Wheel your way through the snow on these winter fat biking trails

Image by Anna Min

By Kyle Smelter

Just because there’s snow on the ground doesn’t mean you have to endure the long winter dreaming longingly of jumps and rock gardens while sipping hot chocolate next to the fire. When the flurries start to fly you simply trade your summer and fall trail Harley in for your fat tire winter Cadillac. Luckily, the Twin Cities is home to a number of trails that give cyclists the opportunity to get out and cruise through the powder. There’s so many opportunities, in fact, that Outdoor Magazine has even recently called Minnesota “home to one of the most robust fat biking scenes in the country.” Saddle up and enjoy.

Luce Line

This former railroad line turned 63-mile corridor of heaven stretches from the western suburb of Plymouth and runs all the way to the small town of Cosmos. The Luce Line Trail contains four surfaces—crushed limestone, crushed granite, pavement and mowed grass—perfect for any level of rider. And just as the surface changes, so too does the landscaping. Portions of the trail closer to the Twin Cities feature forests thick with sugar maple and basswood trees with ground-cover plants strewn about, and tall grass prairies dominate the closer you get to Cosmos.

Elm Creek Singletrack Trail

Whether you are an experienced veteran or fresh on the pedals, this single-track trail—the largest of its kind in the northern metro—located at Elm Creek Park Reserve in Maple Grove has an experience curve for everyone—2.2 miles of the 12.7-mile stretch are graded as easy, 8.1 as more difficult and 2.4 as most difficult. Seasoned cyclists can test their skills on obstacles set next to the main trail, while less experienced riders can bypass them. The track is also maintained by the Minnesota Off-Road Cyclists (MORC) who provide updates on trail conditions and closures.

Murphy-Hanrehan Park Reserve

More than 10 miles and three loops (with varying difficulty levels) of mountain biking bliss can be found at this trail located within Murphy-Hanrehan Park Reserve in Savage. Snaking its way through glacial drift, the easy track takes riders on a 1-mile trip through open and rolling prairie, the 2-mile intermediate track takes biking enthusiasts over a boardwalk next to the edge of a woodland, and the advanced loop challenges veterans with over 5 miles of ladder bridges, rock gardens, log ride and more. And because the park is undeveloped, it’s one of the best spots for birding and spotting other local wildlife.

Theodore Wirth Park

The largest park in the Minneapolis park system fittingly contains 7 miles split over five trails—Back 40 Loop, South Loop, Glenwood Spur, Southwest Loop and Brownie Lake Loop—of single-track riding for intermediate to expert level bikers that will take them through coniferous forest and around Brownie Lake. Challenges you may encounter on your ride around Theodore Wirth Park include twisting turns, tough climbs, a rock garden and man-made log skinny. Monitored and maintained by the Minneapolis Off-Road Cycling Advocates (MOCA), the trail is also open to hikers, trail runners and snowshoers.

Lebanon Hills Mountain Bike Trail

One of the go-to trails in the Twin Cities, and one of the first trail areas in the state to officially open for winter riding, Lebanon Hills‘ wooded one-way single-track ride stretches for nearly 12 miles over two loops. The Blue Loop is a 7.1-mile ride designed for beginners and intermediate-level bikers, and the optional expert loop tacks on a few more challenge-filled miles for a total of 11.5. Challenges on this biking adventure include bridges, rocky areas, downhills, berms and jumps dotting the trail. For those wanting to further test their skills, be on the lookout for the “Black” and “Red” optional routes.


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