Fat Biking in Minnesota

By Brian Fanelli

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 Whiteout 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. 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 stepsThe Twin Cities metro area is a hotbed of fat bike trails, with numerous groomed trails scattered across the region.

In the North Metro, Elm Creek boasts more than 10 miles of winter fat bike trails. Featuring fast, flowing groomed trails, Elm Creek is a must-visit destination. Let off the brakes and rip some berms all year round.

Fort Snelling State Park in St. Paul has six miles of groomed trails for fat biking and non-motorized recreation. Situated at the junction of the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers, the trails at Fort Snelling are quite literally defined by water. Beneath every bluff, beside every valley and around every corner: Water.

In Minneapolis, winter fat bike enthusiasts flock to the woods of Theodore Wirth Park for its seven miles of tightly twisting singletrack and skyline-view pump track. Fat tires can make quick work of the infamous Theo rock garden, but don't worry - short-burst hills and winding descents will help keep your ego in check.

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.