Minnesota offers many trails for mountain bikes that are ideal for novice riders. Some trails are only 1.3 miles long, while others can go up to 34 miles. Most are in the middle. There are loops as well as straight out-and back trails. Some run along the Minnesota River. They are all aerobically and technically beginner-friendly. Have fun.
1. Mendota Trail
Because the Mendota Trail starts on pavement, it is great for beginners. This is a great warm-up. Next, the trail is paved with gravel, which is quite flat.
You should be aware of loose gravel at certain places. You should expect to ride for between 25 and 45 minutes. As you travel out and back, the total distance is 8.7 miles
It is an easy ride that you will enjoy. You will be passing through dense forests. It can feel jungle-like in the summer. You should pay attention to the nettles when you reach the valley. You will feel a burning sensation if you touch one of their leaves.
As you ride you can see an old European-American area of limestone houses from the 1800’s. You will pass underneath a railroad track and eventually arrive at the Minnesota River. Then you’ll enter thickly wooded flats. These flats are home to large cottonwoods and elms as well as maples, maples and ash trees.
2. Bass Ponds Loop
Bass Ponds Loop is perfect for new riders who have not developed a lot of endurance yet, and or don’t have much time for various reasons. This trail is only 3 miles long so you will be able finish it quickly. It will take approximately 15-25 minutes to complete.
The entire loop follows a flat gravel trail that is moderate to large in width. Loose gravel is something to watch out for. Another thing to watch out for is slippery goose droppings. It will be a fun ride, especially if you are near a river. You’ll also see wildlife in the area. The trail is smooth and flat with no hills.
It will be possible to spot a wide range of bird species. There are many ponds nearby, and you can see many bird species. You can see ducks, herons and muskrats at this lake during the summer.
If you are able, it is best to travel on the weekdays. Many hikers are out on Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays. There will also be many birdwatchers. You should not go too close to them.
3. LRT Trail South
The LRT Trail South is easy for new mountain bikers. You will ride on solid-packed limestone throughout the entire trip. Limestone is easy to ride on, so you can practice more quickly.
This trail is 9 miles long, so you will be able to spend a lot of time. The trail should be completed in approximately 45 to 60 minutes, depending on your average speed.
This track will allow you to enjoy a relaxing ride on an old railway line. You can see the river valley easily. On the way down, there is a slight drop. This is a good way to get started with downhill riding. Pay attention to where you cross roads. This trail is long, straight and flat. There is also no traffic. After your start you’ll ride by the Minnesota River and go by the edge of the bluffs.
You will find no obstacles as you travel along the crushed limestone trail. You won’t find any hills, so you can go as fast or slow as you like. Because there are no obstacles, the trail is flat so you can train or improve your speed.
4. Minnesota Valley State Trail
Mountain bikers might find the Minnesota Valley State Trail too easy, even if they are beginners. This is due to the fact that this trail is a paved bicycle trail. Mountain bikers will find this trail useful if they haven’t biked in a while, or if they are just starting to bike again. This trail can also be used as a recovery ride for those who have been riding on dirt trails.
The trail runs 9.4 miles, and goes back. There is no loop. If you ride 10 mph or more, it should take between 40-60 minutes to complete. Pavement will allow you to travel at a very fast pace. The terrain is very easy, and you’ll go along a river trail. This is the best trail for wildlife lovers.
You should pay attention to two sharp turns as you could run into oncoming riders. You should also pay attention to weather conditions as the trail can flood after heavy rainfalls. This is why I recommend waiting at least two days after heavy rains before you go on this trail.
Shortly after you begin the trail, you’ll pass through an RV camp. As you ascend to higher ground, you’ll see the valley through the flats of lower rivers.
5. Cannon Valley Trail
Cannon Valley Trail is a great trail for beginners who wish to improve their endurance. The entire trail is paved. It is quite long. You can ride 20 miles round trip.
To complete the trail, you will need to be available for at least one hour and 25 minutes and up to an hour and fifty minutes. Make sure you have enough water and food. You can also bring some peanut butter sandwiches or power bars.
You will ride through river bluffs and view beautiful fall leaves, if you visit in the autumn. You should be aware that it can get very crowded at weekends.
Cannon Valley Trail is a beautiful trail to ride. You can use this trail for your recovery, even if a mountain biker. The trail will have rock outcroppings one side and lazy rivers the other.
There is a $2 per day fee and $10 for the entire year. There are several wooden bridges that you can ride over. Additionally, you’ll pass through pasture land with streams, ponds and even cows. The only thing you’ll encounter on the way back is a slight incline. It is hard to call it uphill.
6. New Bridge Trail
The New Bridge Trail is an aerobically easy trail. So if you are very new and don’t have a lot of conditioning under your belt this trail is good for training or even for warming up.
It is easy to just get on the trail and warm up, as it is short. You can ride it out and back for 2.2 miles. The trail should take between 10 and 15 minutes to complete. You could even ride back and forth several times.
It is rated from level 1 to 2 in terms technical difficulty. You’ll be riding on gravel and dirt. You will also be riding on a combination of dirt and gravel, which makes it more difficult technically.
The trail will take you through flats of wooded riverbeds and is very easy to access. You should be aware of loose sand along the trail and any deer that may cross your path. Deer are always pleasant to see.
From a parking lot you’ll ride on a wide gravel trail at first. You’ll be able to ride under the Ferry Bridge, and then continue along the Minnesota River. After you’ll then ride on solid-packed dirt and enter wooded river flats. Turn around when you reach an open field and turn back. The open fields are private property.
7. St. Lawrence Unit (Dry Side).
It is relatively easy to ride the Saint Lawrence Unit trail. The trail’s first section is 0.4 miles in length and is gravel. The trail continues for 0.9 miles and is made up of a rolling, grassy trail.
This trail measures just 1.3 miles in length. You can loop the trail, which is just 1.3 miles long. You could also time yourself to see if your speed improves for each loop. You should be able to complete the ride in 10 to 20 minutes.
Although the ride is brief, it’s a lot of fun and you will enjoy the unique river valley ecosystem. It is home to mature oak trees as well as dense sumac groves. It is possible for it to have a bump or two that makes it technically level 1 to 2.
This is the dry side, as it is closer to the Minnesota River. Because it is near the river, the St. Lawrence Unit trail on the other side is called the wet side. This side is in better shape than the wet. There are fewer insects to bother you. Autumn is the most beautiful season.
8. Elm Creek Park Reserve
Elm Creek Park Reserve offers some challenging terrain for those who are more experienced. Aerobically, there’s only one decline and one incline. Technically, the trail is rated from 1 to 2.
The trail’s first section is about 1 mile in length and is paved. The remainder of the trail is made up of dirt and grass. The trail’s size is split between singletrack and dualtrack. There aren’t any real hazards to watch out for except for some bumpy areas.
This trail runs for 4.4 miles and is considered a loop. Riders should finish the trail in approximately 15-30 minutes. You will be amazed at the beauty of this park as you ride along it. You’ll ride through woods, and near and around Mud Lake. While riding, you might spot deer, ducks and ducks.
When you go through the north part of the park you’ll come across a bumpy section which is in taller grass. You will reach Mud Lake from the first mile. Then, you’ll go uphill.
Continue on the dirt trail once you have crossed a bike path. The path will become mostly grass after 2 miles. This section can be bumpy. To finish, keep going in a clockwise direction.
9. Lonesome Lake Trail
The trail name will tell you all you need to know if you are a mountain biker. Physically this trail is easy to fair because you’ll ride on some small hills. Technically, the trail is slightly higher than level 1, because it’s singletrack.
The trail’s distance is 3.6 mi. The rider should be able complete the trail in between 30 and 45 minutes. You will find singletrack and gravel forest roads on the trail. You’ll be able to ride through thick woods.
Don’t be afraid because you will most likely be alone. This trail is very private, allowing you to connect with nature.
As you ride you’ll begin on a well maintained path. You will then climb and descend small hills before entering dense woods. You’ll see many red and white trees, as well maple and aspen.
When you hit the singletrack you’ll know you are coming close to a quiet lake. The lake does not have a name. It could be named for yourself. You might be able see a moose if you go down to the lake in the early morning.
10. Hogback Lake Trail
The Hogback Lake Trail is for you if you love lakes. You’ll not only pass Hogback Lake, but you’ll also see four other lakes on the way.
Aerobically, this trail is fairly easy. The only difficulty is riding up and down small hills. It is technically fair. The path will have no loose gravel or rocks.
This trail, which goes out and back, is 26 miles long. It is possible that you only wish to travel 13 miles one way. It will take you approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes to complete one route. If you want to travel out and back, it will take you 3 hours.
Mountain bikers will ride on a gravel forest road. As you pass Hogback Lake (or Homestead Lake), Katydid Lake (or Divide Lake), the scenery is spectacular. The trail starts at the left and ends at the right. Divide Lake is the only lake that can be seen from both sides.
Continue riding until you reach the Laurentian Divide. This is about 13 miles away, and is a great place to stop. Here you will find interesting geological information. You can now call it a day, or go back.
11. Fort Snelling State Park
Aerobically Fort Snelling State Park can be referred to as a fairyland. There aren’t any real hills of any kind. The trail is fairly flat but it does get muddy, which can make it more challenging to follow. Technically it is between 1 and 2. Because you’ll encounter singletrack as well as doubletrack, this is called technical difficulty.
Riders will be able to pedal on either mud paths or wide gravel singletrack. It is approximately 6 miles round trip. This trail should take between 15 and 30 minutes to complete.
You will ride along the Minnesota River through dense forests and marshland. Be aware of roots and rocks. This is an excellent opportunity to improve your biking skills.
You can start your ride by following a dirt trail through the trees. Next, you’ll continue to follow a more gravelly trail. You will reach a wooden bridge after a quarter mile and cross a small stream. After crossing the bridge, the trail narrows down to a hard-packed dirt singletrack.
In a dense wooded area, you will find silver, maple and ash trees. The area becomes soft and sticky after it rains. Another wooden bridge will be visible at mile 1. This area is home to deer, baldeagles, and herons.
You will now cross a final wooden bridge at 2 miles. After another mile, the trail turns back into a gravel path. It is flat and straight for the remainder of the journey, until you have to turn around and go back.
12. Minnesota Valley Wilkie Trail
Physically, the Minnesota Valley Wilkie Trail has been rated as fair to difficult. It is flat, but you can ride it softer as it passes close to the Minnesota River and two lakes, Fisher Lake or Blue Lake.
It is technically rated from levels 1 through 2. The singletrack is mixed with doubletrack. Riders will be able to pedal both on this mix. Watch out for bumps on the grassy sections of the trail. Hidden ruts could also cause you to trip over your handlebars. It is 5.2 miles in length, going back and forth. This trail can be completed in between 20-25 minutes.
You will find the terrain flattens as you travel along. At first, riders will ride on a gravel doubletrack. You will reach the riverbank after about a mile. The trail becomes bumpy and grassy at this point. At the end of the trail, you will find a place where you can turn right and go into woods. This is the best time to turn around. You will lose your way if you keep following the trail.
13. St. Croix State Park
Because you won’t be climbing any hills, the St. Croix State Park trail will be physically easy. You will have to ride on grass, which is a bit more difficult. It is technically rated level 1 through 2, as you will be riding on doubletrack made of dirt and grass.
You’ll be riding through old hardwood forest. You will see a lot wildlife, including whitetail deer and bald eagles, as well as black bears. You need to be careful about loose gravel. It is inevitable that you will be riding over many horse tracks, making it bumpy.
It is 10.8 miles straight out and 10.8 miles back if you go the other way. This trail should take you less than two hours if you go one way.
You’ll begin by riding northeast and go through an area of deep gravel and all those horse tracks. This trail is used by horses and is not maintained for mountain biking.
Keep going until you reach 5-Corners Intersection. Continue on the left side of the trail until you reach MN 48.
14. Paul Bunyan State Forest (South Unit)
Apart from a few hills, the Paul Bunyan State Forest trail can be considered easy aerobically. The trail is classified as level 1 through 2. The trail is rated at levels 1 through 2. You’ll be riding on gravel, which can be tricky.
Because it is well maintained, you will have a lot fun riding this path. This is a beautiful scenic route through the North Woods. There aren’t too many people on the trail. You should be aware of loose gravel and the odd ATV.
This loop trail runs 10.6 miles. Most riders can complete the ride in one hour to an hour and a quarter. You’ll begin by riding east on a thin path which takes you over some small hills. Next, you’ll pass through a dense hardwood forest.
At 1.2 miles you’ll get to the Parkway Forest Road. Turn left and keep going, you’ll pass some spur trails you might want to try. Don’t get lost. Keep going until the Kabekone trail is reached, which you may want to try. You will find birch and red pine trees.
At 4 miles you’ll come to Lester Lake Trail, then after East Steamboat Forest Road. At 7.3 miles you’ll get to a little bit of a steep hill but not too tough. MN 64 is where you’ll finish.
15. Ninemile Lake Loop
Ninemile Lake Loop is a great place to find peace and quiet. Aerobically, it’s easy to do with just a few small rolling hills. Technically, it is level 1 and 2. This is because you will be riding on a mixture of gravel roads that are both solid-packed and loose.
The trail is quite isolated. The riding is easy as you’ll go through thick woods from two different forests. One thing you should watch out for is large gravel trucks, which can travel very fast. Also, some loose gravel.
The trail’s total length is 20.3 miles. You will return to your starting point at the end of the loop. To complete the loop, riders will need to ride for at least 2 1/2 hours to 3 and a quarter hours. It is very difficult so make sure you have enough water and food. For any emergency, you should bring a first aid kit as well as a compass.
Start by heading east towards Lake Superior. You should be aware of truck traffic at times. You will see no more trucks once you pass the gravel pit. Continue on County Road 1 for 6.4 miles and turn left onto Forest Road 342. It is a lovely, rolling ride.
11.6 miles at Forest Road 166, turn left, then another at 13.6 mi at CR 7. As you bike you’ll pass Hare Lake first and then Ninemile Lake to your right. Keep going until the end.
16. Grassy Lake Trail
The Grassy Lake Trail is a great choice for new mountain bikers, who love to enjoy beautiful fall colors. You will find sumac and maple trees, plus pine trees, along the trail.
Because there are small hills to climb, the trail is physically easy. Because the path is an old forest road, technical difficulty levels range from 1 to 2.
The ride is quite quiet. Most of the action takes place at a nearby campground and canoe area. This trail is perfect for beginners looking to get some practice in privacy. The trail is easy to navigate, but be aware of loose gravel and rocks. From the beginning to the end, the trail measures 8.7 miles. The trail can be completed in approximately one hour and fifteen minutes.
Continue northeast along the gravel path FR459. The path will have large bumps and stones. There will be some small hills. To get to Grassy Lake, turn right at 3.5 mi. If you don’t turn you will enter the canoe area.
The Grassy Lake road ends at 4.4 miles. To reach the lake, you can ride your bike along a footpath. You can return to the original route once you’re done.
17. Lake Elmo Park Reserve
Lake Elmo Park Reserve trails can be used by beginners mountain bikers who love to explore. There isn’t a designated trail. You should be adventurous.
Aerobically, the trail is fairly easy. It is not difficult, but there will be bumps. Technically, this is level 2. This combination of singletrack and grassy trails will allow you to ride.
There are many wildlife on this trail. You will travel through prairie and forests on this rolling terrain. The trail is not crowded. Look out for loose gravel and sand.
You can ride along many trails with an overall length of 8 miles. It is entirely up to you how long you ride. You could be done in 10 minutes or one hour. A day pass costs $4 and seasonal passes are also available.
Although the trail isn’t crowded, it is shared with hikers as well as horses. You will also see horse poop. The loop goes around Eagle Point Lake for 4 miles. Start riding and you will be able to explore the area. You can then choose from 12 branching trails.
18. Katherine Lake Trail
Katherine Lake Trail is recommended for riders with some experience. Although the trail is relatively easy to moderate, it is long. Technically, the trail level is 2. The road will have a mixture of gravel roads and hard-packed.
The trail is quite quiet as you ride. You will likely see wildlife. After such a long ride, you will be glad to see Katherine Lake. You need to be aware of loose gravel and traffic that moves a bit quickly.
The distance between the start and end is 34 miles. You will need three hours to complete the journey. Make sure you have enough water, food, and a first-aid kit just in case.
Overall, the ride is quite non-technical. The area is remote and you’ll be on a forest road. Wear a blaze orange vest if you are hunting season and go off the main road. You don’t want to get hit by bird shot or a deer rifle.
Continue west along Heffelfinger Forest Road to MN1. It will then turn to gravel. At 5.4 miles you’ll pass FR 397, then at 13.2 miles turn left onto FR 102. Katherine Lake will be at 17 miles. Take a break at this point before returning.