Minnesota is rapidly gaining a national reputation as a great state for bicycling. The American Trails organization named Minnesota the "Best Trails State." The League of American Bicyclists ranked Minnesota the second most bike-friendly state in the country. And Minneapolis was named the top bike-friendly city in America by Bicycling magazine.
What's up? Those who are involved with promoting bicycling are taking notice of all Minnesota has done in the areas of developing biking routes and trails, for recreation as well as commuting, incorporating bicycling into community life.
Recreational cyclists can explore one of the largest and best-developed collections of paved rail-to-trail bikeways in the country. There are about 1,000 miles of paved trail in Minnesota so far, with many more miles in the planning stage. These corridors of asphalt-surfaced, off-road pathways offer scenic, often secluded biking, usually on a level, easygoing surface. It's easy to plan a short outing, and some trails that link together offer more than 100 miles of continuous biking in parts of the state.
Cyclists who enjoy road touring can plan a wide away of routes along country roads. Or, they can do part or all of the Mississippi River Trail, a designated bicycle route that mostly follows shoulders along roads and highways. In Minnesota, the route begins at the source of the Mississippi in Itasca State Park and arcs across the state as it roughly follows the path of the river.
Mountain bikers will find plenty of terrain to explore in parks and forests across the state. The newest mountain bike trail network, designed in cooperation with the International Mountain Bicycling Association, is quickly becoming a popular destination. It's in the Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area, and features more than 20 miles winding through a rugged landscape created by years of iron ore mining.
By late May, a new, bicycle-focused website, a collaboration of several agencies and organizations, is coming online at pedalmn.com. Check it out and get inspired for your summer biking.