Fat Biking in Minnesota

By Friend of Pedal MN

Winter Bike_Hansi Johnson
Photo by Hansi Johnson

Fat bikes are making their way around Minnesota! If you haven’t seen them yet, they are probably not far from your local parks, trails, or bike shops. These incredible bikes with over-sized tires are giving a whole new meaning to the term "winter biking," especially in Minnesota. Instead of riding on a layer of ice or slush on the side of the road, take your cycling to the beautifully snow-packed hills in the middle of a state park or trail.

Thanks to a recent pilot project, Minnesota State Parks and Trails have recently expanded the number of trails open for winter fat bike riding. The trails vary in difficulty level, but all are groomed specifically for the large, low-pressure tires that give the bike its name. In addition to the many opportunities for fat biking at Minnesota State Parks and Trails, an increasing number of Minnesota's municipal park systems also have embraced fat bike trails. We can't list all of them here, but rest assured - these days it's hard to shake a stick without hitting a Minnesota fat biking trailhead.

Minnesota winters can be rough if you're not getting outdoors and staying active. Yes, it will be cold. And, yes, there will be snow. But the same qualities that make a Minnesota winter so challenging also create unparalleled opportunities for winter fun. The vast, white winter landscape stretches out in every direction. Your breath crystallizes in mid-air, hanging in front of your face like a mask. The world is a blank canvas, and a fat bike is your paintbrush. There's nothing else like it.

Create something beautiful this winter when you explore these fat biking trails, located all across Minnesota:

Northern Minnesota

Cuyuna-Fat-Biking-2Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area in Ironton has 20 miles of groomed fat biking trails, and hosts the annual 45NRTH Wipeout fat bike race. Jay Cooke State Park  in Carlton has 5.4 miles of groomed fat biking trails. Split Rock Lighthouse State Park in Two Harbors has 8.7 miles of groomed trails for fat biking and skate skiing right on the shore of Lake Superior.

Southern Minnesota

Douglas State Trail goes from Rochester to Pine Island and has 13 miles of groomed trails for fat biking and other non-motorized recreation. While you're there, stay an extra day to explore the city of Rochester by bike. Blazing Star State Trail/Myre Big Island State Park in Albert Lea has 6 miles of groomed fat biking trails along with non-motorized recreation. And don't forget the Richard J. Dorer State Forest (Bronk Unit) near Winona, with 7.5 miles of groomed fat biking trails of varying difficulty.

Metro Area

fat biking stepsFort Snelling State Park in St. Paul has 6 miles of groomed trails for fat biking and non-motorized recreation. Nearby, the Gateway State Trail in St. Paul is plowed for 11.9 miles from Cayuga Street to Jamaca Avenue and is open to all winter biking. And in the west Metro, the Luce Line State Trail in Wayzata has 7 miles of groomed trails for fat biking and non-motorized recreation.

Whether you are a first time cyclist or an outdoor enthusiast, fat biking is healthy hobby that anybody can enjoy.  Fat bikes are rentable at nearby outfitters or bike shop and can vary in cost. For more information on fat biking, trail locations, or to download trail maps, check out the MN DNR website here.

Written by Ana de la Torre, a Conservation Corps member currently working for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.