Rough riders who prefer to do their biking far from the refinement of paved trails will find a fat tire paradise in Minnesota. The beautiful Chippewa and Superior national forests, stretching across north central and northeast Minnesota, have hundreds of miles of trails available. Both forests have identified routes suitable for mountain biking. These include gravel roads for casual outings, old logging roads for more challenging treks, or the adventure of winding, bumpy off-road trails.
In the Chippewa National Forest, the 13-mile Simpson Creek Trail northwest of Deer River follows old dirt roads and paths winding over hills through pine forests and swamps, and hooks up to the 18-mile Cut Foot Sioux Trail loop. North of Grand Rapids, the 19-mile Suomi Hills Trail explores a scenic area of lakes and woods in the Chippewa forest.
In the Superior National Forest, the 17-mile Sugarbush Loop wanders the hilly country inland from the north shore of Lake Superior. In the Ely area, try the 12-mile network of loops in the Hidden Valley Recreation Area.
Some of Minnesota's biggest ski areas turn into mountain bike playgrounds when the snow goes away. At Giants Ridge, near Biwabik on the Iron Range, there are 50 miles of trails ranging from single-track to wide, mowed paths. Afton Alps east of St. Paul and Mount Kato in Mankato each offer about eight miles for mountain biking, and the new Detroit Mountain Recreation Area in Detroit Lakes has both single-track and gravity trails.
The Minnesota Valley State Recreation Area has 35 miles of mountain bike trails along the river bottoms near Shakopee, on the southwest edge of the Twin Cities area. Other mountain biking destinations in the Twin Cities include Battle Creek Regional Park in St. Paul, Elm Creek Park Reserve near Maple Grove and Murphy-Hanrehan Park Reserve near Savage.
A state-of-the-art network of mountain bike trails runs through the Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area in Crosby, near the Brainerd Lakes area. This 22-mile trail network winds through a landscape created by 70 years of iron ore mining. As it turns out, it's a landscape perfect for crafting a maze of trails to conquer by bike. The recreation area also has a 6-mile paved bike trail.
Find more Minnesota bike trails:
- Central Minnesota
- Minneapolis-St. Paul area
- Northeast Minnesota
- Northwest Minnesota
- Southern Minnesota