Fat biking is gaining traction all over the country, with Minnesota as an epicenter of sorts for the adventurous pastime. To be sure, the Twin Cities is home to some of the top fat-bike brands in the business, including Salsa, Surly, and Framed, as well as some of the best local shops like Angry Catfish and Freewheel among many others. What’s more, we have incredible trail systems all over the state that make it easy to get out and ride no matter what Mother Nature dishes out.
While fat bikes are increasingly used throughout the year, winter is undeniably the most fun time to ride a fattie. There’s just something about the experience of floating over all that ice and snow. On many winter days, a fat bike is probably a better transportation option than your car. What’s more, it’s a whole lot more enjoyable.
While you can ride fat bikes just about anywhere—the frozen Minnehaha Creek being one of our favorites—we decided to round up a few of the best designated recreational trails around Minnesota. If you love bikes and being in the woods, you can’t beat riding a fat bike after a fresh snowfall. (Disclaimer: With the constant thawing and freezing brought by el nino this year, it’s a good idea to check a trail’s Facebook page or official website to make sure it is open before you head out and be sure to avoid groomed ski trails that are off limits.)
1. Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area, Ironton
Arguably the best place to ride fat bikes almost any time of year, the Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area features a whopping 20 miles of groomed fat-bike trails. The snowy singletrack will have you hooting and hollering as you ride over the easy to advanced trails. That’s not to mention the amazing scenery offered by an area that was once dominated by an iron-ore mining operation. If you’re looking for some competition, the Cuyuna trail system also play host to the 45NRTH Whiteout fat bike race, which brings in some of the best riders from around the region.
2. Mission Creek, Duluth
If you enjoy riding heavily forested trails, Mission Creek is not to be missed. Offering a network of fast, flowing singletrack through the woods, riders will encounter berms, bridges, and rollers. This is the first professionally built trail system in Duluth—the initial 7 miles were opened in 2014—and there are plans for 23 total miles when it’s completed. With spectacular views of the St. Louis River Valley and Jay Cooke State Park, this is an easy place to lose yourself in the beauty of it all.
3. Fort Snelling State Park, St. Paul
If you’re looking for a place to ride right within the Twin Cities, Fort Snelling has 6 miles of packed, non-motorized multi-use trails. Part of a newly expanded network of trails maintained by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Fort Snelling's shrouded trails travel along the banks of the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers. While the Pike Island trail is for skiing only, it’s worth checking out Picnic Island and Snelling Lake.
4. Lester Park, Duluth
Another mountain bike turned fat bike trail in Duluth, Lester Park is a great option for beginners. While there are a few more technical sections, newbies will ride with ease on a large majority of the trails here. Featuring ridges over Amity Creek and the Lester River, you’ll be treated to great views and a smooth ride. A lollipop loop, the east side is going to be your best bet if you’re looking for the easiest terrain.
5. Gateway State Trail, St. Paul
The Gateway State Trail in St. Paul offers almost 12 miles of trail for fat bikers from Cayuga Street to Jamaca Avenue. In the summers you can travel the entire length of the trail, which takes you from St. Paul to just north of Stillwater. The trail will take you through both urban and wild landscapes, with plenty of regional trail connections along the way. There is currently some construction, so be sure to check for detours here before you head out.
6. Douglas State Trail, Pine Island
A great trail for fat biking in southern Minnesota, the Douglas State Trail has 13 miles of groomed trails from Pine Island to Rochester. In terms of landscapes, you’ll travel along a variety of rural and wooded trails. If you’re interested in doing a loop, check out the surrounding county roads, which promise minimal vehicular traffic and fantastic views.
7. Elm Creek, Maple Grove
A favorite spot among mountain bikers, Elm Creek is a gorgeous location for winter fat biking as well. Part of the Three Rivers Park District, Elm Creek features miles of beautiful groomed singletrack. For those who want to test their fat biking prowess, the park is home to the Frozen 40 , a 40-mile winter bike race held in February.