Bike the Mighty Mississippi
The Mississippi River, a geographic treasure with a rich history and literary heritage, can be explored by cyclists on a 3,000-mile trail. The Mississippi River Trail is a mostly on-road bicycle route roughly tracing the river from its source in Itasca State Park in northwest Minnesota, all the way to the Gulf of Mexico. In Minnesota, the route down to the state border is about 400 miles long, with additional miles in alternate routes.
The route mostly follows shoulders along roads; most are low traffic but others are busier highways. Some parts of the route follow city streets or paved trails. Detailed maps are available to download and can be accessed by cyclists using smartphones. Much of the route follows the Great River Road, which was designed for vehicle travel along the river. The Mississippi River Trail is a similar concept, but tailored specifically for cyclists.
While some cyclists may go all-out and follow the extended route as it loops across Minnesota, most will probably choose shorter segments of the route to explore. "Adventures come in different sizes," says Dan Collins, a planner for the project at the Minnesota Department of Transportation.
At the beginning of the route, for example, cyclists can enjoy easygoing trails and back roads at Itasca State Park and the wooded area between the park and Bemidji, where there is access to the Paul Bunyan Trail. In the heart of the Twin Cities area, paved bike paths follow the edge of soaring bluffs above the river valley, and link the downtowns of Minneapolis and St. Paul. Advanced cyclists not bothered by traffic can ride the shoulders of busy but scenic Highway 61, which follows the river from Red Wing through Winona.
From short rides to long road trips, there are plenty of options on the Mississippi River Trail for cyclists looking for a biking adventure. Along the way are river views, parks, historic sites and inviting towns.
For more info on the Mississippi River Trail, see the MnDOT website.
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