While summer might be winding down, and you could be thinking: “hang up the canoe packs,” there is still some great bicycling weather yet to come. Riding the bike through the Minnesota woods in fall is one of my favorite activities, and a very scenic time to enjoy our state. Let me share with you five trails that I think are worth rolling over.
The Willard Munger State Trail goes from Hinckley to Duluth for a total of 63 miles. If you just like downhill let me recommend starting in Carlton just behind the Wells Fargo Bank. Take the trail through Jay Cooke State Park and then downhill all the way to Duluth. You will peddle right through the State Forest and when you pop out of the woods a very scenic vista of the St. Louis River and Lake Superior will lie before you. Park a second car in Canal Park, hit the Duluth Pack store, grab something to eat and drink, and shuttle back to the top.
The Heartland State trail runs from Park Rapids east to Walker, 29 miles, and then north to Cass Lake for another 20 miles. The prettiest part of this trail is cut through the trees on an old railroad grade from Akeley to Walker. As you ride the Heartland check out Long Lake, Lake May, and big, old Leech Lake at the end of the trail. A stop at the Historic Chase Hotel in Walker might suit a thirsty rider as well.
The Paul Bunyan State Trail runs from Brainerd to Bemidji for a distance of 110 miles. The portion of the trail I recommend is from Backus to north of Portage Lake, for a nice ride of about 15 miles one way. The linking “C” trail to the Heartland is something to see.
The “C” Trail links the Paul Bunyan State Trail and the Heartland State Trail. The first thing you will notice about this trail is that is doesn’t follow an old railroad grade. The trail is up and down from just north of Portage Lake to just north east of Akeley, but paved for the entire 12-mile length. In my opinion this is the most scenic trail in Minnesota and really should be experienced in late September with leaves in full color.
The North Shore State Trail, also known as the C.J. Ramstad Trail runs from Duluth along the north shore of Lake Superior to Finland for a total of 146 miles. Along this trail you are going to see some of the most beautifully rugged scenery Minnesota has to offer. This ride will have you passing by or through multiple state parks including Gooseberry, Tettegouche, and Cascade River. And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention what has to be the most iconic landmark in the state; Splitrock Lighthouse.
This is by no means an all-inclusive list so for more information and more trails check out the link here; Minnesota Bike Trails, and enjoy.