Saturday, June 17, 2017

Minneapolis Grand Rounds - 35 mile bike loop

There are many maps of the Minneapolis Grand Rounds trail, but I don’t like any of them.

I created one using Google bicycle map route finding between way points, based on a published map: Since it’s a Google map it’s easy to print or send to one’s phone.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Battle Creek Park: Pavement alternatives when the mountain biking is closed

Normally I’d put this on our Highland Park Mountain Biking wiki, but wikispaces image upload is failing today. So sharing it here.

Our team routinely meets at a scenic overlook with an almost-hidden mountain bike trail that descends into the park system (from the far top left of the map below). But what if the trails are wet?

Battle Creek Alt Trails

As show above there are good alternative routes.

From the scenic overlook go to Burns Avenue then Upper Afton Road to Battle Creek and follow the paved trails. The baseline 7.7 mile route is captured in this Google Map:

Screen Shot 2016 08 21 at 1 22 30 PM'

There are many options to take here to make the loops shorter or longer. If you compare these two images you see turf trails that may be open when mountain bike trails are closed, opportunities to do multiple loops and so on. If leading a group you it’s good to have some meetup areas.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Lebanon Hills - a mixed green/blue mountain biking option

I like this Lebanon Hills combination when you need more than green but the full blue is a bit long (click or download for full size).

Leb Restricted

The trick is there’s a short connector between Green 223 and blue 220. It’s a walk/multi-use connector, not part of mountain bike trail. From blue 220 there’s a nice run to 235, then blue/black options to 244. Go to 243 and repeat loop or exit via 238.

For a non-racer mountain bike club practice:

  • Practice at skills park for 20-30 minutes.
  • Green loop with meetup at 238, 223, 222 (review berms), and star at base of the downhill runs. Do those runs 2-3 times.
  • Go to 223, take 220 connector, then blue to 243. Option to repeat depending on rider condition.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

A short list of mountain bike trails around MacGroveland and Highland neighborhoods

Made this up for the Highland-Mendota mountain bike team.

Site Travel Good for
Deer pen (Minnehaha park, NE corner and by creek) bike Climb skills, turns
Hidden Falls bike Short loop skills, hill climb
Crosby Farm (high trail) bike Short fun outing on way to Hidden Falls
Brickyard (fossil beds) bike Brutal hill climbs
Mendota (Minnesota River S) bike Basic trail ride speed skills
Minnehaha Dog Park/Upper bike Basic trail skills
Murphy drive Great terrain, good change
Theodore Wirth drive Great for staging race practice, passing skills
Battle Creek bike/drive Later season, all around skills, technical downhill
Lebanon drive Intermediate with advanced options
Carver drive early season skills, night ride, intro to mtn bike events
Elm Creek drive Twisty trails with quick climbs and fast hands
Terrace Oaks drive Short but very race like. Should do this more.
River bottom - Bloomington Ferry drive Fun creek crossing, basic riding
River bottom - 77 to 35 drive Good fun terrain, some hill climbs, night ride
White tail, WI drive (long) Great climbs, terrain and scenery

Monday, February 8, 2016

Michigan's Maasto-Hiihto & Churning Rapids XC ski: ultimate dog-human nordic ski experience.

It doesn’t get better than Michigan’s Maasto-Hiihto & Churning Rapids XC ski trails.

My family spent a long weekend there recently. With our usual stops along the way it took us 8-9 hours (Google says 6h) to drive from St Paul Minnesota to our hotel, the Magnuson Hotel Copper Crown in Hancock Michigan. From the Hotel it was 5 minutes to the Chalet trailhead (red P lower left below, from map 2015, this excerpt is lower 1/3 of system).

Screen Shot 2016 02 06 at 5 21 02 PM 

We made the long drive partly because human CO2 emissions have warmed Minnesota enough to make snow cover unpredictable. At our scheduled 2016 holiday slot there was reliable snow cover at two locations near Lake Superior — Minnesota’s far north (arrowhead, Grand Marais) and Michigan’s famously snow Keweenaw peninsula.

Snow cover wasn’t the entire reason though. Minnesota is pretty nice too. The winning feature was that we could ski with our dog Kateva. The trail system is explicitly dog welcoming. We paid to be supporting members and we will be back.

Obviously, if you are taking your dog to Maasto Hiihto, you need to have a system to get any poop away from the trail. A baggy in a backpack works best.

Update 1/14/2017

See also:

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Minnesota River Trail - The River Bottoms from Indian Mounds to 9 mile creek crossing

The Minnesota river trail is going to change. Major parts will become a paved trail. This means a lot more people will appreciate the river, but the trail many love to run and ride is going to change. 

So I’m glad Ben and I got to ride some of the best parts — on a sunny and pleasant November Saturday.

The trail we took is part of a large system along the Minnesota river (save JPEG locally to view). Our Long Meadow Lake section is at the top left of this map:

RiverBottomNov2015 5

Basically we did the bottom half of the Long Meadow Lake Unit Trails. Note the blue in the picture below. That’s important! If you end up on the wrong side of the marsh you usually can’t get back to your entry point. So be careful, the trails are not well marked!

RiverBottomNov2015 6

The MORC trail map Google Version provides the best overview for a mountain biker:

MORC map

For Minneapolis and Saint Paul residents the traditional approach to the trail is to take bikes on light rail to the Mall of America, then ride a short distance to the yellow/orange entry trails towards the upper right of the screenshot (enters near Bass Ponds Parking, 44.845976, -93.232640).

Unfortunately Center Point Energy is replacing a natural gas pipeline along the “bluff trail”, so we entered at the Blue “A” icon by Mound Springs Park, just south of Indian Mounds Elementary (11th Ave S, 44°49’23.6”N 93°15’33.1”W). From there we road to 9 mile creek, marked by the blue sailboat icon. You can see our route on Strava.


The Minnesota Valley Long Meadow Lake Unit Trail Map is a good guide to other entry points. The Old Cedar Ave parking area on that map, unfortunately, is cut off by construction. We really entered at the best site available today. From this point downstream the trail is closed.

It’s easy to park on the street by the entrance here — there’s lots of room in November. There’s a sign saying  you can also park at the school nearby.

RiverBottomNov2015 17

From this point the trail descends smoothly and joins a creek. We stayed to the left at the first fork…

RiverBottomNov2015 16

When you’re zooming down it’s very tempting to just try to run a rock pile put in place to manage erosion. These are not friendly rocks. They are rough concrete irregular slabs that are very painful to land on. I recommend walking.

RiverBottomNov2015 15 

That’s about it for the tricky part of this entrance. The trail is pretty easy to pick up further down the stream.

The trail has lots of forks and branches; heading upstream there are many entrance trails joining from the right. These can be confusing on the return — it was useful to be using Strava so we could retrace our trail. Parts of the trail are narrow and seem almost natural — I bet this was an Indian walking route once. There are also bridges and ramps and wood sections, some very old and some brand new. There are concrete and steel picnic tables in the woods that could be 30-40 years old.

It’s a multi-use and bidirectional trail, so be extra-polite to walkers and runners and watch for oncoming bikes. It’s very pretty in the Fall, and presumably year round …

RiverBottomNov2015 13

I think this might be the treacherous trail branch point a friend warned me of — go right and there’s no way back to where we started from “On the return, where the the blue/green trails split, there is a critical branch. If you miss this turn on the return route - easy to do if you ignore the trail going left away from the river and continue straight - you will NOT be able to get back to where you started from”.

You’ll come across this when you return, not long after reentering from the parking lot by 35E.

RiverBottomNov2015 4

The Long Meadow Lake Trails end at 35W. But don’t stop there. Continue along the river, following a dirt service road. If you stay by the river it turns back into a trail. After a mile or so you come to one of the gems of the Twin Cities —- the famous 9 mile creek crossing:

RiverBottomNov2015 8

As you can see there are two ways to cross. One is by raft, the other, upstream a bit, is by tree trunk with added steps:

RiverBottomNov2015 10 

Yes. Someone did this. Presumably many someones. The raft is a serious piece of well maintained kit with heavy ropes. I don’t think it’s Fish and Wildlife, though they must tolerate it. It’s a legend and one must bow in respect. I took the ferry over the creek then carried my bike over the tree. I know people who ride the tree and rails, but I do not think I will ever have those skills.

Then we headed back. Next time I’ll do more loops, this time I used Strava to confirm I was retracing my route correctly.

I’m looking forward to going further next time. In winter there are Fat Bike meetups along this trail… 

PS. When I was putting this blog post together something caught my eye where the stream we entered by meets the river:

Swimming hole

That little round circle, on close magnification, may have a sort of jumping board on it. I think it’s a local swimming hole…

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Minnesota Valley Recreation Area Mountain Biking - A failed outing.

Today "the 3" and I attempted to do some mountain biking in the Minnesota Valley Recreation Area.  We were seeking interesting novice trails that would suit my #3. It didn't go well.

After studying the trail maps I picked the Louisville Swamp USFWS (US Fish & Wildlife Service) parking area near the Renaissance Festival. This was a pain to get to because of Festival related traffic redirection, and when we got there the trail names and signs didn't match what I expected. It seemed that none of the trails allowed mountain biking, despite what I'd read on the trail map.

Frustrated and peeved with the DNR I ended up biking with the kids on an apparently abandoned Mazomani hiking trail. I weighted that crime against their stranding me with 3 unhappy kids in the middle of a maze.

I wouldn't recommend Mazonmani as a hiking trail. It's a mixture of broad mowed lanes and think overgrown paths through high vegetation. It looked largely abandoned, except for illicit mountain bikers. The trail almost disappears, just before a weirdly broad and robust bridge over Sand(?) Creek. I have a hunch the trail gets nicer at that point, but we were trying to get to a legal mountain biking area. So we gave up.

Now that I study the maps again I think I've deciphered the code. The trails that say "horse permit required" are in fact the multi-use trails. They don't say anyone else can use them, but on the DNR map they're labeled "Hosreback/Hike/Mt. Bike/Snowmobile".

But perhaps not everyone agrees with that translation. A US Fish & Wildlife Service map I found only at the site (not online) said bikes could go on "State/Middle Road (ONLY)".  I wonder how old that map is, and if the USFWS and DNR are on the same page.

Ugh. Whatever you do, don't use the USFWS lot. Instead follow the advice of  MN Bike Trail Navigator: Exploring the Minnesota Valley State Recreation Area by Mountain Bike - park at the Gifford Lake and State Trail Access (HWY 169 to HWY 41, turn North toward Chaska. Gifford Lake access is on the West side of HWY 41).

Note if you head west on this trail along the Minnesota River you can cross on the 41 bridge and go to Tommy's Malt Shop on the West side of 41 in Chaska. Recommended! From Chaska Google shows a variety of paved and dirt bike trails, including a grassy trail that takes off where the West end of W 1st Street meets the entrance to Athletic field. It didn't look terribly interesting though.

However, don't be confused (as I was) by the Chaska side of the river, Some of the trails Google shows do overlap with the MN Valley trails, but the MN Valley trails are all south of the Minnesota river and don't appear on Google bicycle maps.

Instead follow the MN Bike Navigator Directions. (But don't try to cross 41! Do take the paved trail and follow it under 41 then back up. Apparently this trail does stay close the river - even though it's not shown on the #$# USFWS map (which I'm thinking is 20 years old?).

If you're doing this with kids I'd start here, travel about 45 minutes west, turn around and visit Tommy's Malt shop. Alternatively, one could park in Chaska near Tommy's, bicycle across 41 bicycle trail (east side), pick up the trail that goes under 41, do the loop, then return to the vehicle and stop at Tommy's.