U.S. Bike Routes in Minnesota: 1,000 Miles of Adventure
By Brian Fanelli
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Minnesota features two official United States Bicycle Routes (USBR): USBR 41, theNorth Star Route (NSR), and USBR 45, theMississippi River Trail (MRT). A combination of roads and paved trails, these routes connect some of our state’s most iconic parks, cities and natural wonders.
Together they offer bike tourists in Minnesota more than 1,000 miles of easily navigated opportunities for cross-country travel, regional bicycle touring and commuting by bike. So whether you’re biking for an hour, participating in an organized ride or cycling the entire route, it’s easy to plan your next adventure.
USBR 45: MISSISSIPPI RIVER TRAIL
Bike touring the Mississippi River is an epic journey that draws countless cyclists to Minnesota every year. Kick off your adventure at Itasca State Park in northern Minnesota, where you can dip a back tire into the Mississippi Headwaters and embark on an unforgettable bike tour of America's most legendary river.
Like all great journeys, cycling the Mississippi River Trail begins quite humbly: At the headwaters, a shallow stream that barely moves at all. But as you cycle south along the Mississippi, the small river gradually becomes larger, picks up speed and grows into its awe-inspiring reputation.
Along its winding path to the state’s southern border, the MRT contains more than 800 miles of roads and paved trails and passes through dozens of welcoming cities and towns. You’ll ride among Minnesota’s ancient pine woods, conquer soaring river bluffs, and find an abundance of natural and cultural highlights.
USBR 41: North Star Route
Traveling by bike is all about slowing down to explore the spaces between: The towns between highway ramps, the roadside attractions between towns. So slow down a bit and explore the North Star Route, Minnesota’s newest on-road designated bike route between the Capitol and Canada.
It takes less than six hours to drive from St. Paul to Grand Portage on the highway; that same trip could take anywhere from six to ten days by bike–and that’s not a downside, it’s a plus.
Beginning at the state Capitol in St. Paul, you’ll head north for 315 miles until reaching the Minnesota/Canada border at Grand Portage State Park. In the space between those two far-flung destinations, the NSR passes through nine state parks and two national parks, the port of Duluth, and connects the Mississippi River, the world’s fourth longest, to Lake Superior, the world’s largest freshwater lake.
Brian Fanelli is a writer and editor for Explore Minnesota. When he isn't writing about life in The North, you'll find him browsing the sci-fi shelves in a local bookstore, biking one of Minnesota's spectacular trails or walking his Chihuahua around Minneapolis.
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