A&E explores: A guide for pedaling through the last days of fall

Snow is on the horizon, so soak up the last days of autumn with these four near-campus bike routes.

by Samir Ferdowsi

Unless you have a bike with tires fat enough to brave Minnesota’s worst weather, chances are you’ll soon rein up your trusty two-wheeled steed for the winter. 

Don’t fret! Some glorious fall days are still ahead of us. Now is one of the best times to enjoy the carving, shore-caressing paths of Minnesota — especially around campus.

A&E has chosen top routes for hopping on your bike and enjoying the foliage and scenery that won’t be seen for another, oh, eight months or so. 

Pedal on!

Mississippi River Parkways

For this route, start at the East River Flats Park behind Coffman Union and simply follow the River Parkway away from campus.

Estimated distance: 20 miles (but you can turn around at any point)

One of the most urban-heavy, scenic routes in the entire state meanders through our own backyard. 

The River Rarkway gives riders the perfect loop, starting in the heart of campus. The ambitious weekend cycler can get into the depths of St. Paul while on nice lined pavement. 

Beautiful architecture with some of Minnesota’s oldest homes on one side and the magnificent Mississippi River on the other, the ride will be over before you know it (even if it is over 10 miles long). 

The best part of this route? It’s custom-fit. Whenever you feel like you’ve had your fill of thigh burn, simply cross over the river and head back the way you came. You’ll enjoy fresh views with lots of rest spots — you don’t want to risk bonking out.

Como Zoo loop

Start on Como Avenue (say, right outside Black Coffee and Waffle Bar), and stay on all the way to the Como Zoo. On your way back, hop on the Midway Parkway for fresh scenery and to ensure you slide right into the Fairgrounds.

Estimated distance: 10 miles

A makeshift route with some of the best non-biking experiences, this path is stellar for those who want to do a bit more than pedal on their Saturday morning. 

This route will take riders through the beautiful St. Anthony Park neighborhood, with a rack of bakeries and small cafes to grab a little mid-adventure meal. Continuing along the same Como Avenue, riders will enter the University of Minnesota’s St. Paul campus and enjoy the ever-calm vibes of the far-but-not-forgotten lawns of the University. 

Once you’ve had your fill of freshly made ice-cream from the University’s agriculture program, continue on and you’ll reach the Como Park area. Whether it’s a picnic in the parks, exploring the bonsai gardens of the conservatory or an inkling to watch some of those mustache-bearing monkeys at the zoo, Como Park has all the activities a biker could ask for. 

Take a break next to Como Lake at the pavilion and then hop back on your ride. This time, you can head back through the Minnesota State Fairgrounds. Trust us, seeing the grounds without unbearable lines for Sweet Martha’s cookies is a completely new experience.

Minneapolis Loop

Start on 4th Street Southeast and cross Interstate 35W. Take a left on 6th Avenue once you’re across the highway and follow this all the way to the river. From here, simply follow the banks of the Mississippi to Boom Island Park and cross for the return route home on the Plymouth Avenue bridge. Follow the river to Stone Arch Bridge for the final leg.

Estimated distance: 6 miles

Going up the river with this loop is a fantastic way to get some exercise outside for a couple hours and see some of Minneapolis’s best scenery.

The route passes through the cobblestone riviera near St. Anthony Main and ends at Boom Island Park, giving bikers the best of both worlds: urban and natural. Take a water break and explore outcropped Father Hennepin Bluff Park situated in the middle of the Mississippi. On the way back, cross over the river and take in the city life. 

When you’re rolling through the Warehouse district — where something new seems to pop up every week — and winding through downtown, be cautious for cars and other vehicles. We all know how busy downtown can get. 

Once you’re through the skyscraper jungle, the finish line is superb. Pass by the Guthrie Theater and Mill City Museum, loop around and cross the Stone Arch Bridge. Make sure to hydrate when you take a break here — it’s arguably the best view of downtown in the state.

Off-Road “Mountain Biking” in Theodore Wirth Regional Park

Distance: 1 to 5 miles, depending on track

Only in Minnesota can you do some legit off-road trail riding in the middle of the city. Located just outside the North Loop in Minneapolis, Theodore Wirth Regional Park has four lines to choose from, ranging from beginner to advanced off-roading. 

All-in-all, you’re looking at over 10 miles of pure adrenaline-inducing greatness. Need to de-stress for that midterm coming up? Watch some Red Bull Rampage footage and head out to the State Park to decompress.

Keep in mind, these trails can close for weather conditions. Make sure to check the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources website before embarking on your quest for adrenaline.

And yes, you can definitely get to these trails by bike. Simply navigate to Glenwood Avenue via downtown (taking Stone Arch Bridge to get across the river from campus) and follow the road right into the park.