Rough riders who prefer to do their biking far from the refinement of paved trails will find fat-tire paradise in Minnesota. The beautiful Chippewa and Superior National forests stretching across north central and northeast Minnesota have hundreds of miles of trail 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 forest and swamp, 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.
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 of northeast Minnesota, 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.
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.
A state-of-the-art network of mountain bike trails opened in 2011 at Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area at Crosby, near the Brainerd Lakes area. This new 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. Check the DNR website for updates and a trail map.