Our metro area is well-known for its extensive system of scenic bike trails – perhaps the largest in the country.  I haven’t ridden all of them yet, but here are my favorites so far.

credit: CBS

Urban trail, 25 miles or more: The Grand Rounds of Minneapolis


The early city planners of Minneapolis reserved basically every bit of land along lakes and rivers for the public, so no one could build housing developments along them.  The result was the Grand Rounds  – beautiful tree-lined paths that take you right next to the Mississippi River, Minnehaha Creek, Minnehaha Falls, the chain of lakes (Harriet, Calhoun and Isles), Wirth Park and Victory Memorial among many other sites.  The paths are mostly flat, with only a few minor hills – primarily in Wirth Park.  The trail covers about 50 miles, but you can easily split it up into sections.

credit: CBS

Urban trail, 25 miles or less: River Parkway in St. Paul and Minneapolis


This is a great loop that I take regularly from downtown Minneapolis. Starting on the path near the south end of the historic Stone Arch bridge in Minneapolis, you follow the Mississippi River east a bit, until it starts heading south, across from the University of Minnesota campus.  Follow the path along West River Parkway all the way down to Minnehaha Park where you can enjoy ice cream or seafood at the Sea Salt Eatery and take in Minnehaha Falls.  Then, cross over the nearby Ford Parkway bridge for a breathtaking view of the river, and head north toward downtown Minneapolis and enjoy the east side of the Mississippi.  One good stop along the way is the World War One monument near Summit Avenue in St. Paul.  This route is mostly flat, with a total round trip of about 20 miles.
This map may help you plan the route.

credit: facebook.com

Suburban trail, west metro: Dakota Rail Trail, Wayzata and western suburbs


The Dakota Rail Trail is one of the newer trails in the metro, with scenic views of Lake Minnetonka, area wetlands, and some of the high-end homes in the area.  Starting near downtown Wayzata, the trail extends for 13.5 miles to St. Bonifacius, where you can enjoy a healthy bite to eat, right at the end of the trail — at the St. Boni Bistro, which specializes in organic local food. This route is mostly flat.

Suburban trail, east metro: The Gateway State Trail


The Gateway Trail stretches for 18 miles between St. Paul, near the state capitol, to Pine Point Park, which is north of Stillwater.  My favorite section, though, is from North St. Paul (near the tall snowman statue) to Pine Point Park. This is an easy ride through heavily wooded areas and farm fields.

Commuter Route: Midtown Greenway


The Midtown Greenway runs from the chain of lakes in Minneapolis to the Mississippi River.  It connects with other nearby trails, providing a very useful route for commuters.  This trail is a little less scenic, giving you a more urban experience than many others. It has many fans (www.youtube.com/watch?v=OKnEP-S5DA0).

Other good resources:
St. Paul Bike Classic
This is a great fall bike ride through some of St. Paul’s most scenic areas.
Minneapolis Bike Tour
You can choose a 14-mile or 36-mile ride through the Grand Rounds of Minneapolis.

Three Rivers Park District
This park district in Hennepin County features ten different bike trails.

Ramsey County Parks
Ramsey County has 23 miles of trails to choose from.

Nice Ride Minnesota
The nation’s largest bike-sharing program has bike stations throughout Minneapolis.

-Mike Binkley is an Anchor on WCCO-TV.