The Mississippi River Trail (MRT) received national recognition last spring when federal officials announced approval of USBR 45 through the Twin Cities Metro area, allowing the route to officially run the entire length of the Mississippi River in Minnesota.
The MRT/USBR 45 connects 700 miles of existing shouldered highways, low-use roads and off-road paths for bicyclists and closely follows the Mississippi River from the headwaters at Itasca State Park to the Iowa border. Some sections have route options on both sides of the river.
“Designating the entire length of the MRT shows a strong support for bicycling in Minnesota,” said Tim Mitchell, Minnesota Department of Transportation bicycle and pedestrian coordinator. “The route is a unique collaboration among many local communities and state authorities. It creates regional connections and shared interests.”
The newly approved middle segment passes through the Twin Cities Metro area and the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area—a 72-mile-long park managed by the National Park Service. Much of the route is on bike paths with scenic views. This segment of the route offers opportunities to connect with restaurants, museums, parks and festivals along the river.
The northern segment of USBR 45 was designated in October 2012 and begins in Itasca State Park, where the river begins as a small stream. The route then travels through the north woods and past numerous lakes to Bemidji, Cass Lake, Grand Rapids, Brainerd, Little Falls and St. Cloud. At Cass Lake, bicyclists have an off-road option to travel 100 miles on the Heartland State Trail and Paul Bunyan State Trail.
The southern segment was designated in May 2012 and extends from Hastings to the Iowa border. This section is on roads and multi-use paths that closely follow the Mississippi River through steep limestone bluffs, hardwood forests, and more than a dozen river towns.
Detailed maps and other information are available to print or access via smart phone here.
Once complete, USBR 45 will continue south along the Mississippi River to New Orleans. In the future, the U.S. Bicycle Route System will encompass more than 50,000 miles of routes. More information about the proposed national network is available here.