Mountain bikers in the Twin Cities enjoy mountain biking year-round, with access to groomed fat bike trails in winter and flowy singletrack in the summer. Not only that, there’s even fun singletrack to ride just a short pedal from downtown Minneapolis. These factors, along with others, led IMBA to award the Twin Cities its coveted Bronze-level Ride Center designation.
Theodore Wirth Park
Minneapolis has one of the most extensive bike path networks of any US city its size, which makes getting to Theodore Wirth Park on two wheels a snap. The Minnesota Off Road Cyclists (MORC), who maintains just over 100 miles of singletrack in the area, have worked for years to legitimize the trails at Theodore “Theo” Wirth Park, completing rock work, building berms, and expanding the network to about 6 miles of singletrack. Gear Junkie founder and editor, Stephen Regenold, tells me Theo Wirth is one of his favorites. “It’s pretty amazing. We can be on that trail in like 10 minutes from our office in the heart of the city.”
Matt Andrews from MORC also says Theo Wirth is a must-ride for visitors to the city. “From north to south, riders will experience ‘old skool’ tight, twisty singletrack, leading more and more into flow style trail with jumps and large berms. The southernmost portion ends with some of the most technically challenging trail in the area with our Brownie Lake segment.”
Carver Lake Park
On the St. Paul side of the metro area, Carver Lake Park serves up 5 miles of XC-style singletrack, making it the perfect place to get in a few laps before dinner. The park also boasts a number of wooden and natural skills features. Singletracks reviewer Mnelson says it’s a “very fun trail with lots of flow, but still some fun technical features. […] Overall great trail, best in the Twin Cities.”
The Lebanon Hills trail system is located less than 30 minutes (by car) southeast of downtown Minneapolis and boasts 12 miles of trails. MORC has worked to create excellent signage to help first-time riders navigate the trail system, and each loop is clearly marked by difficulty. Advanced riders will appreciate challenging rock features and short, steep climbs, while beginner and intermediate riders will love the flow. Stephen from Gear Junkie tells me, “Lebanon Hills is generally the best mountain biking area in the Twin Cities.” As such, these trails can get crowded, especially on weekends in the summer, so plan your visit accordingly.
Also located on the south side of the Minneapolis metro area–and within about 30 minutes of downtown–Murphy Hanrehan is an excellent 11-mile stacked loop trail system. With a little over 100 feet of elevation separating the high and low points, Murphy Hanrehan gets big points for great flow, excellent signage, and smaller crowds than Lebanon Hills. Singletracks reviewer Fernando Rodriguez Jr. pays Murphy Hanrehan perhaps the best complement any flow trail can get, saying “[it] felt like it was mostly downhill and the climbs that are there are short.”
Elm Creek Park
On the northwest side of town, Elm Creek Park is a great place to take the family mountain biking. Singletracks reviewers note the 13 miles of trail drain fairly well after rain and are located in a scenic area that’s fun to explore. These beginner/intermediate trails flow nicely and offer gentle climbs and little elevation gain or loss. More advanced riders can seek out various wood and rock features throughout the park.
For those who are looking for more of a bike park experience close to Minneapolis, look no further than Cottage Grove Bike Park. The park features a 4X (four cross) track, dirt jumps, and two pump tracks.
For mountain bikers with a bit more time to play around with, here are two bonus trails within a 2-hour drive of the Minneapolis area.
According to Singletracks reviewers, the Cuyuna Lakes trail system near Ironton, MN is the best place to mountain bike in the entire state of Minnesota. With at least 25 miles of varying trails, Cuyuna Lakes is well-worth the 129-mile drive from Minneapolis. Standout trails within the system include Bobsled and Miners, so be sure to include those in your trip. Expect to climb a fair bit at Cuyuna, especially compared to the trails found in the Twin Cities area. Trails are built and maintained by the Climb Crew.
Duluth, MN is a little further afield than Cuyuna, but this up-and-coming destination is another great Twin Cities day trip option. Set on a bluff overlooking the St. Louis River, Duluth has the goods when it comes to serious climbs and descents. The most popular area trail system is known as Piedmont Brewer. Hats off to the Cyclists of Gitchee Gumee Shores (COGGS) for building and maintaining excellent Duluth-area singletrack.
Need more Twin Cities singletrack? View the full list of Minneapolis bike trails.
Nice. If it was my favorite list I’d just substitute Theo with Hillside Park in Elk River. This trail is underrated, which actually helps to keep crowds away.
As a local to the Twin Cities, I might not put them in this order but this article nails the best in the area. If you’re looking for a couple more, there is a solid loop in Bertram Park in Monticello and Memorial Trail in Red Wing.