Take a family vacation - by bike! There are lots of friendly trails and even friendlier places to stay overnight or eat along the way.
Summer time is cycling time. Time to get out the bike and ride. It’s also vacation time. It’s the season to plan special getaways doing your favorite things – like biking. And Minnesota is just the place to combine the two, with lots of opportunities to bike on your vacation.
The northern lakes and woods of Minnesota are well-known for their resorts and campgrounds, favorite summertime destinations. And fortunately for cyclists, some scenic bike trails meander through this territory, making it easy to combine a resort stay with a biking getaway. Your vacation days can be a relaxing mix of cycling miles of scenic trails, lounging by the lake, exploring charming small town Main Streets, watching the sun set over the waters, and listening to the magical call of loons in the starry night.
There are plenty of destinations to select from. The Heartland State Trail, one of Minnesota’s original rail-to-trail conversions, links Park Rapids, Walker and Cass Lake. In Walker, it intersects with the Paul Bunyan State Trail, which runs between Brainerd and Bemidji. All of these areas offer an abundance of lakeside resorts, plus plenty of in-town motel options.
Closer to Minneapolis, St. Paul is the pastoral Willmar Lakes area, which also has several resorts near a series of towns linked by the Glacial Lakes State Trail. Many other popular vacation areas boast trails of their own. The Central Lakes State Trail explores the countryside between Fergus Falls and Alexandria. Grand Rapids is the western anchor of the Mesabi Trail on the Iron Range. North Shore visitors enjoy the Gitchi-Gami State Trail.
Southern Minnesota offers its own biking vacations, with stays in B&Bs and historic inns, or shady campgrounds. The Root River State Trail, winding through a lovely valley in the beautiful Bluff Country tucked into the southeast corner of the state, is a major biking destination. It connects to the Harmony-Preston Valley State Trail.
Most of these paved trails were developed along former railroad beds, so they offer fairly level, easygoing biking. This makes them especially good for family bike outings. If you don’t want to haul your own bikes along on your trip, bike rentals are available in many trail towns.
Minnesota is gaining a national reputation for being bike friendly, so don’t miss the opportunity to discover for yourself this summer what makes Minnesota so great for cycling. Whether you have time for a weekend getaway or a longer vacation stay, it’s easy to make biking part of your trip.
You can search for resorts, campgrounds and other places to stay on the state travel website, exploreminnesota.com. Select a trail, and use the “What’s Nearby” feature in the right column of the page to look for places to stay near the selected trail. Or, choose an area (by city) that you want to visit, and search for resorts or other accommodations. These listings also allow you to search for accommodations that offer nearby bike trails. Go to: http://www.exploreminnesota.com/places-to-stay/index.aspx.