Where to Go Mountain Biking in Minnesota
Where to Go Mountain Biking in Minnesota
By Brian Fanelli
Minnesota is home to an exceptional variety of mountain bike trails, many of which stay open for fat biking all winter long. From lift-served downhill trails in Duluth, to the legendary red dirt at Cuyuna, you'll find outstanding mountain bike trails across Minnesota.
If you ride a mountain bike, you've probably already heard of Duluth.
With four trails and the state’s only lift service, Spirit Mountain is Minnesota’s premier downhill mountain biking destination. The variety of trails provide fun for first-time and experienced riders, alike. And the sweeping views of Lake Superior can’t be beat. Spirit even offers lift service for fat bikes in the winter, so you can keep shredding all year round.
Duluth is also home to the awe-inspiring 100 mile Duluth Traverse, a unique connector trail that dives and climbs across town to unify the city's many trail heads into one massive system.
“Nestled into the Mississippi River Valley, this quaint little town echoes the history of the Midwest," says long-time Winona mountain biker Scott Sherman. "Two different trail systems (Holzinger and Cherry Hill) showcase some of the finest mountain biking in the Midwest, with rolling, flowy singletrack trails sandwiched between rocky climbs that seem to go on forever and jaw-dropping, 400-foot descents.”
The iron ore mines at Cuyuna closed for business over 30 years ago, but in the past 10 years they've been reborn as one of Minnesota's best mountain biking destinations.
Cuyuna is now home to more than 50 miles of flowing, mixed-difficulty singletrack trails. Several loops of singletrack were carved into the rocky, post-industrial terrain, circling the pit mines-turned-lakes, winding through woods and over steep hills. Elevated areas offer outstanding views of the landscape’s many lakes—some of which are natural, while others are former pit mines that filled with water over time.
Grand Marais & Tofte
According to Hansi Johnson, an avid mountain biker and photographer, Grand Marais has, "the best trails in northern Minnesota that you’ve never ridden. In Grand Marais you have everything from hand-built, technical trail to machine-built, flowy trails—all built above one of the coolest towns in the state, full of good beer, good music and great food."
After you're done there, Johnson recommends heading down to Tofte to ride the Sugarbush ski trail system at Britton Peak. "These are awesome cutting edge trails in the one and only North Shore setting. These systems were built and maintained by the Superior Cycling Association.”
With nearly 12 miles of one-way, single-use singletrack, Lebanon Hills has become one of the go-to trails in the Twin Cities area. The trails feature riding for all skill levels, combined with world-class facilities to enhance the riding experience.
Local rider Natalia Mendez says, "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."
Theodore Wirth Park
Mendez also recommends Theodore Wirth Park, "for visitors looking to get rad within the Minneapolis city limits." She continues, "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."