In the Bloomington Ferry Unit of the Minnesota Valley
National Wildlife Refuge, there are 400 acres of floodplain forest and
wetlands. Following alongside the banks of the Minnesota River, the 11-mile
Minnesota River Bottoms trail network is a popular destination for beginner to
intermediate mountain bikers.
In springtime, the trail tends to be sandy because of the
recent winter thaw. Once summer rolls around, be prepared for tall grasses
infested with stinging nettle and swarming mosquitoes. But, don’t worry, if you
wear a long-sleeved shirt and don’t dilly-dally for too long, you will not have
a problem. The summer is a great time to bike, so don’t let the bugs scare you
away! The fall offers the best biking conditions because the sand is packed
down due to the heavy use throughout the summer, the bugs are gone, and best of
all the leaves change into a beautiful array of red, orange, and gold.
One of the best things about this trail is that you able to
enjoy it in all seasons as it open all year round. However, flooding is a common
occurrence, so make sure to check online if the trails are rideable.
There are several ways to access the Minnesota River Bottoms
trail system however the most popular starting point is at Bloomington Ferry
Road on the western end of the reserve. The United States Wildlife Service does
not manage the trails on this end, but the local mountain biking community does
their best to mark the trails with ribbons or spray paint.
What You’ll Remember
From the parking lot, the River Valley Trail plunges into
mature woods found in the floodplain forest. Within minutes of biking, the
Minnesota River is in view and the trail meanders back and forth between woods
ands wetland. Relatively flat, this is a popular trail for beginners. For the
first 6 miles, the trail is a single-track, so be courteous to other bikers
sharing the trail.
At the 6-mile mark you will have to stop and consider your
options at the 9 Mile Creek. You can either pull yourself across via a raft,
Indiana Jones style, or there is a 2foot
wide bridge that can perfectly fit a person and a bike. After you have
conquered the creek crossing, the Minnesota River Trail turns into an easy,
flat double-track. Roughly 150 yards in, there is a trail exit marked by green
and red spray paint. This not so well known single-track hugs the Minnesota
River and offers more experienced bikers opportunities to improve their
technique. The trail contains natural obstacles, steep falls, and sharp-windy
Both trails continue east, offering a couple trail exits
with differing difficulties. Once you pass the 35W overpass, the River Valley
Trail forks into the easy East Segment and the intermediate Cedar Segment. Both
lead to the same place. Along the way, if you are winded, there are benches and
picnic tables to catch your breath and rehydrate.
The East Segment starts relatively flat, but eventually
climbs in short to medium bursts up the Minnesota Valley River bluffs. If you
are a beginner, take a deep breath and take it slow. Don’t let the steep falls
and climbs scare you away from reaching the amazing views at the top.
Who’s Going to Love
Mountain bikers looking for a track that caters to both
beginner and experienced skill levels will enjoy the trails that meander along
the Minnesota River Bottoms.