have changed a lot. There’s a lot of new technology, but biking is still biking.”

Anita Sobotta

For patrol officer Anita Sobotta, road biking through the hills and valleys of both Trempealeau and Buffalo Counties in Wisconsin (across the river from Winona) is a welcome chance to get away from everything.

“Riding clears my mind,” she said. “I get away from cell phones and leave all other technology behind. It’s just me and the scenery, the birds and the wildlife.”

It’s also a good workout, which she relishes. Besides biking, Anita runs those same hills, and is training for a marathon race. She always wears a helmet, but would not ride her bike in town because she doesn’t like riding in traffic.

Jay Rasmussen

For Winona patrol sergeant Jay Rasmussen, who works the afternoon shift, biking is both a great stress-reliever.  Especially right now, with his job and it’s a great family activity. He rides with his nine-year-old daughter to school every morning and takes his three-year-old with him whenever he goes out for fun. “I have four kids,” Jay said, “so when I go riding I always have KJ with me.”

Right now KJ rides in a special seat in front of his dad. He likes the trails through the woods, but loves road biking down hills. KJ will say, “Dad, let’s scream!” when we go down hills. “So we do and sometimes we ride down Garvin Heights Road, although my wife doesn’t like us to do that,” Jay said.                                                                                                                             — Pam Eyden

Getting around Winona by bike, Profile #4

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 quite 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 happy 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 #5

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 an expertise in trail 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 a 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 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 giving biking a try. National Bike to Work Week 2018 will be held from May 14–18. Bike to Work Day is May 18!

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

The Mississippi River MRT in Minnesota, a bike adventure of a lifetime

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

As you read the following, please visit the embedded links offering short video clips and maps of the Mississippi trail system. To get a better feel for what you will see and experience leaving Itasca State Park on the MRT, see the first video clip here. 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 cheering you on. Departing out of the parks north entrance, follow the  internationally recognized Mississippi River Trail. Pedaling a scenic county road in a northeasterly direction this 30-plus mile stretch offers a beautiful rolling terrain. Smell the air as you pass by patches of pine forests and an occasional old farm setting. 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 current of the river flows into Lake Bemidji, this is a good place to consider for your first  evening. While here 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 you will find metal sculptures, murals and historic architecture 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. For lodging and more things to do when not riding, see our Bike Bemidji article. 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.

To the first Federal Dam on the Mississippi

 

 

 

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Passing several resorts, you may want to stop for a selfie by the big 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 1800’s making
it the largest reservoir on the Mississippi River system. Approximately 45 miles from Bemidji
there is a campground. A couple miles further east, you will find a restaurant and some lodging options.

As the river meanders, now in a southerly direction, the MRT follows suit, 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 that is more than 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

This is the town where Judy Garland, from the Wizard of Oz, spent her childhood. 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. Not only is this area rich in forested beauty it also offers a number of 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.  If you have a few extra days, the mining communities along this Mesabi trail are worth checking out.  For lodging and more things to do when not riding, see our Bike Grand Rapids article.

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 70 miles to Aitkin. To get a better feel for what’s ahead after leaving Grand Rapids watch the next video clip here.

Approximately 20 miles south you will come to a crossroad. 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. This is another intriguing place to stop. The community has a restaurant
and a convenience store if you want to have a picnic or stay the night in the campground
alongside the river. Back in the saddle, 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. Or take the alternate route, adding eight-miles to your
trip for the day riding on a busy highway with a narrow shoulder.

 

Rolling into Aitkin

Regardless of the route selected above, you will be rolling into a community
with riverboat history. Once a popular meeting point for both Native American Indians
and explorers, today the town makes a good overnight choice offering both 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 in a westerly direction the MRT roll into Cuyuna Country. Here the river passes on the north side of an iron range of the past. While the bike route meanders around these abandoned open mine pits you can see some of Minnesota’s newest lakes. Now as the river bends to the southwest, the MRT is rolling towards the Brainerd Lakes Area

Rolling into Brainerd

Just imagine riding in an area sometimes referred to as Paul Bunyan’s playground. Legend has it that Paul and his blue ox, Babe (remember that mythical figure you can take a selfie with in
Bemidji?) were having fun, wrestling around after a long rain spell. Stomping and tromping the two made a lot of 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 now replaces the forested
landscape. Further down the MRT, cross over to the west bank and visit Camp Ripley which
offers a very interesting 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 a place where native inhabitants, early settlers and recent visitors have used 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 original production of the “Wizard of Oz.” For lodging and more things to do when not riding, see our Bike Little Falls article.

MRT Day-5 from Little Falls to Monticello

At the edge of town cyclists will pass by Charles Lindbergh State Park 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

Through this stretch, the river offers several sets of rapids 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 of the attractions including the Munsinger-Clemens Botanical Gardens. For lodging and more things to do when not riding, see our Bike St. Cloud article.

Back on the east side of the river, the MRT and river both swing back to the southeast. Using county roads that parallel several irrigated potato fields, the route takes you to Clearwater. 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 lodging option 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 down-town area will notice the fresco mural on Main Street. You will also find plenty of options for a rest stop here.

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

Now, in the next twenty-five miles, MRT enthusiasts will enjoy stopping at several of the 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

Currently, as the Mississippi River Trail leaves the St Paul area, the route tentatively detours to the south on its way to Hastings. To get a better feel for what’s ahead after leaving St. Paul, watch the 6th video clip here. Hopefully by mid-summer, of 2018, 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 already completed on the far end and will take cyclists into the downtown Hastings’s historic district. You can find more about Hastings in our At-A-Glance article, along with a place to stop for cool refreshments or a meal.

Leaving Hastings, the MRT follows the Mississippi, winding along the rivers backwaters and past the Prairie Island Indian Community. About ten miles further and 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 here is on the National Register of Historic Places and contains a number of 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 continues to use 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 the Mississippi River is in sight, to your left most of the time. When you start to notice the river widening, the Mississippi is now flowing 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 popular place for touring cyclists. In addition to the Annual Tour de Pepin bike tour, the area 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 eagles and grumpy 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 Egles in abundance along the river, this is also home to the National Eagle Center, located downtown. Also, with the popular movie “Grumpy Old Men” an its sequal 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 area are 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.

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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. Here at the top of the byway cyclist in the area enjoy a remarkable view of the Mississippi River Valley. Then it’s a cruise down the Byway, into La Crescent.

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

Enjoy!

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

Now, with beautiful fall colors starting to peak in and around Winona, pedaling along the bluffs 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.

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 offer several opportunities to explore the area. You can enjoy the trails around Lake Winona, explore the many low traffic county roads, the local section of the Mississippi River Trail, or get in some mountain biking around the bluffs. Whatever you and your two wheels 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 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 take the MRT along the river, 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.

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 of fall the trail sytem 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 Historical 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.

 

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!

#FindYourNextAdventure