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The 8 best bike rides in Minnesota

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Getty Images

You've got lots of amazing options. Elsewhere, you have eight terrible options

Willard Munger State Trail

In total, the Willard Munger State Trail spans a whopping 160 miles—for something more manageable, hit the 63-mile segment from Hinckley to Duluth. “Most of the time, you’re in the woods, and you get these amazing scenic views of Minnesota,” says Patrick Stephenson, co-founder of 30 Days of Biking and the Joyful Riders Club. “It’s just amazing how far you can go on one trail, and it’s nice and flat.” It’s also entirely paved, all of which adds up to make the route a central component of the MS 150—a two-day ride from Duluth to the Twin Cities that’s one of the state’s biggest annual bike events.

Lake Minnetonka LRT Regional Bike Trail

Want to get away from cars and hang out under the stars? Take a bike camping trip courtesy of the 15-mile Lake Minnetonka LRT Regional Bike Trail. “You hook up with it in Hopkins, right off the Cedar Lake Trail, and you can take it all the way to Victoria,” Stephenson explains. There, you’ll find a just-opened bike-only campground at Carver Park, where you can reserve a tent space for just 10 bucks. “You don’t really have to interact with cars at all, the whole ride, and you just need a tent and a sleeping bag and you’re set.”

Luce Line State Trail

Luce Line State Trail

Luce Line State Trail Provided by Minnesota DNR

Twin Cities Bicycling Club board member and ride leader Edward Eroe busts out his cyclocross bike here: “It’s one of my favorite rides if I want to do some dirt, especially on hot days; it’s nice and shaded.” Running from Theodore Wirth Park to the tiny town of Cosmos, the Luce Line is a lovely, wildlife-packed, 63-mile route, with “real nice views of lakes and ponds and woods.” For a shorter, simpler ride, hop on the Luce Line Regional Trail—a nine-mile, paved portion that gets you from Theo Wirth to Plymouth to Golden Valley, with skyline views along the way.

Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike Trails

When the iron ore business abandoned Crosby in the ’60s, the mining town essentially fell off the map—that is, until the Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike Crew and the MN Department of Natural Resources teamed up to open a 25-mile network of dirt trails, making the region a year-round mountain-biking destination. “It’s really been a boon to Crosby, Ironton, and Deerwood since they put in these trails. Businesses and breweries are popping up, lodging—that’s all because of the bikers,” says MN Bike Trail Navigator blogger Chris Chavie. “And they’re making the trails even better—a lot of the ones that were two-way trails, in their master plan, are getting converted to one-way trails, and they’re adding more.” If you don’t want to “shred the red” (the iron-rich terrain will leave your bike rust-colored), there’s also the paved, eight-mile Cuyuna Lakes State Trail.

Paul Bunyan State Trail

The Paul Bunyan is a behemoth befitting its namesake, among the longest continually paved trails in the nation at 120 miles. “I did it last year, and it was just beautiful,” says Jai Whitworth, sales manager and bike mechanic at Northeast’s Recovery Bike Shop. “It’s just really cool to go from Bemidji to Brainerd and bike the whole way.” You’ll pass dozens of adorable northern Minnesota towns, plus, it gives you a reason to visit Crow Wing State Park. And you don’t need to do all 120 miles: “Any part of it, really, to jump on and off, is a good ride,” Whitworth says. “But it’s worth it. It’s super cool to do the whole thing.”

Root River State Trail

In bikes and in life, it’s about the journey, not the destination. And rarely is the journey so enjoyable as it is on the Root River State Trail, a 42-mile paved stretch that passes through some of southeastern Minnesota’s most charm-the-pants-off-of-you places. “They have some really nice, bike-friendly stops along the way—it’s just a great, great biking community,” Eroe says. That includes Lanesboro, a “quaint little town” with a theater company (appropriately called Commonweal), and plenty of bed and breakfasts. Lots of people spend two or three days biking it, and TCBC evn has a yearly ride there.

Grand Rounds Scenic Byway

So you don’t have a car. (Or you just don’t feel like leaving Minneapolis.) Solution? Grand Rounds. “The reason that I love the Grand Rounds is because it covers all these different neighborhoods,” says Anthony Taylor, co-founder of the Major Taylor Bicycling Club of Minnesota. The seven-segment, 55-mile trail loops around Minneapolis, taking you through the Chain of Lakes, moseying past the Minnehaha and the Mississippi. And Taylor loves the byway because it’s a connector to so many other regional paths, too. His group’s goal is to diversify the Twin Cities cycling community, and Grand Rounds provides access to communities that sometimes go forgotten: “There’s something about it that reminds me how we have to reconnect these neighborhoods to the identity of the parkway.”

Cannon Valley Trail

Even Chavie, who’s typically an off-road guy, digs the Cannon Valley Trail, a 20-ish-mile route from Cannon Falls to Red Wing where anyone from beginner cyclist to seasoned tour rider can build their own bike adventure. Take a 10-mile tour to Welch for a picnic before riding back, or tack on another nine to get to the Red Wing Trailhead. “Or, if you really want to take the long route, you can take it all the way to Red Wing and jump to the Goodhue Pioneer State Trail,” Chavie says. “You can do about 53 miles round-trip. Make it whatever ride you want it to be.”

Cruise around to rest of our 2018 Bike Issue: