If you’re looking for a new sport to try this summer, Minnesota has no shortage of options. Stand-up paddleboarding – an offshoot of surfing that’s popular on the West Coast – is making waves in this part of the country, too. On land, ATVing and mountain biking offer scenic adventures, while disc golfing will test your perseverance.
Said to originate in Hawaii, stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) made its way to the mainland via California in the early 2000s and was an instant hit. As the name suggests, the sport involves standing on a board and using a paddle to travel across the water.
Unlike surfing, SUP is best performed on calm water, making it ideal for Minnesota’s many lakes and rivers. Lake Superior and the Mississippi and St. Croix rivers are great spots to try this beginner-friendly sport. Outfitters in Duluth, Stillwater, and the Minneapolis-St. Paul area offer equipment rentals, lessons and tours on these and other waterways, including lakes in the heart of Minneapolis.
A handful of state parks, including Split Rock Creek near Pipestone and McCarthy Beach near Hibbing, also have SUP equipment available for rent.
All-terrain vehicles have become very popular for recreational riding. With more than 300,000 registered ATVs in Minnesota, “ATVing is one of the largest growing sports in the state today when it comes to outdoor recreation,” says George Radke, president of the All Terrain Vehicle Association of Minnesota.
Close to 1,000 miles of grant-funded trails cater to ATV riders, with a concentration in the central and northeast parts of the state. The Iron Range OHV Recreation Area near Gilbert was designed specifically for off-road riding, and the Soo Line North and South trails connect in Moose Lake to create more than 250 miles of riding.
Radke says older adults are attracted to ATVing as a low-impact way to get into the woods and enjoy the scenery. While most trails are designed for leisurely touring, some offer challenging loops and rugged terrain for more experienced riders.
For more information on ATV trails, check out the Minnesota ATVentures guide. Maps and trail details are also available at mndnr.gov.
It’s not only the thousands of miles of paved trails that make Minnesota a bicycling mecca. Mountain biking is gaining ground with those looking for an adrenaline-pumping ride, and more trails are being developed to keep up with demand.
Hansi Johnson, Midwest regional director of the International Mountain Bicycling Association, says Minnesota mountain biking areas have become full-on destinations, with people coming from Canada, Colorado and beyond to ride.
“In the Midwest we’re literally engineering these trails. Modern trails have jumps, rollers and berms and are made just for the mountain biker,” he says, as compared to trails that are shared with ATVs, horses, and skiers in the winter.
Many of these areas, including the Cuyuna trail system near Brainerd, Spirit Mountain in Duluth, and Lebanon Hills Regional Park in Eagan, have trails that are suitable for all levels of riders. If you’re brand new to the sport, seek out your local mountain biking club for skills clinics and group rides.
With the Amateur Disc Golf World Championship coming to the Minneapolis-St. Paul area this summer (July 19-26), now’s the time to get familiar with this growing sport. Minnesota has close to 200 disc golf courses, which range from nine to 27 holes and are often found in city, state and regional parks as well as on traditional golf courses.
Much like golf, the object of the game is to complete the course with the fewest strokes – or in this case, throws – as possible. Rather than a hole in the ground, the target is usually a metal basket that sits on a pole. Players throw the disc from the tee area and progress down the fairway until they’re close enough to “putt” it into the basket.
Unlike golf, there are usually no carts, expensive equipment or greens fees involved, making the sport accessible to anyone who wants to play.
“Disc golf is cheap, relaxing, rewarding, and a workout all in one,” says Laramie Carlson, a Duluth-based disc golfer. “Casual or serious, it's easy to get hooked on watching a disc fly its path down a wooded corridor or airing out in an open field.”
Find Minnesota disc golf courses at pdga.com.