Fall is my favorite time to explore Minnesota on my bike. The busy bike season at the shop starts to calm into a steady flow. I have more time and energy to go ride the places I’ve been hearing about all summer. The air is crisp and cool and refreshing. I worry less about not having enough water with me or about my dog overheating. I can last longer on the trails before getting tired (does that mean I’m FINALLY in the shape of my life?). The daylight creeps away a little every day. I get more opportunity to ride solo and connect with the stars. So where are my favorite places this fall?
Stillwater/Oak Park Heights: Valley View Park, Brown’s Creek State Trail/Gateway State Trail, across new and old bridges
Stillwater, Minnesota, is quickly adding to its cycling infrastructure. Many already know of this area and the trails getting there. It is ideal for the weekend destination ride from the cities. Riding the Gateway all the way to the new Brown’s Creek State Trail is a beautiful ride through the changing colors this time of year. Descending into downtown Stillwater is always easy, but the trails keep you out of traffic and the experience is much more relaxing.
While in Stillwater, you can toodle around town and find a few good spots to shop, eat, and relax, or you can stay on your bike. The old Lift Bridge is open for just pedestrians and cyclists, now. It is worth having a look at. You can also make your way south toward Bayport to ride across the new bridge! The view is beautiful. Oh, and hey, while you’re right there, check out the BRAND NEW single track trails at Valley View Park in Oak Park Heights!
Valley View Park had a team of cycling enthusiasts build 2.8 miles of single track, thanks to the Stillwater Area Scholastic Cycling Advocates (SASCA)! The trails are brand new, open, and ready for you! There are tight switchbacks going down into a beautiful valley, complete with a trickling stream, and more switchbacks coming back out again. There are challenging sections for beginners as well as some intermediate sections and obstacles to keep more experienced riders engaged. The trail is one squiggly loop with a couple places to turn off, should the need arise. It is a perfect place for a nice cardio workout after work, before dusk. Check it out! https://sasca501c3.wordpress.com/
Another of Minnesota’s new off-road treasures! There is some fantastic riding on the bluffs, through the iron range. The views are spectacular, even on dreary days. The trails are IMBA Certified and, thus, are meticulously maintained. They flow well and are rated appropriately for the skill level needed to ride them safely. It always feels like a point of pride to show off your iron-red tires after returning from a north adventure.
This area is now a delightful destination for off-road riding, but it is also a great place to camp! They have campsites available for reservation as well as bike themed cabins for rent. For those who are interested in touring or bikepacking, you could look into riding the Mississippi River Trail from the cities to the Cuyuna MTB trailhead. Rumor has it, that trail is mostly connected! I know I’ll be looking into it for next spring!
Roseville: Reservoir Woods, Lake McCarrons
My more local option for a ride adventure actually starts from County Cycles, right here in Roseville. I make my way South on Victoria Ave to Reservoir Woods trails. These paved trails connect with paths that go around Lake McCarrons. While there, it’s an easy stop at the beach with a Dairy Queen nearby (you know, just in case!), before heading back. I love this ride for a family outing and for a Sunday Slow Ride.
To alter the course, if you desire, there are several different off-road paths that wind around in the Woods around the Reservoir. I have been frequenting these trails daily with my pup for over a year and still find absolute beauty surrounding me.
You don’t need to go far to find peace, quiet, serenity, and adventure.
“The best places to explore are those you have not yet discovered.”