Minnesotans are known for recreating 365 days a year—even when the mercury drops and the snow falls. While we have long had a variety of reasons to get outside (think skiing, snowshoeing, ice fishing), fat biking has been a welcome addition to the docket of popular outdoor winter activities in the state. With a strong existing cycling infrastructure and community, it’s no wonder Minnesotans embraced fat biking with open arms.
While fat biking is, well, like riding a bike, locating equipment and trails can be a barrier for some. That’s why we rounded up some of our favorite trails around the state, along with rental options that are located close by. Simply call ahead to reserve your bike, go pick it up, and hit the trails. It’ll give you a whole new appreciation for the frigid winter months.
1. Crosby, Minn.
Formerly known as the Cuyuna Iron Range before it was abandoned by mining companies 30 years ago, the Cuyuna State Recreation Area features world-class fat biking and mountain biking trails. Made up of nearly 5,000 acres, the area offers 40 miles of packed multi-use trails, along with 20 miles of trails specifically groomed for fat biking. For trail conditions, check out the Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike Crew’s Twitter feed. If you don’t have your own fat bike, stop at the nearby Cycle Path and Paddle on your way into town for a half- or full-day rental.
The shop: Angry Catfish
The trail: Minnehaha Creek and Chain of Lakes
Flowing 22 miles from Minnehaha Falls to Lake Minnetonka, when the ice freezes, the Minnehaha Creek makes for one of the most unique places to fat bike in the Twin Cities. Angry Catfish is a great jumping off point, both because of it’s proximity to the Minnehaha Falls and the fact that it serves great coffee. What’s more, it has a whole fleet of Salsa Mukluk fat bikes in all sizes for full-day rental. Once you get your bike, you have two main options for trails. You can either get on the creek or parkway trails and head east to check out the frozen falls or for a longer day of exploration, go west towards Lake Harriet. If you're looking to make a loop, hop off the creek and head across Lake Harriet, on to Lake Calhoun and further north to Lake of the Isles, Cedar Lake, and Theodore Wirth Park. You can also simply get on the paved Greenway Trail accessible between Lake Calhoun and Lake of the Isles, which can take you east back towards the Mississippi River.
3. Maple Grove, Minn.
Elm Creek is the biggest park in the Three Rivers district at 4,900 acres. Their fat-bike trails offer the perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of the city right within the metro area. If you’re looking for a little competition, Elm Creek is one of the hosts for the Frozen Frolic Fat Bike Race Series, which features a 10.5-mile forested loop. For rentals, check out Maple Grove Cycling which is less than a 10-minute drive from Elm Creek. They offer Trek Farley fat bike rental in a variety of sizes.
4. Duluth, Minn.
The shop: Continental Ski and Bike
The trails: Lester Park, Mission Creek, Spirit Mountain
The gorgeous Lester Creek trails offer rolling terrain through birch trees and along the Lester River. If you want to head toward Lake Superior, hop on the paved trails that take you down to the boardwalk where you can ride into the Canal Park area. If you head that way, be sure to make a pit stop at Canal Park Brewing. For another great ride in Duluth, check out Mission Creek, which is famous for its berms, bridges, and rollers. Adjacent to Jay Cooke State Park (where another 5.4 miles of riding is available), these trails offer amazing natural scenery from start to finish. Continental Ski and Bike can help you with rentals of everything from aluminum and carbon fat bikes to bike racks. If you aren’t familiar with the local trails, look into getting a 2-hour or 3-hour tour from Day Tripper of Duluth. Downhill enthusiasts should also check out Spirit Mountain’s new lift-service for fat bikers, which run Sundays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tickets can be purchased online.
5. Rochester, Minn.
Offering 13 miles of groomed winter fat biking, the Douglas State Trail will take you from northwestern Rochester north to Pine Island. The trail features rural scenery characteristic of the area, taking you through a mix of landscapes, including shrouded forested sections and wide-open pastures. Located in Rochester, the nearby Erik’s Bike Shop has a fleet of Specialized Fatboys available for rental.