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351 MILES OF CYCLING HEAVEN

New U.S. Bicycle Route 41 connects the midwest heartland to the national system

Image by Jim Foster

Bicycle enthusiasts living in and visiting Minnesota now have a new way to explore some 315 miles along the western shores of Lake Superior—the newly approved U.S. Bicycle Route 41 (USBR 41), also known as the North Star Bicycle Route.

U.S. Bicycle Route 41 connects the capital city of St. Paul to Grand Portage State Park at the Canadian border, where bicyclists can end their journey with a view of Minnesota’s highest waterfall on the Pigeon River.

Approved last month by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, the route is now part of the U.S. Bicycle Route System (USBRS), a developing national network of officially recognized and numbered bicycle routes. The newest designation brings the total miles in the system up to 11,563 through 24 states.

USBR 41 combines existing roads and mixed-use paths and trails to create a route that winds its way through some of Minnesota’s most beloved and popular locations. It passes through two national parks—the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area and Grand Portage National Monument—and connects to nine state parks as well as the Superior National Forest. In addition, U.S. Bicycle Route 41 passes through two nationally recognized bicycle-friendly communities: Duluth and Grand Marais, as well as numerous cities with small-town charm.

The route also joins the Mississippi River Trail in St. Paul, designated as USBR 45 in 2013, which connects Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico in Louisiana. “USBR 41 provides the opportunity for people to travel between two seamless and continuously designated routes,” said Liz Walton, the Minnesota Department of Transportation’s (MnDOT) U.S. Bicycle Route 41 project manager. “From the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico, two of the nation’s great water bodies are now connected by bicycle.”

Nearly half the route includes off-road segments on some of Minnesota’s most popular trails. There are plenty of opportunities for families and less experienced bicyclists to travel and enjoy the route. USBR 41 includes a short segment of the Gateway State Trail and the complete Willard Munger and Gitchi Gami State Trails. It also includes the regional Bruce Vento, Hardwood Creek and Sunrise Prairie Trails, and numerous other local trails.

Planning Your Trip

For cyclists looking to link their ride to public transportation, USBR 41 goes directly past downtown St. Paul’s Union Depot, a multi-modal transportation hub. At the depot, cyclists will find easy access to local and regional buses, light rail trains, Amtrak’s passenger rail trains (with carry-on service), taxis, car- and bike-sharing, and even a bicycle shop, secure bicycle storage, a repair station for minor tune-ups, and secured-shower access and restrooms.

MnDOT is preparing a new USBR 41 webpage where printable and downloadable electronic/GPS maps will be available. In addition, Adventure Cycling’s website provides a breadth of resources and tools for route implementation, as well as links to maps and other resources for cyclists wishing to ride an established U.S. Bicycle Route.

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