Spend a Day on the Dakota Trail

By Erica Wacker

The League of American Bicyclists named Minnesota the second-most bike-friendly state in the country again this year, thanks in part to our more than 4,000 miles of paved trails. One such trail stretches nearly 30 miles between Wayzata and New Germany, passing by charming towns, glistening lakes and rolling pastures along the way.

Dakota Rail bike trailOn some stretches, you’ll share the Dakota Rail Regional Trail with other bikers, hikers, dog walkers and Rollerbladers, while on others it’s just you, the trees and the birds. Pick your starting point—free parking is available in Wayzata, Mound, St. Bonifacius, Mayer, New Germany, and at Gale Woods Farm and Sovereign Estate Winery—and get ready to ride.

On the eight miles between Wayzata and Mound, the trail mostly parallels Shoreline Drive, crossing over the Crystal and Smith bays of Lake Minnetonka and past the town of Spring Park. A couple blocks off the trail, check out the artwork at the Minnetonka Center for the Arts in Wayzata and Gallery Navarre in Orono, or grab a bite at the classic Minnetonka Drive-In Restaurant, open seasonally through September.

Dakota Junction, located in Mound adjacent to the trail, caters to cyclists with farm-to-table fare, Izzy’s ice cream and local beers from Excelsior Brewing Co. and Minnetonka’s Lucid Brewing. Some ingredients are sourced from Gale Woods Farm, just two miles down the trail in Minnetrista.

Pull up to the bike racks and visit the chickens, sheep and cows, explore the hiking trails, or have a picnic on Gale Woods’ beautiful grounds. The working farm is open to the public seven days a week, but plan ahead to visit during a special event. On Saturday mornings, visitors can meet the animals and help with farm chores in the barn.

Across the trail from the farm is Big Stone Mini Golf—a site so unique it was the subject of a feature story in The New York Times. The 13 one-of-a-kind holes are surrounded by the owner and artist’s sculptures, as well as the resident goats, horses, chickens and pig.

A couple miles further west, the trail enters St. Bonifacius and continues into Carver County. St. Boni Bistro is a popular stop for fresh, homemade fare.

Sovereign Estate WineryOn the north end of Lake Waconia, Sovereign Estate Vineyard & Winery welcomes trail riders to sample the wines, dine on bistro fare and unwind on the 50-acre estate. Three grape varieties—Marquette, La Crescent and Frontenac Gris—are grown in the vineyard, and tastings start at $5. Check the calendar on their website for live entertainment and other special events.

From there, the trail continues along the lakeshore, past the Waconia State Wildlife Management Area, south of Goose Lake and into the town of Mayer. Have a beer or a burger at Knuckleheads Bar & Grill, or continue another four miles west alongside County Road 30, crossing over the South Fork of the Crow River and a pair of creeks before the trail’s end at the McLeod County border.