Monday, May 31, 2021

Minneapolis to Sunrise Prairie (31 miles 1 way, but on to Duluth)

Via Facebook, AK shared a route from MPLS to Sunrise Prairie. At Sunrise Prairie one can start the trail to Duluth.

... It’s almost all bike lane/trail. The last big chunk that isn’t is all a county road but it has 10 ft shoulders ... Also, on Lake Rd, you go through Circle Pines which has a more populated section (but still has a big shoulder) but if you are uncomfortable with that, there is a frontage road you can ride on till you get to a less populated area...

 I also wonder about this as a route to Hugo, but I'm not sure we can get through Lino Lakes.


Saturday, May 29, 2021

Gravel rides around Northfield MN (south of MSP)

Bruce Anderson posted this 5/23/2021 on the Cannon Valley Velo Club Facebook Group. I'm just republishing here:

Want to ride gravel in the Northfield area? Look no further! Here’s a growing list of gravel routes of all lengths and levels of difficulty.

Rides are categorized below as:

• Easy (less than 20 miles, any amount of climbing*)

• Moderate (20 to 40 miles, any amount of climbing)

• Moderately Hard (30 to 40 miles with more than 1500 feet of climbing)

• Hard but Relatively Flat (more than 40 miles and less than an average of 30 feet of climbing per mile)

• Hard and Moderately Hilly (more than 40 miles and an average of 30 to 40 feet of climbing per mile)

• Hard and Hilly (more than 40 miles and an average of more than 40 feet of climbing per mile)

• Killer but You’re Gonna Love It Anyway (more than 100 miles and plenty of climbing)

*Climbing elevations are generally as reported by the RideWithGPS mapping tool. In the author’s experience, actual climbing as recorded on these routes by GPS is often significantly higher than the RWGPS estimates. 

You can, of course, double your options by riding any of these routes in reverse. If you would like to add your favorite route(s) to the list, please comment on this post and a moderator will edit the original post to include the route if it is deemed a good addition. 

Most routes start and end at Bridge Square in the heart of historic downtown Northfield. If they start or end elsewhere, there’s likely a brewery or something else inviting involved! (Three excellent breweries and a cidery are within a few blocks or miles of Bridge Square for post-ride refreshments: Imminent Brewing (two blocks away), Tanzenwald Brewing Company (0.3 miles), Chapel Brewing (3.1 miles), and Keepsake Cidery (6.1 miles).

Ride on!

Northfield Gravel Rides

Easy (less than 20 miles, any amount of climbing)

• Southwest, Return on East Cannon River Trail (14.3 miles, 406’ of climbing)

• Cannon River Ramble 15-miler (15 miles, 438’ of climbing)

• Northeast and Back on Sciota Trail (16 miles, 584’ of climbing) 

• Isaacson Trail Quickie (16.8 miles, 606’ of climbing)

• Cold Moon Howl (18.8 miles, 560’ of climbing)

• Patrick L-Approved Loop (18.8 miles, 826’ of climbing, including a couple of challenging climbs)

• Crow Moon Howl 20-miler (19.8 miles, 478’ of climbing)

Moderate (20 to 40 miles with less than 1500’ of climbing)

• McKnight Prairie Fly-By (21.6 miles, 553’ of climbing)

• Chub Lake Super Blue Moon Howl (24.3 miles, 650’ of climbing)

• Easy Like Sunday Afternoon (27.7 miles, 633’ of climbing)

• Burma Passage and Ghost Nike Missile Site (28.9 miles, 796’ of climbing)

• Randolph -- Strachan Farm Loop (30.1 miles, 648’ of climbing)

• Farmer Trail – Big Woods – Dennison (30.2 miles, 1078’ of climbing)

• Western Gravel Staying East of I-35 (30.7 miles, 677’ of climbing)

• Chub Lake Howl (30.7 miles, 792’ of climbing)

• Burma Passage – Randolph (31.2 miles, 638’ of climbing)

• Chub Lake – Burma Passage (31.4 miles, 765’ of climbing)

• Boy Scout Camp Loop with Cherry Valley Descent (31.4 miles, 956’ of climbing)

• Farmer Trail – Eiler Ave – Rice County Wilderness Area (32.3 miles, 1361’ of climbing)

• 20th Ave Rollers (32.4 miles, 1496’ of climbing)

• Beware Falling Mergansers (33.0 miles, 911’ of climbing)

• Burma Passage – Chub Lake (33.5 miles, 893’ of climbing)

• Lewiston Boulevard – Passage to Burma (34.3 miles, 726’ of climbing)

• Circle Lake 36-Miler (36.2 miles, 1358’ of climbing)

• Wilderness Park – Cannon City – Farmer Trail – Isaacson Trail (37.1 miles, 1308’ of climbing)

Moderately Hard (30 to 40 miles with more than 1500’ of climbing)

• Westerly to Union Lake Trail and Baseline Road (30.4 miles, 1534’ of climbing)

• Farmer Trail – Big Woods – Isaacson Trail (32.3 miles, 1786’ of climbing)

• Beautiful Barn Loop; (37.9 miles, 1679’ of climbing)

Hard but Relatively Flat (more than 40 miles and less than an average of 30 feet of climbing per mile)

• Camp Winona Trail – Union Lake Trail (52.1 miles, 1354’ of climbing)

• Vermillion Highlands – Chimney Rock (63.2 miles, 1472’ of climbing)

• Montgomery Calling (55.6 miles, 1580’ of climbing)

Hard and Moderately Hilly (more than 40 miles and an average of 30 to 40 feet of climbing per mile)

• Full Strawberry Moon 42-Miler (42.5 miles, 1595’ of climbing)

• Falls Trail – Union Lake Trail (43.0 miles, 1349’ of climbing)

• Shady Lane Trail Pronto (44.7 miles, 1597’ of climbing)

• Small Taste o’ the DAMn (48.1 miles, 1757’ of climbing)

• Union Lake Trail – Cody Lake Trail – Lake Ave (49.7 miles, 1677’ of climbing)

• Full Strawberry Moon Howl 50-miler (50.4 miles, 1875’ of climbing)

• Clark Valley Trail – Byllesby Dam (52.5 miles, 1848’ of climbing)

• Heywood 55 (53.3 miles, 1932’ of climbing)

• Camp Winona Trail – Cody Trail – Union Lake Trail (57.2 miles, 1931’ of climbing)

• Randolph – Chub Lake – Union Lake Trail Meander (58.9 miles, 2192’ of climbing)

• Wilderness Park – Faribault – Monkey Valley (61.2 miles, 2215’ of climbing)

• Shady Lane Trail – Monkey Valley 100k (62.3 miles, 2386’ of climbing)

• Skunk Hollow – Clark Valley Metric Century (63.4 miles, 2311’ of climbing)

• Shady Lane Trail – Wanamingo – Scenic Barn (63.7 miles, 2347’ of climbing)

• Welch – Miesville Ravine – Randolph (78.0 miles, 2812’ of climbing)

• Clark Valley Trail – Sunset Trail – Welch Trail – Miesville Ravine – Chimney Rock Loop (88.6 miles, 3171’ of climbing)

Hard and Hilly (more than 40 miles and an average of more than 40 feet of climbing per mile)

• Monkey Valley – Nerstrand Big Woods (42.7 miles, 2037’ of climbing)

• Shady Lane Trail – Scenic Barn (45.5 miles, 1833’ of climbing)

• Earth Day Gravel Grinder (52.4 miles, 3048’ of climbing)

• Wanamingo, No Foolin’ Around (57.5 miles, 2363’ of climbing)

• Chimney Rock or Bust! (59.3 miles, 2492’ of climbing)

• White Rock Trail – Oxford Mill Road (61.0 miles, 2890’ of climbing)

• (Bit Longer) Taste o’ the DAMn (61.5 miles, 2468’ of climbing)

• Area 57 with Return via Monkey Valley (66.0 miles, 2908’ of climbing)

• Sunset Trail – Welch – Miesville Ravine – Byllesby Dam (71.9 miles, 3068’ of climbing)

• Heywoodish Lite (76.9 miles, 3697’ of climbing)

• Angry Catfish Comes to Town (82.6 miles, 3748’ of climbing)

Killer but You’re Gonna Love It Anyway (more than 100 miles and plenty of climbing)

• Skunk Hollow -- Clark Valley -- White Rock – Vasa – Welch -- Miesville Ravine -- Chimney Rock Century (100.8 miles, 3894’ of climbing)

• Camp Winona Trail-LeSueur-Montgomery Gravel Century (103.9 miles, 3103’ of climbing)

• Thunder Moon Howl: Good Stuff to the West and East (105.5 miles, 5844’ of climbing)

• Heywood 110 (109.9 miles, 5024’ of climbing)

• It Ain’t Paradise but It Used to Be (127.6 miles, 5903’ of climbing)

• Heywood 165 (163.8 miles, 7298’ of climbing)

Saturday, May 1, 2021

Twin Cities Metro Ride

 A friend shared this off Facebook. That's more than I've ridden for decades so it will take some work to get ready for it.

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Minnehaha, Lakes and the Utepils - Bryn Mawr neighborhood

This map was posted on Facebook's Utepils ride group as a suggested ride and my son asked to do it.

It's short loop and not fast -- these trails are popular with walkers, runners, skaters and cyclists.

Google wouldn't let me add more way points, but the rest of the return is 11miles, so about 28 miles for the entire outing.

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Cross West St Paul: Kaposia Landing to Brickyard Trail

In a previous post I described the excellent Harriet Island (Paddleford Landing) to Kaposia Park via Robert Piram trail route:

This route describes a pleasant and relatively car-free route across West St Paul to make a loop that's between 11-13 miles (depending on variations). A google maps link should produce something close to this image:

The above route is about 3.8 miles and involves some big drops and climbs, there's a direct route that has only modest climbs and drops and is 2.7 miles:

If you're riding a mountain or fat bike there are some adventure options in this detail view:
Just after crossing over the freeway on the bridge from Kaposia Park there's a quick dirt trail drop onto a multi-use path. Follow that on a mountain or fat bike and you end up at Thompson Park Lodge.

On a road or mountain bike you can take a fast curvy trail deep into the very obscure Bluff Terrace Park shown at the top of the above detail (map).

Also on a mountain or fat bike when you get Brickyard Trail at the left side there are some interesting options:
In particular on a trail bike you can take the steep fast Brickyard trail to the bottom and find your way to Lilydale bike trail (don't take the railroad track, take the trail out) and then back to the Harriet Island Paddleford Landing start. At first you may think this trail is firmly fenced away (for some reason), but follow the fence to the right to see where locals have opened an entrance big enough for a small car.

On pavement follow the bike path on Cherokee Heights Road over to Ohio street and down to Paddleford that way.

Friday, March 26, 2021

West St Paul loop: Harriet Island to Kaposia Park and Back (plus River to River option)

The Robert Piram trail connecting Harriet (not an) Island park to Kaposia Landing opens up some great new ride opportunities (plus the River to River greenway ... I think!).

I did a back-and-forth from Paddleford to Kaposia Park / Robert Street last week, but looks like this would be a fun short loop:

There are many ways to traverse West St Paul from Kaposia Park/Thompson County Park back to Harriet (not an) Island park. Some streets probably more interesting than others, but lots of exploration opportunities.

The climb from Kaposia Landing to Kaposia Park through Simon's Ravine is scenic and a fun climb for an intermediate rider or for a novice on an eBike. It would be a solid climb for an inline skater and bit of a chancy descent.

Kaposia park is supposed to connect up with a lot more in years to come:

I think most of the River-to-River Greenway can be done now between trails and city streets so I need to check that out -- comparing the above planning photo to a Google version (below) it's only missing a short connection along Hwy 62! The complete loop would a 14 mile ride with some nice climbs and drops:

I didn't know of the Mendota-Lebanon Hills regional greenway, that would be awesome if it happens but looks still years away.

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Minnesota River Trail - The River Bottoms from Indian Mounds to 9 mile creek crossing (Long Meadow Lake Unit) + Bloomington to Mendota extra

(From 2015, republished 2020 since it's had some updates but it's not all current. There are updated to 2020 map links in another 2015 post.)

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: [In 2020 this was lost years ago - tragically removed by bad people.]
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…

Update 5/24/2020: I added some modern maps to my 2015 post on the river bottoms. They really help out.

Update 11/25/2020: Further downstream, at the Nature reserve by 494, you can take the 494 bike path over the MN River and across Gun Club Lake, then on the south side of Gun Club take a dirt path exit and double back over the lake under the bridge and catch the Mendota Trail. Some images here from Facebook, and a description from there that I've edited a bit ...

If you're coming from Bloomington you first take paved 494 bridge ped/bike trail over the MN river until the concrete bridge bridge railing ends. It's not marked but at that point you can see a well worn dirt path entrance. There's a short relatively steep and a bit rocky drop (easy to walk if you prefer) then an easy broad trail that turns into a dirt access road. The path goes under the bridge, then it curves back along (under) the edge of the eastbound 494 elevated roadway. You proceed to ride under the edge of the bridge until you get to the MN River channel, and then turn left (to Cedar) or right (to Mendota).