Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Bunker Hills (Anoka County) has a skijoring trail

My skijor girl is too elderly and arthritic for this season, but I was happy to learn that Bunker Hills Regional Park has a skijoring trail: “Over 8 kilometers of groomed trail meanders through the oaks, pines and prairie in the western portion of the park”. They have rental skis too.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

The St Paul Traverse road and mountain bike trail

Duluth has the amazing Duluth Traverse trail that ties together several mountain bike trails. Even that trail has some road connectors though. It occurred to me that there’s a natural St Paul “Traverse” trail that connects anything along the river with Battle Creek and Carver. It’s most paved bike trails or single track with a bit of quiet road.

Here’s the overview and the Carver MTB component.

BC to Carver

Here’s the section from the NE end of Battle Creek (technically NE end is not in park, it's Scenic Overlook)

The area circled in red is where I’d prefer to jump out of BC onto the paved trail. This is at the base of Goat Trail (not a beginner trail!), from the satellite map close up it looks like one could descend a grassy area to the paved trails. The map below is from mtbproject (REI).


This would be a solid day of road/single track riding for most of us!

Battle Creek Mountain Bike Trails

Battle Creek (county trail map, better mtbproject map) is St Paul's mountain biking trail. It’s not only a great trail, it’s accessible by bicycle trail from many directions. Battle Creek MTB Facebook Page: www.facebook.com/battlecreekmountainbike

My preferred starting points from western St Paul:

  1. Driving to start: Point Douglas Rd S parking lot.  Turn east off Hwy 61/10 on Lower Afton Rd, then go north on Point Douglas Rd S to the parking lot at the end of the cul-de-sac. (44°56’07.5"N 93°01'42.8"W)
  2. Riding to start:  Scenic Overlook by Burns Avenue and Hwy 10: 44°56’48.2”N 93°02’19.3”W  This small park with the hidden entrance isn’t technically part of Battle Creek. I’ve been told it’s Ramsey county land and not policed by SPPD. In the past few years it’s had more drug trafficking and is not a great place to park or to be at after dark

Notes on the trail systems

There are 3 sections from west to east: 1. From overlook to parking lot (west of Battle Creek). 2. from Battle Creek to Battle Creek Road 3.Battle Creek Road to eastern boundary.

1. overlook to parking lot: there are two advanced options - a in/out spur at the top of paved segment, and a trail that goes across the ridge top to emerge 2/3 of the way up the paved trail along battle creek.

2. Battle Creek to Battle Creek Road: there are 3 routes up from Battle Creek. One is quite technical and is somewhat north. The other is to go up the Berm run. The last is to take Point Douglas road up a few hundred yards to a trail that climbs the bluff.


3. There are two places to cross from section 2 to 3 over S Battle Creek Road.We usually do the northern one. Going down to the Rec Center is a good intermediate descent/climb. At the SouthEast section is a segment sometimes called the Goat Path. It's an advanced descent.


See also

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Lake Elmo Park Reserve: Big Bluestem and Eagle Point Mountain Biking Trails

This post was written for a group outing so it’s not a typical trail review.


Lake Elmo Park Reserve has two multi-use trails suitable for novice trail biking (trail maps.pdf). The trails can also be used in winter for skijoring. Both trails have some horse traffic (see below) and can be ridden in both directions. They resemble old country roads.

The Big Bluestem trail is 2.5 miles. It is pretty flat and quite pleasant with some shade (blue trail below)

The Eagle Point Lake trail is a 3.8 mile loop (red trail below). It has a bit hillier and less shaded than Bluestem and has more horse traffic.  There are areas where rainwater can collect.

In addition to these two trails there are unnamed side trails (purple dashes on trail maps) that can significantly extend rides and connect loops. Grass is longer on these trails.


Location and Fees

When you enter the reserve from the south park at the first lot on the left. You can use copy/paste these coordinates in your phone for the parking lot:

There is a $7 vehicle fee ($30 a season).

Here’s the trailhead, we will take the blue trail to the right


Things to bring

  • Helmet. Every rider needs a helmet including ride leaders, aides, etc.
  • Bike: A mountain bikes best. A gravel, “cross” or “city” bike would work for a more expert rider who could manage bumpiness.
  • Cell phone for aides, ride leaders
  • Good ideas: water, sunscreen, tic repellent spray for legs

Meet-up procedure

  • Everybody text john with their name and rider info
  • Mechanical bike check: ABCD
  • Gear: set to low gear
  • Skills check: braking
  • Ride guide: 1-2 groups, wait at trail branch (can ride back to trailing group)
  • Pedestrians and Horses have right of way
  • Horse orientation
    • Pass from behind: call out in friendly voice from a distance, rider will provide passing room
    • Pass from in front: I think is best to stop pull over to the side and let horses pass. 


  • Ride the “Big Bluetstem” (it’s not very big!): 31, 30, 29, 28, 27, 25, 24, 23, 22, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31
  • If everyone wants to do more we can repeat or do Eagle Point
  • If need to cancel (Rain, Temp over 95F) will send to MNSH Group and will update Facebook Event.


  • There is some horse poop but it’s not minor at this time in season. 
  • There are minimal horse flies that a rider can run into
  • Some of the trails are not well shaded, so wear sunscreen and drink water
  • The Eagle Point Lake trail can have standing water after a downpour
  • The trails we are on are not overgrown, but there are ticks in the taller grass. Consider spraying lower legs.

Some trail photos

The bicycling is generally easy but novices may need to walk up a few steeper hills


When we come up on horses call ‘hello’ in a friendly voice, let rider move horse to the side. If approaching from the front pull over and let pass unless rider says otherwise.


It’s pretty …



Saturday, March 10, 2018

Mountain bike skills training in the Minneapolis St Paul (MSP) region

(Not a trail review, but close enough)

Recently I asked the MN HS League Coaches about local programs for adult Mountain Bike skills development. We have great programs for school kids of course, including summer camps, but adult programs are harder to find. The ones I know of are based in Colorado.

Happily this group knew of a few. Here’s the list from the FB group and some Google searching:

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Found between MSPs LRT Trail South and North: Brandondale and the mysterious East Creek trail

My buddy Scott and I went for a well known local ride west of Minneapolis. Along the way we found a short but novel trail.  This post is about that.

goo.gl/maps/JnaUFyeaHcp was the original plan for today, but goo.gl/maps/y75kHLRozQU2 is what we more or less did:

Screen Shot 2017 08 12 at 9 47 37 PM 

As is often true with a bike trip of this length construction and detours and trail closures (2014 flood and 3 years of court battles have knocked out part of the LRT South trail) and my funky Google waypoint-generated maps sometimes took us off route. One of those diversions was to an undiscovered country.

Google sent us on an obscure journey starting at Brandondale Mobile Home Park (Rule generated web site). The entrance to the large park is marked by a covered bridge:

Screen Shot 2017 08 12 at 9 10 57 PM

(There must be stories behind this, but I couldn’t find them online. Who, for example, was Brandon?)

The mobile home community is pretty large. It’s also unusually attractive. We visited briefly, some permanent homes were being built. I think it’s going to go upscale — which won’t always go well for the current residents.

Google sent us along a creek trail that goes up the right (east) side of Brandondale …

Screen Shot 2017 08 12 at 9 29 01 PM

If you look at the covered bridge entrance to Brandondale (see above) the small hidden trail (44°48’23.7”N 93°35’00.4”W) to the left goes down to the East Creek Hiking Trail in Chaska, a broad multi-use trail that’s mostly paved with short stretches of dirt or gravel. A trail that appears to be completely undocumented online.

Panoramio, which will close shortly, had some trail photos uploaded by Steven Pfeiffer. I assume he lives nearby …


The East Creek trail may be undocumented online, but Google knows of it. When I asked the way to Steiger Lake Ln in Victoria MN it started out by sending us along the East Creek Trail. The Creek is a pretty stream. Here is the 3.1 mile trail from 44°48’23.7”N 93°35’00.4”W to 44°49’39.9"N 93°36'55.1"W:

Screen Shot 2017 08 12 at 9 40 01 PM

From there we went west and north to Victoria, then back the conventional way. Which was lovely and fun, but not as mysterious.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

The Duluth Traverse Mountain Biking Trail: A guide based on REI's MTB Project and COGGS commentary

In July of 2017 I took my family to the Duluth Traverse. We’re a diverse group, so this took some planning.

I studied the superb work done by the Cyclists of Gitchee Gumee Shores (COGGS) and REI’s MTB Project (Duluth) [1]. And by study I mean a LOT of study. I had a hard time wrapping my head around the relationships of road, trails, interesting sites, places to eat, emergency exit options and the like. So I assembled two booklets about the Duluth Traverse.

By assembled I mean I didn’t write these booklets. I compiled screenshots and text from the MTB Project and Google Maps into booklet form. One covers the enter trail, the other the portion I tackled with my wife and children:

Click the link to download the Word doc. I could distribute as PDF or HTML, but in 2017 every platform seems to be able to render a Word document. And this way you can go the MTB Project site and update it as you wish. The trails are under constant development so you will want to do an updated version.
I expect someone is going to write a real book about this amazing trail system, so do take a look around if you come across this page.
How did the trail go? Well, I didn’t do any harm to my reputation for excess. Maybe if I hadn’t made a wrong turn on the 7 bridges part of Skyline road between Lester Park and Snively we might have done the whole thing, but instead we cut off about 1/4 of our plan and road downhill to the Portland Malt Shoppe. The next day we drove along the route — even the reduced bit we did was an impressive bit of work for a flatlander family. (My wife was heroic.)
I loved Lester Park and I’m hoping I get to do more of the trail system. The Duluth Traverse is a spectacular project. I do have one caveat though. If you are a flatlander you need to make some trail rating adjustments. Basically “dirt road” means “novice”, “novice” means “intermediate”, “intermediate” means “expert” and “expert” means … I don’t know. I wouldn’t go there. 

- fn-

[1] If you try this you will discover Duluth’s weather is as severe as its landscape. It was sunny when my weather app said it was raining, and raining when it was supposed to be dry. You need to review the Coggs trail updates to know what’s rideable. They do allow some trails to be used when they aren’t completely dry.