Whether you’re seeking a serene roll or a challenging thrill, there’s no shortage of mountain bike trails to explore in Minneapolis-St. Paul. Here are three to get you started.
Theodore Wirth Park
For visitors looking to get rad within the city limits, you can’t do much better than Theodore Wirth Park. Located on the western edge of North Minneapolis—just outside of downtown—Theo’s rustic, wooded environment makes it easy to forget you’re in the heart of a bustling city, but the glimmering Minneapolis skyline is never far from sight.
Theo’s trails are defined by snug tree clearances and frequent switchbacks, which means it can be a cakewalk or a thriller depending on your speed. It’s a great place to practice your bike handling, and can be the place to gain the confidence boost needed to fall in love with mountain biking. Trails at Theo range from flowy and smooth, to tight and twisty, with a few advanced features such as rock gardens and log skinnies thrown in for good measure.
The North and South loops snake through trees and feature rock gardens that are ridable at speed, or walkable for beginners. The Southwest loop has a looser feel, with smooth berms, rollers and a few drops to keep you on your toes. For more of a roller-coaster sensation, head to the Glenwood Loop. After a punchy climb, riders careen down the hillside via a series of high-speed berms and finish right where they started, daring riders back up the hill for one more ride.
Visit Theo’s new outdoor center, The Trailhead, for bicycle rentals, repairs and post-ride meals from its in-house restaurant. Trail maps, water, lockers, studio classes, showers and a sauna are all available inside (some fees apply).
Riders flow gently through trees, under graffiti-adorned highway underpasses and through breathtaking, shockingly green walls of tall horsetail reeds in the summer. Due to its relaxed, relatively flat topography, the River Bottoms is perfect for an adventure date, solo trip or family dirt excursion. For those desiring a workout, swaths of washed-up sand afford ample opportunities to drop into a low gear and mash to your heart’s content.
Venture deep enough into the foliage along the path and you’ll encounter the trail’s iconic wooden raft, installed to help riders and bikes across one perennially flooded section of beach. It cannot be overstated how much this experience feels like it was lifted straight out of the classic “Oregon Trail” computer game, but with better scenery.
Due to its location, River Bottoms is more wild and natural than most trails in the Twin Cities. Great blue herons, swans and other waterfowl, eagles and hawks are commonly spotted, and only add to the splendor of this great trail.
With all the trails Lebanon Hills has to offer, riders of every skill level are sure to grin while pumping pedals at this versatile off-road park in the suburb of Eagan, just down the road from the Minnesota Zoo.
Showcasing 12 miles of singletrack, the beginner and intermediate paths at Leb are relatively open and flowing, with just enough gradual climbs to keep your heart pumping. Like Theo, Leb’s trails are wooded—but clearance isn’t so tight as to make beginners worry about dinging a handlebar on a tree if they let loose. Riders can practice railing berms, cruising through lower-grade rock gardens and getting as much air as they dare with a few jumps, too.
Advanced riders should check out the “More Difficult,” “Most Difficult” and “Extremely Difficult” trails, the last of which is only accessible after navigating the previous two. These trails dial up the difficulty with log step ladders, rock gardens, high skinnies and other tricky obstacles. For riders who can handle the challenge, these are some of the most advanced—and rewarding—trails in the entire Twin Cities.
Natalia Mendez is a former Wisconsinite who never lost her love for cheese, big lakes and going "Up North." She now lives in Minneapolis near lots of smaller lakes, and spends time in Minnesota's north woods as much as possible. When not dreaming of her next two-wheeled adventure, she can be found cooking and eating elaborate meals or petting her cats, Cosmo and Carl.
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