In some cities, parks and bike lanes seem like an afterthought squeezed in amongst the urban blocks. They stand out against the hustle and bustle and often aren’t as friendly to bikers as they claim.
Not Minneapolis! Well known for its seamless integration of the natural and the metropolitan, Minneapolis is home to some of the best bike trails in the country.
Keep reading to learn more about a few of these revered Minneapolis bike trails!
1. Minneapolis River Parkway
Sometimes called the West River Parkway Trail, the Minneapolis River Parkway trail is a part of the Mississippi River Gorge Regional Trail system.
From Boom Island to the Minnehaha Regional Park, the trail follows the Mississippi downstream through tree-lined, paved trails for roughly 9 miles.
The Minneapolis River Parkway has the best of both worlds: gorgeous views of Minnehaha Falls and the Mississippi River and access to downtown Minneapolis and the University of Minnesota all in one trail.
Along the route are a few different parks with several amenities, including portable toilets, water fountains, and picnic areas.
Parking along the trail is ample, and so are the activity opportunities.
The Minneapolis River Parkway is wheelchair accessible and friendly to fishermen, walkers, and in-line skaters.
If you want to venture into more uncharted territory, there are several spots along the trail where you can peel off to less urban areas, like St. Anthony Falls Heritage Trail.
The difficulty level is considered intermediate, and the trail is open and maintained during the winter.
Commuters and recreational bikers alike love the Minneapolis River Parkway. Its ability to bridge the urban and the natural in an accessible way has earned it a spot on the list of top Minneapolis bike trails.
2. Cedar Lake Regional Trail
Next on the list of best Minneapolis bike trails is the Cedar Lake Regional Trail.
Following the now out-of-commission Great Northern Railway lines, the Cedar Lake Regional Trail is 4.5 miles of paved, multi-use trail starting in downtown Minneapolis.
At the west end, the trail meets up with other paths to take you throughout the city and suburbs. The trail is wide, well-kept, and well-loved by the biking community.
As you follow the railroad lines through the city, you’ll be treated to fabulous views of the Minneapolis skyline and metropolitan center.
The Cedar Lake Regional Trail is called a “bicycle freeway” due to its multi-lane structure, almost like a divided highway for bikers and pedestrians.
It’s also the first commuter bike trail in the country to be federally funded.
It’s considered an easy trail and is maintained during the winter.
This neatness and ingenuity have secured a spot for the Cedar Lake Regional Trail on the best Minneapolis bike trails list.
3. Dakota Rail Regional Trail
The next stop on our tour of the best Minneapolis bike trails is the Dakota Regional Trail.
The 13.5 miles of paved bike trail runs through 7 districts in and around Minneapolis along the Dakota Rail Corridor.
A Minnesota county coalition jointly purchased 13.5 miles of the Dakota Rail Corridor’s 44 miles when it went out of use in 2001.
They aimed to build an accessible rail trail that put the gorgeous views of Minnetonka Lake within reach.
Thankfully, that goal was achieved, and the Dakota Regional Trail is a go-to route for bikers, hikers, and inline skaters who enjoy the lakeside view and watching the boats go by.
The Dakota Regional Trail is marked as an easy trail, is partially maintained during the winter months, and has plenty of parking along the route.
Between the uniqueness of the trail’s origin and its waterfront views, a place amongst the best Minneapolis bike trails is certainly warranted for the Dakota Regional Trail.
4. Chain of Lakes
For one of the very best waterfront Minneapolis bike trails, look no further than the Chain of Lakes.
Aptly named, the Chain of Lakes trail circumnavigates three lakes around Minneapolis: Lake Calhoun, Lake Harriet, and Lake of the Isles.
The path is roughly 12 miles in total, with the loop around each lake being about 3 miles.
The paths between lakes are clear and well-connected, with separate lanes for pedestrian and bike traffic.
For shorter rides, you can loop in one lake and find yourself in downtown Minneapolis in no time. But if you want a longer ride, try all three lakes in one go!
The Chain of Lakes trail is just one example showcasing the beautiful bodies of water that earned Minneapolis its well-deserved nickname, the City of Lakes.
The trail’s difficulty level is easy, has restrooms and water fountains along the way, and is open and maintained in the summer.
You can check out these spectacular lake vistas and more, all while meandering along one of the top-tier Minneapolis bike trails.
In The City
5. Grand Rounds Scenic Byway
Few Minneapolis bike trails live up to the grandeur of the Grand Rounds Scenic Byway.
The Grand Rounds Scenic Byway connects most of the city’s parks and trails, measuring up to a whopping 51 miles of bikeable paths.
If the nearly two marathons worth of bike trails aren’t enough, you can access more than 300 miles of other regional paths that branch out from the byway’s different trailheads.
The byway is one of the country’s largest and longest continuous systems of public trails and can get you anywhere you want to go in the city.
To tour Minneapolis a bit differently, try hopping on a bike and hitting the Grand Rounds Scenic Byway.
The popularity and reliance on this trail for daily commuting call for thorough maintenance. As such, the byway is open all year round and, in winter, is plowed by six o’clock every morning.
Because of its sheer length and diverse terrain, the Grand Rounds Scenic Byway is considered an intermediate-level trail, but you can find smaller sections to fit every need and skill level.
When riding the Grand Rounds Scenic Byway, the man-made metropolis flows seamlessly into the area’s natural features, making for a beautiful trek all the way through.
6. The Midtown Greenway
The next contender on this list of best Minneapolis bike trails is The Midtown Greenway.
Another route tracing the path of abandoned railroad tracks, The Midtown Greenway, is roughly 6 miles of carefully planned, paved trail.
It’s made up of three lanes for safety and ease of travel: two one-way bike paths and a designated walking path.
Though The Midtown Greenway runs right through the center of Minneapolis, as its name suggests, the path is entirely separate from the road.
This ensures no dangerous run-ins or traffic issues. It’s not uncommon to see cyclists on The Greenway lapping cars!
At either end, The Midtown Greenway links up with other popular bike trails, one heading towards the Mississippi and the other to the Chain of Lakes.
The Midtown Greenway is of intermediate difficulty and is maintained well in the winter.
7. River Road Trail
The River Road Trail is a particularly historic Minneapolis bike trail, starting at Fort Snelling State Park before carrying you all the way downtown.
In 1820, Fort Snelling was constructed as a training base for American soldiers.
However, the area was sacred to the indigenous Sioux people, who had lived there for millennia before it was overtaken. The resulting land conflict was devastating to the Sioux.
Though the name has remained, it is now acknowledged by many historical societies as Bdote, meaning “where two waters come together” in the Dakota language.
The River Road Trail runs along the Mississippi for about six miles. It’s a paved, easy ride, but isn’t maintained in the winter, so be prepared for snowy drifts along the way!
The fraught, didactic history of the trail makes it a must and of course, gives it a place amongst the top Minneapolis bike trails.
8. Minnesota River Bottoms
As a local favorite, the Minnesota River Bottoms trail had to make it on the Minneapolis bike trail roster.
The 11 miles of natural trail meander through river bluffs, ensuring a stunning view of the Minnesota River year-round.
However, take care in the winter and rainy seasons as the trail is left to its own devices.
A fascinating part of biking a trail through a river flood plane is how dynamic the adventure can be.
The path might look completely different from the last time you came. It molds and shapes with the water, creating a unique biking challenge with something new to discover every ride.
Though flat and fast, the unrefined, ever-changing path brings the difficulty level up to intermediate.
9. Theodore Wirth Regional Park
Notorious for its mountain biking provisions and roadside bike shop, Theodore Wirth Park, or “Theo,” also makes it onto the list of premier Minneapolis bike trails.
Theo boasts 13 miles of single-track, advanced trail within its urban park setting.
Finding a mountain bike track in the middle of a metropolitan area is rare, and a lengthy one even more so.
That’s part of what makes Theo so unique. Despite the sometimes tricky navigation, Theo is a one-of-a-kind gem among the already prodigious Minneapolis bike trail network.
10. Lebanon Hills Regional Park
Last but certainly not least, on the overview of top Minneapolis bike trails to check out is Lebanon Hills Regional Park.
The 12 miles of mountain bike trails are fantastic, but what sets this locale apart is the skills park.
Practice any and all mountain bike maneuvers on the jumps, berms, tree rides, stairs, rock gardens, and bridges that make up the skills area.
Drilling these skills certainly won’t go to waste at Lebanon Hills. The trail itself is challenging and well-integrated into the natural setting despite its proximity to the heart of the city.
The trail is very popular, but the directional loop makes travel more efficient. Still, Lebanon Hills is best suited for intermediate bikers.
Lebanon Hills Regional Park’s trail is partially maintained in the winter and is full of facilities, including restrooms, picnic shelters, and a changing area to make your ride as comfortable as possible.
Enjoy the Best Minneapolis Bike Trails!
No matter your skill level or preference, a Minneapolis bike trail is out there for you.
There is no shortage of innovative trails with beautiful views to choose from. The real challenge is picking which trail to start with!
For more recreation inspiration, check out our guide to the Minnesota Outdoors.
- About the Author
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Born in Madelia, MN, to a now 5-generation Minnesota family, Ryan’s MN roots go deep.
A painter by day, Ryan founded Life in Minnesota in 2013 with his wife Kelly to chronicle their musings on everything Minnesota. Ryan and Kelly are raising their 7 kiddos in Maple Grove, MN.
When he’s not shuttling his kids around to hockey practice, you might find him in the shop working on his leatherwork. Undoubtedly, there will be a family trip to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area every summer, and of course weekends at Grandpa’s cabin up north in the summer.