Minnesota is the land of lakes, and there is a trail to almost all of them. Over the past decades, cycling has become more popular and Minnesota has taken this seriously.
The State Dept. of Tourism says there are more than 4,000 miles of bike trails in Minnesota. They range from trails in major cities to abandoned railroad beds to forested areas.
Multiple tourist organizations say Minnesota is the best state for biking, and Minneapolis is the best city. (Some even say it is the best place in the world for cyclists.) Most Minnesota cities clear bike paths in the winter, so you can bike year-round.
Here’s our guide to the cycling Nirvana of the United States.
Minnesota Bike Trails — Cities
Most cities now have dedicated bike trails as more people use them for commuting to work, or for recreational riding. Some of these are converted railroad tracks that have been abandoned, and others are lanes on city streets.
Minneapolis Bike Trails
You don’t even have to own a bike to ride in this city that takes cycling very seriously. The city rents bikes and there are several private companies that do so as well. Their bike-sharing program is one-of-a-kind and is getting attention around the world.
The midtown greenery trail is very popular and a jumping-off point for many of the city’s trails. The 5.5-mile trail connects to trails around lakes and along the Mississippi River.
The Grand Rounds Scenic Byway is a 50-mile trail around the city open to all kinds of traffic.
Minneapolis has 83 miles of off-street trails and 44 miles of trails on streets. Even within the city limits, there are many terrains and types of riding available.
Minnetonka Bike Trail
The Minnetonka bike trail is a 15-mile trail starting in Hopkins near Minnesota Bluffs. From there it goes past lake Minnetonka, before going through Minnetonka, Excelsior, and ending at Victoria.
The Minnetonka trail has dense forest, water, residential neighborhoods. About anything anyone could want. At the east end, it hooks to a wilderness area and many more miles of trails. You can reach all Minneapolis bike trails from this one.
St. Paul Bike Trails
St. Paul is often overshadowed by Minneapolis when it comes to biking, but this town has a lot to offer cyclists of all levels. The city has 95 miles of trails for cyclists through many types of environments.
St. Paul also has a cycling festival each year.
A downtown trail along Summit Avenue is a popular trail that connects to many other trails in the city. The trail goes past Victorian mansions, lakes, bluffs, and the Mississippi River.
Like Minneapolis, many of St. Paul’s trails are linked. With a map and two wheels, you can get to almost any area of the city. There are historical tours, and other kinds of tours to do on your bicycle, and several local clubs if you like biking with others.
Bike Trail to Stillwater – Gateway State Trail
The Gateway State Trail is an 18-mile paved trail that goes from Stillwater to the city of St. Paul. It is a popular trail with cyclists, as well as walkers and skaters. Much of the trail is shaded, and there are times when it goes through forested areas.
There is a lot of country scenery the last four or five miles into St. Paul.
Duluth Bike Trails
Duluth is a bikers’ paradise with trails of all kinds at varying lengths. The International Mountain Bicycling Association named Duluth one of the best places in the world. There are no less than 40 miles of mountain biking trails in the city, and, while there may be no mountains, there are plenty of hills to challenge cyclists and lots of gorgeous scenery along the way.
Spirit Mountain has the only bike lift in Minnesota, along with numerous trails, but there are other areas with multiple biking trails as well.
The Duluth Traverse is one of the best trails you will find anywhere. It is 100-plus miles of mountain trail, and never leaves the city limits. It goes through forests, meadows, and cities, and connects to many other trail centers.
Other cities in Minnesota have a lot of flat, easy trails to ride. If you want a little more sense of adventure, Duluth is the place to go.
There are also 45 more miles of regular cycling trails in the city.
Rochester, MN Bike Trails
The city of Rochester has 85 miles of trails that are linked. There are biking organizations you can cycle with, and there are places to rent bikes. There is an 18-mile bike trail around Silver Lake. There is a lot to see along the way in addition to the lake.
Douglas trail is a flat paved trail going north on an abandoned railroad line. It is a 26-mile ride from Rochester to Pine Island.
Soldiers Field has a network of short trails, and it is a good place to get on the longer trails.
Cascade Lake is another lake trail that is a lot of fun. There is a downtown tour you can take on a bicycle, and many trails you can find throughout the city.
Stillwater, MN bike trails
The bike trail from Stillwater to St. Paul was recently completed and is a popular trail with cyclists. You can actually ride from Stillwater all the way to the north side of Minneapolis if you want to by jumping trails.
Another recently completed trail is the New Browns Creek Trail. This one goes from the historic area of Stillwater to St. Paul. It is six miles long before it connects to the Gateway State Trail. The New Browns Creek Trail goes past the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway. Along the way, there are rivers, farmland, forests, and rock gorges to pass through.
The bike trails of Stillwater are well-maintained, and it is easy to find places to stop along the way no matter where you are going. Stillwater has a lot of very nice trails of its own for cyclists. It is also a good central location for exploring this section of the state if you would rather do that in a smaller city.
Lanesboro Bike Trails
The Root River State Trail is the major attraction in Lanesboro, but there is more to the town than just a single trail. You can bike on most Lanesboro streets, and there are smaller trails that branch off from Root River.
The Harmony-Preston Valley State Trail starts in Lanesboro and is 18 miles of asphalt. It goes through forests, along the Root River and various creeks, and works its way through farmland and a lot of other nice scenery.
Combining the Root River State Trail and the Harmony-Preston Valley Trail will take you more than 60 miles through Minnesota’s most scenic bluff country. If you like rivers with tall bluffs, this is a great place for cycling.
Root River State Trail
The Root River State Trail follows the river most of its 42 miles, and that makes for some outstanding scenery. It goes through several Minnesota towns, starting in Fountain, and Lanesboro is next. It goes all the way to Houston and connects with other trails.
There are thick forests of maple trees, limestone bluffs, and steep hills. There is a lot of wildlife on this trail, including the occasional rattlesnake. Each town along the way has a railhead and a bicycle tune-up station.
Minnesota Bike Shops
Minneapolis Bike Shops
4208 28th Avenue S
Minneapolis, MN 55406
Recovery Bike Shop
2504 Central Avenue NE
Minneapolis, MN 55418
One on One Bike Shop
117 Washington Ave. N.
Minneapolis, MN 55401
St. Paul Bike Shops
Capital Deals Bike Shop
710 Smith Avenue S
St Paul, MN 55107
Lowertown Bike Shop
253 4th Street E
Saint Paul, MN 55101
Seven Spokes Bike Shop
1044 Cleveland Avenue S
Saint Paul, MN 55116
Duluth Bike Shops
Boreal Bicycle Shop
631 E 8th St, Duluth, MN
Continental Ski and Bike
1305 East 1st St, Duluth, MN
1026 E Superior St, Duluth, MN
Rochester, MN Bike Shops
An Honest Bike Shop
44 4th Avenue SE, Rochester, MN
Erik’s Bike Shop
3851 Marketplace Dr. NW
Rochester Cyclery & Fitness
1211 7th Street NW, Rochester, MN
Bike Rental Minneapolis
Minneapolis has created a bike rental system that could become a model for the rest of the nation, if not the world. It is a relatively simple idea that is working very well.
There more than 3,000 bikes, nothing fancy, just basic bikes, at 400 or so stations around the city. If you have a pass you can take one of the bikes for a set amount of time. Return the bike to where you rented it or to another station. You may rent a bike for a set amount of time, or for one ride.
Day passes are available for visitors to the city, or those who very rarely ride, but yearly passes are the best deal by far. Pay less than $100 to use the bicycles as much as you want for a year.
The nonprofit group running Minnesota’s bike rental program also has e-bikes and scooters you can rent at a higher price point. The standard rental bikes are pretty basic but good enough to get you where you want to go.
If you want something a little higher-end, independent bicycle rental companies in Minneapolis have nicer bikes available for rent.
Minnesota Bike Laws
Cyclists on Minnesota streets have the same rights, and are subject to the same laws, as motor vehicles. That means stopping at stop signs and stoplights, staying in a single lane on the road, and riding in the same direction as vehicular traffic.
One exception to traffic laws for bikers is red lights that are triggered by vehicles. If a light doesn’t change for an extended period of time, bikers are permitted to (safely) go on red. Though, you may have to explain it to the cops if you get pulled over.
Along with traffic laws, Minnesota has some laws expressly aimed at bikers.
To follow Minnesota bike laws, bikers must:
- Stay as close as possible to the right side of the road/curb, unless…
- Passing another bike or vehicle.
- Making a left turn.
- Avoiding collision or dangerous conditions.
- Only carry the number of people for whom the bike was designed. This means one (1) person for most bikes, or two (2) people for tandem bikes.
- The exception to this is properly-fitted and installed child seats.
- Have lights and reflectors installed for riding before sunrise or after sunset.
Bike helmets are not required by Minnesota law.
Minnesota Electric Bike Laws
An electric bike, or e-bike, is any bicycle that gives the rider propulsion or assistance by way of an electric motor or device. The legal definition is a bicycle with two or three wheels that has a saddle and fully operational pedals.
To be “street legal,” the electricity of an e-bike must not allow the bike to go more than 20 MPH. Legal e-bikes must also have motors that disengage or shut off when the brakes are applied.
Electric bikes may only be operated on roadways by people who are 15 or older. The laws for electric bikes are the same as the laws for peddled bicycles.
Can you ride a bike on the sidewalk in Minnesota?
The short answer is yes. There is no state law against riding a bike on the sidewalk in Minnesota.
However, there are safety concerns, and may be local laws in place.
Before riding your bike on the sidewalk, make sure to check city ordinances.
Minnesota Mountain Bike Trails
Mountain Biking Duluth
Duluth is a city that could have been created with mountain bikers in mind. There are lots of hills, and lots of different kinds of terrain over a large area to keep avid mountain bikers busy for a long time.
The Duluth Traverse is a system of 85 miles of trails that connect neighborhoods, parks, and lakes. There are a half a dozen more major trails that offer challenges and adventure for mountain bikers at different levels of difficulty. The trails were designed with mountain biking – or off-road biking – in mind.
Where to Fat Bike in Minnesota
Fat biking involves using oversized tires that give you a lot more traction. Fat bikes are ideal for Minnesota winters because they go very well in the snow. You may fat bike any time of year, but it is particularly fun when the snow is thick and plentiful.
The Cuyuna Country State Recreation area is a great place for riding a fat bike in the snow. It is near Ironton and has 25 miles of trails groomed for this type of riding. There is a bike race there each year.
Mission Creek in Duluth is in a heavily wooded area with seven miles of groomed trail. Another 22 miles are in the works.
The Jay Cooke State Park has 5.4 miles of groomed trails to ride in the snow.
Split Rock Lighthouse State Park has nine miles of trails that are ideal for fat bikes in winter.
In the Twin Cities, Elm Creek has a 10-mile trail, Fort Snelling State Park has six miles, and Theodor Wirth Park has a seven-mile trail.
In the southern part of the state, Douglas State Trail comes in at almost 13 miles, and the Richard Dorer State Forest has a 7.5-mile fat biking trail.
Best Minnesota Bike Trails
The Duluth Traverse could be the best biking trail in the nation, and it is certainly one of the best in Minnesota. There are dozens, maybe hundreds, of great trails in the state, but there are few that stand out quite like the Traverse.
The Root River State Trail’s 42-mile ride along the Root River passes many miles of scenic bluffs and through numerous small towns, giving you a great peak at the state’s natural landscapes and less explored municipalities.
Biking in the Superior National Forest is for adventurous types who may not want a clearly marked trail. In this huge forest, there are 2,000 miles of logging trails and forest roads. You could ride the forest dozens of times and never go the same way twice. It’s a great place for backpacking with a bicycle. There is also the Lake Superior shoreline to explore.
The Githci-Gami trail is less intense than Superior National Forest but still offers enough challenge to be interesting. It is paved for the most part and good for regular bikes. It is a 30-mile loop between Gooseberry and Beaver Bay. There are stunning views of the Lake Superior shore, rivers, forests, and farms to see.
The Mesabi Trail along the Iron Range is an interesting ride through areas that were once heavily mined. There are some tough climbs, but also plenty of areas that aren’t as difficult. It starts at Grand Rapids and goes to the Hoyt Lake area. A few tour companies offer transport to and from the Mesabi Trail ends, allowing you to do an end-to-end ride.
Minnesota Bike Companies
Minnesota isn’t just a biker’s paradise. With its thousands of miles of bike trails and enthusiastic bike culture, it’s also a place of inspiration for bike makers. As such, the state is home to several bike companies.
Framed Bikes (St. Paul)
Surly Bikes (Bloomington)
Salsa Cycles (Bloomington)
Clockwork Bikes (Golden Valley)
Handsome Bikes (Minneapolis)
LaMere Cycles (Minneapolis)