Central Minnesota Bike Trails Explore Lake Country
Central Lakes State Trail
Location: Between Fergus Falls and Osakis
Distance: 55 paved miles
Description: Wildflowers, prairie grass, open fields, rolling hills, wetland ponds and wildlife are part of the scenery on the Central Lakes State Trail. The hilly terrain cradles dozens of lakes, and red barns and emerald pastures dot the landscape.
The western segment passes between wetlands, small pristine lakes and wooded hillsides, crossing only one road between Fergus Falls and Dalton.
The eastern section passes through Alexandria, but most of the remainder of the trail is fairly secluded. This trail connects to the Lake Wobegon Trail at Osakis.
Cuyuna Lakes State Trail
Location: Between Crosby and Riverton
Distance: 6 miles
Description: The trail travels mostly through the Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area, a park developed around former mining pits. The pits have filled with water and are now clear lakes, popular for fishing and scuba diving. At the eastern end of the trail, you can tour a simulated underground mine at the Croft Mine Historical Park, north of Crosby.
Glacial Lakes State Trail
Location: Between Willmar and Paynesville
Distance: 22 paved miles
Description: From Willmar to Spicer, this trail passes pastures, fields of corn and soybeans, and ponds and wetlands full of cattails. Watch for herons and ducks. At Spicer, about midway, you can take a dip in refreshing Green Lake, featuring a big, festive beach.
North of here, the trail crosses a bridge over Nest Lake and skirts to the east of New London. Don't miss New London's entertaining waterski shows Friday nights during the summer. From here, the trail follows Highway 23 through Hawick; a 2-mile paved spur at the north end links the trail to Paynesville.
Lake Wobegon Trail
Location: Between St. Joseph and Osakis, with a spur north from Albany
Distance: 62 paved miles
Description: Lake Wobegon is the mythical Minnesota town in stories told by radio personality and author Garrison Keillor. The towns along the trail--Sauk Centre, Melrose, Freeport, Albany, Holdingford, Avon and St. Joseph--inspired Keillor's stories of small-town life. Part of the trail comes close to I-94, but most of it is far from life's fast lane in peaceful farm country. The city of Sauk Centre was home to the Nobel Prize-winning novelist Sinclair Lewis. Visitors can tour his boyhood home and an interpretive center. At its west end, the Lake Wobegon Trail links to the Central Lakes Trail.
From Albany, a spur of the Wobegon heads north through rural countryside past the village of Holdingford, where the trail crosses a river on a scenic covered bridge. A trail developed by Morrison County links to this northern spur of the Wobegon Trail. The paved 10 miles of the Soo Line Trail pass through the tiny village of Bowlus, the only town on the route, and cross the Mississippi River. The Central Lakes, Wobegon and Soo Line trails provide more than 125 continuous miles of paved bike trail--one of the longest in the country.
Mille Lacs Soo Line Trail
Location: Between Onamia and Isle, south of Lake Mille Lacs
Distance: 11 paved miles
Description: With a scenic state park near each trailhead, the Soo Line offers biking near Mille Lacs, one of the state's largest lakes. At Isle, on the trail's north end, streets in town take you to Father Hennepin State Park, featuring a great beach on Mille Lacs. This short, flat trail passes numerous wetlands where red-winged blackbirds perch on cattails. The western trailhead of Onamia has an information center in a restored train depot. From town, you can follow County Road 26 for 6 miles to the beautiful forest of Mille Lacs Kathio State Park.
Paul Bunyan State Trail
Location: Between Brainerd and Walker, and between Walker and Bemidji
Distance: 112 miles
Description: The southern end of the Paul Bunyan Trail runs through the scenic Brainerd Lakes area, a popular destination for fishing, golfing and resort stays. The trail passes lakes, marshes and forests, and crosses nine rivers and streams. The southern 50 miles run through Brainerd, Baxter, Merrifield, Nisswa, Pequot Lakes, Jenkins, Pine River, Backus, and up through Hackensack.
The part of the trail between Hackensack and the Heartland Trail features some challenging hills. For 9 miles, the trail winds and curves through the rolling hills of the Chippewa National Forest. The Paul Bunyan Trail hooks into the Heartland south of Walker.
The northern portion of the trail passes lakes, fields and woods and connects Walker, Benedict, Laporte, Guthrie, Nary and Bemidji. A 2-mile bike route follows Bemidji city streets, linking the trail on the north and south sides of town. The northernmost segment of the trail crosses the Mississippi River, follows the scenic shore of Lake Bemidji, and leads to Lake Bemidji State Park.