With Minnesota recently being named the second most bike-friendly state in the country by the League of American Bicyclists, and Minneapolis snagging top city honors, it’s no secret that we love riding bikes here in the northland. While the paved trails and bike-friendly roads are often the first things Twin Cities bike advocates highlight, a growing network of off-road trail systems are also starting to be recognized as some of the best in the region.
There are countless singletrack trails for mountain bikers can choose from right within the metro area. For events and a complete list of trails in the Twin Cities, be sure to check out the Minnesota Off-Road Cyclists, the folks responsible for gaining and maintaining singletrack in Minneapolis/St. Paul and the surrounding area. To give you a head start, we rounded up some of our favorites.
1. Lebanon Hills
Lebanon Hills Regional Park’s 12 miles of singletrack provide a little something for everyone. The outside loop around the park has plenty of non-technical terrain for intermediate riders and the center of the park throws down a number of rocky downhills, jumps, and berms for more advanced riders. This makes it a great place to learn to mountain bike and graduate to tougher trails over time.
2. Hillside Park
Offering 7.6 miles of singletrack, the trails at Hillside Park are a rollercoaster ride of twists and turns. While there is some quick, rolling terrain, the lack of long uphills means this one won’t be a quad buster. With that said, fast turns and other obstacles make this a technically tough course for thrill-seeking riders.
3. Theodore Wirth Park
Located west of Theodore Wirth Parkway, the mountain bike trails in this park offer great riding right in the city. While there aren’t any monster hills to climb, there are plenty of twists, turns, and speedy uphill and downhill sections to challenge just about any rider. Log piles and small jumps along the trail will keep the more advanced riders occupied, while newer riders will still find the 4.36 miles of trails at Theodore Wirth achievable. What's more, all of these trails run in the shadow of Downtown Minneapolis.
4. Elm Creek Park Reserve
At 4,900 acres, Elm Creek is one of the largest parks in the Three Rivers Park District. From open prairies to wooded terrain, this is one of the more scenic places you can go within the metro area. Available singletrack in the park includes 2.2 miles of easy trails, 8.1 miles of intermediate level trails, and 2.4 miles of advanced riding.
5. Murphy-Hanrehan Park Reserve
Part of the Three Rivers District, Murphy-Hanrehan was one of the first parks in the Twin Cities to open mountain bike trails. The park offers three easily navigable loops for beginner, intermediate, and advanced mountain bikers. The easy trail is just about a mile long, making it a great place to cut your teeth on singletrack without getting stuck with a long ride back to the parking lot. The intermediate trail is 2.3 miles and the advanced trail, which features narrow bridges and steep downhills, is 6.9 miles.
6. Carver Lake
This 5.5 mile trail was built by the City of Woodbury with help from the Minnesota Off-Road Cyclists. While the park offers mostly intermediate riding, there are still plenty of technical features, like log pyramids, banked turns, and boardwalks. The rolling flow of the trail and scenic views of Carver Lake make this one not to be missed.
Battle Creek’s network of trails is hard to beat. From technically advanced singletrack to hard-packed dirt for beginners, there is a trail for every level of rider in this park. With plenty of loops and spurs, there are endless combinations of rides you can do.
Honorable Mention: Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area
While the Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area is a couple hours north of the Twin Cities, it’s worth mentioning as it’s the only International Mountain Biking Association Ride Center trail system in Minnesota. Once an open pit mining operation, the land on which the Cuyuna trails were built provide many unique technical features that have gained a reputation for being among the best in the region. With the Department of Natural Resources recent announcement promising $600,000 towards developing and expanding these trails, watch for this system of trails to get even better in coming years. If you’re looking for other options up north, be sure to check out those around Duluth as well.