Over 10 years ago, the City of Elk River and a group of passionate mountain bikers called BLAST (Build Land Access Share Trail) got together to create a 7-mile trail system through Hillside Park. Named after its hilly terrain, local mountain bikers love this trail for its difficult uphill switchbacks and steep falls. It is also evident that the makers of this trail had a keen eye on how to make a great mountain biking trail. Tight technical turns, natural obstacles, and packed dirt are just some of Hillside Park’s best features.
What Makes It Great
The whole loop only takes 40 minutes to an hour to complete, but once you’ve finished the loop once, it is easy to find your favorite spot and work on your technique. A local favorite is the curb extension. A retaining wall was used to build out the corner, so people could switch directions while reaching the top of a switchback. It is exhilarating to accelerate and go perpendicular to the ground. There are also obstacles strewn about the park that give riders the opportunity to practice their balance and steering. Some include a few skinnies, a seesaw, and a small boulder garden.
This trail is way too fun for its own good. Though if the trail seems too difficult for you, there is a turnaround 1.5 miles down the trail that is actually a hiking trail. It cuts through the center of the park and takes you back to the parking lot. If you think you can power through the rest of the trail though, then do it! It is totally worth it.
Who is Going to Love It
Bikers looking for a trail that has everything will like Hillside Park. There is no doubt that this dirt trail will give you one of the best workouts in the whole Twin Cities.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
Only 30 minutes northwest of the city and open from 7 a.m.-10 p.m., Hillside Park is a perfect one-day getaway from the urban biking trails. There is a gravel parking lot only a couple blocks off County Road 12, on Tyler Street NW. It costs $4 to ride the trails for the day or $25 for an annual pass. All the proceeds go back to the park for trail maintenance. It is an honorary system, so once you park, insert the money and place the stub on your windshield. The trailhead is at the southeast corner of the parking lot.
The trail itself is easy to follow and there are markers on the trail designating the direction, so getting lost is not a problem. This trail’s technical quality is what sets it apart from other mountain biking trails in the area. There are a bunch of quick ups and downs and tight switchbacks that keep you on the edge of your seat. But there is also a quiet side to Hillside Park. There are sections that meander through dense forest and cross over rocky terrain. This trail doesn’t require a lot of physicality, but for the mountain bikers who want to pump out and break a sweat, it is easy to push yourself. Some portions of the trail are sandy, especially near the top of the uphill switchbacks, so be aware of your wide turns while zooming through the trails.