The 400-acre Bloomington Ferry Unit of the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge features floodplain forest and wetland habitats.In the winter, fat bike enthusiasts explore the banks for the Minnesota River.
There are several ways to access the mountain bike trails located in the Minnesota River Bottoms. The Bloomington Ferry Unit of the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge is a good place to start. Although the United States Forest Wildlife Service does not manage some portions of the trail but the paths are easy to follow and navigate. Popular in the summer, fat bike enthusiast explore the same trails, even when covered with snow and ice.
The terrain ranges from wide double track to more technical narrow single track sections. In the winter, snow, ice and sandy base layers can challenge riders and slow them down. Still, fat bikes provide a thrill to roll down these trails that traditional mountain bikes couldn't handle.
United States Forest Wildlife Service does not formally maintain this trail but it’s a popular destination for fat bike enthusiasts. The approximately 5-mile long linear trail lacks map signposts and formal rest areas, but the vistas of the Minnesota River make it a worthy place to spending every day light hour in January
Overall, the trail is relatively level as the make your own route moves through a long section of river bottomland floodplains. There are good views of the frozen or ice clogged Minnesota River and the far bank. Moving along the river bank, the trail adds a few roller coaster thrills moving down and back up the sides of small ravines. Depending on your entry point, you can explore more than 10 miles twisting through snow-covered floodplains, around massive trunks of toppled cottonwoods and scrub forest and windswept snowdrifts.Fat bikers enjoying the trail can spend an hour or all day. Riding at night with headlamps adds a new level of adventure to winter riding.
What Makes It Great
Fat bikes are catching on fast. When Mother Nature doesn't deliver enough snow to cross country ski, fat bikes offer a great alternative to get out and play on a cold winter day. The Minnesota River Bottoms is a wild place to explore in the winter. Twisting through stands of bare trees and past the banks of the Minnesota River, fat bikes take you to places where swarms of mosquitoes would have ruined your day in July.
Who is Going to Love It
Deep along the trail there’s a handwritten sign on the left side of the trail with a message worth pondering, "Welcome to the refuge, please leave your troubles at the sign".
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
All Minnesota Valley Wildlife Nature Refuge units are open sunrise to sunset, seven days a week. There are no fees or permits required to visit Minnesota Valley Wildlife Nature Refuge units. There are multiple places to enter the Minnesota River Bottoms. Visit the website for the best option for you.
Printed maps can be found at the Bloomington Ferry trailhead or can be downloaded here.