9 Top-Rated Mountain Bike Trails in Minnesota

Nov 28, 2017

With plenty of glaciated ridges and lush forests, Minnesota offers fantastic mountain biking trails, ranging from the adventure-rich region of Duluth to the numerous trail systems surrounding the Twin Cities. Whether you are looking for downhill, cross-country, or a leisurely ride after work, you'll find plenty of mountain biking trails to choose from. Different nonprofit and volunteer organizations, such as Minnesota Off-Road Cyclists and the Cyclist of Gitchee Gumee Shores, help support the trail systems, effectively creating a voice for the community. Through these public interest groups and agency partnerships, places like Lebanon Hills and Elm Creek Park offer miles of singletrack and unique features to explore. Whatever style of ride you are looking for, the state's many mountain biking trails provide a fast-flying and fun way for riders of all skill levels to explore Minnesota.

1 Lebanon Hills Regional Park

Lebanon Hills Regional Park
Lebanon Hills Regional Park | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Split between East and West sections, and comprising more than 2,000 acres, Lebanon Hills Regional Park caters towards many different types of recreational activities. On the east end, visitors can rent canoes, kayaks, or paddleboards to explore O'Brian Lake or many of the other named bodies of water that dot Lebanon Hills. If you are looking for mountain biking, though, and some of the best mountain biking in Minnesota, it's the west side that's worth a visit.

Built and maintained by the nonprofit Minnesota Off-Road Cyclists (MORC), Lebanon Hills features 12 miles of well-manicured singletrack that range from beginner-friendly to black diamond routes full of logs, drops, and rock gardens. Whatever your skill level, a recommended route is the Lake Loop, which follows the hilly contour of the land on a well-engineered trail, all the while touring a lakeside landscape that's worth stopping to appreciate. The trails at Lebanon Hills are well marked, ensuring easy navigation of the one-way routes and many intersections that make up the trail system, even if it's your first time visiting. With a newly built shelter and restroom near the parking area, Lebanon Hills also provides the perfect place to relax and refuel during a full day of riding.

Address: 860 Cliff Rd, Eagan, Minnesota

2 Editor's Choice Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Biking Trail

Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Biking Trail
Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Biking Trail | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Riders who visit the Cuyuna Lakes are encouraged to shred the red on the first-class mountain biking trails found throughout the area. Created on the grounds of an abandoned iron mine, the mineral-rich soil of Cuyuna Lakes leaves a notorious red tinge on any tire that ventures onto the 25-plus miles of trail. The red tread marks aren't the only color on the Cuyuna Lakes pallet, though, and with the overlooks of turquoise mining lakes and interspersed plots of aspen and birch trees, Cuyuna Lakes adds up to a radiant scene that shines alongside every ride. The Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Biking Trail is part of the larger and newly adopted Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area, which provides abundant opportunities for other activities, and with camping amenities available, Cuyuna Lakes can provide multiple days of mountain biking adventure.

Address: 307 3rd Street, Ironton, Minnesota

3 Piedmont Bike Trails

Piedmont Bike Trails
Piedmont Bike Trails Peter Anderson / photo modified

Serving as a launching point for Minnesota's rugged North Shore, Duluth is a recreational capital of the state, with cross-country hikes, agate hunting, Grandma's Marathons, skiing, sailing, and dog-sled races. With all that there is to do in Duluth, mountain biking is still one of the most popular, and thanks to the Cyclist of Gitchee Gumee Shores (COGGS), there are plenty of trails to explore. Serving the Twin Ports area, including Duluth, Minnesota and Superior, Wisconsin, COGGS has generated seven-plus trail systems in the area, including the Piedmont Bike Trails, accessed by the Skyline Parkway above the Zenith City.

Winding for nine miles with changing views of Lake Superior and the St. Louis River, the Piedmont Trail system ranges in difficulty from easy-riding intermediate loops to handlebar- jostling descents. Connecting to the adjacent Brewer Park across Haines Road, this extra extension to the trail adds some more flow to the ride, and a heart-pounding section known as the "kissing booth," which features rock drops, switchbacks, and plenty of possible crash landings. For those looking to make the long haul, COGGS is also developing the Duluth Traverse Trail, which connects the Piedmont & Brewer Park bike trail system with many others in the area, creating a non-stop, 40-mile mountain bike trek to really test the legs.

Address: 2588 Haines Road, Duluth, Minnesota

4 Elm Creek Park Reserve

Elm Creek Park Reserve
Elm Creek Park Reserve | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

At 4,000 acres, the Elm Creek Park Reserve is the largest unit within the Three Rivers Park District, and while there are many things to do at this sprawling space within the Twin Cities metro, the mountain biking trails always draw a crowd, especially on the weekends. But with 12 miles of singletrack to explore, ranging from beginner berms to technical features, there is plenty of space to share. The route for the Elm Creek Park Reserve mountain biking trails follows along a woody path before touring around a vast, open prairie field complete with a lake, exposing a wide variety of views along the way. The trailhead for the mountain biking is in the northeast section of the park, and with its popularity among bikers, hikers, and trail runners, plus the beautiful scenery, it's recommended you take your time as you pedal your way through Elm Creek Park Reserve.

Address: 951 W. Hayden Lake Road, Champlin, Minnesota

5 Murphy-Hanrehan Park Reserve

Murphy-Hanrehan Park Reserve

Located 20 miles south of the Twin Cities, the Murphy-Hanrehan Park Reserve is a popular mountain biking destination for all types of riders and can provide the ultimate feeling of escape outside of the city. Besides the maintained mountain biking singletrack and winter cross-country skiing trails, Murphy-Hanrehan remains undeveloped, making it a popular place for birdwatchers, hikers, and nature lovers to explore. The nine miles of trails at Murphy-Hanrehan will test the legs of even the most experienced riders, with long, steady uphill climbs. Feel the burn, though, and be rewarded with the lush forest, scenic prairies, and many fun obstacles for practicing your mountain biking skills. Under the umbrella of the Three Rivers Park District, this path is a local favorite, and the trailhead on the weekends proves it. Hit the trail in the early morning or throughout the week, though, and you can enjoy the nature in solitude.

Address: 15501 Murphy Lake Blvd, Savage, Minnesota

6 Spirit Mountain

Spirit Mountain
Spirit Mountain Randen Pederson / photo modified

Operating as a ski resort for four months of the year and encompassing 175 acres of skiable terrain, Spirit Mountain provides chairlift-enabled downhill mountain biking outside of the ski season that keeps riders on the edge of their seats. Propelled by gravity, visitors with a lift pass can cruise down a wide variety of trails here, some of which stretch for more than 4,700 feet of downhill fun. Ranging from easier trails, like the Happy Camper, to the brake-line testing Wrecking Ball route, the mountain caters to all types of riders, and regardless of skill level, helmets are always required. With rentals available, and workshops and season passes offered, Spirit Mountain is a top destination for downhill mountain biking in Minnesota, and if these trails don't get your heart pumping, no other trails in Minnesota will.

Address: 9500 Spirit Mountain Pl, Duluth, Minnesota

7 Memorial Park

Memorial Park

Located in the southeastern corner of Minnesota on the banks of the Mississippi River, the city of Red Wing's Memorial Park sits atop Sorin's Bluff and provides many avenues for adventure and a great view as well. Parking your vehicle at the top of Sorin's Bluff, you can partake in nature walks, a nine-hole frisbee golf course, and picnics, but what really draws a crowd to the scenic space above the city is the sprawling mountain bike trails found throughout the area. Split between intermediate and advanced, the one-way singletrack trails of Memorial Park weave in and out of the forest and adjacent prairie spaces, providing a roller-coaster feeling of a good time as you complete the various loops. The mountain bike trail system at Memorial Park is created and maintained entirely by volunteers. For more information, including trail maps or to find out how you can help keep Memorial Park a mountain biking destination, be sure to check out the Red Wing Area Mountain Bike Organization.

Address: 315 W 4th Street, Red Wing, Minnesota

8 Hillside City Park

Mountain biking in late summer
Mountain biking in late summer

Featuring six miles of winding, curving singletrack, Hillside City Park provides visitors with a pure mountain biking experience just a half-hour from downtown Minneapolis. Lacking extraneous spur trails and misleading junctions, Hillside City Park begins its flow at the parking lot and doesn't finish until the loop is done. Along the way, riders encounter a variety of optional and not-optional obstacles, including log bridges, rock gardens, and banked turns, providing plenty of challenges for seasoned mountain bike riders or dismount locations for those new to the sport. While the mountain biking trail at Hillside City Park has been around for the better part of two decades, renewed management interests by the nonprofit Minnesota Off-Road Cyclist (MORC) have begun developing in Hillside, improving trail conditions and signage for this serpentine trail system.

Address: 10801 181st Ave NW, Elk River, Minnesota

9 Theodore Wirth Regional Park

Theodore Wirth Regional Park
Theodore Wirth Regional Park | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Located just two miles west of Target Stadium, home of the Minnesota Twins, Theodore Wirth is the largest open space in the Minneapolis park system, providing a natural respite for thousands of Twin Cities urbanites. Amid its 750 acres, popular activities include teeing off on the 18-hole golf course, swimming on the shore of Wirth Lake, and mountain biking the sprawling trail system. In conjunction with the Minneapolis Park and Recreation department and the Minnesota Off-Road Cyclist, five different mountain biking loops are available within Theodore Wirth Regional Park, and each provides a different degree of difficulty and scenery to enjoy. A recommended route for your first time, or the umpteenth time, is the North Loop, which sits adjacent to the Theodore Wirth Golf Course and provides flowy and fast riding in the heart of the Minneapolis.

Address: 1301 Theodore Wirth Pkwy, Golden Valley, Minneapolis, Minnesota

More Outdoor Opportunities in Minnesota

If you are looking for more adventure in Minnesota, the state also hosts a wide array of other outdoor activities to enjoy. For information on some of the best hikes in the state, be sure to check out our article on the Best Hiking Trails in Minnesota and for overnight options, our Best Campgrounds in Minnesota article includes some great places to pitch a tent. Much of the outdoor fun in the state can be found throughout Minnesota's extensive state and national park system. See our Best National and State Parks in Minnesota article for details. For the perfect base camp on a Minnesota mountain biking adventure, both Minneapolis and Duluth provide quick access to many different trails in the area.

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